Mexico News and Analysis: October 4 - 12, 2010

1 - MEXICAN OIL PRODUCTION DECLINING
2 - CARTEL GUN SMUGGLING INCREASING FROM US
3 - DEPORTATIONS UP UNDER OBAMA
4 - PAN-PRD ALLIANCE LIKELY IN STATE OF MEXICO

1 - MEXICAN OIL PRODUCTION DECLINING
Pemex will cut back drilling by 60% next year at the Chicontepec oil field, the nation's largest, after output missed predictions the last three years.  Most of next year's US$1.7 billion budget is earmarked for research to improve existing production.  Chicontepec, which produces heavy oil that is difficult to extract and expensive to refine, is located in Puebla, Hidalgo and Veracruz.  In 2006, Pemez predicted production of 660,000 barrels a day by 2015, but estimates were reduced recently to 150,000 barrels.  In December, production stood at 29,637 barrels per day, well below initial targets.  Petroleum provides 40% of the federal budget, and Mexico is quickly approaching the day when it becomes a net petroleum importer rather than exporter.

2 - CARTEL GUN SMUGGLING INCREASING FROM US
Efforts to reduce weapon smuggling from the US to narcotics cartels in Mexico have been largely ineffective due to bureaucratic infighting, lack of training, and delays in delivering technical support to Mexico, according to government officials on both sides of the border.  Each country appears to be blaming the other for allowing cartels virtually unlimited access to automatic weapons sold legally in the US and smuggled into Mexico, a country with some of the world's strictest gun laws.  US authorities accuse Mexico of providing incomplete information on more than 74,000 weapons seized over the past four years south of the border, making it difficult to investigate the sources.  They also note a lack of major arms cases in Mexico's legal system.  Meanwhile, President Calderon is calling for a ban on the sale of automatic weapons at the thousands of gun shops located in Texas and other border states.  The Obama administration committed US$1.4 billion in aid to Mexico over three years to fight the "war on drugs," mostly for the purchase of military hardware.  Yet the eTrace internet-based weapons tracking system, considered key to controlling illegal sales, was only recently delivered to Mexico, and so far only twelve Mexican agents are trained to use it.  Tracing the source of weapons in a country overwhelmed by cartel violence is not considered a high priority in Mexico, according to US law enforcement officials working in Mexico.  Mexican officials often claim 90% of confiscated weapons came from the US, but US officials, particularly gun lobbyists, are interested in lowering this number, which may account for the general disinterest of Mexican officials in computer data entry that may help US propaganda efforts but that takes away from other law enforcement activities.  Last year Mexican police seized 34,000 illegal weapons, while the US Department of Homeland Security confiscated only 1,404 guns at the US border.

3 - DEPORTATIONS UP UNDER OBAMA
The Obama administration deported a record 392,000 undocumented immigrants last year, surpassing last year's previous record of 389,000.  According to the Department of Homeland Security, more than half of this year's deportees - 195,000 - were convicted criminals.  Homeland Security is also stepping up employer sanctions, auditing 3,200 employers suspected of hiring undocumented workers and levying some US$50 million in fines against repeat offenders - more than during the entire eight years of the Bush administration.

Not to be outdone in an election season where legislators are searching for economic scapegoats, authorities in 44 states passed 191 anti-immigrant laws this year, including restrictions to public benefits, sanctions against businesses that hire undocumented workers, and new laws against human trafficking, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.  Pro-immigrant community based groups are also responding, establishing emergency response networks and support for families when one member is deported.  Arizona is, perhaps surprisingly, among the most active states in generating community based immigrant support organizations.

4 - PAN-PRD ALLIANCE LIKELY IN STATE OF MEXICO
A PAN-PRD alliance is looking more likely for gubernatorial elections scheduled for next July in the state of Mexico, currently controlled by the PRI.  The PRD approved a possible alliance in a closed party meeting on Sunday, with pro-alliance forces winning more than two-thirds of the vote.  Forces aligned with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who lost the fraudulent 2006 presidential election to PANista Felipe Calderon, opposed the alliance strategy.  The current governor of Mexico State is Enrique Pena Nieto, the leading PRI candidate for presidential elections in 2012.  A victory by a PAN-PRD alliance in the state of Mexico could weaken Pena Nieto's main stronghold, and open the door for a possible PAN-PRD presidential candidate.