By Ted Galen Carpenter, Special to CNN
Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, is the author of nine books on international affairs, including the just released The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America. The views expressed are his own.
A striking feature of the presidential debate on foreign policy was the total lack of attention given to Latin America –notably the drug violence wracking our next door neighbor, Mexico. Nearly 60,000 people have perished since 2006 in the Mexican government’s military-led offensive against the country’s powerful, ruthless drug cartels. But while President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney both obsessed about the Middle East, they virtually ignored Washington’s relations with our southern neighbors. After a brief observation from Romney near the start of the debate that the region offered important – and neglected – economic opportunities for the United States, both candidates quickly abandoned the Western Hemisphere.
That was extraordinarily myopic. Given its geographic proximity, historical ties, and mounting importance as an arena for trade and investment, Latin America should be high on Washington’s diplomatic and economic agenda. And near the top of the national security agenda should be the alarming developments involving the drug violence in Mexico.
By Ravi Agrawal, CNN
Ravi Agrawal is senior producer of Fareed Zakaria GPS. The views expressed are his own.
Here’s some trivia. Which of these countries has the highest average income: India, China, Brazil or Mexico? If you guessed Brazil, you’d be wrong. And if you guessed India or China, you’d be way off: even if you combine the incomes of the average Indian and Chinese you wouldn’t reach the $15,000 annual purchasing power of the average Mexican.
These numbers don’t fit with many people’s perception of America’s southern neighbor. Mexico, you see, has a PR problem. A quick Google search for news from Mexico throws up a set of results that usually includes the words violence, drugs, cartels, and migrants (or the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico). But it’s not just the international media that seems to have it in for Mexico’s reputation. Mexicans themselves seem woebegone. A recent Pew survey found that only a third of Mexicans think they have a good national economic situation. Compare that with half of Indians, 65 percent of Brazilians, and 83 percent of Chinese. Or let’s go back to average citizens: 52 percent of Mexicans think they have a good personal economic situation, but for Indians, Chinese, and Brazilians, those numbers rise to 64 percent, 69 percent, and 75 percent respectively – and that’s despite the fact that in purchasing power terms, Mexicans actually earn more per capita than citizens of all three of those countries. And, unlike the others, Mexico’s growth rate is actually rising.
Indeed, Mexico’s economy has a number of strengths. It is the 14th largest in the world. If you take into account purchasing power, it is the 11th largest economy – larger than Canada, Turkey, and Indonesia. It is projected to grow 4 percent this year, and even faster in the coming decade, a rate that the financial services firm Nomura says will lead to Mexico overtaking Brazil as Latin America’s biggest economy within 10 years, despite the fact that Brazil’s economy is currently twice as large.
By Shannon O’Neil, CFR
Shannon K. O’Neil is senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. This entry of Latin America’s Moment originally appeared here. The views expressed are solely those of the author.
Human rights abuses within Mexico’s drug war are garnering increasing attention, both in Mexico and in the United States (holding up some 15 percent of Merida money in 2010). A recent Trans-Border Institute report looks systematically at Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission’s (CNDH) filings on human rights violations. Numbering less than 400 in 2007, complaints implicating the Mexican military increased fourfold during Calderón’s presidency (to more than 1,600 in 2011).
Under the CNDH system, not all of these allegations result in a formal report to the military. The vast majority are deemed to not involve a human rights violation or are dropped for lack of evidence, while others (considered less serious) are settled through conciliation. The more severe cases (and those backed by strong evidence) go through a thorough investigation, and are passed along to the military in the form of a “recommendation.” About one hundred such cases have been processed in the past five years.
Editor’s note: Shannon K. O'Neil is Douglas Dillon Fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The original post can be read at her Latin America’s Moment blog here. The views expressed are solely those of the writer.
Though legal battles are sure to continue, Mexico has chosen its next president. Enrique Peña Nieto will take office on December 1, and his party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, will dominate both houses of Congress.
Domestic and international audiences are now looking to the next government to pass the structural reforms needed for Mexico to become more productive, more competitive, and grow faster. This starts with the state-owned energy sector. Enshrined in Mexico’s Constitution, oil reserves are property of the state, and managed by Petróleos Mexicanos, or PEMEX, which retains full, control over exploration, processing, and sales. A modest 2008 energy reform pushed on the margins of this arrangement, allowing Pemex to offer incentive-based service contracts to private firms. These new rules so far have disappointed, with few foreign oil companies substantially upping their foreign direct investment or bringing in the technological know-how needed to unlock potential reserves and boost long term production.
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Mexico's Enrique Peña Nieto called for a "new debate" on the drug war and said the United States must play an important role in that discussion.
The presumptive president-elect spoke this week to Fareed Zakaria in an interviewing airing on this week's "Fareed Zakaria GPS."
"Yes, I do believe we should open up a new debate regarding how to wage war on drug trafficking. Personally, I'm not in favor of legalizing drugs. I'm not persuaded by that as an argument. However, let's open up a new debate, a review, in which the U.S. plays a fundamental role in conducting this review," said Peña Nieto. FULL POST
Editor's note: Andrew Selee is director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, which promotes dialogue and understanding between the United States and Mexico. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Andrew Selee.
By Andrew Selee, Special to CNN
Mexico's elections have brought back the PRI, an authoritarian party that ruled Mexico for seven decades. This possibility had worried many observers and politicians in the United States, and yet, surprisingly, it will make little difference for the U.S.-Mexico relationship. This is largely a tribute to how deeply interdependent the two countries are today, as well as the ways in which Mexican society has evolved over the past two decades.
The PRI has been known in the past for its anti-American rhetoric and distrust of the United States. However, circumstances over the past 20 years have completely changed the relationship between the two countries. FULL POST
Editor's note: Robert A. Pastor is professor and co-director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University and author of "The North American Idea: A Vision of a Continental Future." The views expressed in this article are solely those of Robert A. Pastor.
By Robert A. Pastor, Special to CNN
The main question asked about the Mexican presidential elections on July 1 is whether victory by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) means that Mexico will return to its authoritarian past.
The answer is simple: The PRI has changed because Mexico has changed. For more than six decades, the PRI manipulated elections and ruled Mexico in a quasi-authoritarian system. However, between 1988 until 2000, two Mexican presidents – Carlos Salinas de Gortari and Ernesto Zedillo – gradually responded to internal and external pressures and opened the economy and the political system.
I have observed elections in Mexico since 1986 and witnessed the transformation of the election system from the worst to the best in the Americas. The projected victory by PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto will not turn Mexico backwards. Mexicans have chosen democracy, and after two terms under PAN presidents, they are voting for change.
Indeed, in this year when the United States is engaged in a ferocious campaign for the presidency, the question that ought to be asked is: How does the U.S. electoral system compare to Mexico's? I undertook a comprehensive study of the electoral systems in North America, and the good news is that the United States came in third. The bad news is that there are only three countries in North America. FULL POST
By Fareed Zakaria
This past week, Los Cabos, Mexico, was quite literally turned into a global public square. Leaders from 19 top economies plus the European Union gathered to discuss the world's major crises: the euro, global growth, Syria. But the G-20 summit, as it's called, also shed light on a few crucial relationships.
Take the U.S. and Russia, for example. Much was made of how Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin leaned away from each other during talks. Commentators said it felt as chilly as a Moscow winter. Contrast that with Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao: a warm handshake and big smiles.
But the meeting that really got me thinking was the one between two Latin American leaders: Mexico's Felipe Calderon and Brazil's Dilma Roussef.
Why? FULL POST
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By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
This past week, the Supreme Court deliberated over a controversial Arizona immigration law. It comes amidst a climate of hostility. Just look at what candidates said during the Republican primaries:
"Mitt Romney will complete construction of a high-tech fence," the candidate announced on his campaign website. Michele Bachmann promised to "build a double-walled fence." And Herman Cain said: "We're going to have a fence; it's going to be 20 feet high; it's going to have barbed wire on the top."
The fence in question guards a third of America's 2,000 mile-long border with Mexico. Supporters of harsher laws argue that 3 out of every 5 illegal immigrants are from Mexico. But just as American hostility is reaching a crescendo, the problem might be disappearing.
By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
The drug wars dominate the discussion in Mexico and in many border states in America as well. There have been nearly 50,000 drug-related killings in Mexico since President Felipe Calderón began his six-year term. That's more than twice as many civilian deaths in the same period in Afghanistan.
Calderón is widely viewed as having blundered in taking on the drug cartels. FULL POST