Mexico News and Analysis: March 1-14, 2010

1. Supreme court rules against human rights treaties
2. Poverty increases dramatically
3. Increasing human rights violations in Mexico
4. CFE awards contracts to fired workers
5. SME declares strike
6. US Consulate issues travel advisory


1. Supreme court rules against human rights treaties
The Supreme Court ruled last Wednesday that national and state human rights commissions do not have the authority to site international treaties to which Mexico is a signer in condemning human rights violations.  The 7-3 vote limits human rights ombudsmen to constitutional law when bringing human rights cases in the national judicial system.  The high court appears to be taking a lesson from the US judicial system which often ignores international treaty obligations in its rulings.

In related news, the National Human Rights Commission, a government agency, issued 78 recommendations in 2009 to rectify human rights abuses, of which only seven were fully implemented, while 20 were rejected out of hand by authorities at various levels.


2. Poverty increases dramatically
Almost six million Mexicans fell below the official poverty level since 2006 when Felipe Calderon assumed the Presidency, according to estimates prepared by the Technical University of Monterrey, one of Mexico’s most prestigious private education institutions.  In 2010, there will be 53 million Mexicans living in poverty, or 49.3% of the population, in comparison to 2006 when 44.7 million fell below the official line, measured at income less than US$2 per day.  Last September there were 15 million people in extreme poverty, living on less than US$1 per day.  The current economic crisis hit particularly hard in Mexico, worse than in any other Latin American country, according to the Inter American Development Bank.  Mexico will be the last Latin American country to recover, without significant improvement expected until 2011.

In related news, Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecommunications magnate, overtook Bill Gates as the richest man in the world with a fortune estimated at US$53.3 billion, according to the annual Forbes list.  Nine Mexicans made the list of the world’s thousand richest, and four were in the top hundred.


3. Increasing human rights violations in Mexico
Serious human rights violations are on the rise in Mexico, according to the US State Department’s annual human rights report.  The report sited a laundry list of common violations, including assassinations and kidnappings by security forces, physical abuse, unacceptable jail conditions, arbitrary arrests, corruption, judicial inefficiency, confessions coerced under torture, violence and threats against journalists, discrimination against indigenous and women, and child labor.


4. CFE awards contracts to fired workers
The Federal Electric Commission, which assumed operation of the electrical grid for central Mexico after the Calderon administration disbanded Central Light and Power (LFC) last October, contracted with five newly formed private firms consisting of former LFC workers associated with Alejandro Munoz, former treasurer of the Electrical Workers Union (SME).  The new firms will trim trees, maintain vehicles and repair transformers, among other services.  More than 44,000 workers lost their jobs when Calderon closed LFC.  The new contacts are expected to generate employment for 600 to 1,000 former SME workers. 


5. SME declares strike
The Electrical Workers Union (SME), or at least the 20,000 or so workers who continue to struggle for recovery of their jobs after the Calderon administration closed Central Light and Power (LFC) last October, took the unprecedented measure of declaring a strike, to begin next Tuesday.  Union leaders hope the hanging of traditional black and red strike banners in front of 400 former LFC work centers, now under the control of the Federal Electric Commission (CFE), will deter current employees from entering the buildings.  Thousands of SME members are expected to participate, supported by other progressive unions.


6. US Consulate issues travel advisory
The US Consulate advised citizens to delay unnecessary travel to parts of Durango, Coahuila and Chihuahua after three people with ties to the Ciudad Juarez Consulate were killed Saturday in a drive-by shooting.  The State Department authorized government employees at six Consulates along the border – Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros - to send their family members out of the area because of concerns about drug-related violence.  Despite the increasing violence along the border, Michelle Obama will visit Mexico City on April 13-15 in her first solo trip abroad as first lady.