President Enrique Peña Nieto’s “Pact for Mexico”

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Mar 182013
 

President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed a 34-page “Pact for Mexico” which addresses 95 important issues in five broad categories:

  • reducing violence
  • combating poverty
  • boosting economic growth
  • reforming education
  • fostering social responsibility

Though there are few details, the Pact specifically calls for:

  • Universal Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and Health Care Systems
  • Providing every public school student with a computer
  • Opening petroleum exploration to foreign investment
  • Creating a single national penal code, abolishing all the state penal codes.

Obviously, many of his objectives are very ambitious. For example, opening petroleum exploration to foreign investment could increase future production significantly but violates national sovereignty in the eyes of many Mexicans. Replacing all state penal codes with a national code could be messy; for example, abortion is legal in Mexico City but a crime in most other states. Several previous presidents have tried and failed to unify the criminal codes.

While most Mexicans enthusiastically support the reform package, many argue that, almost by definition, any 95-point plan lacks real focus and priority. Others say it will be nearly impossible to implement. On the other hand, as governor of the State of Mexico, Peña Nieto established a record of making ambitious promises and implementing them. For example, he was one of the first three governors to implement former President Calderón’s new legal reform program. In addition, he has already obtained the formal agreement of Mexico’s two other major parties, PRD and PAN, both of which have three members on the 14 member “Pact for Mexico” implementation team.

Investors seem impressed. When the Pact was announced, the Mexican stock market (Bolsa Mexicana de Valores, BMV) went up 1.2%, while markets in New York declined. Furthermore, Peña Nieto’s Party, PRI, has a strong plurality in both the Mexican Senate and Chamber of Deputies. He already has pushed through a Constitutional amendment on education reform and arrested the leader of the powerful teacher’s union on embezzlement charges.

We will have to wait and see how well Peña Nieto does with his very ambitious “Pact for Mexico”. If he achieves only a third of his objectives, he may replace Benito Juárez as Mexico’s “best president ever”. If he fails, Mexico will have to wait for future administrations to address the serious issues that face the country.

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Does Mexico have an “Open Government”?

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Mar 122013
 

The World Justice Project (WJP) 2012-2013 Report recently assessed 97 countries on eight Rule of Law factors. The “Open Government” factor involves engagement, access, participation, and collaboration between the government and its citizens. It includes accountability, freedom of information, and ability to petition the government.

The WJP ranked Mexico 32nd of 97 countries in terms of “Open Government”. Brazil ranked one better at 31st, while India (48th), China (69th) and Russia (70th) trailed significantly. For comparison, Sweden was ranked 1st, Canada 6th, USA 13th, Ghana 30th, Italy 47th, Guatemala 58th. Four African countries occupied the very bottom places: Ethiopia, Cameroon, Sierra Leone and Zimbabwe (94th to 97th , respectively).

In assessing open governments, the WJP uses four subfactors (with Mexico’s rank among the 97 countries in parentheses):

  1. The laws are publicized and accessible (48th)
  2. The laws are stable (26th)
  3. Right to petition the government and public participation (53rd)
  4. Official information is available on request (39th)

These scores suggest that Mexico is pretty much in the middle of the 97 countries assessed. It would do well to focus attention on better publicizing laws and encouraging public participation.

A previous post focused on the WJP analysis of Mexico’s “Criminal Justice System”. Future posts will investigate other “Rule of Law” dimensions of the WJP study.

Reforms badly needed for Mexico’s criminal justice system

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Mar 052013
 

The World Justice Project (WJP) 2012-2013 Report recently assessed 97 countries in terms of Rule of Law, which the WJP defines as “the underlying framework and rights that make prosperous and fair societies possible… where laws protect fundamental rights, and where justice is accessible for all”. Its definition includes four universal principles:

  1. The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.
  2. The laws are clear, publicized, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  3. The process by which the laws are enacted, administered and enforced is accessible, fair and efficient.
  4. Justice is delivered by competent, ethical and independent representatives and neutrals, who are sufficient in number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

The WJP looks at eight “rule of law” factors: limited government powers, absence of corruption, order and security, fundamental rights, open government, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice. Rather than attempt to combine all these factors into one rule of law index, the WJP looks at each factor separately. National scores on each factor are developed by surveying 1000 respondents in each country, as well as collecting questionnaires from in-country experts. This post looks at criminal justice; future posts will look at other rule of law factors.

Mexico scored particularly poorly with respect to “Criminal Justice” which the WJP defines as “a key aspect of the rule of law, as it constitutes the natural mechanism to redress grievances and bring action against individuals for offenses against society. An effective criminal justice system is capable of investigating and adjudicating criminal offences effectively, impartially, and without improper influence, while ensuring that the rights of suspects and victims are protected.”

According to the WJP report, Mexico’s criminal justice system ranks a very low 89st of 97 countries. It was 13th of 16 Latin American countries, and 29th of 30 middle income countries. These very low ranks are startling, given Mexico’s relatively high marks on most development indicators. Mexico even ranked below such economically poor countries as Pakistan (80th), Guatemala (84th), Egypt (56th), Ethiopia (49th), Senegal (54th) and Tanzania (47th) as well as behind Brazil (52nd), Russia (75th), India (64th) and China (39th). By way of comparison, Denmark ranked 1st, Canada 13th , Botswana 18th, and the USA 27th.

In assessing criminal justice, the WJP uses seven subfactors (with Mexico’s rank among the 97 countries):

  • criminal investigation system is effective (77th of 97),
  • criminal adjudication system is timely and effective (84th),
  • correctional system is effective in reducing criminal behavior (85th),
  • criminal justice system is impartial (89th),
  • criminal justice system is free of corruption (87th),
  • criminal justice system is free of improper government influence (57th),
  • due process of law and rights of the accused (78th).

Mexico ranked behind Brazil, China, India and Russia on all seven of these subfactors with only a couple of exceptions. China ranked 97th (dead last) and Russia ranked 80th in “criminal justice system is free of improper government influence.” Also Russia ranked behind Mexico at 84th in “due process of law and rights of the accused.”

These really poor ranks indicate that virtually all aspects of the Mexican criminal justice system are in dire need of reform and improvement. Fortunately, reform is on the way. “Judicial Reform in Mexico,” (published by the Trans-Border Institute of the University of San Diego in May 2010) summarizes the four main elements of Mexico’s Judicial Reform Law, approved by Congress in 2008, as:

  1. new oral, open to the public, adversarial procedures
  2. presumption of innocence and adequate legal defense for all accused
  3. modification of police and investigatory procedures
  4. tougher measures for combating organized crime

The reforms are scheduled for implementation by 2016, but may take a bit longer.

Some states, like Chihuahua, State of México, Morelos, Oaxaca, Nuevo León and Zacatecas, have already started implementing reforms, but some other states are lagging well behind. Full implementation of all the much needed judicial reforms will take many years, perhaps decades. On the bright side, at least reforms are in the process of being implemented.

Which political party has the most state governors?

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Feb 162013
 

Mexican governors are elected for single six-year terms; re-election is not permitted by the Mexican Constitution. The terms of governors in different states overlap; for example, seven of the 32 governors began their term of office in 2012.

The PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, Institutional Revolutionary Party) currently holds 19 of the 32 governorships spread throughout Mexico (states colored red on map), except for the northwest and extreme south. On 1 March 2013, PRI will gain another governorship when Aristoteles Sandoval of PRI replaces the current PAN Governor of Jalisco. Although PRI Presidential candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, easily won the Mexican Presidency in 2012, of seven new governors inaugurated in 2012, only three were from PRI.

Ex-President Calderón’s PAN (Partido Acción Nacional, National Action Party) is a distant second with seven governorships (blue on map); six after 1 March 2013. Four of the PAN governorships are in the northwest.

The PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, Party of the Democratic Revolution) is third with four governorships (yellow on map). Three of the PRD governors took office in 2012. PRD has held the important governorship of the Mexico City Federal District since 1988.

State governorships, 2010 and 2013

State governorships, 2010 and 2013

The Governor of Oaxaca (brown on 2013 map) is from the Movimiento Ciudadano (Citizens’ Movement, formerly known as Convergencia or Convergence), which supported López Obrador in the 2006 presidential election. The Governor of Chiapas is from the PVEM (Partido Verde Ecologísta de México; Mexico’s Green Party; green on the 2013 map).

The north-south political divide that we have referred to in some previous posts, including the equivalent map for 2010 shown above, is no longer evident in the current pattern of state governorships.

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Why Is Mexico in the OECD?

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Jan 172013
 

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was founded in 1961 to promote economic growth. Its current 34 members include 25 European countries along with Canada, the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Chile and Israel. Mexico joined the group in 1994. Four new members were admitted in 2010: Chile, Slovenia, Estonia and Israel. Russia is not yet a member but is moving toward that goal. The current Secretary General of the OECD is Mexico’s  José Ángel Gurría Treviño, first appointed in 2006; his current term in this position extends to 2016.

oecd_logo

OECD member countries are among the most highly developed and wealthiest countries on the planet. Though OECD members represent only 18% of the world’s population, they account for 55% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), measured on a Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) basis. Among OECD members, Mexico has the lowest per capita GDP, slightly behind Chile and Turkey. In terms of the UN Human Development Index (HDI) Mexico trails all the others except Turkey. How did Mexico become a member of this very elite set of countries?

There are three main criteria for OECD membership:

  1. Democracy and respect for human rights
  2. Open market economy
  3. GDP per capita (PPP) at least as high as the poorest OECD member

When Mexico became a member in 1994, it was a democracy albeit a one party democracy. It was very clearly an open market economy and its per capita GDP was slightly higher than Turkey’s. Consequently, it met the criteria and was admitted by other OECD members. (See Elżbieta Czarny et al., The Gravity Model and the Classification of Countriesin Argumenta Oeconomica, 2 (25) 2010.)

What are the benefits of OECD membership?

As a member, Mexico fully participates in OECD discussions concerning economic, social and environmental situations, issues, experiences, policies, and best practices. OECD collects and analyzes a very wide range of data which enables Mexico to monitor its position and progress on numerous important dimensions. OECD also has numerous world class experts and committees that can assist countries on specific issues and policies.

Certainly being a member of this elite group provides Mexico with an amount of international prestige. On the other hand, most development analyses and comparative OECD reports show Mexico near the bottom on most measures and rankings.

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Nov 012012
 

The recently published Gender Gap Report 2012 indicates that Mexico still has considerable work to do, though its gender gap is closing. The report does not reveal much about the quality of life of females in different countries, rather it focuses on the “gap” between females and males. For example, women in Japan have a relatively high quality of life, but the gap between them and Japanese men is very large. Thus Japan ranks 101st out of 135 countries.

The report ranks Mexico 84th out of 135 countries which does not sound so good. However, Mexico has been moving up in the ranks. It was 89th in 2011, 91st in 2010, 98th in 2009, 97th in 2008, and 93rd in 2007. Mexico’s gender gap score improved throughout the five year period.

Notable countries close to Mexico’s ranking, in the group ranked 80 to 90, are Italy (80), Hungary (81), Greece (82), Bangladesh (86) and Chile (87).

The top ten in the list (smallest gender gap) are the five Scandinavian countries, along with Ireland, New Zealand, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Switzerland. Canada and the USA are ranked 21st and 22nd. Among Mexico’s chief competitors, Argentina is 32nd, Russia is 59th, Brazil is 62nd, China is 69th, India is 105th and South Korea is 108th. The very bottom of the list is dominated by Islamic and many Sub-Saharan African countries.

The report indicates that Europe (including Canada and USA) ranked the highest, followed by Latin America (and the Caribbean), Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Pacific, and Middle East and North Africa, a rather distant last. Among 26 Latin American and Caribbean countries, Mexico ranked a relatively low 20th. Clearly, Mexico has a gender gap problem.

The Gender Gap Index is a composite index. It includes four sub-indexes, which are combined to get an overall score which is used to rank countries:

  • economic participation and opportunity
  • educational attainment
  • health and survival
  • political empowerment

In health and survival Mexico ranks a rather surprising 1st tied with 31 other countries. This means that Mexican females are unsurpassed with respect to sex ratio at birth (female/male) combined with female life expectancy (female/male). This is quite impressive. Perhaps males getting killed in drug and other violent activities helps Mexico’s score on this sub-index. Not surprisingly, China ranked 132nd and India at 134th are right near the very bottom.

On the down side, Mexico is ranked 113th in female economic participation and opportunity, though it has improved significantly. This index covers wage equality as well as proportion of female legislators, senior officials and managers, as well as professional and technical workers. Grouped near Mexico are Chile (110th), El Salvador (112th), Guatemala (114th), and South Korea (116th). Perhaps most telling is that female workers only earn 45% of what males do performing similar work. The percentages are worse in some other countries: Korea (44%), Indonesia (42%), Turkey (30%), India (27%), Pakistan (21%) and Saudi Arabia (17%). Less than a third (31%) of Mexican legislators, senior officials and managers are female, compared to 59% in Jamaica, 43% in the USA, 36% in Canada and Brazil, 23% in Argentina and only 10% in Bangladesh, Turkey and South Korea.

In the educational attainment sub-index Mexico ranks 69th. Its index score was just a fraction higher in 2007, when Mexico was ranked 49th. The report indicates that 98% of appropriately-aged females and 98% of males are enrolled in primary school. It shows that 73% of Mexican females are enrolled in secondary school compared to 70% of males. At the tertiary (college) level the percentage is 28% for both genders. These data seem very impressive, but in many other countries there are far more females enrolled than males; for example, in Uruguay the reports says that females lead male enrollments at the tertiary level by 81% to 47%. Despite Mexico’s rank of 69th, Mexico’s so-called gender gap in education does not appear to be a major concern.

Mexico’s political empowerment score improved significantly since 2011 and its rank went from 63rd to 48th apparently because the number of females in ministerial level positions went from 11% up to 21%. Relatively near Mexico are Canada ranked 38th, Australia (42nd), Colombia (51th), Pakistan 52nd),  Israel (54th), USA (55th) and China (58th). We imagine that the rankings of Canada, Australia, Pakistan and Israel were greatly helped because they have all had a female head of state in the last fifty years.

In conclusion, Mexico is making solid progress in closing its gender gap, but there is still plenty of work to be done.

Mexican attitudes on the drug war, violence and crime

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Jul 162012
 

Mexican drug cartels and related violence have received enormous attention. For an overview, see Mexico’s drug cartels and their shifting areas of operation, a 2012 update. All Mexicans are aware of the issue and millions have been affected directly. What are their current views and attitudes? A face-to-face survey in April 2012 by the Pew Research Center of 1,200 Mexicans in Mexico sheds light on this issue.

Most Mexicans (80%) support President Calderon’s decision to use the military to fight drug traffickers. On the other hand, less than half (47%) think the campaign against drug traffickers is “making progress”. Fully 30% feel the government is losing ground. While they support use of the military, 74% indicate that human rights violations by the military and the police are a “very big problem”.

Mexicans are not sure which political party is better for dealing with Mexico’s drug problems. Just over a quarter (28%) think President Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN) (28%) would do a better job compared to 25% for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and only 13% for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Fully 23% said that none of the three major parties is capable of resolving the issue. A possible reason for this is that only 14% blame mostly Mexico for the problem, compared to 22% who mostly blame the USA and 61% who blame both countries.

In general, Mexicans want the USA to help solve the drug problem. Fully 75% favor the USA training Mexican police and military personnel and 61% also approve of the USA providing money and weapons to the country’s police and military. On the other hand only a third favor deploying USA troops within Mexico, while 59% oppose this.

Mexicans feel that their country is facing some serious problems. Three-quarters of Mexicans think cartel-related violence (75%) and human rights violations by police and military (74%) are “very big problems”. The related issues of crime (73%), corruption (69%) and illegal drugs (68%) were also identified as “very big problems” by most survey respondents. Apparently, Mexicans do not feel very safe. More than half (56%) said they were afraid to walk alone at night within a kilometer of their home, 61% for women and 51% for men. Unfortunately, Mexicans are not very optimistic that the country’s drug violence problems will go away any time soon. On the bright side, 51% of the surveyed Mexicans felt their economy would improve in the next year compared to only 16% who thought it would worsen.

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Jul 122012
 

An earlier post discussed the north-south divide apparent in the 2006 presidential election. That year Felipe Calderón of PAN got the most votes in 14 of 17 northern states (blue on the map), while in 13 of 15 southern states Andrés López Obrador of PRD (green) got the most votes. Roberto Madrazo of PRI (pink) did not get the most votes in a single state.

Voting patterns in presidential elections, 2006 and 2012

Voting patterns in presidential elections, 2006 and 2012. All rights reserved.

The voting pattern changed considerably in the 2012 presidential election, but a north-south pattern still emerged. What was somewhat similar in both elections is that López Obrador of PRD retained much of his strength in southern Mexico. In both elections, PRD got most votes in seven southern states: Federal District, Morelos, Tlaxcala, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Tabasco and Quintana Roo. In 2012 PRD won in one other state, Puebla, which favored PAN in the 2006 election. Six southern states switched from PRD to PRI:  Michoacán, México, Hidalgo, Veracruz, Chiapas and Campeche. Puebla switched from PAN to PRD, while Yucatán went from PAN to PRI.

In the north, the pattern changed completely with the PRI replacing PAN as the highest presidential vote-getter. A total of 11 northern states switched from PAN to PRI: Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sinaloa, Durango, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosí, Jalisco, Colima and Querétaro. In 10 of these states PAN came second while PRD took second place in Baja California. In 2012 PAN got most votes in only three states–Nuevo León, Tamaulipas and Guanajuato–compared to 16 in 2006.

PRD appears to have lost much of its relatively weak following in northern Mexico. The three northern states PRD won in 2006 all switched to PRI: Baja California Sur, Nayarit and Zacatecas. In 2012, PRD could only manage second place finishes in three states: Baja California, Nayarit and Zacatecas.

While the north-south pattern is still somewhat apparent, the main pattern of the 2012 presidential election is a strong victory for PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto. PRI was victorious in 22 of 32 states and came in second in the other ten.

However, PRI fell just short of controlling Mexico’s Congress so it will need support from some other parties to pass needed legislation and reforms. Together with minority coalition partner PVEM (Mexico’s Green Party), PRI won 240 of the 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 62 of the 128 seats in the Senate. On the other hand, PRI has recently indicated support for many reforms similar to those previously proposed by PAN. This implies that needed reforms may have a decent chance of passing.

Further reading, with state by state analysis:

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The confirmed results of Mexico’s 2012 presidential elections

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Jul 062012
 

Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute, has now confirmed the results of the presidential vote, held on 1 July 201.

PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto is the president-elect of Mexico and will take office on 1 December this year.

The confirmed figures for the presidential vote are as follows:

  • Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI)  38.21%
  • Andrés Manuel López Obrador (PRD) 31.59%
  • Josefina Vázquez Mota (PAN)  25.41%
  • Gabriel Quadri de la Torre (New Alliance Party) 2.29%

The vote turnout was around 63%. We will analyze the map for voting patterns for president, by state, in a future post.

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How does Mexico’s electoral process compare to other countries?

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May 232012
 

On 1 July 2012 Mexicans go to the polls to elect a new six year president, a new senate and chamber of deputies. At the same time, voters in some states–Jalisco, Nuevo León, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Sonora, San Luis Potosí, Morelos, Federal District, Campeche and Colima– will cast their ballots in elections for state and local officials.

How free and fair are Mexican elections compared to those in other countries?

Before addressing this question, it is useful to acknowledge that elections in Mexico have improved dramatically in the past two decades, largely as a result of progressive reforms including the establishment of a strong and independent National Elections Commission (Instituto Federal Electoral, IFE). Prior to the late 1990’s one party, PRI (Partido Revolucionario Insititucional, Institutional Revolutionary Party) dominated most elections at the national, state and local level. Starting in 2000, when an opposition party, PAN (PAN or Partido Acción Nacional, National Action Party), won the presidency, elections in Mexico have been quite competitive. In 2006 a third party, PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática, Party of the Democratic Revolution), lost the presidency to PAN by less than 0.6% (35.89% to 35.31%). Since 1994 the winner of the presidency has not garnered 50% of the votes, leading some to argue that Mexico should conduct runoffs between the two highest vote-getters.

CountryScoreCountryScoreCountryScore
Uruguay10.00Peru9.17Turkey7.92
Canada9.58MEXICO8.75Indonesia6.92
Chile9.58Argentina8.75Venezuela5.67
India9.58Israel8.75Nigeria5.67
Brazil9.58South Africa8.75Russia3.92
USA9.17Guatemala7.92China0.00
Colombia9.17

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) annually develops a “democracy index” which includes a factor titled “electoral process and pluralism”. Scores on this factor are based on 12 questions concerning the conduct of free, fair and transparent elections open to all groups and all voters as well as the orderly transfer of power to those winning elections. Based on the EIU scores for 2011, countries with the perfect score of ten were Uruguay, Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Australia and New Zealand. Mexico is tied with Argentina, Israel and South Africa, trails Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Peru but is much closer to the top than the bottom (see table). Mexico is a point and a quarter below a perfect ten and almost a point ahead of Guatemala, three ahead of Venezuela and almost five ahead of Russia. China is last with a score of zero along with Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, North Korea, and other authoritarian regimes.

It will be interesting to see how the EIU scores Mexico after the 2012 elections.

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