Mexican President Felipe Calderón inaugurated line 12 of the Mexico City subway yesterday, which will incorporate 20 new stations and connect Tláhuac, a largely poor semirural area, to the city's subway grid.
According to Calderón, thanks to the new “golden line”, which commemorates 200 years of Mexican independence, Mexico’s transportation system can compete with the best in the world. The system will now include 226 kilometers (140 miles) of tracks and 195 stations, and will provide services to 4.5 million people daily.
The project, developed by Mexican firms ICA and Grupo Carso, costs$1.8 billion. Spanish corporation Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles, S.A. (CAF) will administer and maintain the 38 trains that will run in the new line, the longest in the city and the first to operate automatically.
This line alone will serve more than 450,000 people daily in municipalities like Tláhuac, Milpa, Alta, Iztapalapa, Xochimilco, Benito Juárez and Alvaro Obregón. Users of the train will reduce average daily commute times from about 150 minutes to 78 minutes and a closed-circuit monitoring system will make them less vulnerable to insecurity. In addition, commuters will save about $1 a day by using the new line rather than taking multiple buses to reach their destinations. Mexico City’s subway fare is three pesos per trip ($0.23).
The golden line will also bring environmental benefits. New trains are expected to help reduce the number of cars and buses on the road, as well as improve air quality by reducing carbon dioxide by 22,000 tons a year.
President Barack Obama hosted Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderón for the sixth annual North American Leaders summit at the White House on Monday. The summit featured a two-hour, closed-door meeting and a joint press conference where the three heads of state issued a joint statement outlining their plans.
Trade between the three countries, which exceeded $1 trillion for the first time last year, topped the agenda. President Obama said North American trade is an important driver of job creation, and said the three leaders agreed to “simplify and eliminate more regulations that will make our joint economies stronger.” Prime Minister Harper, who will travel to Chile later this month, said that Canada seeks to improve trade relations with the U.S. and Mexico, as well as other Latin American countries.
The three heads of state also discussed regional issues, such as crime, energy, immigration, and the drug war. In his statement to the press, President Calderón once again called on the U.S. Congress to stem the illegal flow of American weapons into Mexico. “The expiration of the assault weapons ban in the year 2004 coincided almost exactly with the beginning of the harshest period of violence we’ve ever seen,” said Calderón.
President Obama responded by saying that while the U.S. is actively preventing illegal gun trafficking, but more can be done to stop the violence plaguing Mexico. Absent from the press conference was any mention of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would transport oil from Canada’s oil sands to the United States. Obama tabled the issue last November, which drew criticism from Prime Minister Harper.
The three heads of state will meet again at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia on April 14 and 15.
From Americas Society/Council of the Americas. AS/COA Online's news brief examines the major—as well as some of the overlooked—events and stories occurring across the Americas. Check back every Wednesday for the weekly roundup.
Calderón on NorthAm Integration, Clinton on Hemispheric Cooperation
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton offered her views on U.S. collaboration with Latin America in a new era at the 41st Annual Washington Conference on the Americas, saying: “We are interdependent, and we have to deal with the real questions that interdependence poses.” The secretary talked on a range of hemispheric issues, from the near-term goal of approving Colombian and Panamanian trade deals to academic exchange, institution building, and security pacts. Mexican President Felipe Calderón closed the conference by talking about the need to deepen North American integration, and said: “The closer we are, the more competitive we will be, and the faster we will grow.” Calderón called the current U.S. immigration system “broken” and described it as a “bottleneck for growth and prosperity.” He also called for U.S. leadership on climate change and bilateral security issues, pointing out that winning Mexico’s fight against organized crime required Washington’s collaboration to tackle arms trafficking, money laundering, and drug consumption in the United States.
Other speakers at the conference included Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, U.S. Senator John McCain, and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. Get complete coverage at AS/COA Online.
Obama Steps up Call for Immigration Reform
President Barack Obama gave a major speech in El Paso on May 10, calling for comprehensive immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship for the country’s estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. It was the fourth major event over the last three weeks in which Obama continued his push for reform, though he did not clarify when legislation will come or how he will win over opponents in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Read an AQ blog post by Senior Editor Jason Marczak about the renewed call for immigration reform.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón visited the state of Veracruz on Monday—the region hardest hit by flooding and mudslides caused by Hurricane Karl. President Calderón did a fly-over of the affected areas, accompanied by Veracruz Governor Fidel Herrera, National Defense Secretary Guillermo Galván Galván, and Social Development Secretary Heriberto Félix, among others. President Calderón later said in a public address that "the Army and navy have been instructed to tighten security" due to widespread reports of looting in city centers.
More than 40,000 Veracruz residents took refuge in state shelters and schools, while many remain stranded on rooftops awaiting rescue. Between 250,000 and 500,000 are believed to be left homeless. The most devastated areas of the state include Veracruz, Boca del Rio, Cotaxtla, Medellín, and Jamapa.
Hurricane Karl touched down as a Category 3 hurricane last Friday with 105 mph winds, and has killed 16 people—12 of the fatalities occurred in Mexico. Before Karl made landfall, the Interior Ministry declared a state of emergency in 62 municipalities. Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Station was preemptively shut down, while Pemex evacuated 14 of its facilities on the Gulf of Mexico. The red alert will remain in place for several weeks to keep the public informed of developments in the rescue effort.
Security forces in Mexico yesterday captured and took into custody Héctor Raúl Luna Luna, an alleged leader of the violent drug cartel known as Los Zetas. Luna Luna, also known as El Tori, was captured during a military operation in Ciudad Solidaridad, a neighborhood in Monterrey, in northern Mexico.
In the wake of the arrest, gunmen temporarily set up at least ten narcobloqueos (roadblocks by drug gangs), in Monterrey using cars and stolen buses to block traffic. Attacks on police stations have also been reported.
Los Zetas are notorious for a failed 2008 grenade attack on the U.S. consulate in Monterrey, carried out in collaboration with the Gulf Cartel. (Explore our Spring 2010 AQ map of narco-networks in the Americas for more about the Mexican cartels).
The U.S. has committed $1.6 billion in security assistance through the Mérida Initiative, which includes helicopters and police training, but during President Calderón’s visit last month to Washington, DC, he appealed to Congress for a different kind of help. “There is one area where Mexico needs your help,” Calderón said, “that is stopping the flow of assault weapons and other deadly weapons across the border.”
Responding to a growing sense that the military-led fight against drug trafficking organizations has failed to curb violence across our southern border, the United States and Mexico formally announced a shift in their counter-narcotics strategy last week. The “new stage” in bilateral cooperation will aim to strengthen civilian law enforcement institutions and rebuild communities crippled by poverty and crime.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Mexico City last Tuesday with a delegation that included the top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair, and top officials from the DEA, Justice Department, border security, and other agencies. Their visit marked the second high-level consultation meeting under the auspices of the Merida Initiative. (The meeting had been planned for months, but it took on greater urgency in the aftermath of the killing of three people—including two U.S. citizens—with ties to the U.S. consulate in Ciudad Juarez.)
The meeting laid the foundations for the second phase of the Merida Initiative. The first phase, launched in 2008, was designed to spend $1.12 billion to battle organized crime in Mexico through the provision of military hardware and training for police officers, judges, prosecutors and public defenders. However, as turf war violence escalated across a string of border cities, the 45,000 troops deployed onto Mexico’s streets increasingly became the visible face of Calderón’s strategy—and frontloaded Merida with military assistance.
Mexican President Felipe Calderón announced yesterday that the government proposes to eliminate three departments and increase taxes in an effort to boost the country’s economy and turn attention to poverty-fighting programs. According to Finance Minister Agustin Carstens, these measures are estimated to reduce government spending by 218 billion pesos ($16.3 billion and 1.8 percent of GDP) and will hopefully help achieve a balanced budget in 2012. Part of the proposal specifies that Mexico’s tourism, agricultural reform and civil service ministries will be “phased out.”
President Calderón called the proposal “a drastic and unprecedented adjustment in the exercise of public spending” which “considers the seriousness of the circumstances that we’re facing.” He also alluded to the importance of poverty-alleviation saying that “in the difficult situation in which millions of Mexicans are living...in a country that faces serious needs…the government should be synonymous with service, not privilege.”