Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Mexico facing uncertainty over Trump's policies -- but won't pay for the wall (Jan. 11, 2016)

Mexico will not pay for the wall the U.S. intends to build along the border between the two countries. President-elect Donald Trump has promised to ask Congress for funding now, to be paid back by Mexico. But the issue is not one of how much the wall costs, but rather "of dignity and national sovereignty," said Mexico's newly appointed Foreign Minister, Luis Videgaray. He said he's up for discussing trade relations, but not the wall, reports the Wall Street Journal

Videgaray used fairly dramatic language in a speech to diplomats from around the world, saying Mexico is facing a new era of uncertainty with the U.S., according to the Washington Post. Trump's policies "could ultimately impact the lives of “millions of compatriots on both sides of the border and the destiny of future generations." (See last Thursday's and Friday's posts.)

In a television interview yesterday, Videgaray said he stands behind the decision to invite then-presidential candidate Trump to meet with President Enrique Peña Nieto in August. The meeting was widely viewed as a failure by Mexicans who said the president failed to stand up to Trump, and led to Videgaray's resignation a week later. Videgaray admitted the planning and communication could have been better, but said it was an important initial building block in a relationship with the incoming administration, reports Animal Político.

News Briefs
  • Two thirds of Mexicans believe the country's police are controlled by organized crime, while 36 percent believe authorities participate in criminal activity, reports InSight Crime based on a new poll by the Chamber of Deputies' Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinión Pública - CESOP. And nearly a third of respondents opted for militarization as the best option for cleaning up police forces.
  • Protests against gas price hikes of up to 20 percent continue to affect some areas of Mexico, reports the Los Angeles Times. Four people have been killed and more than 1,500 arrested while looting, staging road blockades and marching in protests such as the weekend demonstrations in Rosarito and along the border.  (See last Thursday's briefs.)
  • The leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution promised to fight to rollback the gas hikes, reports EFE.
  • Cámara de ratas: Online pranksters renamed the Mexican Chamber of Deputies to Chamber of Rats, national slang for thieves, on Google Maps. Over the weekend the presidential residence appeared as the "Official Residence of Corruption" on Google Maps before Google Mexico removed it from the map, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's and Monday's briefs on the groundswell of dissatisfaction with the Mexican government.)
  • A harsh New York Times editorial criticizes Bolivian President Evo Morales' apparent intention to run for a fourth consecutive presidential term, despite losing a referendum last year which would have modified the constitution to permit him to do so. "The truth is that allowing him to stay in power would be an affront to the will of Bolivian voters and a step on the road to autocracy," argues the editorial. Though it briefly points to Morales' achievements in reducing poverty and giving voice to the long-silenced indigenous majority, it also notes that "his administration has been dogged by allegations of corruption and criticized for co-opting nominally independent institutions and cracking down on the press." Morales has argued that last year's referendum was tainted by a disinformation campaign intended to discredit him. Though the NYT scoffs at the rational, the issue of media distortion and disinformation effects on electoral outcomes is of considerable relevance to elections in the region (as in Colombia last year) and beyond.
  • Trump has named Jason Greenblat, a top Trump Organization exec and Orthodox Jew, as the administration's special representative for international negotiations, a portfolio which is expected to include Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the U.S. relationship with Cuba, reports the Miami Herald. Proponents of maintaining the détente hope it means a business interests will prevail over Cuba hardline posturing. But Cuban Jews in Miami also hopes it means an ally for the island's small Jewish community. Greenblat hasn't discussed Cuba publicly, but in the past visited the island on Trump's behalf to explore business opportunities.
  • The Colombian government has unveiled an ambitious coca eradication strategy targeting 100,000 hectares with forced eradication led by state forces and voluntary substitution of coca crops. The target is significantly more than the approximately 17,600 hectares eradicated last year, and could be aimed at quieting U.S. criticisms of the peace deal with the FARC, argues InSight Crime.
  • The case of a bank robbery group in the Dominican Republic, headed by a former army officer, serves as "a reminder of the dangers of corruption within security institutions," according to InSight Crime. A criminal group headed by former army Lieutenant John Percival Matos, stole more than $200,000 dollars between August and December of last year, and apparently the military training and experience was central to the success of the robberies.
  • Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega was sworn in for his third term as president yesterday, along with his wife Rosario Murillo who will serve as vice president, reports the Associated Press.
  • A cooperation agreement signed in December between Argentina's armed forces and U.S. Georgia state National Guard has little detail over what the two sides are committing to, writes Juan Tokatlian in Clarín. Argentine legislators must demand more information regarding the under-reported agreement, he argues, noting there are currently agreements between various U.S. national guard units and 70 countries, 23 of them under the orbit of the U.S. Southern Command.

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