Mexico News and Analysis: August 30 - September 5

1 - UNDOCUMENTED POPULATION DECLINES
2 - POLICE ARREST MAJOR DRUG LORD
3 - UNDOCUMENTED CENTRAL AMERICANS KIDNAPPED
4 - GROWING NATIONAL DEBT

1 - UNDOCUMENTED POPULATION DECLINES
The current undocumented population totals 11.1 million, down nearly a million from the peak of 12 million in March 2007, according to a report by the Pew Hispanic Center based on US Census data from 2009.  The new trend "represents the first reversal in the growth of this population over the past two decades," according to the report.  The report notes that "in the case of Mexico, the inflow has dropped but the outflow hasn't changed so those two numbers are in rough balance."  Most of the reduction came from declines in undocumented immigration from Latin American countries other than Mexico.  Most undocumented Latin Americans pass through Mexico on their way to the US.  Costs have skyrocketed in recent years, with immigrants from Central America typically paying "coyotes" $7,000 while the price for Ecuadorans can reach $22,000.  And the trip is becoming more dangerous as Mexican police and immigration officials are increasingly linked with organized crime to kidnap and extort immigrants passing through Mexican territory.  Female immigrants reportedly routinely take birth control pills before the journey with the expectation of facing multiple rapes.  The number of undocumented Mexicans living in the US did not change significantly from 2007 to 2009.  About 7 million Mexicans make up 60% of the undocumented population.
 
While apprehensions along the border have decreased with the recession and declining job market, deportations from the interior of the US have steadily climbed under the Obama administration.  ICE officials say they would like to expel a record 400,000 people during this fiscal year ending in September.  Florida, Virginia and Nevada showed the steepest declines - three states that had booming construction industries earlier in the decade followed by recent real estate busts.  The homebuilding industry employs many undocumented workers.  An average of 150,000 undocumented workers arrived from Mexico annually between march 2007 and March 2009, a 70% drop from the estimated 500,000 during the first half of the decade.
 
The Pew figures are consistent with estimates by other experts.  Recent Mexican census data showed a 67% decrease in the outflow of migrants from 2006 to 2009, while showing no significant increase in Mexicans returning home.
 
2 - POLICE ARREST MAJOR DRUG LORD
On Monday, federal police arrested Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez, a US-born cartel member accused of being one of Mexico's most ruthless drug lords.  Born in Laredo, Texas, La Barbie will likely be extradited to the US to face charges of distributing thousands of pounds of cocaine along the east coast.  He is the third high-ranking cartel member arrested this year.  La Barbie has a complicated criminal history, aligned at one point with Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most powerful drug lord, and currently vying for control of the Beltran Leyva organization.  Within an hour of the arrest, President Felipe Calderon appeared in a campaign-style televised announcement, complete with scenes of marching police, a high-tech war room, and testimony from families offering poignant statements that the war on drugs "is worth it, you are the reason."
 
In related news, the arrest came the same day that the head of the federal police announced the dismissal of 3,200 officers, about a tenth of the force, because they failed lie detector or other tests designed to ferret out corruption.  Officials announced this was only the first stage in the "cleansing" of the Federal Police.  Since May, 4,685 agents have been fired, leaving the main force in charge of the "war on drugs" badly understaffed.
 
3 - UNDOCUMENTED CENTRAL AMERICANS KIDNAPPED
Organized crime, police and immigration officials are kidnapping undocumented Central Americans as they travel through Mexico in increasing numbers.  Three states, Veracruz, Tabasco and Tamaulipas, account for 77% of the reported cases, according to a report by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), a federal agency.  Los Zetas is the organized crime syndicate most active in these states, though the report noted significant involvement of police and federal immigration authorities.  Last week, 72 kidnapped migrants were murdered in Tamaulipas after refusing to transport drugs across the border.  Survivors of the massacre reported they were transported in official vehicles on the day they were kidnapped, and taken to a safehouse controlled by organized crime.  Federal and immigration officials were present in the house but did nothing to rescue the victims.  The CNDH documented 1,267 kidnappings in a six month period, though the actual number is estimated as high as 40,000 per year.  Most undocumented migrants are hesitant to report incidents because they often fear authorities more than organized crime figures.
 
4 - GROWING NATIONAL DEBT
Mexico's federal debt is now equivalent to one-third of the nation's gross domestic product, or US$240 billion, according to a report issued by the House of Deputies.  As of June, the foreign debt was US$96 billion, less than the US138 billion reported last December, while the domestic debt totaled US$144 billion.  Quarterly interest payments amount to a staggering US$10 billion. The total appropriation for debt payments for all of 2010 was US$22 billion, leaving the government with a staggering shortfall in the midst of a serious recession.