Mexico News and Analysis: January 10-16, 2011

1 - IMF BOOSTS CREDIT LINE
2 - POET ACTIVIST MURDERED IN CIUDAD JUAREZ
3 - VIRTUAL FENCE CANCELED
4 - PRD NEGOTIATES WITH PAN FOR JOINT CANDIDATES

1 - IMF BOOSTS CREDIT LINE
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) boosted Mexico's "unprecedented" credit line to US$72 billion, the largest commitment in the fund's history.  The new credit line replaces a US$48 billion facility due to expire in April 2011.  Mexico first sought IMF support in 2009 under newly established flexible credit lines, available only to countries that adopt Washington-approved neoliberal policies including cuts in social spending and strong anti-inflation policies.  Colombia and Poland also received "unprecedented" commitments.  If the IMF were to actually disperse the funds set aside for Mexico, the impact on liquidity would be "very large," reducing the financial capacity of the institution by 12%.  "The capacity of the fund to make new commitments could deteriorate rapidly if other members with large financing needs request support," according to the report.  The Calderon administration sees the credit line as cheap insurance, boosting the value of the peso and relieving the banks from maintaining large surpluses of dollars to pay off foreign debts.  Most observers see the agreement as a reward for Calderon's close adherence to US economic policies.  An IMF report dated December 23 but released this week calls for Mexico's GNP growth to slow to 3.9% this year, compared to 5% last year.  While Mexico's stock market and a wealthy minority are doing very well, most working people suffer declining real wages, high unemployment and reduced social services leading to social unrest and increased emigration.

2 - POET ACTIVIST MURDERED IN CIUDAD JUAREZ
Susana Chavez, a poet and human rights activist, became the most recent femicide victim in Ciudad Juarez when three teenage gang members strangled her.  The mutilated body of the 36-year-old was found on a street last week but wasn't identified until Tuesday.  Chavez was a prominent member of Nuestras Hijas Regresan a Casa, comprised of family members and friends of femicide victims.  She died when members of Los Aztecas, one of the city's most violent street gangs, covered her face with adhesive tape and drown her in a shower.  The youths found it "easy" to kill her after several hours of drinking and taking drugs.  Chihuahua state Attorney General Carlos Salas attributed the killing to an "unfortunate encounter."

Chavez is the second human rights activist murdered in Chihuahua in recent weeks.  Marisela Escobedo, the mother of a 16-year-old femicide victim, was killed in Chihuahua City in December, probably by the same person who murdered her daughter.  The suspect had been sentenced to prison but was released by a three-judge panel for lack of evidence, despite leading police to the mutilated body of Escobedo's daughter.  On Tuesday, the Chihuahua Congress voted unanimously to impeach the judges.

A federal commission under the leadership of a string of political hopefuls quietly dropped their three year investigation of the femicides in 2006, claiming there was no evidence of federal crimes.  Local law enforcement has proven incapable to resolving the ongoing rash of femicides.

3 - VIRTUAL FENCE CANCELED
On Friday, the Obama administration canceled the billion-dollar "virtual fence" program along the US-Mexico border.  The Boeing Company project, begun in 2006, was plagued with cost overruns and ineffective surveillance equipment.  Designed to catch undocumented immigrants as they crossed through remote desert regions, the project used video cameras, radar, heat and motion sensors and other technology, but proved incapable of distinguishing tumbleweeds from people.  The Department of Homeland Security spent US$1 billion to cover just 53 miles in the Arizona desert.  Apparently the failures were too much for Congressional supporters of defense contractors and anti-immigrant groups to overcome.  The National Border Patrol Council referred to the program as a "boondoggle for contractors."  Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano announced a new plan using commercially available technology, including the Predator unmanned drone used extensively in Iraq and Afganistan, with an estimated cost of US$750 million to cover the rest of Arizona's border, an additional 323 miles.  Last year Obama spent US$600 million for 1,500 new federal border agents, plus sent 1,200 National Guard troops to the border.  The main impact has been a dramatic increase in immigrant deaths in remote desert areas.

4 - PRD NEGOTIATES WITH PAN FOR JOINT CANDIDATES
At least six tendencies within the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) are negotiating with the National Action Party (PAN) to launch a joint candidate for Governor of Mexico State in the July 3rd race.  PRD state leadership is promoting a statewide consultation with voters to determine if the party should unite with the PAN in an effort to defeat the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI), which has long held power in Mexico State.  The state election may have important ramifications for the 2012 presidential race, where current Governor Enrique Pena Nieto, a member of the PRI, is the early favorite.  Sectors of the PRD aligned with former presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are opposed to an alliance with the PAN.  Lopez Obrador was defeated in 2006 by current PAN President Felipe Calderon in a fraudulent election.