OCTOBER 27 – NOVEMBER 3, 2008

1. Migrant remittances increase
2. Narco dollars corrupt security forces
3. Lopez Obrador presents new plan of action
4. Teacher protests growing


1. Migrant remittances increase
For the past month, economists and politicians offered dire predictions that family remittances to Mexico from migrant workers in the US would decrease as a result of the economic crisis, but exactly the opposite appears to be happening.  Remittances increased by 58% in September compared to a year earlier, probably due to the increased value of the dollar relative to the peso.  The Bank of Mexico reported a 12% decrease in August, when the exchange rate fell below 10 pesos to the dollar for the first time in years.  Figures are not yet available for October, but with the exchange rate sinking as low as 14 pesos to the dollar, the trend may be toward even larger remittances.  It appears that migrants are quite savvy in their economic calculations.


2. Narco dollars corrupt security forces
Evidence surfaced this week of narco-corruption at the highest levels of Mexico’s national security forces, including the Unit for Special Investigation of Organized Crime (SIEDO), part of the federal Attorney General (PGR).  Three members of SIEDO are implicated in providing information to drug cartels in exchange for millions of dollars laundered through false businesses, friends and family members.  Miguel Colorado, the former technical coordinator of SIEDO, Fernando Rivera, retired director of Intelligence, and Jose Cueto, a bureaucrat in the PGR, are implicated in the transfer of information to the Beltran Leyva cartel in exchange for up to US$450,000 per month.  The PGR also announced this week an investigation of Gerardo Garay, the former Commissioner of the Federal Preventative Police, for links to the Sinaloa Cartel.  Corruption at such high levels calls into question plans by the Calderon administration to form a single federal police force to fight organized crime, which could make it easier for cartels to bribe a small number of selected officials.


3. Lopez Obrador presents new plan of action
With a new set of laws governing Pemex signed, sealed and delivered, former PRD presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador turned his attention to the growing economic crisis in Mexico.  The broad movement to stop the privatization of Pemex organized by Lopez Obrador fizzled this week as legislators approved a package of reforms that include most of Lopez Obrador’s demands, but open the door to privatization of the national petroleum monopoly via long term service contracts that could award large sections of Mexican territory exclusively to a single foreign company.  Most of the current PRD leadership voted for the reforms then trumpeted their defense of Mexican sovereignty, confusing the political terrain for Lopez Obrador.  Rather than maintain a strong position in relation to Pemex, Lopez Obrador switched gears, outlining a populist program to confront the rapidly growing crisis.  His proposals include loans for small and medium-sized businesses, increased spending on infrastructure projects, price freezes, an increased education budget, protection for pension funds, and several social service programs.  Most of his proposals appeal to the middle class, which is the foundation of his movement.


4. Teacher protests growing
Protests by teachers against the Alliance for Quality Education (ACE), signed earlier this year by President Felipe Calderon and Elba Esther Gordillo, “president for life” of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), grew this week, especially in southern Mexico.  Even the 32 state Secretaries of Education refused to “unconditionally” support the ACE, calling for an evaluation of its impact on public education at a national meeting on Thursday.  Protestors were most active in Morelos, Guerrero and Michoacan, where dissident teachers maintained their week-long occupation of the Secretary of Education building in Morelia.  On Thursday, Guerrero teachers took over a toll booth on the main highway to Acapulco, allowing motorists free passage for four hours.  The growing movement threatens to engulf public schools in at least 14 states, but federal authorities are unwilling to negotiate the provisions of the ACE.  Instead, authorities threatened teachers in Morelos with sanctions and loss of jobs if they didn’t immediately end their two-month strike.  But Morelos teachers appear united, and announced a new radio station at 89.5 FM to be called Radio Planton.  The increasingly militant Morelos teachers are reminiscent of the 2006 teacher-led uprising in Oaxaca.