Feb 082014
 

The Consejo Ciudadano para la Seguridad Pública y la Justicia Penal AC, a Mexican non-profit, has published an interesting report looking at the levels of violent crime in Mexico in 2013:

The authors take violent crimes to include intentional homicide, kidnapping, rape, aggravated assault, robbery with violence and extortion.

At the municipal level, violent crime is concentrated in a relatively small number of municipalities. The report looks at the statistics for the 216 municipalities (including delegaciones of the Federal District) that had estimated populations of over 100,000 in 2013. Since 2012, four municipalities have joined this group: El Fuerte (Sinaloa), Tepotzotlán (México), Pánuco (Veracruz) y Playas de Rosarito (Baja California). Between them, the 216 municipalities are home to about 64% of Mexico’s total population.

Data from government agencies and INEGI were used to compile rates for each crime in each municipality. These rates were then multiplied by the following weightings (to reflect the relative severity and impacts of each type of crime),

  • 0.55 for intentional homicide
  • 0.22 for kidnapping
  • 0.13 for rape
  • 0.04 for aggravated assault
  • 0.03 for robbery with violence
  • 0.03 for extortion

and summed to give an overall index for “violent crimes”.  For the 231 municipalities, the index ranged from 106.63 for Oaxaca, Oaxaca to 0.00 for Zapotlán el Grande in Jalisco. The full details of the methodology are explained and discussed in the report. A similar methodology was also used to calculate levels of violence by state.

The worst 10 municipalities in terms of violent crime were:

  1. Oaxaca, Oaxaca – violent crime index value of 106.63
  2. Acapulco, Guerrero – 80.35
  3. Cuernavaca, Morelos – 65.30
  4. Yautepec, Morelos – 56.19
  5. San Pedro, Coahuila – 53.42
  6. Cd. Victoria, Tamaulipas – 52.48
  7. Iguala de la Independencia, Guerrero – 52.25
  8. El Fuerte, Sinaloa – 50.82
  9. Jiutepec, Morelos – 50.29
  10. Torreón, Coahuila – 49.31

The national index (ie treating the entire country as a single entity) was 23.17, meaning that the index value for violent crimes in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, was more than four times that of the country as a whole.

Municipalities which were in the worst twenty in 2012 for violent crime, but have now fallen out of that group include: Lerdo (Durango) Zacatecas (Zacatecas), Cuautla (Morelos), Zihuatanejo (Guerrero), Temixco (Morelos), Cuauhtémoc (DF), Tecomán (Colima), Navolato (Sinaloa), Centro (Tabasco) and Monterrey (Nuevo León).

Moving into the worst twenty for the first time are: Playas de Rosarito (Baja California), Hidalgo del Parral (Chihuahua) San Pedro (Coahuila), Chilpancingo (Guerrero), El Fuerte (Sinaloa) and Chalco, Cuautitlán, Cuautitlán Izcalli, Ecatepec and Naucalpan (all in the State of Mexico).

Of the 213 municipalities, Acapulco had the highest intentional homicide rate (112.81/100,000, about 6 times the national rate of 19.05/100,000). Cd Victoria had the highest kidnapping rate (23.28/100,000, 15 times higher than the national rate of 1.46/100,000, though kidnapping rates in Mexico are notoriously unreliable, and have been the subject of intense press debate in recent months).

Violent crimes by state, 2013

By state (see map), Guerrero had the highest violent crime index with 47.76 points, followed by Morelos 43.99 and Chihuahua 40.87. In general, with the prominent exceptions of the State of México and Guerrero, the southern half of Mexico appears to be somewhat safer than the northern half.

Map of Violent crime index, 2013

Violent crime index, 2013. Source of data: see post. Credit: Geo-Mexico

For individual categories of crime at the state scale, Morelos had the highest kidnapping rate (8.24/100,000). Quintana Roo had the highest rate of rape (28.31/100,000, compared to national average of 11.36/100,000). The State of Mexico had the highest rate for aggravated assault (251.64/100,000 compared to national average of 130.21/100,000). Morelos came out on top for the highest rate of robbery with violence (455.08/100,000 compared to national average of 182.61) and for the highest rate of extortion (21.96/100,000 compared to national average of 6.94/100,000).

Good news for tourists

According to this report, almost all of Mexico’s major tourist destinations (with the noteworthy exception of Acapulco) are located in areas where violent crime is below the national average.

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 Posted by at 6:38 am  Tagged with: ,
Feb 062014
 

Figures from Mexico’s central bank (Banco de México) show that the value of remittances sent home by Mexicans working in the USA fell 3.75% in 2013, compared to the previous year.

Annual remittance totals in billions of dollars:

  • 2013 – 21.596
  • 2012 – 22.438
  • 2011 – 22.802
  • 2010 – 21.303

Trends in remittance payments are closely linked to trends in the US economy, so the slight fall in the past two years is no great surprise, as the US economy struggles to regain growth following the 2008 financial crisis.

There are some positive signs. Despite the decline over the year as a whole, the month of December saw remittances entering Mexico of 1.8 billion dollars, higher than any December since 2007.

In the last quarter of 2013, remittance payments were 3.46% higher than for the same period in 2012 (mainly due to a higher number of remittance payments), suggesting that remittance payments may now be on the rise again. The average amount remitted during the last quarter of 2013 was 285.34 dollars, 3.8% less than the average for the equivalent period in 2012.

Note: These remittance figures quantify only remittances sent via “formal” channels such as banks, and do not include informal payments carried directly back to Mexico by family or friends.

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Feb 042014
 

“Mastering Global Literacy” is a collection of short articles written to explain how “educators can cultivate globally literate learners while becoming globally connected themselves.” The book’s authors (Veronica Boix Mansilla, Anthony W. Jackson, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, William Kist, Homa Sabet Tavangar and Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano) “explore ways to bring global issues into the classroom and personalize them using new digital tools.” In addition, the advertising blurb promises that readers will find “strategies for implementing global-awareness studies into the traditional school curriculum, as well as creating new types of 21st century learning environments.”

mastering-global-literacyThe aims of this book are laudable, but sadly, in many ways, this book fails to live up to its hype. This is especially true of Chapter 5 (the concluding chapter), “Interdisciplinary Global Issues: A Curriculum for the 21st Century Learner”. The overly US-centric approach adopted in this book is nowhere more obvious than in this chapter. After defining what is meant by global literacy, the chapter considers how the (U.S.) National Geography Standards (NGS) can help educators plan courses that will promote it. The NGS certainly have considerable value in this regard, but (ironically) this chapter might have benefited from also considering a more global perspective such as that adopted by the geography curriculum of the International Baccalaureate’s Diploma Program.

Many of the suggestions made in this book for how global literacy can be promoted are already being practiced (and have been for decades) by geography teachers in the U.K., Australia and elsewhere. The idea that geography can be infused into other disciplines has been around for a long time, hence the proliferation of course titles (in many disciplines besides geography) including terms like “Global” and”World”. There is no need to reinvent this particular wheel in developing courses that promote global literacy, and little advantage to be gained from adopting new terminology, such as the proposals for “Geo-economics”, “Geocommunications”, “Geo-arts and literature”, “Geohealth”, “Geosports” and “Geo-education”.

This book is also the latest entrant in our “North America” hall of shame for its description of a “subject-specific strategy” that will boost global literacy in the classroom when “a globally connected educator facilitates the learning”. The strategy is based on a geography lesson in which “A middle school class is studying South America and following, via a blog and Twitter feed, a National Geographic-sponsored trip of a man traveling by bus from the United States to Antarctica. Students learn about the traveler’s different destinations throughout South America: Mexico, Guatemala, the Panama Canal, Colombia, Argentina, and finally, Cape Horn.”

“Houston, we have a problem!”. The suggestion that Mexico, Guatemala and the Panama Canal are located in South America is a classic example of geo-illiteracy and, as such, completely out of place in a book about global literacy.

Conclusion? While this book does have some valuable sections, it offers far less to geographers than its promotional materials would suggest. Given its title, the book’s failure to engage with modern geography (as practiced outside the USA) is a major limitation.

Mastering Global Literacy. Contributors: Veronica Boix Mansilla, Anthony W. Jackson, Heidi Hayes Jacobs, William Kist, Homa Sabet Tavangar, Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano. 136 pages. Solution Tree. 2013.

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 Posted by at 6:39 am  Tagged with:
Feb 012014
 

As we saw in an earlier post – Poverty on the rise in some states in Mexico – the total number of people living in poverty in Mexico continues to rise, though the poverty rate (as a percentage) remains roughly the same.

The measures of poverty used by Mexico’s National Political and Social Development Commission (Coneval) are multidimensional, and not simply based on household or personal income. This map shows the changes in “extreme multidimensional poverty” (a category that includes “the poorest of the poor”)  that occurred in Mexico between 2010 and 2012.

Changes in levels of extreme poverty in Mexico, 2010-2012.

Changes in levels of extreme poverty in Mexico, 2010-2012. Credit: Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved. Data: Coneval

In areas shaded red, a higher percentage of the population experienced “extreme poverty” in 2012 than in 2010; their personal situations and opportunities have presumably become significantly worse. Interestingly, this category includes the prosperous states of Nuevo León (economy based on manufacturing and services) and Quintana Roo (tourism).

The reverse is true for areas shaded blue where the extreme poverty rate has fallen: many of the people living in those areas have moved out of the most extreme category and presumably have seen their fortunes and opportunities improve, even if, in most cases, not sufficiently to have escaped the “poverty” category completely. This category includes more than half of Mexico’s 32 administrative divisions.

The fact that “extreme poverty” has declined in more than half of Mexico is encouraging, and suggests that government policies aimed at poverty reduction, such as Oportunidades are gradually making a difference. It remains to be seen whether or not this trend continues over the next few years.

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Jan 302014
 

Mexico recently approved the most significant energy reforms since the nationalization of the oil industry in 1938. The reforms end the 75-year monopoly over the energy industry enjoyed by state oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), opening the way for private investment in petroleum exploration and production.

The proposals do not allow foreign ownership of mineral or oil resources, but do allow private sector firms to participate in refineries and distribution networks, as well as sign profit-sharing contracts with state oil giant Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission. The reforms include a revised tax regime for Pemex, the world’s fifth-leading oil producer, and its reorganization into two subsidiaries.

Mexico’s oil production has risen recently to 2.5 million barrels/day (b/d) and is expected to reach 3 million b/d by 2018.

The Mexico-USA Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement (THA) has been approved by senators in Washington. The accord allows both countries to explore and develop crude reserves that straddle their exclusive economic zones in the Gulf of Mexico. It establishes “an environmentally safe and responsible framework to explore, develop, and share revenue from hydrocarbon resources that lie in waters beyond each country’s exclusive, economic zones,” according to White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden.

location of doughnut holes

The two “doughnut holes” where Mexican and US Exclusive Economic Zone claims overlap

The American Petroleum Institute has hailed the possibility of Mexico-USA joint projects in the Gulf of Mexico. The reserves in the maritime boundary region are believed to total more than 170 million barrels of oil and 15 million metric tons of natural gas, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

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Jan 272014
 

Every so often a book comes along that shakes up established wisdom and forces us to rethink our viewpoints and beliefs. The latest such book to cross my desk is Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo, published by publicaffairs in 2011.

poor-economicsThis is a worthy read for anyone interested in development theory, policy, practice and economics. The authors are professors of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and co-founded the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). Their book reports on the effectiveness of solutions to global poverty using an evidence-based randomized control trial approach.

Banerjee and Duflo argue that many anti-poverty policies have failed over the years because of an inadequate understanding of poverty. They conclude that the battle against poverty can be won, but it will take patience, careful thinking and a willingness to learn from evidence.

The authors look at some of the unexpected questions related to poverty that empirical studies have thrown up, such as :

  • Why do the poor (those living on less than 99 cents a day) need to borrow in order to save?
  • Why do the poor miss out on free life-saving immunizations but pay for drugs that they do not need?
  • Why do the poor start many businesses but do not grow any of them?

The book is supported by an outstanding website that includes:

  • Introductions to each chapter
  • Maps showing cited studies with links to original sources
  • Data and figures used with interactive data tools
  • A “What Can You Do” page with links to major organizations working in the field or for the problem discussed in the chapter

The website’s links to research papers mentioned in the book include four studies related to Mexico:

1. Do Conditional Cash Transfers Affect Electoral Behavior? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Mexico, by Ana L. De La O.

The evidence comes from the pioneering Progresa, the original Mexican conditional cash transfer (CCT) program (since repackaged as Oportunidades).  This CCT program led to a 7% increase in turnout and a 16% increase in the  incumbent vote share, with clear implications for politicians in areas where CCT programs reach a large percentage of voters.

2 School Subsidies for the Poor: Evaluating the Mexican Progresa Poverty Program, by T. Paul Schultz of Yale University (August 2001).

This study considered how a CCT program affected school enrollment. The CCT program increased enrollment in school in grades 3 through 9, with the increase often greater for girls than boys. The cumulative effect was estimated to add 0.66 years to the baseline level of 6.80 years of schooling.

3 Experimental Evidence on Returns to Capital and Access to Finance in Mexico, by David McKenzie and Christopher Woodruff (March 2008)

Microenterprises are often unable to access suitable financing, even though they are responsible for employing a large portion of the total workforce. This experiment, which gave cash and in-kind grants to small retail firms, demonstrated that this additional capital generated large increases in profits, with the effects concentrated on those firms which were more financially constrained. The estimated return to capital was found to be at least 20 to 33 percent per month, three to five times higher than market interest rates.

4 Working for the Future: Female Factory Work and Child Health in Mexico, by David Atkin (April 2009)

Atkins’ paper found that children whose mothers lived in a town where a maquiladora (export factory) opened when the women were sixteen years old were much taller than those children born to mothers who did not have a similar opportunity. The effect was so large that “it can bridge the entire gap in height between a poor Mexican child and the “norm” for a well-fed American child.” (Poor Economics, 229)

The increase in height could not be fully explained by the changes in family income resulting from employment in a maquiladora. As Bannerjee and Duflo suggest, “Perhaps the sense of control over the future that people get from knowing that there will be an income coming in every month -and not just the income itself- is what allows these women to focus on building their own careers and those of their children. Perhaps this idea that there is a future is what makes the difference between the poor and the middle class.” (Poor Economics, 229)

Conclusion

Banerjee and Duflo’s positive message is that poverty can indeed be alleviated, but we need to take one small measurable step at a time with constant evaluation of whether or not particular policies are successful, based on evidence, not just on belief systems.

Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty” deserves its place of honor alongside other such genuine classics as E.F. Schumaker’s “Small Is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered” (1973). It is a must-read for geographers, regardless of your political persuasion.

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Jan 252014
 

Work will begin shortly on building a 5-kilometer-long intraurban cable car in the Sierra de Guadalupe region of Mexico City. The cable car, formally known as “‘Teleférico Mexicable Sierra de Guadalupe” will link residents of the densely populated San Andrés de la Cañada settlement to Vía Morelos in Ecatepec.

cable-car-mexico-cityThe cable car system will be similar to tried and tested cable car systems that have proved successful in Zurich (Switzerland) and Medellin (Colombia).

The Sierra de Guadalupe cable car will have 190 cabins and 7 stations in total, including the 2 terminals. The 95-million-dollar system will benefit up to 300,000 people, and be able to carry 6,000 people an hour. It will more than halve the current travel time of 45 minutes from one terminal to the other to less than 20 minutes.

The Via Morelos terminal will be close to the existing mass transit options such as line 4 of the city’s Mexibús system and the Mexico City metro. About 300 workers will be employed during construction which is scheduled to be completed by early 2015. Once completed, the system will provide about 40 permanent jobs. The standard fare on the system is expected to be 9 pesos (about 70 cents).

A similar project is still under consideration for a western section of Mexico City, linking Santa Fe to Chapultepec.

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Jan 232014
 

Speaking at an event to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the National Water Commission (Conagua), President Enrique Peña Nieto announced that the government has allocated 170 million dollars towards modernizing the National Meteorological Service (Servicio Meteorológico Nacional, SMN).

The modernization will include establishing a National Hurricane Agency to coordinate hazard prediction, prevention and mitigation actions with state and municipal authorities to reduce the impacts of natural climatic hazard events.

2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Ironically, the 2013 season (shown) was the first Atlantic hurricane season since 1994 to end with no major hurricanes.

In related news, the government has also announced that progress is being made in compiling a National Atlas of Risks. The Atlas is an interactive GIS database containing details of settlements, soils, rivers, dams, highways, rail lines, river basins, oil fields, and many other factors related to the assessment of vulnerability and risk. Due to be completed by 2016, it will help all three levels of government (municipal, state, federal) decide how best to allocate hazard mitigation resources and improve the accuracy of risk assessments utilized in future planning decisions.

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Jan 202014
 

The Mexico City Metropolitan Area (dark grey on the map), which occupies the Valley of Mexico, extends well beyond the northern boundary of the Federal District and includes many municipalities in the State of Mexico. The two administrations (the Federal District and the State of Mexico) have to work closely together in order to coordinate actions in the Metropolitan Area, which had a population in 2010 of 20.1 million.

Map of Mexico City urban system

Map of Mexico City urban system. Click to enlarge. (Geo-Mexico Fig. 23.1; all rights reserved)

Toluca, the capital of the State of México, is Mexico’s 4th largest urban area, and a fast-growing industrial city in its own right, with a 2010 population of 1.8 million.

Toluca’s airport (the “Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport”) is mainly used by low-cost carriers like Interjet, Volaris and Aeroméxico Connect as an alternative to using the Mexico City International Airport, which is more expensive and operating at close to capacity. Passenger traffic through Toluca airport has grown rapidly, from 145,000 passengers in 2002 to a peak of almost 4 million in 2008, before falling back to about 1 million passengers in 2012.

Not surprisingly, the Mexico City-Toluca highway is one of Mexico’s busiest major routes, linking the Federal District via Toluca (see map) to western Mexico.

In recent months, several related plans have been announced that are designed to improve the two major transportation issues in this area:

  1. The near saturation of Mexico City International Airport
  2. The very busy (and often slow) highway between Mexico City and Toluca

To ease the situation of Mexico City International Airport, the federal Communications and Transportation Secretariat (SCT) plans to expand the airport eastwards, onto 5,500 hectares of federal land. The expansion is likely to take several years to complete, and will increase flight capacity even though it will not include an additional terminal.

Meanwhile, State of Mexico authorities have authorized a second runway for the Toluca International Airport, which will significantly expand that airport’s capacity. The SCT has proposed that Toluca Airport become an alternate airport for Mexico City, with the two airports linked by high-speed trains.

The SCT has already announced that a new rail link between Toluca and Mexico City will be jointly financed by the federal government and the State of Mexico. The existing plan is for the first phase of the “Toluca-Valley of Mexico Interurban Passenger Train” to end at the Metro Observatorio station in Mexico City, but a later phase would extend this line to Mexico City Airport. This new 2.7-billion-dollar rail line, capable of carrying 300,000 passengers a day, will run from Toluca via the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of Santa Fe to Metro Observatorio, reducing the travel time between Toluca and Metro Observatorio by more than an hour to around 40 minutes, with corresponding positive environmental impacts. Construction of the new line, which will include 4 intermediate stations, is due to begin later this year, and scheduled to be completed by 2018.

A separate 115-million-dollar project is underway to reduce highway congestion between Toluca and Mexico City. To boost the road transport capacity between the two cities, a multi-lane second tier is being added to 15 kilometers of the existing Mexico City-Toluca highway, from La Marquesa to Paseo Tollocan, at the entrance to Toluca.

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Jan 182014
 

A recent Washington Post article – Mexicali has become Mexico’s city of the deported as U.S. dumps more people there – highlights the fact that Mexicali now has the dubious distinction of receiving more deportees from the USA than any other Mexican border city.

As the article points out, “Once, border cities like Mexicali (population 700,000) were flooded with newcomers trying to go north. Today, they are filling with obstinate deportees, cut off from U.S.-born children, jobs and car payments, adrift in a kind of stateless purgatory that is beyond the United States but not really in Mexico either. They face a U.S. border that is tougher and more expensive to cross than ever.”

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency deported more than 400,000 migrants in the 2012 fiscal year, and close to 370,000 in 2013, about two-thirds of them to Mexico. Mexican government statistics for that time frame show that more than 110,000 were “repatriated” to Mexicali, even though it was not their point of origin, or even the closest Mexican border city to where they were detained.

According to the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) the deportees from the USA in 2012 included 13,454 unaccompanied Mexican minors under the age of 18.

This Washington Post graphic (click image to enlarge) neatly summarizes the situation.

Number of people deported to Mexico's border cities

Number of people deported to Mexico’s border cities. Click to enlarge. Credit: Washington Post.

The Washington Post article makes for some sober reflections on the plight of many of those deported from the USA, especially those individuals who have very strong family ties to that country.

The longer term social effects of such deportations are the focus of this article by Joanna Dreby, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Albany, State University of New York.

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