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Mexico-U.S. Relations

Tag Archives | Mexico-U.S. Relations

Grasping the Humanitarian Crisis at the U.S.-Mexico Border

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Gordon Hyde

The crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border is currently a hot-button issue as liberals and conservatives argue about how U.S. immigration laws should be reformed. Upwards of 50,000 Central American children have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to escape their gang-controlled home countries and seek asylum in the U.S.

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Obama Orders Resources to U.S.-Mexico Border

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Chuck Kennedy/White House

Chuck Kennedy/White House

President Barack Obama has directed immigration resources towards the US border with Mexico. The president announced he will use his own powers to “fix as much of our broken immigration system as we can.” The move comes as Republicans told Mr. Obama a sweeping immigration bill passed by the Senate last year will not see a vote in the House this year.

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Can Nieto Deliver the Goods?

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Mexico’s President Nieto was handed a poor set of cards when he assumed power last December.

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto

His predecessor, Felipe Calderon, was brought down by a bloody war against the drug cartels that led to more civilian deaths than the total number of U.S. troops killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. Mexico’s GDP per capita shrank more than seven percent between 2008 and 2010. And Nieto received just 38 percent of the popular vote representing the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) — which had a corrupt and authoritarian past for much of Mexico’s modern political history. While economic and security conditions have improved under his brief leadership, it cannot yet be said that President Nieto has earned the average Mexican’s trust, or that his honeymoon period will last.

Between December 2012 and March 2013, Mexico’s homicide rate decreased 14 percent year-on-year, but many Mexicans remain justifiably skeptical that this trend will continue given the ongoing drug-related violence in many parts of the country. Early in Calderon’s presidency, the national army was sent to confront the drug cartels and the homicide rate also declined, only to be followed by a surge in killings that cost more than 60,000 lives.

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Enrique Peña Confronts Hard Realities

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With the election of Enrique Peña Nieto late last year, Mexican voters demonstrated that their distrust of his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was overshadowed by their anxieties surrounding the pressing issues facing the country.

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto speaking in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo León

The PRI claims that its decades-long tenure during the 20th century means that it knows how to successfully run Mexico, and this time Mexican voters agreed by a substantial margin. Setting arguments regarding its record aside, the PRI holds only a plurality in both houses, and so it remains to be seen whether it can be consistent and effective in forming the coalitions necessary to pass meaningful legislation. In his first four months in office Enrique Peña Nieto has quickly set the tone of his administration through a series of bold, attention-grabbing measures designed to build momentum and gain popularity.

Nieto’s progress in taking on telecoms and television monopolies and reforming Mexico’s abhorrent education system has been meaningful and real; it is paramount, however, to not mistake substance for style. Nieto is off to a good start, but if he is indeed serious about succeeding in his ambitions to raise Mexico’s annual growth rate to 6% and to nurture the country into a fully developed power, his battle for reform has only just begun.

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America’s Goals and Opportunities in Latin America

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“I know there are frustrations and that some call for legalization. For the sake of the health and safety of our citizens - all our citizens - the United States will not be going in this direction.” – President Barack Obama, speaking at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia

President Barack Obama participates in the CEO Summit of the Americas panel discussion at the Hilton Hotel, Cartagena, Colombia, April 14, 2012. Pete Souza/White House

This past December marked the 190th anniversary of the Monroe Doctrine, the 1823 policy declaration by President James Monroe that essentially made Latin America the exclusive reserve of the United States. And if anyone has any doubts about what lay at the heart of that Doctrine, consider that since 1843 the U.S. has intervened in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Haiti, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Honduras, the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Uruguay, Grenada, Bolivia, and Venezuela. In the case of Nicaragua, nine times, and Honduras, eight. Sometimes the intrusion was unadorned with diplomatic niceties: the U.S. infantry assaulting Chapultepec Castle outside Mexico City in 1847, Marines hunting down insurgents in Central America, or Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing pursuing Pancho Villa through Chihuahua in 1916.

At other times the intervention was cloaked in shadow—a secret payoff, a nod and a wink to some generals, or strangling an economy because some government had the temerity to propose land reform or a re-distribution of wealth. For 150 years, the history of this region, that stretches across two hemispheres and ranges from frozen tundra to blazing deserts and steaming rainforests, was in large part determined by what happened in Washington. As the wily old Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz once put it, the great tragedy of Latin America is that it lay so far from God and so near to the United States.

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Enrique Pena Nieto and Mexico’s Drug War Opening

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Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party has assumed the Mexican presidency amid a flurry of protests against the party, whose previous 70-year rule defined the country’s authoritarian past.

Mexico’s President Enrique Peña Nieto addressing party members. Source: Facebook

Yet it’s difficult to imagine that the new president’s term could be worse than the unmitigated disaster of his predecessor’s, which was marked by a dramatic militarization of Mexico’s drug war, widespread human rights abuses, and tens of thousands of deaths. Aware of pervasive war weariness in Mexico, Peña Nieto has offered mild improvements over outgoing President Felipe Calderón’s approach to drug violence.

According to CNN, the new president “has pledged to focus more on reducing violence and less on catching cartel leaders and blocking drugs from reaching the United States,” a policy that could reduce the violence associated with the power vacuums left by killed or captured kingpins. More recently, a top Peña Nieto advisor also intimated that the legalization of marijuana use in the U.S. states of Colorado and Washington could augur changes in Mexican drug policy as well. Ostensibly, these are positive developments.

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Enrique Peña Nieto has Much to Prove in Mexico

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The election of Enrique Peña Nieto has returned Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power after a 12-year absence.

Mexico’s newly elected president, Enrique Peña Nieto. Source: Facebook

Having earned 38 percent of the vote, the PRI has been given a second chance to transform a Mexico from decades of mismanagement, corruption, and an infestation of drug-related violence. Mr. Nieto ran a solid campaign, promising to pursue a new direction for Mexico. Now, he must deliver on that promise. The question is, is he actually capable of doing so?

In trying to assuage fears that his presidency would lack transparency and end up resembling the PRI prior to its defeat in 2000, Mr. Nieto told supporters gathered on Sunday night shortly after the election results were announced that: “…The Mexican people have given our party a second opportunity. I will be a modern, responsible president, open to criticism, ready to listen, and taking into account the views of everyone,” emphasizing his campaign pledge to have a transparent government.

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Rethinking U.S.-Mexican Security Cooperation

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Since Felipe Calderón came into office in 2006, security links between the U.S. and Mexico have gotten noticeably stronger, the Mérida Initiative being the most obvious example of this. Funding under this program will almost certainly continue next year.

U.S. National Guard and Border Patrol Agents survey the U.S.-Mexico border

Since “Mérida assistance” is costing the U.S. government hundreds of millions of dollars a year, now would be an appropriate time to ascertain whether this is the best use of taxpayer money, or whether it promotes human rights or has even been effectual. If the deficit is the preeminent threat to national security, security cooperation around the globe must be reexamined. Calderón was elected (barely) into office by running a campaign that focused on tackling Mexican drug trafficking and startling levels of violence, both of which persist to this day. It is the way he went about achieving these objectives that has been worrisome. All reliable indicators (including recent polling) indicate that Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) will be the country’s next president.

There is also plenty of evidence to suggest that it will not even be a close race. The idea that a PRI presidency would somehow compromise U.S. security as it relates to the “war on drugs” is unconvincing. After all, this is based on two fallacies, first that the U.S. (or Mexico) has recently been winning the drug war. And second, that anyone with any power in Washington or Mexico City these past few years has had the right strategy to begin with. Calderón has clearly failed in his effort to combat drug violence. The Mexican military belongs in the barracks, not the streets.

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PRI Resurgence & the Future of the Border Wars

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Election results in this year’s gubernatorial races have placed the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) back at the forefront of Mexican politics.

Mexico’s newly elected president, Enrique Peña Nieto. Source: eldiario.es

Led by front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto – the former governor of the State of Mexico – the PRI is striving to rebuild its tarnished image rightfully earned during their seventy year reign. Since the beginning of the year, the party’s confidence has acquired hubris due to it amassing a nearly 30 point advantage over the other 2012 presidential candidates.

Finding bi-partisan resolutions to domestic affairs will be limited in the lead-up to the 2012 election. PRI leadership is focused on ousting the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) from power which is expected to bring a deadlock at the national level; party leaders will be unwilling to work across the aisle knowing full well it has the possibility of aiding the other side. Creating a political stalemate that undermines the ability of the PAN leadership to develop economic programs and combat the cartels will only benefit the PRI. A deadlock in government will create the perception that the current administration is incapable of creating the policies needed to strengthen national stability.

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Mexico’s Drug Violence and American Complacency

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DoD Photo

DoD Photo

Violence in Mexico reached new levels in 2010 with killings totaling 15,273. The dead included innocent bystanders, drug cartels members and police and security forces. Since 2006, according to data released by the Mexican government, 34,612 have been killed. In Juárez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, out of a population of 1 million, 3,100 were killed in 2010. The states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Michoacan and Guerrero have witnessed the brunt of the violence. Despite the thousands killed in Mexico, violence is relatively low compared to its regional neighbors. According to government data, in Mexico there were 18.4 murders per 100,000, in Brazil the number is significantly higher with 25 per 100,000, in Colombia 37 per 100,000 and in El Salvador the number is even higher at 61.

The perception that Mexico is experiencing such high murder rates in comparison to its neighbors is explained by how these victims are killed and disposed of. The deaths tend to be gruesome by Western standards with victims turning up headless and in mass graves. Other methods of execution are hangings from bridges while the victims are alive or after they have been killed. In May of 2010, 55 bodies were found deep inside a silver mine in the town of Taxco and in June of 2010, six bodies were found in a cave in Cancún. Additionally, near the town of Acapulco in the state of Guerrero, over a dozen Mexican tourists were found in a mass grave. Killings in Cancún and Acapulco are putting a severe drain on the Mexican economy which is heavily dependent on tourism.

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