Monthly Archives: August 2009

PAN and PRD set congressional leadership

The PAN chose Josefina Vázquez Mota as the party’s leader in the new Chamber of Deputies, over former Government Secretary Francisco Ramírez Acuña, while the PRD selected Alejandro Encinas as its leader.  The second move was a surprise, since AMLO-protégé Encinas lost a bitter PRD leadership contest to Jesús Ortega last year. Encinas and Ortega were seen having breakfast in a Mexico City hotel during the week, in another public sign of the efforts to stitch up the divisions within the PRD. The PRI has not yet announced its congressional leader. (Excelsior 8/17)

Poll: Mixed views on election ‘loser’

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A new Mitofsky survey shows that two-third of those surveyed saw, not surprisingly, the PRI as the winner of the July 5 elections. Views of which party was the principal loser were divided. Priistas and independents saw the PRD as the big loser in the election, followed by the PAN. Panistas, on the other hand, saw their own party as the big loser – a view shared by perredistas.  The other

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party mentioned frequently was the Social Democrats, who will lose their registration. (Mitofsky 8/17)

Customs police overhauled

Some 1,100 customs police and inspectors were removed from their posts when their contracts expired and replaced with 1,470 new agents. In Ciudad Juárez, the army took control of the international bridge crossing and secured the weapons of the agents who were fired. While the timing of the action was a surprise, unnamed officials inside Customs said that the decision was made a year ago when it was determined that customs agents were implicated in most cases of smuggling, and the training of the new agents began last May. (Reforma 8/15, 8/16)

Carstens declares Mexico to be in ‘financial shock’

In statements before the Senate and the PAN congressional delegation, Finance Secretary Agustín Carstens declared that Mexico’s public finances were facing the worst “financial shock” in 30 years, and that the 2010 budget would have to solve a budget gap of Ps. 300 billion.  Asked about tax increases, Carstens said, “We’ll see on September 8,” when the government presents its budget proposal. Speaking to reporters during his state visit in Colombia, President Calderón said, “The truth is that in order to close the gap in public finances we need to reduce spending or increase public revenues or allow a deficit.… It seems to me that we need to find the best combination of the three alternatives.” (Universal 8/12, Reforma 8/13, 8/15)

Supreme Court frees prisoners based on ‘illegal acts’ by prosecutors

The Supreme Court voted 4-1 to free 20 men imprisoned for more than 11 years for a massacre in the village of Acteal, Chiapas in 1997.  Another 30 are expected to be freed soon. Citing severe misconduct by the prosecutors and lower court judges, including the fabrication of evidence and testimony, the Court ruled that the accused were denied the constitutional rights of due process and an adequate defense. The killing of 45 Tzotzil Indians, mostly women and children, by assailants from a rival community and the railroaded prosecutions by the Zedillo government during the Zapatista rebellion has long been an open wound.  The Court pointedly did not declare the innocence of those freed. Columnist Héctor Aguilar Camín wrote, “Acteal continues to be a hieroglyphic. Beyond the legal aspects, it is a problem of truth: what happened during the massacre, and who were the killers…. The ruling, however, could have enormous consequences in the correction of the Mexican justice system in all the cases where guilt is fabricated, a lamentable specialty of our justice system.” Emilio Chuayffet, Government Secretary under Zedillo (and who was fired after the massacre), returns to Congress in September as a PRI deputy from the State of Mexico.  (Reforma 8/12, Universal 8/12, Milenio 8/13, NY Times 8/12)

Refinery dispute ends

Ending months of controversy that pitted Hidalgo against Guanajuato and the PRI against the PAN, Pemex announced that the new US$10 billion refinery will be located in Tula, Hidalgo after the state assembled the required parcel of land. As a consolation prize, the Salamanca refinery in Guanajuato state will get a US$3 billion upgrade. Pemex had long preferred the Tula location on technical grounds. Jesús Reyes Heroles, the CEO of Pemex reaffirmed the commitment to the refinery, while cautioning that nothing was going to happen quickly. Pemex does not expect to put out the bids for the new refinery until 2011, and it will not begin operations for several years after that. (Universal 7/13)

Controversy on human rights and military continues

During the joint news conference ending the North American Leaders Summit, President Calderón defended the “scrupulous efforts” of the military to protect human rights in its operations against drug traffickers, and challenged critics to come up with “just one case where human rights have been violated and the competent authorities have not responded.”  José Miguel Vivanco, the director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas immediately shot back that Mexico’s own human rights commission had received 1,230 allegations of human rights violations during 2008, triple the prior year level, and said, “The Calderón administration ought to focus on the problem and not continue to defend defective military and judicial systems that perpetuate these actions.” It was noted that of the 12 cases cited by the government for prosecution of military crimes against civilians, eight dated to the Salinas and Zedillo governments. (Reforma 8/10, 8/10)

Expectations controlled for North American Summit

The meeting of North American heads of state took place in Guadalajara with the Mexican government emphasizing the cordial atmosphere and statements of support from President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper for Mexico’s war against drug traffickers, while expectations for progress on specific issues of importance to Mexico were downplayed.  Canada will not relax its recent requirement for visas for Mexican tourists. With respect to the U.S.-Mexico agenda, President Obama made positive statements about resolving the U.S. ban on Mexican trucks and human rights certification for the Mexican military under the Mérida Initiative, but no concrete agreements were announced.  For reasons of protocol, newly-confirmed U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual was not part of the U.S. delegation. (Presidencia 8/9, Universal 8/9)

Supreme Court weighs revoking military immunity for rights violations

The Supreme Court will consider a proposal from Minister José Ramón Cossío Díaz that members of the armed forces that commit crimes against civilians be tried in civilian courts rather than military tribunals. Last week Government Secretary Fernando Gómez Mont personally lobbied each of the 11 Ministers of the court against the proposal, arguing that it would risk the integrity of the armed forces and hurt the war against drug traffickers. The court is considered sharply divided on the issue. Columnist Denise Dresser noted, “The number of accusations of human rights violations committed by the Army has grown 600% in the last two years, to 140 per month. The war against drugs is becoming a serious problem for the civilian population, which ought not to be minimized or classified as ‘collateral damage.’  The military is capturing drug bosses, but it is also violating individual rights. The fight against crime is generating its own form of criminality.” (Universal 8/10, Reforma 8/10)

Poll: Economic outlook hits government

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A Beltran telephone poll for Excelsior showed that perceptions of the economic situation of the country remain very negative – second only to the environment of the Tequila crisis in 1995 – but also have been quite steady since October 2008. Sixty-three percent say that the government has done less than expected to confront the economic crisis, while 23% say it has done more.  (Excelsior 8/10)

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