PRI Supports Tax Increase on Junk Food

October 24, 2013

by AQ Online

Mexico’s ruling Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI) announced its support on Wednesday for an opposition proposal to increase the 5 percent tax on junk food set out in President Enrique Peña Nieto’s fiscal reform plan. The tax would be applied to purchases of high-calorie foods including chocolates, sweets, puddings, potato chips and ice cream, but would not be applied to hamburgers or tacos.

Last week, the lower house of Congress approved the fiscal reform package with a 5 percent tax on junk food, and Armando Rios Piter, a Senate finance expert from the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (Democratic Revolution Party—PRD), proposed increasing the tax to 8 percent. On Wednesday, PRI Senate leader Emilio Gamboa said that his party would “undoubtedly support” the tax increase. If Piter’s plan is formally adopted, the reform bill would go back to the lower house, before being sent to the Senate for a final vote.

If the bill is passed by both chambers with the 8 percent tax provision included, the reform will contribute nearly 2.7 percent of GDP to government coffers by 2018 according to Deputy Finance Minister for Revenue Miguel Messmacher. The tax reform bill is a key part of the President Peña Nieto’s Pacto por México, a series of reforms agreed upon by Mexico’s three main political parties in 2012 that range from education and energy to security and telecommunications.


Tags: Mexico, Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), junk food

Mexico Announces Drop in Organized Crime

October 11, 2013

by AQ Online

Secretary of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong announced yesterday that organized crime in Mexico declined by over 26 percent from December 2012 to September 2013. In a speech to the Mexican Senate, Osorio Chong also said homicides were down 16 percent, and burglaries and car thefts dropped by 5 and 9 percent, respectively.

Of the 122 individuals deemed high-priority criminal targets, the current administration has arrested 58 and killed 9, according to Osorio Chong, while limiting gangs’ operational and logistical capabilities. In his speech, the secretary explained that "the only way to deliver results” on organized crime was to first understand that security is "a shared responsibility” among the federal government, states and municipalities. One reason for the drop in crime is the creation of five regional information and intelligence centers to promote cooperation and  will be accessible to local security authorities for the first time—two of which are currently in operation.

The secretary was appointed by President Enrique Peña Nieto in December 2012 to deliver on the president’s campaign promise to reduce violent crime nationwide. Over 70,000 people were killed due to organized crime during former President Felipe Calderon’s administration from 2006 to 2012. Despite these efforts, violence and organized continue to plague Mexico.  Acapulco, one of the country’s primary tourist destinations, now ranks as the second most violent city in the world and claims a murder rate of 142 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, which is 28 times higher than the average for the United States.

Tags: organized crime, Mexico

The Bright Side of the Venezuelan Exodus

October 4, 2013

by Andreina Seijas

World leaders and migration experts met in New York this week to participate in the UN General Assembly High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development. Participants discussed the growing impact of migrants’ contributions to the economic and social realities of member countries and the need to include migration as a key topic in the development agenda.

The recent world economic crisis led to a new socio-economic landscape—particularly in Latin America, where intra-regional migration flows increased significantly as a result of fewer employment opportunities and tighter immigration policies in Europe and the United States. Countries like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Uruguay became popular destinations for international migrants.

All countries in the region are greatly benefiting from an increased commercial and demographic interconnectedness, except for one: Venezuela.

For many years, Venezuela was a very popular migrant destination. Particularly between 1940 and 1970, thousands of immigrants from Europe and other countries in Latin America—particularly Colombia—saw Venezuela as an ideal place to escape from civil wars, dictatorships and economic crises. Back then, the South American country had a vibrant economy and was one of the most politically stable nations in the Western Hemisphere.

The economic boom lasted until the 1980s, when the collapse of oil prices crippled the Venezuelan economy. Venezuelans’ living standards fell dramatically as a result of failed economic policies, increasing corruption in government and a rise in poverty and crime. It was in this period that, for the first time, a significant number of Venezuelans decided to look for better opportunities abroad.

But the Venezuelan exodus did not attain its current dramatic proportions until the Hugo Chávez era. Between 1999 and 2013—the fourteen years of Chávez’ presidency—Venezuela witnessed unprecedented human capital flight. Though there are no official records of the exact number of Venezuelans living abroad, some experts estimate that about 1 million Venezuelans have fled their home country, 3.5 percent of the country’s population. This includes the emigration of half of Venezuela’s Jewish community—a constant target of the regime—by the time Hugo Chávez died in March 2013.

Due to geographic and cultural proximity, Colombia is the quintessential destination for Venezuelan migrants in Latin America. Some believe that Colombia’s current oil boom can be directly attributed to a rare breed of experts: the thousands of high-skilled Venezuelan oil professionals that were barred from working in the industry following the 2002-2003 Paro Nacional, or national strike. Besides Colombia, Venezuelans have congregated in Miami, Panama City and Madrid, and are increasingly sighted in less conventional places, such as Sydney, Calgary and Santo Domingo.

One of the characteristics of this exodus is that Venezuela is now exporting much more than gray-haired oil professionals. For some time, students have been the country’s main exports, as they have greatly benefitted from Venezuela’s twisted currency control regime known as the Comisión de Administración de Divisas (CADIVI). Thousands of Venezuelan students have decided to enroll in universities abroad as a means to escape the Bolivarian drama. With CADIVI dollars at a preferential rate—currently 6 times lower that the parallel black market rate—many students pursue not one, but two and sometimes three academic degrees, an expensive crusade to postpone the hardest decision of all: going back home. 

But there is a bright side to the drama and the brain drain. According to Michael Clemens, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington DC, emigration has many overlooked benefits for countries of origin. In a recent report about skilled migration and development, Clemens says that “even if migrants do not return to their countries of origin, they transfer money, skills, technology, and even democratic ideas; their stories can inspire investments in education in sending countries; and they expand their own life opportunities in ways not possible without moving.”

This and other studies reveal that, besides being a fundamental source of remittances, migrants can also promote entrepreneurship and transfer knowledge and skills that are crucial for the growth and well-being of their countries of origin. Venezuela’s diaspora has traditionally been comprised of high-skilled professionals. And if we add the thousands of younger Venezuelans—who, in the past 14 years, have attained a high-level education overseas—we end up with a solid professional base with unbelievable potential. So how can we capitalize on this human capital in ways that benefit Venezuela?

An engaged diaspora is the sine qua non to development in countries where the number of emigrants is very high. We don’t have to go too far to find examples. Mexico—a country that, unlike Venezuela, has a long history of migration—has discovered the secret ingredient: connecting migration to development. Mexico’s Institute for Migrants Abroad (Instituto de los Mexicanos en el Exterior—IME) coordinates a long list of initiatives through its broad consular network aimed at strengthening the ties between Mexican citizens: those living in Mexico and abroad. Through the “3x1 program”, for instance, Mexicans living in the U.S. can directly invest in their communities of origin. For every Mexican peso provided by migrants, the federal, state and municipal governments contribute an additional peso.

Venezuelans abroad are already moving in this direction. VenMundo, a non-partisan network of Venezuelans in Canada, Chile, the U.S., and Spain, has drafted a set of proposals that include a comprehensive census of the Venezuelan migrant population and an incentive program for returning migrants. However, greater resources and political will are still missing to get these ideas off the ground.

In a recent speech in Doral County, Miami—the largest Venezuelan immigrant community in the United States—opposition leader and Governor of Miranda State Henrique Capriles Radonski asked the Venezuelan community to continue pushing for change in the country they left behind. “I’ve come to take you home,” he said. “The best country in the world is called Venezuela.”


Tags: migration and development, Venezuela, Mexico, Venezuelan migration, Henrique Capriles Radonski

El significado de las Reformas Educativa y Fiscal en México

September 20, 2013

by Rodrigo Borja

Casi desde el principio de su período, el presidente Enrique Peña Nieto comenzó a presentar una serie de reformas que—de acuerdo con el discurso oficial—permitirán que México avance. Las dos primeras, las reformas laboral y bancaria, suscitaron grandes controversias y provocaron la oposición de algunos segmentos de la población, aunque muchos otros no se dieron por enterados. En la laboral, se estableció el pago por hora, y en la bancaria, decidieron penar con cárcel a los deudores de los bancos, entre otras cosas más.

Pero fue la presentación de la reforma educativa la que detonó una seria oposición de parte de los maestros agrupados en la llamada CNTE (Coordinadora Nacional de los Trabajadores de la Educación) y de algunos segmentos de los maestros agrupados en el SNTE (Sindicato Nacional de los Trabajadores de la Educación), quienes se han manifestado en diversas ciudades del país, pero especialmente en la ciudad de México, donde permanecieron en el Zócalo por varios días hasta que fueron desalojados el viernes 13 de septiembre por la policía federal, después de haber sufrido un linchamiento mediático sin precedentes por parte de las dos televisoras del país.

Pero, ¿qué es lo que reclaman los maestros? De acuerdo con la reforma, se establece un sistema de evaluación que ellos deberán cumplir para continuar desempeñando sus labores. Hasta aquí, todo bien. El problema viene en la forma en que dichas evaluaciones se llevaran a cabo, pues más bien parece que con ello el gobierno busca recuperar el control del magisterio, pues fuera de la evaluación, no cambian en nada las condiciones en que se imparte la educación en México.

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Tags: Mexico, education reforms, Enrique Peña Nieto

Tropical Storms Cause Severe Damage in Mexico

September 19, 2013

by AQ Online

Powerful Tropical Storm Manuel—which together with Tropical Storm Ingrid has already killed at least 81 people across 11 states in Mexico—was upgraded to a category one hurricane today. Hurricane Manuel has sustained winds of 75 mph (120km/hour) near Acapulco, with projections it will continue to travel northwest along the coast of Sinaloa state for the next several days.

Meteorologists called the weather “unusual,” noting that the hurricane is hitting Mexico at the same time that tropical storm Ingrid has made landfall on the opposing Gulf Coast. This is the first time the country has been affected by two tropical storms within less than 24 hours since 1958.

Fifty eight civilians are still missing after a massive landslide left by Hurricane Manuel in the remote village of La Pintada. Governor Angel Aguirre of the state of Guerrero said that it is “very likely that these […] people lost their lives.” Mexican Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong echoed the comments, saying rescue workers have not yet been able to search the area for survivors due to unsafe land conditions.

The civilian airport in Acapulco was flooded and lost electrical power, prompting cargo ships to make emergency food deliveries to the isolated area. Ten thousand tourists have since been removed from the area by emergency military airlifts, with an estimated 30,000 remaining stranded.  Mexican Transportation Secretary Rodrigo Ramírez Reyes said authorities would not be able to reopen highways connecting Acapulco to other major roads before Friday.

Tags: Mexico, Hurricane Manuel

Monday Memo: Colombian Farmers Reach Deal – Capriles’ IACHR Case – Peña Nieto’s Reforms –Brazilian Protests – Colombia Peace Talks

September 9, 2013

by AQ Online

Likely top stories this week: Colombian government and striking farmers reach a deal; Henrique Capriles takes Venezuela’s election results to the IACHR; Enrique Peña Nieto outlines his plans for reform; Brazilians protest again; and the Colombian government and FARC resume peace talks.

Colombian Government Strikes Deal with Farmers: The Colombian government announced on Sunday that it had reached an agreement with protesting farmers that have been striking since August 19. The strike aimed to draw attention to the economic difficulties they face in competing with cheap imports from abroad. The farmers agreed to lift all road blockades by Tuesday and will join the government in negotiations to address their demands and reach a final agreement. The government has already agreed to cut fertilizer prices and provide cheap credit to farmers.

Venezuela's Capriles to Challenge Maduro's Win Before IACHR: Former Venezuelan presidential candidate and opposition leader Henrique Capriles will bring a case challenging Venezuela's April 14 election results before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on Monday. Venezuela's Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council—CNE) confirmed in early June that President Nicolás Maduro had won the election by a slim 1.49 percent margin over Capriles, and the Venezuelan Supreme Court upheld the decision. The IACHR must first decide whether the case is admissible. This comes as Venezuela's withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is to become effective on Tuesday, September 10, a year after the government announced its withdrawal from the human rights body.1

Peña Nieto Champions Tax Reform: Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto outlined his plans for tax reform on Sunday in a speech from the presidential residence. The tax plan is intended to generate billions of dollars for social programs by closing tax loopholes for the wealthy and create a new universal pension for Mexicans over age 65. Meanwhile, Mexican opposition politician Andrés Manuel López Obrador led a demonstration of about 30,000 Mexicans on Sunday to protest Peña Nieto's tax, energy and education reforms.

Brazilians Protest on Independence Day: Brazilians in 150 cities took part in protests on September 7 (Brazil's Independence Day), interrupting a military parade in Rio de Janeiro, chanting outside Congress in Brasília as President Dilma Rousseff gave a speech, and clashing outside a soccer match in Mane Garrincha stadium in Brasília. Police fired tear gas at demonstrators in both cities, and at least 50 people in Brasília and 50 people in Rio were arrested. The protesters are continuing to demonstrate against poor public services, political corruption and public spending on the 2014 World Cup.

Colombian Peace Talks Resume in Havana: The fourteenth round of peace talks between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) begin in Havana on Monday. The last cycle concluded on August 28, after nearly coming to a halt when the government proposed holding a public referendum on any peace accord. The rebels have said that they would like to incorporate the agreements into Colombia’s constitution, a demand that the government has rejected. However, the FARC confirmed that they are willing to restart the talks this week.

1Editor'sNote: Venezuela withdrew from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, not the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. See AQ's Daily Focus on Tuesdsay, September 10 for a complete explanation.

Tags: Brazil, Colombia, FARC, Mexico

Mexico Education Reform Receives Final Approval

September 5, 2013

by AQ Online

Mexican senators approved an education bill on Wednesday that will overhaul the country’s public education system, in a boost to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s goal of fixing a system many viewed as corrupt.   

The vote—with 102 senators in favor and 22 opposed—follows Mexico’s lower house’s approval of the law on Sunday in a 390 to 69 vote.                                             

The reform package establishes competency exams for teachers, promotions based on merit, and an evaluation system for hiring faculty. The Senate vote was the final step needed to move forward with Peña Nieto’s wider education bill, which was approved in December, although the secondary laws approved Wednesday remained pending for months.

On Monday, Peña Nieto gave his first State of the Union address, touting education reform as a means to attain greater academic achievement and allow Mexico to become more competitive. According to the OECD, only 47 percent of Mexican children graduate from the equivalent of high school.

Meanwhile, thousands of members of Mexico’s powerful teachers union have taken to the streets for weeks to protest Peña Nieto’s education reform package. The protesting teachers said that the reforms could cause them to lose their jobs and argued that the government should spend more money on underperforming schools. Teachers held strikes across Mexico in at least a dozen states and blocked traffic in Mexico City on Wednesday.

Peña Nieto is attempting a number of reforms that he says will help boost the Mexican economy, including a reform of the state oil company, Pemex, and a tax overhaul.

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Tags: Mexico, Education reform

Peña Nieto’s Challenges: From Teacher Strikes to Energy Reform

August 29, 2013

by Arjan Shahani

The first nine months of Peña’s administration have kept the press busy and all of the country’s eyes and ears focused on what will happen next. He’s been characterized as bold, action-oriented and dynamic but clearly, not a team player.

He was celebrated by many (yours truly included) in February when he presented an ambitious and much needed education reform but disappointed just as many after having this effort easily thwarted by militant and disgruntled unionized teachers from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), which has taken Mexico City hostage in the last week to avoid needed secondary laws to enact the reform passing through Congress.

The inability to prevent and the lack of resolve to disperse a non-justified blockage of Congress as well as a blockade of the city’s main arteries—including those giving access to the airport and the Zócalo—has proven once again that political leaders are making decisions not based on the greater good, the rule of law or the citizenry’s interests, but on a political agenda serviced by interest groups holding more power than they should and unable to cooperate with each other.

Mismanagement of this situation could soon spark violence and create a larger-than-ideological divide. The affected citizenry in Mexico City will only stand so much. In a recent poll by BCG-Excelsior, 52 percent of Mexicans stated that they are so fed up with the CNTE’s irrational resistance to the education reform and their militant actions that they would justify use of public force to disperse the picketers.

And while the teachers take to the streets, both Peña Nieto and the city’s government cower from taking necessary action because of the political cost it would imply. Mexico City is not the only thing that’s paralyzed because of this—a broken education system puts the nation’s future talent pool at risk.   

The other current hot topic in the president’s agenda is energy reform. As recently described by Christian Gomez on AS/COA, “the proposal includes constitutional changes that would open up Pemex, the 75-year-old state oil monopoly, to profit-sharing contracts and foreign investment.”

This new notion of natural resources no longer belonging exclusively to the nation poses a huge shift in paradigm. Reactions from the nation’s Left include accusations related to autonomy, national patrimony and the role of government vs. private investors in extraction and having access to revenues from one of the nation’s most important sources of income. The opposition understands that PEMEX’s inefficiencies and the plague of corruption need to be addressed, but they propose that a problem should not be fixed by creating another one.

One of the most respected voices from the Left, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, has recently stated that both PEMEX and CFE (federal electricity company) can become highly productive without having to edit the Constitution and without allow foreign and/or private hands in the nation’s riches. If national patrimony is challenged due to reforms to articles 27 and 28 of the Mexican Constitution, Cárdenas has warned he would call for nationwide protests and he would even take to the streets along with López Obrador’s Morena (National Regeneration) movement.

Given its current party composition, Peña can easily get approval for the energy reform in Congress but he would be naïve to think that this is the only hurdle he needs to jump and he is doing a terrible job at trying to get public buy-in to this proposal through vague infographics on TV.

If there is a possibility for effective energy reform, an open and inclusive debate needs to take place. This topic is not one that his team should be discussing behind closed doors and the hard questions will require real answers, not 20-second TV spots.

Peña’s government has been characterized by a “my way or the highway” attitude, which is an easier temptation to fall into than trying to build consensus in a country as complex and fragmented as Mexico. This dictatorial style is only possible because of the fact that PRI has a stellar position both in Congress and in the State governments to push its agenda forward, something neither former Presidents Fox nor Calderón had. However, Peña would do well in understanding that his constituency is not limited to the political parties or even the power elites.

Organized teachers have already proven what they can do in Mexico City given enough motivation. Sparked by national patrimony rhetoric, larger, non-organized social mobilizations could easily flare up in different key cities in Mexico and cause larger havoc. As former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza recently wrote, “these red flags, so to speak, are especially relevant given the influence and disruptive potential of many of today's social movements. The eruption of mass street protests in Brazil is just one recent example of a government being forced to change direction on a policy initiative and find a way to rapidly and constructively respond to the desires, often inchoate, of a newly emboldened and empowered population. It's a cautionary tale that begins with frustration and finds expression in mass action.”

Even when theoretically, Peña could powerball his reforms forward, both him and the PRI need to wake up and understand that they cannot be the only voice to determine the nation’s destiny. Vargas Llosa sarcastically called the previous PRI era “the perfect dictatorship” but today’s Mexico will not stand for a return of that so-called “perfect” model. Peña needs to learn to play well with others.

Tags: Mexico, energy, Education, Enrique Peña Nieto

Monday Memo: “La Bestia” Train Accident – FARC Negotiations – Venezuelan-Palestinian Oil Deal – New WTO Director – Mexico Energy Consultations

August 26, 2013

by AQ Online

Likely top stories this week:  Six people die in “La Bestia” train accident in Mexico; Colombia-FARC peace talks resume in Havana; Venezuela and Palestine sign energy deal; Roberto Azevêdo will become the new WTO director; and public consultations on energy reform begin in Mexico.

Six Dead and 22 Injured in “La Bestia” Train Accident: On Sunday, at least six people were killed and 22 were injured in the derailment of the cargo train known as “La Bestia” (The Beast) in southern Mexico, a train that is notorious for transporting Central American migrants through Mexico and to the U.S. border. According to official sources, at least 16 of the passengers injured in the accident were nationals of Honduras between 20 and 30 years old. Public Security Minister for Tabasco State Audomaro Martinez Zapata said that thieves had stolen the nails and metal plaques from the tracks, which led to the accident. Migrants’ rights activists demanded immediate measures to put an end to the risks that undocumented migrants face when traveling across the country, and  criticized the Mexican government for not taking this issue seriously. On Sunday, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto lamented the accident via Twitter and expressed his solidarity with the victims’ families.

Colombia-FARC Talks Resume after Crisis: On Saturday, lead Colombian government negotiator Humberto de la Calle announced that the talks between the Colombian government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—FARC) would resume in Havana on Monday. This statement put an end to one of the biggest crises to afflict the peace process since it began in November 2012, which was prompted when Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos’ proposal last week that any peace agreement must be put to a national referendum. On Friday, the FARC announced that it was putting the peace talks on hold to study the referendum proposal. In response, Santos stated that the FARC is not entitled to “dictate pauses and impose conditions” on the negotiations, and ordered his team of negotiators to return to Bogotá to evaluate the implications of a hiatus in the peace process. So far, the talks are advancing at a slow pace and negotiators have only been able to reach a partial deal on one of five points in the agenda. Still, both sides have remained at the negotiation table, raising hopes for an end to the five-decade-long armed conflict.

Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority Sign Energy Deal: On Saturday, Venezuela and the Palestinian Authority signed an energy agreement that will allow Venezuela to sell oil at a “fair price” with “flexible repayment terms” to Palestinians, as well as provide expert advice and training for the fuel management and handling. The deal was signed during a meeting between Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and his Palestinian counterpart, Riyad al-Maliki, while al-Maliki is on a tour of Latin America. During his trip to the region, al-Maliki also met Ecuadorian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility Ricardo Patiño and Guyana’s president, Donald Ramotar. Venezuela, Ecuador and Guyana are among several countries from Latin America and the Caribbean that recognize Palestine as an independent state.

Roberto Azevêdo to Become New WTO Director: Next Sunday, Brazilian diplomat Roberto Azevêdo will become the new director general of the World Trade Organization. Azevêdo has served as Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO since 2008 and was selected in May to become the first Latin American to lead the WTO. In August, Azevêdo announced the appointment of four deputies, who will assume their posts in October: Yi Xiaozhun of China, Karl-Ernst Brauner of Germany, Yonov Frederick Agah of Nigeria and David Shark of the United States. One of Azevêdo’s main objectives in his new position is to revive the stalled Doha Round trade talks. In a recent statement, Azevêdo said that regional and bilateral trade accords obstructed efforts to revive global trade talks and “steal the attention a little from the multilateral system.”

Public Consultations on Energy Reform began in Mexico: On Sunday, Mexico’s Party of the Democratic Revolution (Partido de la Revolución Democrática—PRD) began the first phase of a citizen consultation on the country’s fiscal and energy reforms. The set of energy reforms presented by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto on August 13 would open Mexico's energy sector to foreign investors. The fiscal reform seeks to increase Mexico’s tax take by about 4 percentage points of GDP as a means to channel more resources towards education, health and infrastructure projects at the federal, state and municipal levels. Jesús Zambrano, the president of the PRD, called citizens from all parties to participate in the consultation. Members of the PRD have different positions from President Peña Nieto on both the fiscal and energy reforms and hope the result of the consultations will be taken into account by the central government. The first phase of the consultation took place in almost 3,000 centers installed in parks, plazas and metro stations in Mexico City and in the states of Coahuila, Campeche, Guanajuato, Querétaro, Colima, Nuevo León, Sonora, Nayarit, and Tabasco. A second phase of consultations will begin next Sunday.

Tags: La Bestia, Mexico, FARC peace negotiations, Colombia, Venezuela, Palestine, energy, Mexico energy reform, Mexico fiscal reform, Roberto Azevêdo, World Trade Organization

Los desplazados: una cara poco estudiada de la violencia en México

August 21, 2013

by Rodrigo Borja

La violencia producto del narcotráfico—con todas sus vertientes como son la corrupción en el gobierno y en las fuerzas del orden, el enfrentamiento entre bandas y la apertura a otros negocios igual de ilícitos y rentables como extorsión, trata de blancas, lavado de dinero y un largo etcétera—ha propiciado un fenómeno que apenas en las últimas semanas ha comenzado a llamar la atención en México. Se trata del problema de los desplazados.

Con la reciente liberación del famoso “capo” de los 1980’s, Rafael Caro Quintero, recordé una noticia que en aquella época llamó la atención. El entonces jefe supremo del narco mexicano había invertido varios millones en su pueblo natal para dotarlo de la infraestructura pública que el gobierno le había negado, es decir, de luz, calles pavimentadas, drenaje, escuela pública y hasta una iglesia nueva. Sin justificar en lo más mínimo sus actividades ilegales, dicha conducta contrasta con lo que sucede en la actualidad.

La violencia ya no sólo se percibe como el producto de la lucha entre las bandas. Como si de una guerra real se tratara, los grupos delictivos asolan los pequeños pueblos. Muchas comunidades viven bajo la amenaza constante de ser agredidas por unos o por otros: por los narcos, por el ejército, e incluso por la policía.

En muchos lugares de Sinaloa, Michoacán, Guerrero, Tamaulipas y Coahuila los pobladores han optado por abandonar sus pequeñas comunidades y buscar refugio en las medianas o grandes ciudades, provocando un éxodo del medio rural al urbano que no se veía desde la época de la Revolución Mexicana. En ese entonces, los constantes enfrentamientos armados provocaban la zozobra en los pueblos pequeños, mientras que las ciudades—por su tamaño y por la presencia de autoridades de mayor nivel—proporcionaban un refugio más seguro. La diferencia es que ahora las grandes ciudades también viven amenazadas por la misma violencia que empujó a los campesinos a abandonar sus hogares.

El problema se agrava cuando las autoridades se niegan a reconocerlo como tal, a pesar de los múltiples testimonios, de la presencia de grupos de campesinos solicitando ayuda del gobierno para instalarse en otro lugar y del cada vez mayor número de poblados que lucen desiertos o semidesiertos; habitados tan sólo por algunos valientes que se niegan a abandonar el lugar donde nacieron ellos, sus padres y sus abuelos, así como sus pocas pertenencias, aun sabiendo que pueden morir en cualquier momento.

Al no encontrar apoyo oficial y ante la imposibilidad de regresar a sus lugares de origen, estos desplazados se ven en muchos casos obligados a mendigar por las calles o a encontrar la forma de cruzar la frontera en busca de otras oportunidades. Este es un problema que en cualquier momento se puede convertir en una severa crisis humanitaria, aunque el gobierno—para demostrar que su estrategia de lucha funciona correctamente—se empeñe en ocultar.


Tags: Mexico, Internally displaced people, Rafael Caro Quintero, drug violence in Mexico



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