Acting on a long proposed initiative, President Calderón sent to Congress the constitutional legislation to create 32 unified state-level police forces that would do away with most of the 2,000 municipal police forces and establish uniform standards for recruitment, training, and control. “It is necessary to make a sharp change in course in the model for police organizations that will permit the Mexican State to guarantee public safety across the entire country,” he said. Municipalities would be able to keep their own police forces in some cases, if they demonstrated that their forces met the minimum standards. “On the day that, in addition to having a reliable, well-trained, and professional Federal Police to confront criminality, we also have in each of the 32 states reliable, well-trained, well-paid, well-armed police forces, that day we will be able to decisively close the space for criminality,” he concluded. The 2011 budget proposal already includes Ps. 2.4 billion for funding the initiative. PRD Senator Carlos Navarrete cautioned that the legislation would be subject to “exhaustive analysis” and “modification if needed” in the Senate. Meanwhile, Aguascalientes became the first state to create on its own unified police force. The mayors of the 11 municipalities in the state signed the agreements to cede control of their police forces to the state’s Secretary for Public Safety. (Universal 10/7, 10/11, Reforma 10/11)
In a bid to prevent a potential PAN-PRD alliance from winning the governorship of the State of Mexico in next July’s election, the state Congress voted 52-21 to abolish the legal figure of “candidates in common” that allowed multiple parties to put forward a common candidate. The measure was supported by the PRI, PVEM, Panal, Covergencia, and Social Democratic parties, and opposed by the PAN and PRD. As a constitutional measure, it will need to be approved by a majority of the state’s municipal governments prior to October 3 in order to become effective for the July 2011 elections. Parties could still form coalitions, which would require them to have a common platform and a sole representative before the election authorities.
PAN and PRD leaders attacked what is being called the “Peña Law,” after Governor Enrique Peña Nieto.
Gustavo Madero, the PAN leader in the Senate, said, “This disturbs me a great deal, because it is a regressive measure that stinks of authoritarianism.” Senator Carlos Navarrete of the PRD said, “What is happening in the State of Mexico is the announcement by Enrique Peña Nieto of how he would govern if he were to become President of the Republic. With a regression to the past, with legislative sneak attacks, with imposition of measures to create the most positive scenario for him and his party.” (Reforma 9/14)
The Justice Ministry (PGR) arrested Gregorio “Greg” Sánchez, the PRD-PT-Convergencia candidate for governor of the state of Quintana Roo. Sánchez is the mayor of Cancún, and was charged with violation of drug laws, racketeering, and use of illicit funds. PGR sources said he was linked to the Los Zetas paramilitary gang and the Beltrán Leyva cartel. His administration has been under suspicion at least since the kidnapping and murder of General Mauro Enrique Tello in February 2009. PRD Senate leader Carlos Navarrette angrily denounced the arrest in a press conference as a political provocation. “As president of the Senate, I consider it completely unacceptable to use the PGR for purely electoral and political ends….This situation will have an enormous cost for democracy in Mexico,” he said. (Universal 5/26, Reforma 5/26)
Senate president Carlos Navarrete (PRD) predicted that the Senate will pass a political reform package during March, in order to send it to the Chamber of Deputies for its vote before the session ends on April 30th. Navarrete said that with the PRD-PT-Convergencia proposal (submitted last week) and the PRI proposal (expected this week), along with President Calderón’s proposal sent down in December there was plenty of material to begin preparing draft legislation. The PRD political reform proposal consists of 12 major points, including congressional ratification of cabinet officers and recall elections for the President, governors, and mayors, that are in sharp contrast to the President’s proposed reform package (which most analysts believe would strengthen the executive). (Universal 2/20, PRD Senate 2/18)
Starting late December, the government began raising gasoline and other fuel prices to narrow energy subsidies. (In January 2009, President Calderón froze fuel prices as a response to the economic crisis.) The PRI and the PRD attacked the hikes, even though the price increases were implicit in the 2010 budget that both parties supported. PRI Senator Manlio Fabio Beltrones called the President ‘deaf’ to congressional demands to protect basic consumption goods from price increases. PRD Senator Carlos Navarrete said Congress could vote a rollback and take away the authority of the Ministry of Finance to set prices. (Reforma 1/8-9)
In a novelty for Mexico, opponents of the tax on Internet services staged a campaign to flood Twitter with tweets opposing the measure, using the tag #internetnecesario. The group got a boost from Senate president Carlos Navarrete (PRD), who endorsed the campaign. (Universal 10/25)
Another provision defers royalty payments by new cell phone operators for two years on new radio frequency spectrum to be auctioned for 3G networks. Purificación Carpinteyro, the former Undersecretary of Communications, called it, “a privilege inserted to address exclusively the interests of Televisa.” Long-term PAN critic of telecoms policy Javier Corral called it “a huge fiscal benefit for the wealthy telecoms owners,” that was negotiated between the Ministry of Finance and PRI Senate leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones to get PRI support for the Internet tax. (Reforma 10/26)
The opposition hit the proposed 2% anti-poverty tax as a back-door attempt by the PAN to introduce the value added tax on food and medicines, which are currently exempt. Senate coordinator Carlos Navarrete (PRD) declared the proposed new tax “dead and buried.” The PRI was more cautious. Francisco Rojas, the PRI leader in the Chamber, said that while the PRI opposed taxing food and medicine, “There is nothing definitive; we are just getting a first impression. It will be several weeks before we have a position.” (Reforma 9/12)
Former president Ernesto Zedillo said in a speech that the economic measures taken to date were inadequate and that Mexico needed a new fiscal reform. He said:
We have to carry out a definitive fiscal reform, that gives financial solidity to the Mexican State, and enables it to carry out its responsibilities….Unfortunately, the petroleum wealth, that has given us so much has, in certain measure, also taken much from us. It has taken away our willingness to face responsibly the recognition that we are a country with needs.”
Congressional leaders of all three parties united in attacking Zedillo. PRI Senate leader Manlio Fabio Beltrones called his statements “verbal incontinence.” Senator Carlos Navarrete of the PRD said that “Zedillo is mistaken in his diagnosis; he contributes very little with his opinion.” Emilio Gamboa, PRI leader in the Chamber, said Zedillo was “irresponsible.” His PAN counterpart Héctor Larios said, “The tax laws, without any doubt, need to be reformed, however it’s not prudent or appropriate to revise them in the middle of a global economic crisis.” (Reforma 5/18, 19)