Monday, October 5, 2015

Recommendations to reduce violence in Guerrero and corruption in Mexico (Oct. 5, 2015)

Two papers from the Wilson Center's Mexico Institute look at how to reduce violence in Guerrero and the national fight against corruption.

Víctor Manuel Sánchez Valdés examines conditions in Mexico's Guerrero state, where last year 43 students from Ayotzinapa disappeared, a symbol of the region's widespread violence problem. (SeeSeptember 25th's and September 28th's posts.) Official statistics estimate that over a million crimes were committed there in 2013, 26 percent of residents were victims at least once that year and nearly 80 percent of residents feel unsafe. The author notes that "one of the most pressing issues for the state's security situation may very well be that the authorities responsible for law enforcement are part of the problem rather than part of the solution."

The article, examines the spike in violence in Guerrero over recent years and asks what can be done to check the phenomenon. The piece looks at various factors behind the spike such as the long list of criminal organizations operating in the area, stemming from the fragmentation of larger drug cartels; guerrilla organizations and self-defense forces operating in the area; and important institutional weaknesses such as insufficient and poorly trained police forces. The piece concludes with several medium-term public policy recommendations, including creating specialized intelligence units focused on criminal organizations, strengthening police forces and professionalizing community police groups.

Mauricio Merino's review of ongoing reforms to promote transparency and curtail corruption notes that public awareness and anger regarding the widespread phenomenon, and the related issue of impunity, reached a tipping last year with the Ayotzinapa case and reports of a dubious real-estate acquisition by the First Lady. The two cases sparked "Mexico's largest publicawareness movement since the beginning of this century," he says.

Merino examines the country's ongoing transparency and anti-corruption reforms, which "... have built upon academic and social organizations' years of research and dialogue to draft comprehensive, articulate, and coherent public policy on accountability as a way to fight the corruption that has plagued Mexico's public institutions. Corruption hinders institutions from performing as expected, deteriorates trust and social relationships, violates rights, wastes resources, limits economic growth, and stops income distribution. Corruption is the number one cause of inequality, impunity, and exclusion from Mexico's political regime."

News Briefs:

  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is documenting what Iguala locals have to say about the crisis of disappeared people plaguing the Guerrero region. (See September 25th's and September 28th's posts.) Their investigation has has led many relatives of the missing to speak out publicly for the first time, reports the Los Angeles Times.
  • Across the region there have been announcements of ambitious Chinese railway projects -- across Colombia, another in Honduras and a mega project slated to cross Brazil and Peru joining the two South American coasts. But the large ventures have come crashing into resistance from environmental groups and political wariness of regarding Chinese ambitions, reports the New York Times. The piece notes that the proposed projects -- part of China's "railway diplomacy" haven't actually gotten off the ground, but goes into depth into the proposed twin-ocean project and the political and economic difficulties it faces.
  • Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will take a 10 percent salary reduction, she announced Friday. The measure joins others aimed at reducing spending, such as reducing her cabinet and three thousand political appointees. The pay cuts, which extend to the vice president and the remaining 31 cabinet ministers amount to largely symbolic savings, reports the New York Times. The changes give more power to the centrist ally  party, the PMDB, as Rousseff is seeks support in Congress for further austerity measures. The PMDB is also seen as a key player in preventing a possible impeachment process against Rousseff, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • More cell phone footage complicating things for Brazilian police. The New York Times' "Open Source" notes that an officer in Recife was suspended on Friday after he was caught on video firing a rubber bullet at point-blank range at a protester who had knocked off his cap. (SeeFriday's briefs on video captures of police brutality in Brazil.)
  • Brazil's Supreme Court gave the federal police permission to question ex-President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as part of the Petrobras corruption investigation, but only as a witness, not as the target of the investigation, reports the Wall Street Journal. Neither da Silva nor his successor, Rousseff, have been directly implicated in the case. Any probe into the former president's conduct would have to be approved by the Supreme Court and would require the police to present evidence that justifies the change in status from "witness."
  • The Wall Street Journal has a feature on the controversial 50-foot-tall balloon depicting Lula in prison garb, that has been making the rounds at anti-government protests for the past few months. It's become an object of veneration for seeking to oust Rousseff, and an target of ire for those who defend the Workers' Party legacy.
  • A post on American University's Aula blog examines the Colombian National Quadrant Surveillance Model (MNVCC), and argues that in the five years since its implementation it "appears to be creating an infrastructure and a culture in targeted communities that could – with further investments and adjustments – mark a strategic watershed in Colombian policing." Kenneth Sebastian Leon notes that the assessments of the model, which combines elements of the “hot spots” and community policing models, vary widely. But he concludes that the data on the programs effectiveness yields some positive lessons from a community policing perspective.
  • U.S. judges unsealed drug trafficking indictments against two former top Venezuelan police officials, a move likely to ratchet up tensions between the two countries, reports the Wall Street Journal. Judges in the southern district of Florida unsealed indictments against Pedro Luís Martín, a former head of financial intelligence for Venezuela’s secret police, and Jesús Alfredo Itriago, a former antinarcotics official with Venezuela’s investigative police.
  • Yesterday Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro complained that the U.S. government has delayed consent for Caracas' new proposed ambassador -- the two countries have not had ambassadors in each others' capitals since 2008, reports Reuters. And Venezuelan Ombudsman Tarek William Saab denounced U.S. hostility after he was stopped at a Mexican airport Saturday while traveling on official business, reports the Associated Press.
  • Argentine presidential candidates held a public debate yesterday ahead of October 25's elections. But the main story was the absence of front runner and candidate for the governing Frente para la Victoria, Daniel Scioli. Yet, it's not clear that his absence will hurt him, reportsReuters. Leading opposition candidate and market favorite Mauricio Macri attempted to portray his absence as a sign of lack of independence from current President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Opinion polls ahead of the Oct. 25 election have shown Scioli widening his lead over Macri and edging closer to the backing needed for a first round win.
  • The Associated Press has a wrenching piece on some Guatemalan's search for family members killed or lost in a mudslide in Santa Catarina Pinula, on the outskirts of Guatemala City, last Thursday night that killed over a 130 people and has left as many as 300 missing. There was no warning before the hillside collapsed, taking an entire neighborhood into the gorge below, but there was plenty of warning that the site was unsafe, reports the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal says that authorities had declared the neighborhood a safety hazard a year ago and attempted to convince families to leave before the rainy season. But residents quoted in the NYTimes piece say that they had not been warned. Yesterday authorities gave up hope of finding survivors and dedicated efforts to recovering bodies.
  • Juan Carlos Monzón Rojas, the alleged leader of the "La Línea" customs corruption scandal that has shaken Guatemalan politics this year, turned himself into authorities, officials said Monday.
  • Uruguay's National Drug Board gave two companies licenses to cultivate marijuana under state control, to be sold in pharmacies, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune. The board president said it was a "fundamental step" in the implementation of the 2013 law which de-criminalizes the production and sale of cannabis, whose main objectives are to regulate consumption and fight against drug-trafficking and organized crime.
  • On the thirtieth anniversary of the massive Mexico City earthquake, that killed as many as 30,000 people (official government statistics say 5,000) a few hundred survivors still live in makeshift camps reports the Los Angeles Times. A few weeks ago the mayor ordered the local housing institute to close the remaining camps and resettle the approximately 300 residents. 
  • The Bolivian minister of the presidency called on the national congress to investigate U.S. plans to topple President Evo Morales, revealed in the WikiLeaks cables recently analyzed and published by Verso Books on Sept. 29 under the title, "The Wikileaks Files: The World According to US Empire," reports TeleSur.
  • U.S. and Chilean authorities will announce the creation of new marine sanctuaries today, reports the Associated Press. Chile is expected to block off a more than 200,000 square miles of sea from commercial fishing and oil and gas exploration near Easter Island. The announcement comes as top officials attend an international conference on marine protection in Valparaiso today.
  • The New York Times has a profile of São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad and his efforts to ease the city's infamous traffic congestion. His policies, which have been met with fierce debate according to the piece, include the construction of hundreds of miles of bicycle lanes and corridors for buses, expanding sidewalks, lowering speed limits, limiting public parking and occasionally shutting down prominent avenues entirely to cars. A couple of weeks ago the Wall Street Journal had a similar piece on Haddad's polarizing bike policies.

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