Corruption scandals paralyse Mexico's government

World Review politics expert Dr Joseph S. Tulchin and Professor Raul Benitez-Manaut, professor and researcher at the North America Research Centre of UNAM-Mexico, discuss the current political situation in Mexico; how corruption scandals have paralysed the Mexican government, the upcoming June elections and the issue of attracting foreign investment to the country.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Hello, Raul how are you?

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

Fine Joe.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Good. I’m talking today to Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat, Professor at the National University of Mexico and Mexico City, and Director of Research of the Mexico North American Centre for Research. Raul, recently you wrote a special report for World Review and GIS. Lets talk a little bit about the current situation in Mexico. How are things going?

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

Well, right now Joe the crisis follows the same direction. The President [Enrique Pena Nieto] cannot explain the corruption scandal related with the houses given to him by companies who built infrastructure in the state of Mexico when he was governor. And the crisis is going on, going on. And also, at the same time, the argument of the president related with the disappearance of the 43 students in the city of Iguala, the Attorney General cannot explain and this creates a big, big problem of legitimacy of the involvement of the government authorities, the federal authorities.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Raul from outside Mexico when we read these stories it seems as if the government has become paralysed?

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

Yes

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Yes

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

It is paralysed in two ways. The economic way because the oil prices are going down and the Mexican government, its project, depends on the freedom of the oil in the international markets and at the political level, the corruption and the human rights crisis is following. And with this the government is paralysed, the federal government is paralysed, and the problem for the government is the next elections, they will be in June 8th, at the beginning of June, and nobody knows how it will affect the present image of the present party with this crisis in that elections.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Right, is there anything being done about the major reform efforts that the president trumpeted when he first came to office. Where are those? Where is that legislation now?

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

Well, the legislation about the reforms - the economic reforms - follows. This is not the problem, the problem is to attract the investment, the foreign investment, to Mexico. With this political crisis many foreign companies, big companies, oil companies, the companies who manufacture cars in Mexico are reading the political conditions of the country with a lens and this is a problem for the president because many of them are looking well, the law is very good but the conditions are not very good right now in Mexico - the human right conditions, the protests, the strikes in the streets etc.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Yes. The elections in June? Are the two major opposition parties the PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution] and the PAN [National Action Party] in good organised condition? Will they have a good election in June?

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

Not exactly Joe, because the two opposition parties, the weak parties, are divided inside. The PRD, the leftist party, is very well connected with the crisis in Guerrero [where drug-gangsters in league with police had apparently killed and incinerated 43 young student teachers] because the mayor of Iguala was a member of this party and the PAN is leading a big division. One division between the structure of the party and another group with the former President Felipe Calderon and with this, all the people are talking about the extreme left opposition party MORENA, led by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, can win some points in that election and this worries many, many people in Mexico because this political force is questioning the learning reforms, the economic reforms, is questioning the way the Pena Nieto government is tackling the issues etc.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Right. Now, so is the economy still slowing down a little bit? Is that a form, a source of preoccupation for you?

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

Of course, because the government contacts stop it. Inflation is slow, but the government doesn’t have money to put salaries at the same level as inflation. And because of this all the analysts are talking about the level of income of GDP in Mexico is going down from 3.1 to 2.8 and this is a major issue here.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Yes, well it sounds as though your picture is very grey, there are many shadows there. You will have to come back and talk about it perhaps in a month after carnival time to see whether things pick up a little bit. We have been talking to Professor Raul Benitez of UNAM in Mexico City. Raul, thank you very much and we will talk again soon.

Dr Raul Benitez-Manuat:

Okay, Joe, we keep in touch.

Dr Joseph S. Tulchin:

Okay.

(Photo credit: dpa)

STUDENT KILLINGS

According to official reports, 43 students traveled by coach to Iguala on September 26, 2014, to join a demonstration in Mexico City.

They were stopped by police and a confrontation followed.

Details remain unclear, but the official investigation concluded that once the students were in custody, they were handed over to the local Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors) crime syndicate and presumably killed. Mexican authorities claimed Iguala's mayor Jose Luis Abarca Valzquez had knowledge of the plot.

Both Abarca and his wife fled after the incident, but were arrested about a month later in Mexico City.

Iguala's police chief, Felipe Flores Velasquez, remains a fugitive.

The events caused social unrest in parts of Guerrero and led to attacks on government buildings, and the resignation of the governor of Guerrero.

The mass kidnapping of the students became the biggest political and public security scandal President Enrique Pena Nieto had faced during his administration.

It led to nationwide protests, particularly in the southwestern state of Guerrero and Mexico City, and international condemnation.

The total number of homicides fell by 15% in his first year in office, parts of Mexico—such as Guerrero state, still suffer some of the highest murder rates in the world.

There were 2,087 murders in 2013 in Guerrero, a state of 3.4 million people.