Saturday, August 30, 2014

A peek at Peña Nieto's "State of the Union" address

PRI administration uses social media to get the message out early: "Mexico is in motion"

Guadalajara -
In Mexico an administration's report to Congress and to the nation on the state of affairs - and its claimed accomplishments - is called the Informe. It's the direct equivalent of an American president's State of the Union address in January.

Next week president Enrique Peña Nieto will deliver his second. Like any smart politician he is offering a preview this weekend, taking advantage of Twitter, YouTube and all the electronic sites which this very youthful nation adores.

Here's what the president said, and what he'll elaborate on next week:

PRD's Marcelo Ebrard breaks with Left: "It's too late to undo the PEMEX reforms"

"(With two candidates in 2018), there is no doubt we will lose" - Ebrard

Guadalajara -
Former Federal District Governor Marcelo Ebrard, a key figure in Mexico's Democratic Revolution Party and an almost certain contender for president in 2018, split with other leftist politicians this week by acknowledging that a planned June 2015 citizen referendum to repeal energy law changes which went into effect earlier this month would be futile.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Mexico's next challenge: a mega cartel?

Top narco bosses recently held a summit in Coahuila state, Mexican press reports

Guadalajara -
Mexico has dozens of drug cartels and hundreds if not thousands of local and regional gangs which work with them. But according to press reports appearing in many newspapers today, the 21 month old "bloody administration" of president Enrique Peña Nieto may soon have to face up to the mother of all cartels, despite its persistent claims in recent months that domestic security is on the upswing.

Proposal for minimum wage increase finds impetus in Mexico's Federal District

But experts disagree on inflationary impact

Guadalajara -
Article 123 of Mexico's federal constitution provides that "The general minimum wage must be sufficient to satisfy the normal material, social, and cultural needs of the head of a family and to provide for the compulsory education of his children." But in a nation where the official minimum wage is a mere $5.00 dollars a day, and 36% of families must go into debt each year just to keep their children in school, the governor of the nation's capital says the constitutional obligation is not being met.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Mexican high court will examine controversial public assembly restrictions in Federal District

Broad language of regulations may be their downfall

These self-styled Red Guards in Guadalajara displayed contempt for all three major political parties, lashing out at the "bourgeois repression" of PRI, PAN and even the left wing PRD - Oct. 2, 2013

Guadalajara -
Mexico's Supreme Judicial Court yesterday accepted for review a new law which requires that all public demonstrations in the capital be cleared with local authorities at least 48 hours in advance, exposing the regulation to constitutional challenge.

On its face the law applies to any type of street march - including social, religious or sports oriented - but it is well understood that its primary target is political protests, which almost brought Mexico City to its knees in the summer of 2013.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mexican press: homicides under Enrique Peña Nieto far exceed those under his predecessor Felipe Calderón

Intentional homicides by state, Dec. 1, 2012 - June 30, 2014

Guadalajara -
The numbers are difficult to decipher and the analysis is at times tortuous, but the Tijuana based investigative journal Zeta today reported that during the first 19 months of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration of president Peña Nieto, 36,718 people died in acts of violence which the publication largely attributed to Mexico's ongoing drug war.

That number represents so-called homicidios dolosos - intentional murders - during the period Dec. 1, 2012 through June 30, 2014. The average is 1,933 victims per month. Murders in just four Mexican states - Edomex (Estado de México), Guerrero, Michoacán and Jalisco - represent 35% of the total.

Survey: many Mexicans are more focused on lack of jobs than drug war violence

Attitudes on new government's success against organized crime vary sharply

Guadalajara -
The results of a national survey published today by the respected Mexico City newspaper El Universal found that six of 10 respondents believe the PRI administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto should prioritize the creation of jobs over domestic security issues, and 49% said the sluggish economy should be the government's principal concern.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Ice Ice Baby - but not in Los Pinos

Guadalajara -
While the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge races around the globe, with politicians, entertainers and prominent business leaders daring one another to douse themselves with cold water and make at least a $10 dollar contribution towards Lou Gehrig's disease research, Mexicans want to get involved, too.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mexican Supreme Court upholds IVA tax increase in border zone, a keystone of Peña Nieto's fiscal reforms

Guadalajara -
Mexico's highest tribunal, the Supreme Judicial Court (SCJN), today unanimously upheld a controversial fiscal reform which was advanced by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto after his government took office Dec. 1, 2012.

After preliminary votes of 9-1 and 8-2, judicial ministers finally rejected 10-0 a lawsuit which claimed that last year's increase of the country's value added tax (VAT) in border areas was unconstitutional.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Violent Michoacán sets eight year record in homicides

Murder, kidnapping and extortion post sharp increases

Guadalajara -
The Pacific coast state of Michoacán broke an eight year homicide record in the first six months of 2014, according to statistics released this week by the Mexico's National Public Security (SNSP) Service, a federal agency.

Through June 30, the state reported more murders and kidnappings than it has since 2006. Criminal extortion cases exceeded by four times those reported in the same period of 2009.

SNSP reported that in 2013, 384 homicides - most connected to ongoing drug war violence - occurred in the first 180 days of the year. This year the number was 555, a 30% increase.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Peña Nieto: respect for human rights is Mexico's focus

Guadalajara -
In a major speech in Mexico City today, president Enrique Peña Nieto said that the recognition and enforcement of core human rights guarantees will be the most important reform of his Institutional Revolutionary Party administration, which has held the nation's highest office for almost 21 months.

During a ceremony celebrating the 15th anniversary of Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), the president said his goal is for "every Mexican to fully enjoy the fundamental liberties protected by our constitution." But Peña Nieto also recognized that human rights standards have and still are evolving worldwide, and he promised to make them "a priority as concrete reforms" are adopted at home.

Narco violence continues in Guadalajara suburb

Guadalajara -
Police report that the decapitated bodies of three yet unidentified men were found today in Zapopan's Colonia San Marcos.

The vitcims' dismembered remains were dumped in black plastic bags in an empty lot.

Zapopan, a sprawling county which encircles much of the Guadalajara metro, is the frequent scene of organized crime violence. Stories below.

Mexico has big bucks banked - mostly greenbacks

Guadalajara -
Mexico's U.S. currency on hand rose $48 million U.S. dollars last week, leaving it with a tidy net balance of $190.552 billion dollars available for those rainy days.

The numbers were reported in a press release today by the the Bank of Mexico (Banixco), the nation's central bank and the equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve.

There's more demonstrator, press freedom in Mexico City than in Ferguson, Missouri - even dealing with anarchists

MGR's opinion -

Credentialed photographer Scott Olson, of the world famous Getty Agency, was arrested yesterday for "standing in the wrong place." More excellent coverage of the militarization of American domestic police and last night's renewed violence in the St. Louis suburb is available in today's Huffington Post.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mexico will award two million academic scholarships, hoping to turn the tide against huge dropout rate

"Many reasons for the high dropout rate rest within the schools themselves" - SEP official

Colima, Colima -
On the first day of the new school year, Mexico's Secretary of Education (SEP) has announced that the government will hand out two million scholarships to high school students in the year ahead, in an effort to keep them in the classroom.

"The dropout rate in middle and high school is an enormous problem," a SEP undersecretary acknowledged today during a formal presentation in this Pacific coast capital. The government says that about every year about 600,000 students leave school permanently before receiving a secondary school diploma. In 2012 that number represented 15% of all those who began elementary school.

Accused 10 most wanted Canadian murderer nabbed in Guadalajara

Guadalajara -
Cory Vallee, one of Canada's 10 most wanted fugitives according to Jalisco state prosecutors quoted by today's edition of El Informador, has been arrested in this city.

Vallee was detained Aug. 14 on charges of murder, conspiracy to commit murder and organized crime activity.

He was taken into custody over "administrative issues," according to a press release, in apparent reference to migratory problems. Those in turn led to the discovery that Vallee had been "red carded" for international travel by Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization headquartered in Lyon, France.

Mexico's scaled back National Gendarmerie debuts

Guadalajara -
The day after he was elected on July 1, 2012, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) president Enrique Peña Nieto told the New York Times in an op-ed piece that "There can be neither negotiation nor a truce with criminals." He promised that one of his first acts as chief executive of the Republic would be to create out of whole cloth a 40,000 strong national gendarmerie modeled after those used in some European nations, and most notably, Colombia's. Enrique Peña Nieto's Manifesto.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Oaxaca state tenses as Mexico's school year begins

Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca -
Mexican schools open tomorrow, amid continued violence and threats of same in the southwestern state of Oaxaca, a seedbed of unending teacher violence and civil disorder.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

U.S. State Dept.'s latest warning about Mexican travel risks angers Peña Nieto administration

Jalisco, Michoacán remain on list, while all of Yucatán peninsula is in the clear

*Updated Oct. 13 (below)*
The U.S. State Dept. released its latest Mexico travel warnings yesterday, and top officials in this country wasted no time in voicing strong displeasure.

State cautioned U.S. travelers about many areas in the Republic's 32 separate states, including Aguascalientes, Baja California, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Estado de México, Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, Morelos, Nayarit, Nuevo León, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz and Zacatecas.

The full text of yesterday's release is below, which included these statements: "The number of U.S. citizens reported to the Department of State as murdered in Mexico was 71 in 2012 and 81 in 2013. Exercise extreme caution when traveling throughout areas for which advisories are in effect."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Michoacán mayor, a woman, in federal custody for murder, extortion and organized crime association

Guadalajara -
Dalia Santana Pinedam, the sitting municipal president of Huetamo de Núñez, Michoacán, was arrested Thursday by federal authorities and has already been transferred to a high security prison in the State of Mexico. Michoacán may have been secured from Los Caballeros Templarios (The Rural Defense Force, to the rescue in Michoacán), but it remains far from free of corruption and criminal infiltration. More local officials have been executed there than in any other of Mexico's 32 entities.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mérida police investigate suspicious death in Colonia Miguel Alemán

*Updated Aug. 16*
Mérida, Yucatán -
Colonia Miguel Alemán, a long settled and generally secure neighborhood just minutes from the White City's Grand Plaza, is rarely the scene of serious crime. But late this afternoon metro police announced they were investigating the discovery of a body at this location (Calles 23 x 24), directly across the street from the popular and often crowded Miguel Alemán Park. The area is high traffic, with many small shops, cafes, a grocery store and a heavily attended Catholic church.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Mexican economy remains stuck on a southbound train

"Without sustained economic growth there will be no jobs, no way to fight poverty and no prosperity to share" - Mexican Finance Minister Luis Videgarary, August 2013

Guadalajara -
More than half of 2014 has come and gone, and all the official projections for economic growth in the current year just keep getting worse. Today Banixco (Bank of Mexico) director Agustín Carstens (left) - he's the equivalent of the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair - was forced yet again to reduce the central bank's prognosis for 2014 growth from the administration's original rosy prediction of 3.9%, to somewhere in the ill-defined range of 2.0-2.8%.

On May 21 Carstens said Mexican PIB - producto bruto interno, or gross domestic product (GDP) - expansion in 2014 would end up between 2.3% and 3.3%. More recalculation - all of it negative - is highly probable in the remaining five months of the current year.

20 billion barrels of crude: Mexican PEMEX legislation reserves for nation 83% of its proven petrol resources

Exclusive rights rule extends for two decades, covering vast geographical area

Guadalajara -
In the first implementation of new national energy legislation which became effective yesterday (Peña Nieto: "No more barriers to our economic growth"), Mexico's former state oil monopoly PEMEX - now open to private capital investment and foreign technical participation - has been granted sole and exclusive rights to extract 83% of the country's proven oil resources, together with another 21% of probable petroleum assets, within a defined region.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Peña Nieto: "No more barriers to our economic growth"

Long awaited PEMEX reforms a reality today

Petróleos Mexicanos is still Mexico's only fuel retailer. Don't look for competitors' signs anytime soon.

Guadalajara -
In December Mexico abandoned its three quarter of a century state monopoly over the hydrocarbon industry and opened the monolithic enterprise PEMEX to foreign capital investment and desperately needed technical partnerships. The required constitutional amendments authorizing such flew through Mexico's federal congress and 32 state legislatures at a breakneck pace, and won president Enrique Peña Nieto praise at home and abroad.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sixty percent of Mexican high school grads fall short on reading skills, while powerful teachers' union continues to resist mandatory education reforms

Guadalajara -
Last week a Mexican national evaluation of high school graduates revealed that 60% of diploma holders have "elementary, insufficient" communication skills, to the extent that they are unable to understand much or most of what they read. The same percentage have only the most basic mathematical abilities.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Jalisco prosecutor: Matazetas are responsible for murder of Guadalajara area mayor

*Updated Aug. 8*
Guadalajara -
Jalisco attorney general Luis Carlos Nájera told a Mexican national news service earlier today that one of the nation's most violent drug cartels, Cártel Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG), commonly known as Los Matazetas (the "Zeta Killers"), was responsible for Sunday's execution of the mayor of Ayutla County, Jalisco, a rural community located in rugged country west of metro Guadalajara.

The Matazetas are based in and around Guadalajara and suburban Zapopan, and dominate the state.

Two Americans found dead in Riviera Maya

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo-
Two U.S. nationals on vacation died yesterday in separate locations along the Riviera Maya, according to a regional Spanish language news source.

One of the men, described only as a 75 year old Vietnam veteran, was found dead Monday by hotel staff at a Playa hostel. Medical examiners offered no cause, but said the man had expired at least 24 hours before. There were no signs of violence or an altercation in the room.