Mexico News and Analysis: April 6-12, 2009

1. travel advisory issued – for United States
2. PAN allies with organized labor


1. travel advisory issued – for United States
The Mexico Solidarity Network issued a travel advisory this week for Mexican tourists or immigrants contemplating a trip to the United States.  A monthlong rash of violence across the US has left more than 57 people dead, all of gunshot wounds.  In nine mass murders so far this year, most perpetrators used legally obtained weapons, including assault rifles. 

Despite the carnage, some states are loosening gun restrictions.  Texas presents a particular concern for foreign guests as the state Senate recently passed a law allowing guns and alcohol to mix in public bars unless signs are clearly posted, and allowing the state’s 300,000 adult students to carry weapons to class.  In Tennessee, lawmakers may allow guns to be carried in state and local parks, making these recreation areas unsafe for visitors. 

There are an estimated 280 million guns in the US, nearly one for each person.  According to recent statistics published by NationMaster.com, 40% of US homicides involved the use of firearms, while in Mexico the figure is 21%.  More than nine out of ten gun-related homicides committed in Mexico use weapons obtained legally in the US.  In 2008, the homicide rate per 1,000 people was 0.06 in the US, only half that of Mexico which registered 0.13.  However, extensive use of military style weapons and an extraordinarily high number of mass murders involving innocent bystanders makes the US situation particularly worrisome for foreign guests.  In Mexico, most homicides are the result of internecine warfare between drug cartels or confrontations between criminal gangs and police or the army.

In related news, deaths of undocumented immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border increased by 7% during the past six months.  At least 128 bodies were recovered over the past six months, mainly in remote desert areas of New Mexico and Arizona.  The death rate is approximately 0.3 per thousand, well above the homicide rates in the US or Mexico.  The increased deaths are particularly worrisome because they accompany a decrease in border apprehensions, the result of less migrant workers coming to the US during the economic crisis.


2. PAN allies with organized labor
The National Workers Union (UNT), Mexico’s progressive union central, faces a dilemma as one of its three-member national coordinating team accepted a Congressional candidacy with the right wing National Action Party (PAN) this week.  Valdemar Gutierrez, General Secretary of the powerful National Union of Social Security Workers (SNTSS), will run under the PAN ticket as the second candidate on the party’s proportional representation list.  One-quarter of the House of Deputies is elected according to the national percentage of vote received by each party and because of his placement on the list Gutierrez is guaranteed a seat.  The Telephone Workers Union and the National University Workers Union, the other two members of the UNT leadership, are aligned with the PRD.  Gutierrez claims he will remain independent of the PAN’s efforts to reform Mexico’s labor laws. 

Elba Esther Gordillo, president-for-life of the National Teacher’s Union and a close ally of President Felipe Calderon, apparently negotiated the Congressional seat for Gutierrez.  Gordillo has been politically active of late.  After Education Secretary Josefina Vasquez Mota stepped down last week to lead the PAN Congressional races in July, Gordillo managed to replace her with close ally Alonso Lujambio.  The mid term elections are expected to be closely contested.  By plying Gordillo with political favors, the PAN leadership is banking on the kind of corruption orchestrated by Gordillo during the 2006 presidential elections that brought Calderon to power.