Implications of Lopez Obrador’s Security Agenda

06/30/2018 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa)-  On July 1, 2018, in one of the most unprecedented elections of its history, Mexico elected a new President. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, commonly known by his initials, AMLO, will be Mexico’s next President. Previously having run for president in 2006 and 2012, his victory, though groundbreaking, is not surprising. AMLO consistently led election polls in comparison to the other major party candidates, Ricardo Anaya and Jose Antonio Meade.

It goes without saying that 2018 will stand out in Mexico’s election history. For the first time ever, independent candidates were able to seek presidential nomination. In addition, aside from electing a new party candidate, Mexican citizens voted for over 18,000 elected positions. With 89 million eligible voters, the highest in Mexican history, election outcomes have the potential to markedly change Mexico’s political landscape. On that note, Lopez Obrador’s victory may significant influence on Mexico’s relationship with its northern neighbor, the United States. Even more so, however, Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda could have unique implications on Mexico’s current security.

Lopez Obrador’s Background

Born in Mexico’s state of Tabasco, Lopez Obrador went on to study political science and public administration at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (Universidad Autónoma de México, UNAM), Mexico’s largest public university. Lopez Obrador’s political experience is rooted in Mexico’s long standing political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI). In 1976, he actively supported and campaigned on behalf of PRI Senate Candidate, Carlos Pellicer.

Lopez Obrador left the party in 1988 to join the National Democratic Front (Frente Democrático Nacional, FDN), a dissident left-wing coalition assembled to challenge the hegemonic rule of the PRI. That same year, Lopez Obrador ran as opposition for Tabasco’s governorship. Although he lost, he ultimately became the president of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, a center-left party founded from the remnants of the FDN. Lopez Obrador served as PRD president from 1996 to 1999.

Throughout his tenure, Lopez Obrador continued to build his political stature, including campaigning for indigenous rights, and organizing protests against Mexico’s behemoth energy company, Mexican Petroleum (Petróleos Mexicanos, PEMEX), and PRI corruption. In 2000, he was elected as Mexico City’s mayor. His time in office was considered to be generally successful as his administration significantly improved Mexico City’s infrastructure, including remodeling the historic metropolitan center, expanding highways and improving public transportation with the introduction of Metrobus, a public transit system.

Lopez Obrador resigned from his mayoral position in order to seek presidential nomination for the PRD for the 2006 Presidential elections. Although he led the majority of the election polls, National Action Party (Partido Acción Nacional, PAN) candidate, Felipe Calderon, edged ahead by less than one percent.  Lopez Obrador protested the election results, demanding a recount and even held a public “inauguration” declaring himself the legitimate president of Mexico. Lopez Obrador ran again for president in 2012, once again falling short and alleging election

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

Supporters for Andres Manuel López Obrador. (Guillermo Arias, The New York Times)

fraud.

Ultimately, Lopez Obrador stepped away from the PRD and founded his own political party in 2014, the National Regeneration Movement (Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional, MORENA).  In coalition with a left-wing Labor Party (Partido del Trabajo, PT), and right-wing Social Encounter Party (Partido Encuentro Social, PES), Lopez Obrador once again sought presidential candidacy in the 2018 elections.

A Revised Security Agenda  

Under the slogan, “Together we will make history (Juntos Haremos Historia),” Lopez Obrador successfully led a center-left campaign that captured over 50% of the vote with one of the highest election margins in Mexican political history. His firebrand promises to bring change to Mexico, resonated with many Mexican voters. Lopez Obrador emphasized his determination to uproot corruption across Mexico and address rampant issues of poverty and violence.

In particular, his rule of law and security-specific proposals include: creating a National School of Public Security to enforce a zero-tolerance policy on corruption among law enforcement, establish state-level entities and obligatory trainings to monitor and increase the professionalization of law enforcement officials across Mexico, target the socio-economic roots of organized crime to reduce the incentive of organized crime, reform the 19th Constitutional Article to allow for preemptive imprisonment for corruption crimes, and analyze the efficiency of the Judiciary Council and revise the structure of the federal judiciary, in particular the Supreme Court, accordingly.

One of Lopez Obrador’s most controversial security proposals includes amnesty legislation for the purpose of reducing cyclical patterns of socio-economic insecurity in Mexico. Following his election, Lopez Obrador held his first security cabinet meeting to further develop the parameters of this proposed legislation. According to Alfonso Durazo- Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Public Security, a newly reinstated position of state- amnesty would be key to the new administration’s security agenda.

Notwithstanding that amnesty is a politically ionized concept, particularly in Mexico’s current state of insecurity, some see it as a step towards the de-escalation of Mexico’s violence. Raúl Zepeda Gil, a security expert for the Institute Belisario Domínguez of the Senate of the Republic (Instituto Belisario Domínguez del Senado de la República), identifies three ways in which amnesty could introduce effective mechanisms for reducing violence, including: the perspective of post-conflict pacification, alternative sentencing for minor/non-violent acts, and revised drug regulations. Although, he concedes that implementing amnesty comes with another set of issues, such as sustainability and corruption, Zepeda highlights the benefits of amnesty negotiations and transitional justice strategies applied in Colombia, a country which experienced violence and organized crime similar to Mexico. Ultimately, he argues that amnesty legislation for Mexico may in fact be an effective formula to redressing systemic patterns of violence and socio-economic instability.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and Olga Sánchez Cordero. (Marco Ugarte, Associated Press).

These aforementioned and often controversial mechanisms are already under-consideration and open to public debate, according to Olga Sánchez Cordero, Lopez Obrador’s selection for Secretary of Government. In a recent Seminar on Violence and Peace: Forget, Truth, or Justice? (Seminario sobre Violencia y Paz: ¿Olvido, verdad o Justicia?), she affirmed that the new administration will be open to transitional justice mechanisms in their bid to uphold a human rights-focused agenda. In the words of Sanchez Cordero, Mexico needs new institutions and new systems to amend its reality, including amnesty negotiations, but also alternative and reduced sentencings, the decriminalization of certain drugs, reparation polies, and socio-economic policies targeting the recovery of public spaces.

Lopez Obrador’s intended approach has already elicited a response from the White House, in particular the topic of narcotic policies. In answer to the possibility that Mexico may legalize drugs, Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, asserted that the United States no way supports the legalization of drugs. However, Sanchez Cordero’s proposals have thus far only suggested the decriminalization of marijuana and opium.

Although Lopez Obrador is adamant in his promise to reinvent the security strategies used in Mexico, critics are skeptical, pointing out that his proposed security policies are relatively experimental in Mexico. Regardless, on election day, Mexican voters were willing to take a leap of faith. In the words of Laura Chinchilla, former President of Costa Rica, recent populist elections reflect a regional demand for change. “The results are not endorsements of ideologies, but rather demands for change, a fatigue felt by people waiting for answers that simply have not arrived (New York Times).”

Upon accepting his appointment as President elect, Lopez Obrador stated that under his leadership he will “establish an authentic democracy” in Mexico. Political promises, apprehensive criticisms and hopeful constituents aside, only time will reveal the attainability of Lopez Obrador’s proposed security agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

“Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. July 2, 2018. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Andres-Manuel-Lopez-Obrador

Palacios, Surya. “Perfil: Quien es Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)? Alto Nivel. July 2, 2018. https://www.altonivel.com.mx/elecciones-2018/amlo/perfil-amlo-lopez-obrador/

Lafuente, Javier. “La Victoria de López Obrador lleva al poder a la izquierda en México.” El Pais. July 2, 2018. https://elpais.com/internacional/2018/07/02/mexico/1530496335_470433.html

Najar, Alberto. “5 razones que hacen históricas las elecciones presidenciales en México.” BBC Mundo. July 1, 2018. http://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-43578377

Ahmed, Azam and Paulina Villegas. “Lopez Obrador, an Atypical Leftist, Wins Mexico Presidency in Landslide.” The New York Times. July 1, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/01/world/americas/mexico-election-andres-manuel-lopez-obrador.html

“Esto fue lo que dijo López Obrador tras su Victoria electoral (discursos completos).” Animal Politico. July 2, 2018. https://www.animalpolitico.com/2018/07/discursos-lopez-obrador/

Zepeda Gil, Raúl. “Pacificación a la mexicana: apuntes sobre la propuesta de amnistía de López Obrador.” Nexos. July 9, 2018. https://seguridad.nexos.com.mx/?p=886

The Potential Effects of Violence on the Mexican Economy

Source: DIMSA

06/01/18 (written by Quinn Skerlos)- In the shadow of its most violent year in decades, Mexico experienced economic challenges and a downturn in economic growth rates. As the country faced an average of 80 intentional homicides per day in 2017 (El País), CNN reports that Mexico’s economic growth rate also fell almost a full percent, while 2% GDP, rising interest and inflationary rates show more signs of economic trouble. While levels of rising violence cannot be held fully accountable for this period of economic contraction- as lengthy NAFTA negotiations and widespread distrust in electoral processes also play a part- the Mexico Peace Index has suggested that violence is an obstacle for the Mexican economy.

 

Violence Generating Threats to Business

According to the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico, companies are consistently tasked to deal with the threat of theft, extortion, and violent attacks against their employees and supply chains. Mexican companies, such as “Grupo Lala,” closed distribution centers in states with high crime and intentional homicide rates like Tamaulipas.

In Guerrero, another state grappling with high homicide rates, the Coca Cola bottler, Coca-Cola FEMSA, closed a major distribution center. The firm previously employed 160 people at that location. FEMSA may be a major international business player, but most small and medium companies face similar challenges. According to Canacintra, a Mexican industry association, in recent years approximately 6% of annual revenue goes into defense for these small and medium sized firms. FEMSA pinned the violence on “a lack of rule of law and the prevalence of impunity (Associated Press).” According to Consejo Coordinador Empresarial (CCE), “high levels of violence have become the greatest obstacle to economic activity,” ultimately impeding economic activity across Mexico and heightening the risk workers face in their everyday occupations (Reuters).

 

International investment in Mexico is has also been impacted. Just recently, in the state of Chihuahua, Canada’s Pan American Silver Corp scaled down operations after a series of threats by armed groups against employees. A large number of employees were sheltered in the mine over the weekend of May 25-27, while others were airlifted out. As workers are impeded from getting to job sites, large and local companies deal with threats and broken supply chains, multinational firms potentially reconsider investment in Mexico. While this incident highlighted the challenges for international companies operating in Mexico, Mexico’s nationalized companies, such as Mexican Petroleum (Petróleos Mexicanos, PEMEX), have faced similar dilemmas. It is estimated that the theft of oil and gas from PEMEX is equal to about one billion dollars annually.

 

Source: CNN

The Bigger Picture

According to Reuters, in 2017 alone, violence cost the economy 2.18 trillion pesos (106 million US dollars), and the Mexico Peace Index shows that the Mexican government increased violence containment spending by 70% in the past decade. According to the Mexico Peace Index, said statistics could suggest a parallel between violence with economic instability.

According to a recent Pew Research poll, in 2017, Mexicans were generally unsatisfied with their country’s progress. The ruling party, Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI), presidential candidate is sitting behind the pack in a distant third place. The emergence of a new popular party in the recent elections might show a dissatisfaction with the status quo. A 2018 Bloomberg poll shows that the leadership of Mexico will likely change after the upcoming election. What that means for the rule of law and the economy in Mexico is still unknown.

 

 

Sources

Angulo, Sharay., Esposito, Anthony. “Businesses turn up the heat on Mexican government over crime surge.” Reuters. May 28, 2018. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-violence/businesses-turn-up-heat-on-mexican-government-over-crime-surge-idUSKCN1IU031

Verza, Maria. “Canadian mine latest business affected by Mexico violence.” Associated Press. May 28, 2018. https://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/canadian-owned-mine-cuts-back-mexico-safety-55491513.

“El Banco Mundial en Mexico.” Banco Mundial. April 16, 2018. http://www.bancomundial.org/es/country/mexico/overview

“3 Focos Rojos Para El Crecimiento Economico de Mexico En 2018” Expansion. March 12, 2018. https://expansion.mx/economia/2018/03/12/3-focos-rojos-para-el-crecimiento-economico-de-mexico-en-2018

Stargardter, Gabriel. “The Refinery Racket.” Reuters. January 24, 2018.  https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/mexico-violence-oil/

“Mexico Peace Index 2018.” Institute for Economics and Peace. 2018.

Perez, David Marcial. “Mexico cerrara 2017 como el mas violente en 20 anos.” El Pais. December 23, 2017. https://elpais.com/internacional/2017/12/23/actualidad/1513997748_288693.html

Vice, Margaret. Chen, Hanyu. “Mexicans are Downbeat on their Country’s Direction.” Pew Reseearch Center, September 14, 2017. http://www.pewglobal.org/2017/09/14/mexicans-are-downbeat-about-their-countrys-direction/

Ahrens, Jan Martin. “Sobrevivir en Tamaulipas.” El Pais. April 15, 2015. https://elpais.com/internacional/2015/04/15/actualidad/1429128474_283895.htm

Gayol, Rafeal. Manuel Rodriguez, Carlos. Spinetto, Juan Pablo. Walsh, Brandon. “Mexican Election Coverage.” Bloomberg. June 25, 2018. https://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2018-mexican-election/

 

 

 

Mexico’s Fugitive Former Governor Javier Duarte Taken into Custody

Javier Duarte, under custody of Guatemalan authorities, is awaiting formal extradition to Mexico. Source: Prensa Libre

Javier Duarte, under custody of Guatemalan authorities, is awaiting formal extradition to Mexico. Source: Prensa Libre

05/8/17 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa) – The Guatemalan National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil, PNC) detained former governor of Mexico’s Veracruz state, Javier Duarte de Ochoa, on the evening of April 15 in Panajachel, Sololá, Guatemala. Duarte has been a fugitive of Mexico since October 2016, evading allegations of money laundering by the federal Attorney General’s Office of Mexico (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR).

According to Manuel Noriega, deputy director of Interpol in Guatemala, Duarte was found at a hotel in Panajachel. Mexican officials informed Duarte that he had been found and requested that he give himself up to the Guatemalan authorities. Duarte did so voluntarily. Observing diplomatic relations with the PGR, the detention was conducted as a joint operation between the PNC and Guatemala’s Interpol office.

Duarte was taken to the military prison, Matamoros, in Guatemala City. He will remain there until Mexico presents a formal request for extradition to the federal Attorney General’s office of Guatemala. Mexico will have 60 days to request Duarte’s extradition. The PGR released information on the day of Duarte’s arrest confirming that they intend to pursue extradition. Furthermore, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) expressed their public support of the Guatemalan authorities and their role in detaining Duarte.

Duarte is not the only PRI-affiliated politician that has been charged with allegations of corruption in recent weeks. Former Mexican state governor of Tamaulipas, Tomás Yarrington, was captured in early April by Italian authorities on charges of corruption in response to a U.S. extradition request, which was an embarrassment to Mexican authorities. César Duarte, who was also wanted for similar charges of corruption was captured just a week later by Mexican authorities.

Institutional Corruption in Mexico

Since disappearing six months ago, Duarte became a regional symbol of institutional corruption in Mexico. A former public official of the PRI, Duarte was accused of corruption and misappropriating state funds through his position in public office. The PGR began investigating these accusations in July of 2016.

Javier Duarte, some months before he fled Mexico, standing outside of PRG headquarters in Mexico City. Source: The New York Times

Javier Duarte, some months before he fled Mexico, standing outside of PGR headquarters in Mexico City.
Source: The New York Times

By September, Mexican authorities believed that Duarte used false identities and phantom companies to relocate public funds for personal benefit, which included acquiring over a dozen vacation homes. One month later, local congressional authorities reported that financial irregularities tied to Duarte’s dealings in 2015 accounted for more than $16,000 million Mexican pesos (about $850 million USD).

Duarte, who served as governor of Veracruz for nearly six years, resigned on October 12, 2016. One week later, a federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest. Although he publicly denied all charges, Duarte fled Mexico before he could be detained.

Duarte was expelled from the PRI on October 25, 2016 and soon after; the PGR offered $15 million pesos for information leading to his whereabouts. Additionally, President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned Duarte’s actions before Mexico’s Supreme Court of the Nation (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación).

Although Javier Duarte has not denied the allegations pursuant to his imminent extradition, he has refused immediate and voluntary repatriation, requesting that Mexico formally pursue his extradition. According to César García, the Guatemalan judge presiding over Duarte’s extradition, this process may take anywhere from four to six months.

Sources

Malkin, Elisabeth and Paulina Villegas. “Warrant for Mexican Ex-Official, Now on the Run, Is Seen as a Step in Graft Fight. The New York Times. October 20, 2016.

“Javier Duarte, exgobernador prófugo de Veracruz, fue detenido en Guatemala.” Univisión. April 15, 2017.

“Fugitive Mexican Ex-Gov. Javier Duarte Detained in Guatemala.” The New York Times. April 15,2017.

“Javier Duarte, exgobernador de Veracruz, capturado en Guatemala, fue recluido en Matamoros. “Prensa Libre. April 16, 2017.

“Javier Duarte, recluido en cárcel militar Matamoros, Guatemala.” Diario de Xalapa. April 16, 2017.

Ramos, Jerson and Mynor Toc. “Javier Duarte rechaza ser extraditado a México.” Prensa Libre. April 19, 2017.

“La detención de Javier Duarte, lo más viral de la semana.” El Universal. April 22, 2017.