Mexico News and Analysis: January 31 - February 6, 2011

1 - REMITTANCES INCREASE DESPITE ECONOMY
2 - HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH DENOUNCES ARMY AND POLICE
3 - MEMBERS OF THE OTHER CAMPAIGN ARRESTED
4 - GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS SET STAGE FOR 2012 PRESIDENTIAL RUN
5 - MEXICO POWERS SUPER BOWL?

1 - REMITTANCES INCREASE DESPITE ECONOMY
Migrant remittances from the US to Mexico increased slightly last year, despite increasing border security and a failing US economy.  Mexico received US$21.3 billion, an increase of 0.1% over 2009, according to the Bank of Mexico.  Remittances are Mexico's third largest source of foreign exchange, after illegal narcotics and petroleum sales.  Remittances in December totaled US$1.7 billion, a 9.1% increase over last year and an indication the US economy is recovering.  Immigrant remittances often act as a "leading indicator," moving ahead of other statistics that point to economic decline or recovery.  A typical monthly remittance was US$303 in December.  The Mexican peso has strengthened in recent weeks in relation to the dollar, negatively affecting the purchasing power of families who live from dollar remittances.

2 - HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH DENOUNCES ARMY AND POLICE
US-based Human Rights Watch (HWR) implicated a group of police and military in a series of murders and disappearances in the state of Nuevo Leon during 2010.  HWR concluded at least eight murders and more than a dozen disappearances were the result of illegitimate use of force by Army and Navy troops and police officers.  None of the perpetrators have been brought before civilian courts.  HRW accused authorities of grave irregularities during investigations, including failure to interview key witnesses or collect forensic evidence.  All cases were handled by the military justice system rather than civilian courts, a regular occurrence in Mexico.  In one case, after killing two civilians, troops placed weapons next to the bodies and claimed they were members of a drug cartel.

3 - MEMBERS OF THE OTHER CAMPAIGN ARRESTED
More than 500 state and federal police accompanied by army troops arrested 121 members of the Other Campaign who were protesting on the main highway between Ocosingo and Palenque on Thursday.  Indigenous communities blocked the highway after dozens of PRI affiliates from the municipality of Chilon forcibly took control of a toll booth on the road to the eco-tourism center Agua Azul the previous day.  The dispute ended with one dead and two seriously injured, all PRI affiliates.  The toll booth had been under the control of communities associated with the Other Campaign for the past two years.  Efforts to peacefully resolve the long-standing dispute were undermined when a renegade group affiliated with the PRI initiated the violent confrontation in advance of formal negotiations scheduled for February 18.

4 - GUBERNATORIAL ELECTIONS SET STAGE FOR 2012 PRESIDENTIAL RUN
Mixed results in statewide elections in 2010 and earlier this year saw PAN-PRD coalitions win four contests, including Oaxaca, Puebla and last week's face-off in Guerrero, while the PRI controls 18 of 32 states, including former PAN stalwarts Queretaro and San Luis Potosi.  Several upcoming elections could help define the scramble for power in 2012, including July 3rd contests in Coahuila, where the PRI is heavily favored, Nayarit, controlled by the PRI but considered up for grabs, and Mexico State, where a PAN-PRD alliance may materialize to displace the PRI.  A November election in Michoacan favors the PRD despite rampant corruption and ties to La Familia, one of Mexico's most violent drug cartels.

Newly chosen PRI president Humberto Moreira maintains close relations with former PRI leader Elba Esther Gordillo, who abandoned the party to help manipulate 2006 ballots in favor of current President Felipe Calderon of the PAN.  Moreira is firmly in the camp of likely 2012 PRI presidential candidate Enrique Pena Nieto, the pretty boy of Mexican politics who currently holds the Governor's office in Mexico state.  A Pena Nieto alliance with the powerful Gordillo, who heads Latin America's largest union, the 1.3 million member National Union of Education Workers (SNTE), and the equally powerful Televisa media empire, would be formidable for any opposition, and may be enough to force an unlikely and unwieldy PAN-PRD alliance.  Otherwise, the PAN is loaded with hopefuls, including "Jefe" Diego Fernandez, whose "pre-electoral kidnapping" may set him up as the law and order candidate.  In the PRD, there is an open struggle between "legitimate president" Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who was only beaten in the 2006 presidential race by corrupt election officials and judges, and "neoliberalism with (sort of) a human face" candidate and current Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard. 

In any case, the institutional prospects for Mexico's increasingly poverty-stricken populace do not look good in 2012.  Candidates of all stripes have strong business ties and are enmeshed in political circles of corruption and graft, including likely links with drug cartels that reportedly spend up to US$10 billion a year to buy off officials.  Perhaps a PRD-PAN alliance, with no other basis than a naked grab for power, will push an already skeptical population to look for other ways to do politics.  A century ago the liberal (forefathers of the neoliberals) Porfiriato regime was overthrown, when only a year before no one expected it.  Perhaps it's time for real change in Mexico.

5 - MEXICO POWERS SUPER BOWL?
For a while last week it looked like Mexican electricity would power part of the Super Bowl and its many pre and post game festivities.  On Wednesday, Mexico's Federal Electricity Commission began to pump 280 megawatts into Texas' failing system, which was overwhelmed with unseasonably cold weather.  At least 10% of the state's power generating stations failed as temperatures dropped into the single digits and the state suffered a freak ice storm.  But temperatures also dropped in northern Mexico, and the federal power company quickly reversed course after customers reported power outages along a wide swath of border states.  By the weekend, power supplies were largely back to normal in Texas and the Super Bowl went off without a hitch, unless you count Cristina Aguilera's "lyric malfunction" during the National Anthem, an especially embarrassing moment after Fox Sports spent millions in a five hour pre-game program pumping up patriotism and right wing themes.  It is unclear if Fox ever realized how close it was to depending on Mexico to power their excesses, and if the right wing media giant conveniently overlooked the fact that part of Cowboy's Stadium was built by undocumented workers.   By the way, the Green Bay Packers, owned by the people of Green Bay, which makes it the only socialist team in professional sports, won 31-25.