Mexico News and Analysis: November 14-27, 2011

1 - PRI WINS MICHOACAN GOVERNORSHIP
2 - IMMIGRATION NEAR ZERO
3 - PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DYNAMICS
4 - CALDERON NAMES FIFTH INTERIOR SECRETARY
5 - GOVERNMENT ADMITS DIRTY WAR DISAPPEARANCE
6 - WTO RULES AGAINST U.S.
7 - INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CASE NAMES PRESIDENT CALDERON
8 - HISTORIC DROUGHT AND EARLY FREEZES DEVASTATE AGRICULTURE

The PRI candidate won the gubernatorial election last Sunday in Michoacan, Felipe Calderon's home state, defeating the President's sister, Luisa "Cocoa" Calderon, in a close race. The PRI took 35% of the vote, apparently winning many former PRD votes, against 33% for the PAN and 29% for the PRD. The election was marred by illegal use of federal resources by the PAN and probable PRI and PRD links to organized crime. The vote may be a harbinger of 2012 presidential elections in which PRI candidate Enrique Pena Nieto leads all candidates by substantial margins. Michoacan is a major producer of marijuana, opium and methamphetamines, and home to the Knights Templar, a cartel with strong roots in popular barrios.

Organized crime killed the PAN mayor of La Piedad as he campaigned for Cocoa Calderon less than two weeks before Sunday's election. On election day, a local newspaper published an unsigned ad threatening PAN supporters, apparently a response to President Calderon's increasingly bloody "war on drugs." And federal prosecutors are investigating a series of telephone calls, purportedly from La Familia, a cartel with waning influence in Michoacan, encouraging votes for a PRI mayoral candidate. The caller threatens PRD supporters and accuses the PRD gubernatorial candidate of receiving support from the Knights Templar, a competing cartel.

2 - IMMIGRATION NEAR ZERO
Mexican census figures and US Border Patrol data show net immigration at near zero. The Border Patrol reports 305,000 arrests over the past eleven months along the southwest border, down from a peak of 1.6 million in 2000. And the Mexican census reports a net population loss of zero, reversing a 50 year trend. The changing dynamic is likely due to decreased employment opportunities in the US and increasing danger associated with undocumented border crossings. It is now common for immigrants to pay protection money to organized crime to avoid kidnapping plus up to US$3,500 for a coyote. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates about 12.5 million Mexicans live in the US, with slightly more than half undocumented.

3 - PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION DYNAMICS
The PRD named its presidential candidate this week while a leading PRI candidate dropped out of the race. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who many believe was robbed of the presidential seat in the fraudulent 2006 presidential election, was selected by the PRD after he beat Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard in an internal party consultation. Meanwhile the PRI's leader in the Senate, Manlio Beltrones, dropped out of the race, leaving Enrique Pena Nieto as the party's candidate. At least three PAN candidates are fighting for their party's nomination, with a final candidate unlikely to emerge before February's primary elections.

4 - CALDERON NAMES FIFTH INTERIOR SECRETARY
President Calderon chose Alejandro Poire, head of the national intelligence agency CISEN, to succeed Francisco Blake as Interior Secretary. Blake was killed in a helicopter crash that is still under investigation. Poire was a staunch defender of Calderon's "war on drugs" as national security spokesman before he moved to CISEN in September. Interior Secretary is the second most powerful political post in Mexico, in charge of domestic policies, and Poire is expected to devote most of his time to the "war on drugs," which has cost some 50,000 lives since Calderon assumed the presidency in December, 2006. Poire is Calderon's fifth Interior Secretary. Two died in air crashes.

5 - GOVERNMENT ADMITS DIRTY WAR DISAPPEARANCE
Thirty-seven years after popular singer Rosendo Radilla Pacheco disappeared during Mexico's "dirty war," government officials admitted army responsibility following a hearing at the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Human Rights Court. Soldiers detained the 25-year-old folk singer in Guerrero on August 25, 1974, then held him in custody for at least several weeks. His family never saw him again after the arrest. In a 2009 ruling, the Court ordered Mexico to compensate the family and publicly acknowledge its responsibility. Interior Secretary Juan Marcos Gutierrez outlined government culpability during a speech last week at Atoyac de Alvarez, Guerrero, where the singer first disappeared. The two year delay may be due to political calculations, with PAN officials wanting to remind voters of the PRI's role in the dirty war in anticipation of presidential elections in 2012.

6 - WTO RULES AGAINST U.S.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled last Friday that "country of origin" labeling requirements on cattle and hogs from Mexico and Canada violate international rules. The country of origin labels took effect in 2008, part of US efforts to generate domestic jobs in the face of recession. Foreign cattle and pigs must be segregated in US feedlots and packing plants, making domestic animals relatively less expensive. Canadian cattle exports declined by 23% and hog exports by 36% between 2007 and 2009. Proponents of country of origin labels claim, "major agribusiness corporations will be free to sell mystery meat in the United States."

7 - INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS CASE NAMES PRESIDENT CALDERON
A coalition of human rights organizations filed a war-crimes complaint Friday at the International Criminal Court implicating Felipe Calderon in 470 cases of human rights abuses by army and police as part of the President's "war on drugs." The complaint also names Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most powerful cartel leader. A Calderon spokesman quickly moved to discredit the case: "The Mexican government is not at war and there is no generalized or systematic attack against civilians, nor any government policy in that direction." The case comes on the heels of a devastating report issued by Human Rights Watch documenting dozens of human rights abuses carried out by the army and police.

In related news, the president of the Mexico City Human Rights Commission (CDHDF) admitted that the capitol's police practice torture systematically, including asphyxiation, beatings and intimidation. Last year the CDHDF received 400 complaints of abuse by police. A video distributed via the internet showing police holding the heads of two arrestees under water precipitated the observations.

8 - HISTORIC DROUGHT AND EARLY FREEZES DEVASTATE AGRICULTURE
An historic draught in the north combined with early freezes across much of central Mexico destroyed one-fifth of the country's corn production, while tortilla prices have increased by 15% already this year. Corn tortillas provide about 40% of the caloric intake of a typical campesino diet. Corn fields cover about half of all arable lands and account for about a third of the value of all agricultural production.

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