Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Summer Doldrums. Not Quite.

August 3, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s August 2016 newsletter.

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It should be the summer doldrums, but the news out of Mexico hasn’t quite slowed down.

One of Mexico’s biggest stories was the debate, passage, veto, and then re-passage of the country’s anti-corruption package. These seven bills were designed to put legislative meat on the bones of the 2015 anti-corruption reform, and will greatly assist in coordinating corruption fighting across government institutions. The final package stopped short of embracing every part of the civil society written and backed Ley 3de3 (which would have forced government officials to publicly declare their assets, conflicts of interest, and tax records), but it did create what has been called “the most encompassing system to identify and sanction corruption that the country has ever had.”

In more welcome anti-corruption news, the Peña Nieto administration filed legal challenges this month against the governments of Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Chihuahua for reforms that would have shielded outgoing governors from corruption investigations. These states are facing federal inquiries over financial irregularities under the governors’ tenures. And in the case of Veracruz, for at least twenty-six phantom companies that received some US$1 billion in unaccounted funds. (more…)

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More Uncertainty but Message Clear: “Fix It”

July 5, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s July 2016 newsletter.

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This past January, I wrote that the coming year would be one characterized by our “Living with Uncertainty”. Looking back, while it was clear that this year would be tumultuous, I certainly misunderestimated what was to come.

It’s hard not to start with Brexit, when 52 percent of the United Kingdom’s voters chose to break with the European Union.  The vote marks the first departure from the grand European project, tacking an uncharted course for the United Kingdom and for the continent. But the contentious vote was really the easy part. The next two years will be filled with the tougher steps—sitting through painful negotiations, designing a brand new state framework, and calming jittery markets that are concerned with the future of both the United Kingdom and a strong and peaceful Europe.

The anger is not just a United Kingdom and United States phenomenon; voters around the world are frustrated. And Mexico is no exception.

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Mexico: It’s not (just) a PR problem, It’s the corruption

June 2, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s May 26, 2016 newsletter.

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It’s been nearly a year since President Enrique Peña Nieto pushed through a series of anti-corruption focused constitutional amendments.

These well-received reforms established a National Anti-Corruption System (to coordinate national, state, and local efforts), gave teeth to the Superior Auditing Office, and made the Federal Tribunal of Administrative Justice an independent court. However, passing these reforms was merely the first step. Members of Congress gave themselves twelve months (until this upcoming May 28th) to write and approve the necessary secondary legislation. Yet with the deadline rapidly approaching, the completed bills are still nowhere in sight.

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An Eye on Mexico

April 13, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s April 2016 newsletter.

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This past month, Mexico’s civil society groups handed the Senate president a new piece of anti-corruption legislation—the Ley3de3. The citizen led legislation looks to force public officials to disclose tax information and possible conflicts of interest, and increases the punishment for acts of corruption. After a widespread media campaign, the bill received 291,467 signatures (more than double the 120,000 signatures necessary to get it onto the legislative table), representing a new path for the country’s civil society to influence the anti-corruption agenda. You can read more about the Ley3de3 in my recent Dallas Morning News op-ed and the other ways that Mexicans are taking the fight against corruption into their own hands.

There have also been steps forward for Mexico’s energy reform. This past week, the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) held its first long-term electricity tender with ultimately eleven companies (out of sixty-nine bidders) winning clean energy certificates and electricity contracts. The government’s goal is to have clean energy contracts producing 5 percent of the country’s electricity in the next two years. Meanwhile on the oil and gas side, the reform is also continuing apace, despite Moody’s downgrade of Pemex’s credit rating (along with Mexico’s general outlook) this past week due to its precarious financials. The next tender will be for deep-water exploration and production and is scheduled for the first week in December.

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Mexico: Time for a ‘Moment’, or a Miracle?

February 29, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s February 2016 newsletter.

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Last week, Pope Francis touched down for his first official visit to Mexico. Throughout the trip, he moved across the country, greeting crowds and speaking out about Mexico’s most pressing challenges. In particular, he laid into the Mexican political elite, denouncing the persistent corruption, violence, and narcotrafficking and pushing officials to do better. It seems, as I recently wrote, that Mexico needs another moment but this time in rule of law.

The Pope addressed Mexico’s most profound issues, but there is another nearly as urgent challenge: Pemex. After the country’s ambitious energy reform, low global oil prices have mercilessly battered the state company, decimating its investment budget and its ability to fund even basic operations. The state company’s debt will soon exceed $100 billion and it owes a shocking $7 billion to its service providers. Complicating things further, the country’s crude oil production has not yet picked up, steadily continuing what has been a long and painful downward slide. As private companies start oil and gas production across the over 30 newly placed fields—and in those placed through future bidding rounds—the hope is that this trend will slowly reverse.

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2016: Living with Uncertainty

February 2, 2016

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s January 2016 newsletter.

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We are nearly a month into 2016 and it’s already clear that we’ve inherited much of 2015’s tumult and uncertainty. Over the past twelve months, conflicts destabilized regions, the global economy threatened stagnation, and voters went to the ballot box to shake up entrenched paradigms. In each of these trends, Latin America was no exception. In 2016, the outcomes from these events will become apparent, with leaders grappling to resolve conflicts both new and old and to reorient their countries’ economies under new realities.

The past year’s news has been filled with horrific stories: Syria’s bloody conflict, terrorist attacks from California to Paris to Beirut, and Ukraine’s grinding crisis against Russian backed separatists. Closer to home, we hear about the gang and drug violence that has transformed Honduras, El Salvador, and Venezuela into some of the world’s most dangerous places. However, it’s not all bad. There are some bright spots with Guatemala and Colombia’s homicide rates continuing to improve. Similarly, Colombia’s peace agreement with the FARC is set to wrap up in March, ending the hemisphere’s longest running insurgency.

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Global Threats, Friends in the Neighborhood

December 10, 2015

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s December 2015 newsletter.

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This time of the year should be filled with joy and peace, but it is hard to see much of either reflected in the recent headlines. The barbaric terrorist attack in California this past week, as well as the earlier attacks in Paris, Beirut, and Mali have sent shock waves across the world, shattering thousands of lives and once again corroding our sense of security. They’ve also re-sparked debates on how to keep ourselves safer and best confront violent extremism. We all know that there won’t be any easy solutions. It will be a long road toward peace and security, and one that will demand U.S. leadership and global solidarity in the face of such senseless brutality.

The world’s attention is now focused on ISIS, Syria, and the conflict’s global spillovers, but that doesn’t mean that we can neglect our other foreign policy relationships. For example, our regional partners don’t often make it onto the crisis list and so subsequently onto our short-term policy agenda. This is a mistake. These countries arguably affect the United States’ economy and security more on a daily basis than any other region. In the first nine months of 2015, we traded over a trillion dollars in goods with Canada and Latin America—that’s over $2.6 million dollars a minute. We also work on a daily basis with our regional partners to keep contraband and criminals far from our borders.

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Mexico: Pushing Past Pessimism

September 10, 2015

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s September 2015 newsletter.

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With drug kingpin El Chapo’s escape from a maximum-security prison and a disappointing first-round energy auction, Mexico’s summer was far from idyllic. As we move toward the end of the year, the Peña Nieto administration appears to be making an effort to chart a more responsive course, both with respect to its energy sector and in trying to contain what many have characterized as a political free fall. 

In Mexico’s energy sector, the second phase of round one will take place on September 30, for five production-sharing contracts across nine shallow water fields. The first bidding round, held this past July amid low global oil prices, awarded a disappointing two of the available fourteen fields. To avoid a repeat of these dismal results (and to compete with Brazil’s October 7 energy auctions) the Mexican government is responding to industry input. The changes—including clarifying controversial parts of the contracts (such as early termination conditions), lowering equity requirements, and announcing the government’s desired production share ahead of time—are all positive steps, suggesting that officials are now listening more closely to feedback.

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Wanted: Bold Steps and Rule of Law in Mexico

July 23, 2015

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s July 2015 newsletter.

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Less than two months after the PRI gained a marginal victory in Mexico’s midterm elections, the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has been hit by two stinging setbacks.
First was the humiliating escape of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman, the head of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel, and soon after was the energy reform’s less than stellar first bidding round. All is not lost on either front, but moving forward will require a dramatic change of tone and direction on security measures, and serious recalibration on the energy side.

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Mexico’s Midterm and Washington’s Gridlock

June 24, 2015

Antonio O. Garza (Ambassador to Mexico, 2002-2009)

Cross-posted from Ambassador Garza’s June 2015 newsletter.

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Just over a week ago, Mexican voters headed to the polls to cast their votes for federal, state, and municipal officials in the country’s midterm election. With roughly 48 percent of the eligible population making it to the polls, it was a higher than expected showing for an electorate weary of the traditional parties. In the short term, the results signal a continuation of the status quo. But take a longer view and they also reveal dramatic shifts in Mexico’s political landscape.

Most notably, the election ushered in a wave of new faces. For the first time in eighty years, voters in Nuevo Leon elected an independent candidate, Jaime “El Bronco” Rodríguez Calderón, as their state governor. Similarly, the MORENA party, a PRD spin-off led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, grabbed five out of the possible sixteen delegations across Mexico City. And in Jalisco, a candidate from the small Ciudadano Movimiento party snagged Guadalajara’s mayorship.

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