After a long hiatus, I’ve decided to restart this blog on Mexican politics.
Why now? The current moment in Mexico is the most critical in decades:
- Weak, lame-duck President without a game plan for final two years of his term;
- Political fragmentation, with the next president likely to be elected with under 30% of the vote;
- Inability of the political system to address drug violence and public corruption;
- Country’s (and government’s) financial position still solid, but slipping;
- Chronic slow economic growth;
And, of course,
- Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on NAFTA, Mexican migrants in the U.S., and—indeed—the dignity of the Mexican people.
While I am an optimist at heart about Mexico, today for the first time in many years the risk exists that the country will take a sharp turn in the wrong direction, putting at risk decades of progress in economic modernization and integration into the world economy, tens of billions of dollars of investment, the advent of democratic governance, and close, constructive relations with the United States.
A note from today’s Templo Mayor column:
ONLY A FEW are in the know about some departures from the U.S. consulate in Monterrey in recent days.
FIRST was the now ex-consul general Bruce Williamson, who was promoted by the State Dept. and transferred to Peru.
THE OTHER had nothing festive about it; the departure was of a consular official who received threatening telephone calls … here in Mexico.
AFTER EVALUATING the messages, security officials in the consulate concluded that they were not dealing with idle boasts but threats that had to be taken seriously.
AS A RESULT the official and his family were evacuated, with only a few hours to pack their belongings and flee the city.
THIS EXPLAINS, so they say, why Washington decided that the new consul for Monterrey who will arrive in September will be a security expert … Who will it be?
The WSJ had the most detailed coverage of the killing. The key paragraphs from Nicolas Casey’s story:
According to two witnesses on the bridge, the victim [Sergio Adrián Hernández] was part of a group of teens who had sidestepped border checkpoints on the Santa Fe Bridge—which is flanked by border checkpoints on either side—and entered the U.S. on foot, crossing a dry aqueduct and an old railroad beside the bridge. None were carrying backpacks or appeared to have weapons, the two witnesses said.
The teens were playing a kind of “cat-and-mouse game,” said Bobbie McDow, 52, a U.S. national who said she witnessed the shooting from the middle of the bridge where she was standing. The teenagers, Ms. McDow said, appeared to be trying to make it to the U.S. side and quickly back to Mexico without being caught by officials, a pattern that Ms. McDow said she has noticed.
Ms. McDow said that U.S. border agents spotted the teenagers and gave chase. One teen stumbled and was caught, and another was pinned down by an agent who had chased him by bicycle, she said. While holding down one of the Mexican boys, this agent fired shots toward Mexico.
One of the youths—not the young Mr. Hernández—had thrown rocks at the border patrol agents, Ms. McDow said, but she stressed that the agent’s “life wasn’t under threat.” (WSJ 6/8)
In his address to the joint session of the U.S. Congress, President Calderón concretely asked for help in stopping arms trafficking: “There is one issue where Mexico needs your cooperation. And that is stopping the flow of assault weapons and other deadly arms across the border. … I understand that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee good American citizens the ability to defend themselves and their nation. But believe me, many of these guns are not going to honest American hands. … We have seized 75,000 guns and assault weapons in Mexico in the last three years, and more than 80% of those we have been able to trace came from the United States. And if you look carefully, you will notice that the violence started to grow a couple of years before I took office in 2006. This coincides with the lifting of the Assault Weapons Ban in 2004. … Today, these weapons are aimed by the criminals not only at rival gangs, but also at Mexican civilians and authorities. … And with all due respect if you do not regulate the sale of these weapons in the right way, nothing guarantees that criminals here in the United States, with access to the same weapons, will not in turn decide to point them at U.S. authorities and citizens. … I also fully understand the political sensitivity of this issue. But I would ask Congress to help us, and to understand how important it is for us that you enforce current laws to stem the supply of these weapons to criminals, and consider reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban. Let us work together to end this lethal trade that threatens Mexico and your own people.” (Presidencia 5/20)
Michelle Obama will fly to Mexico City for meetings with First Lady Margarita Zavala, primarily to discuss social programs. President and Mrs. Calderón will host a private dinner at Los Pinos for Mrs. Obama; the other guests will be Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, his wife, and U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual. (Universal 4/9)
Los Pinos announced Friday that President Calderón will participate in Barack Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington today and tomorrow. The last minute announcement fed speculation that Calderón will use the trip to advance the mutual security agenda before his state visit to D.C. next month. (Presidencia 4/9, Universal 4/10)
The White House said today that First Lady Michelle Obama will visit Mexico City from the 13-15th of April, her first solo trip abroad. According to the press statement:
Mrs. Obama’s international agenda will amplify the President’s commitment to advancing mutual interests, mutual respect and mutual responsibility between nations and peoples around the world. During this visit, Mrs. Obama will have the opportunity to engage the citizens of Mexico, particularly young people, and build on her recent conversation with Mexican First Lady Margarita Zavala de Calderon on the issues of education and economic advancement in both countries .
(Excelsior 3/12, White House 3/12)