The government released for the first time comprehensive data (Mexico Segob homicide database) on killings related to organized crime. Ministry of Government spokesman Alejandro Poiré said the disclosure was “an exercise of transparency without precedent in Mexico, and with few precedents in the world.” The database includes killings month by month from December 2006 (when Felipe Calderón took office) through December 2010 for more than 1,100 municipalities across the country.
Some highlights from the government data:
- Overall killings spiked to more than 15,000 in 2010, an increase of 59% from 2009. The government’s figures are significantly higher than those compiled (and published weekly) by the major newspapers. Reforma for example, recorded 11,583
- On a quarterly basis, the peak was 2Q and 3Q 2010. The rate of killings was down 10% in 4Q10, though the government was unwilling to say this was the beginning of a trend.
- Since December 2006, 70% of the killings have been concentrated in just 85 municipalities, concentrated along the U.S. border and the Pacific coast.
Poiré’s presentation is here: SEGOB Presentation on Organized Crime Killings, Jan 11
On Saturday, President Felipe Calderón announced a cabinet reshuffle, with an eye to the 2012 election. Juan Molinar Horcasitas, one of Calderón’s closest political advisers, resigned as Secretary of Communications and Transportation in order “to participate intensively in political-party work that is important for the life of the country” according to the President’s statement. He is being replaced by Dionisio Pérez-Jácome, who has been Undersecretary of Finance for Expenditures and who also briefly served as presidential chief of staff.
Molinar’s record as head of SCT was not stellar. The ministry continued to be bedeviled by technical problems in executing the government’s ambitious transportation infrastructure program. And little headway was made in the area of telecommunications policy, where the award of a large bloc of wireless spectrum to a Nextel-Televisa consortium was drowned in a sea of lawsuits and the withdrawal of Televisa.
The President also named congressman Roberto Gil Zuarth as his new private secretary, replacing Luis Felipe Bravo Mena. Gil Zuarth had been widely seen as the President’s preferred candidate to take over the PAN in the party’s recent election of a new leader (an election won by Senator Gustavo Madero). Bravo Mena is returning to the private sector.
As noted by El Universal’s Bajo Reserva column: “Inside and outside his party, the PAN, the reading [of the changes] was the same: it is a signal that Calderón is not packing his bags and ready to give up power, perhaps to a political adversary. [The appointments] announced yesterday were a demonstration that he will give battle to everyone, including those within his own party.”
Georgina Kessel moves from Secretary of Energy to the President of Banobras, the development bank. She replaces Alonso García Tamés, who returns to the private sector.
José Antonio Meade, Undersecretary of Finance, becomes the new Secretary of Energy. Meade becomes the last of the senior level technocratic ‘old guard’ of the Ministry of Finance to leave, a process that started with the appointment of Ernesto Cordero as Finance Secretary in December 2009.
On today’s legal deadline, the Chamber of Deputies appears set to approve the expenditure law for 2011. The Finance Commission unanimously approved the expenditure proposal at 2am. The President’s request for increases for the security agencies, including the funds to create the unified police forces, were approved. The principal cause of delay in approving the expenditure package had been negotiations to allocate funds for highway construction between the different states. (Excelsior 11/15)
Reforma revealed that the 2011 Budget includes a provision that would authorize bonus payments for the President, 376 government officials, and 623 military commanders for the additional risks that they face in the performance of their duties. The payments are in the range of Ps. 44-48,000 per month, with a total cost of Ps. 500 million. (Reforma 9/21)
The bicentennial celebrations of Mexico’s Independence took place across Mexico without incident, albeit under heavy security and some restrictions on public access. At the National Palace in Mexico City, President Felipe Calderón gave the traditional “Grito” or Cry of Independence. He was joined by former Presidents Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-94) and Vicente Fox (2000-06).
In an interview, Carlos Salinas explained his decision to participate by quoting the words of President Ávila Camacho in 1942, when Mexico entered the Second World War, and Ávila Camacho was also joined by his predecessors in a call for national unity: “We are here — those of yesterday and those of today. While we are united, there is no enemy that can defeat us.”
The other living ex-Presidents, Luis Echeverria (1970-76), Miguel de la Madrid (1982-88), and Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000), declined Calderón’s invitation.
In a long expected change, long-time panista Cecilia Romero resigned as head of the National Migration Institute. The deaths of the 72 Central American migrants at the hands of the drug cartels last month forced the change, although she has long been seen as ineffective.
The Budget submitted on the 8th offered few surprises. The largest spending increases were for the security agencies, with the Army, Navy, Public Security, and Government ministries getting a combined 16.3% increase, while programmable spending as a whole goes up just 2.3%. (Part of the funding increase includes the unification of state level police forces, which has not yet been approved by Congress.) As previously announced by the Ministry of Finance, the budget includes no changes in taxes or rates, while promising to continue to raise gasoline prices in order to eliminate the implicit subsidy. The targeted public sector borrowing requirement is 2.7% of GDP, down from this year’s expected 3.2%. Sergio Sarmiento called the budget “in general, reasonable,” a view that appears shared by most observers. (Hacienda 9/8, Reforma 9/9)
Even as the PRI leadership – Manlio Fabio Beltrones, Beatriz Paredes, and Francisco Rojas – met privately with President Calderón to discuss budget priorities, the party published an open letter to the President calling for an economic package with no new taxes and a rollback of the value added tax (VAT) from 16 to 15%. Undersecretary of Finance José Antonio Meade said the budget, to be delivered on the 8th, would keep all taxes unchanged from current levels and called the proposal to cut tax rates “irresponsible” given the decline in oil production. Meade said the budget to be proposed would have a deficit of about 0.4% of GDP, and that a 1% cut in the VAT would cost about Ps. 35 billion. (Universal 9/7)
Simultaneously with the Informe, Calderón issued a decree accelerating the conversion from analog to digital TV. According to the President, this “transcendent measure” will free up the 700 MHz band (currently used for analog) for other uses that will speed the convergence of telephone, Internet, and television services. The recapture of spectrum, sure to be challenged in court by the broadcasters, is now set to begin in 2012 and be completed by 2015. José Antonio Crespo writes, “If carried out as proposed, [the decree] could become the greatest legacy of the Calderón government and would have media-political implications of the greatest importance. The competition between the electronic media and telecommunications providers constitutes a reform of great depth, which could contribute to democratization, opening up new information options … in order to reduce the enormous political influence that the media and communications conglomerates have in Mexico.” (Excelsior 9/3)
President Calderón’s fourth Informe largely focused on highlighting the ten initiatives announced in last year’s message, and called for Congress to pass blocked reform legislation. The greatest emphasis was put on security, with the capture of Édgar Valdez Villarreal, aka “La Barbie,” providing a much-needed exclamation point. The President, however, warned: “Today, crime is the greatest threat to peace, security, and the freedom of Mexicans. … The fight for security calls for and requires the commitment of all. We have to close ranks to fight it. It is a cause that should be above particular interests, of ideologies, of parties. We need to understand that the common enemy of Mexicans is the criminals, not the authorities who fight the criminals. I have said that this is not, nor can it be, the fight of the President only. It needs to be part of a policy of the State that, as such, corresponds to the three levels of Government and the three powers, to the media, to all society, with each acting in its area of responsibility, and each according to his means.”
On the eve of the bicentennial of Independence, the President closed with an emotional call for unity and for taking up the challenge to close the gap between “the two Mexicos”: the Mexico of world leaders and the Mexico of extreme poverty. “Our generation has the opportunity to change Mexico. A peaceful change, that will overcome inertia, that will overcome resistance. A profound change that will make Mexico into a nation that is strong, just, prosperous, secure, clean, free democratic; the nation that we want it to be.” (Presidencia 9/1)