¡Hola BUIAA! Happy October!
Join us this week, on Wed. the 3rd, at 7:30 pm in PHO 203 for our next weekly Global Insights discussion.
Up on the agenda is Mexico! It is the U.S. neighbor to the South, a rising economy, and a country with developments most interesting and significant in international affairs.
What do you need to know for our discussion? Check out the briefing below!
A New Government?
With the Mexican general elections on July 1, 2012, President Felipe Calderón and his National Action Party (PAN) have been replaced as the ruling group by President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto and the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
The PRI, however, comes from a long history in Mexican politics. Under a succession of different names, this group ruled Mexico for 71 years, and only lost the Presidency for the first time in the 2000 general elections. After a brief stint of only 12 years as the opposition, therefore, they have now returned to government amidst much controversy.
Significant portions of the population, encouraged by the leftist party losers in the 2012 election, have come out to protest Nieto’s victory. On the basis of the PRI’s admidttedly controversial history with corruption and ruthlessness in power, they claim the PRI bought the election illegally and contest it’s results.
On the other hand, however, the PRI was ousted in 2000 for the promise of something new under President Calderón and PAN. Over the course of his 12 years in office though, the Mexcian people have been largely dissapointed by his failure to bolster economic and inability to curb drug related violence.
In fact, Calderón’s esclation of the drug wars was a signficant rallying point for the PRI, that promises a less distruptive, violent, and militaristic solution to the country’s problems of rampant crime.
With such a complicated situation facing the Nieto and the PRI as they assume power, therefore, alliances and catering to public sentiment will be of the utmost importance as they try to move Mexico forward.
A Rising Economy
Mexico has always had enormous economic potential. With a plethora of resource wealth, particularly in oil, as well as a developed export-based economy, it has the ability to become a leading economic power in both the Americas and the international community.
Currently, Mexico has the world’s 13th largest economy, and has rapidly increasing manufacturing and service industries.Recent administrations have expanded competition in ports, railroads, telecommunications, electricity generation, natural gas distribution and airports, while also continually aiming to improve the country’s infrastructure.
Around 90% of its trade occurs under free trade agreements with over 40 different countries. The extent and profit of this commerce is continually on the rise as well.
It’s main obstacles to overcome, however, are the lingering effects of the 2008 Global Recession, as well as years of failed state ownership and crime related violence that have impeded growth.
The history of failed policies and the problems of the drug wars (plus the huge criminal market) were the main targets of Calderón and the PNA during their 12 years in office. Despite seriously strong measures, and help from the USA, however, these problems proved difficult to surmount.
It was on a new approach to these issues that Nieto and PRI largely based their campaign, and with which they won the 2012 election. Once the new government takes power, therefore, it is reasonable to expect some new economic policies and action.
Many speculate as well, that should these new and ambitious reform policies prove successful, Mexico could easily utilize its mass potential and become the leading Latin American economic power in around a decade, surpassing the likes of Brazil and others that have begun to stagnate in recent years.
The Drug Wars
Since the fall of the Colombian cartels in the 199os, Mexican drug cartels have been on the rise and in an ongoing armed conflict for control of territory, influence, markets.
Currently, top organizations like the Sinaloas and the Zetas compete for power, while the combination of all Mexican cartels contributes to 90% of the drug trade in the United States, and is a driving force behind making drug trafficking the most profitable criminal industry in the world. Today, upper estimates suggest that illcit drug sales make near $50 billion annually.
Naturally, therefore, the prevalence of the drug cartels is an issue for the Mexican government. Due to the extreme presence in the United States as well, these drug wars are of great concern to the administration in Washington too. As a result, there has been serious action by successive Mexican governments, often in collaboration with the USA, to combat the cartels.
Most recently, however, was the policy of President Calderon, in working with the United States to intensify anti-cartel campaigns with the employment of both military and police forces against the criminal organizations. As a result of this escalation, however, violence has become more commonplace in the areas under cartel control.
The failure of this escalation to actually subdue and end the drug wars has caused public discontent with the current government, and played a significant part in the election of Nieto and the PRI back into power. The new (or old?) ruling party’s promises of new policies with less violence and backlash in the drug wars served as a rallying point for popular support.
Relations with the United States
As stated, the recent ruling parties of Mexico have worked with the USA extensively in trying to combat the illegal drug cartels running rampant. In addition this, it is important to note that, as mentioned, 90% of Mexican trade is under free trade agreements, and a signficant portion of that goes to the United States under NAFTA direction.
Because of this, the USA and Mexico have intricately close ties, as expected of direct country neighbors as well. However, historical legacies live long, and the old story of the United States intervening in Mexican affairs is one that has not faded from the minds of many.
To quite a few politicans and segments of the population, the USA is still the colossuss of the north, and recent attacks on Mexican immigration into the USA, as well as outrage from scandals like the Fast and the Furious Operation have provoked backlash to the United States in Mexican politics.
On the USA side, admittedly little attention is paid to the southern neighbor in this relationship. In the grand scheme of things, the United States often puts its focus on regions far away from the western hemisphere. The question is, however, should that really be the case?
Many argue that Mexican relations are vital to United States national security, and for good reason. The USA does, after all, share a near 2,000 mile border with the country, and the dichotomy between conflict and cooperation has a precedent towards the former in the long run of history.
Mexico is signficant in international economics and security. It has it’s problems, but has the potential to overcome them and become a powerhouse in Latin America and the world. It’s relations with the USA may very well define how that rise pans out, and for this reason, it is a topic of great interest and concern to those studying international affairs.
Join us on Wednesday to talk about these situations! In the meanwhile, use the links below for further study.