Viewpoint: Time to look beyond Mexico drug violence
Published: 14th Jun 2012 10:09:54
News about Mexico in the past few years has been dominated by gruesome drug violence. But as Mexicans prepare to elect a new president on 1 July, David A Shirk of San Diego University's Trans-Border Institute argues for an end to overly negative views of the country:
If Mexico were a stock, now might be the time to buy. The country has been severely under-valued in recent years.
Despite high rates of crime and violence elsewhere in Latin America, the media tend to focus relentlessly on Mexico's drug war.
The murder rate is nearly 20 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, but this is significantly lower than in Brazil, Colombia, and Puerto Rico.
And the Central American nations of Belize, Guatemala and Honduras have murder rates nearly twice that of Mexico.
Still, because of exaggerated fears that Mexico is becoming a "failed state" or sliding into a "narco-insurgency," many tourists and investors have shied away from the country.
And these fears in turn fuel often unfounded concerns about Mexico.
When five burned bodies were found in the Arizona desert earlier this month, the local authorities were quick to blame spillover violence from Mexico.
Post-mortem reports now indicate that the incident was probably something that is, unfortunately, more typical of the US: a murder-suicide in a troubled marriage.
Mexico's public relations problems have not been limited to security.
Three years ago, Mexico bore the brunt of the global H1N1 or swine flu crisis.
Some reports initially called it the Mexican influenza, even though the epidemic may well have started elsewhere in North America.
And in the latest wave of panic among global investors, the Mexican peso took an unexpected dive this month.
With some opinion polls showing increased support for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist candidate, the peso's value dropped by 12% from its long, stable 13:1 ratio against the dollar.
But for long-term Mexico observers, things are not as bleak as they might first appear.
According to the latest analysis by the Trans-Border Institute, drug-related homicides were down by some 19% compared with the same time last year.
If this pattern continues, 2012 will see fewer drug killings than in the two previous years which saw admittedly high levels of violence with some 15,000 and 16,700 murders respectively.
Such a change would be welcome in itself but it would also reflect that there is much more to Mexico than drug violence.
While Mexico is on the list of travel warnings issued by the US state department, along with Iran, Algeria and Syria, it is still the number one destination for US citizens travelling abroad.
There were more than 20 million visits by Americans last year.
And an estimated one million US citizens reside permanently in Mexico.
Mexico is also of growing economic importance. It needs to improve its energy sector, but it is the seventh largest oil producer and the third biggest oil supplier to the US market.
More US export-based jobs depend on Mexico than on any other country except Canada.
And Mexican investors now own major US brands like Dairy Fresh milk products, Entenmann's pastries, and Thomas' English Muffins.
Even the New York Times is part-Mexican, with billionaire Carlos Slim owning about 7% of the company and rights to buy up to 16%.
This all reflects the growing buying power and role of Mexican investors in the international economy in recent years.
The purchasing power of Mexicans is also set to grow in the coming decade.
Mexican income levels, currently around $13,000 (£8,350) per capita, have grown modestly but they have grown.
Shifting population dynamics and better employment opportunities in Mexico have also begun to reverse outbound migration, a major change on the last three decades.
To be sure, Mexico is entering a time of some uncertainty.
The presidential election is likely to see the return to power of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled the country for 71 years.
Its candidate, Antique Penal Nitro, benefits from a unified party apparatus, telemetric looks, and weak rivals in Mr Lopez Obrador and Josef Vasquez Mota of the governing party.
For some, the PRI is unfit to take back the reins of power, given concerns about corruption within its ranks.
An alternative view is that the PRI's alleged corruption allows it to negotiate with drug traffickers and restore order.
Both views are probably over-simplified.
Mexican voters have a lower tolerance for corruption than in the past, and with drug gangs fragmented after years of fighting it would be harder to strike a deal with them.
Mexico is unlikely to turn back the clock on democracy or fall prey to the fiery populism that has taken hold elsewhere in the region.
While security remains a problem, the drop in drug-related killings is promising.
Mexico was arguably the Greece of the 1980s and 1990s, suffering excruciating debt and monetary crises. But Mexico, which hosts the G20 summit next week, is Greece no more.
The country is likely to continue to grow economically, reduce poverty, and nourish its small, but expanding, middle class.
Regardless of who wins on 1 July, it is time to change the conventional exceedingly bearish outlook on Mexico.
At 21:04:03 in HeadlinesAbout 150 people are on the fourth day of a hunger strike at an immigration detention centre in the US state of Washington, officials say.
At 20:25:58 in ScotlandPolice have reported three people to the procurator fiscal and warned a further six after a crackdown on illegal motorcyclists in Fife.
At 20:22:45 in ScotlandA man from Lanarkshire who abused a young Thai girl who had came to Scotland for a better life has been jailed for life.
At 20:22:40 in EnglandAn employment tribunal involving a school linked to an alleged Islamist takeover plot has been adjourned to allow authorities time to investigate.
At 20:17:28 in BusinessIt is another busy day for Abhishek Dhawan in Delhi. His phone has not stopped ringing and he has a series of business meetings.
At 20:11:30 in Northern IrelandTwo wallabies have escaped from privately-owned land in County Down and police have warned the public not to approach the animals.
At 20:02:14 in SportArsenal manager Arsene Wenger says history gives his side belief they can overcome Bayern Munich in the Champions League on Tuesday.
At 20:00:27 in EnglandA north London council will terminate the contract of any firm found to be blacklisting construction workers, it has announced.
At 19:51:53 in EnglandA man has been arrested by police investigating the theft of about 100 commemorative brass plaques from a remembrance garden in Shropshire.
At 19:47:04 in ScotlandA man whose car mounted a pavement hitting and killing two students told police he was "just sorry", a fatal accident inquiry (FAI) has heard.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Viewpoint: Time to look beyond Mexico drug violence [Online] (Updated 14th Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1434615/Viewpoint-Time-to-look-beyond-Mexico-drug-violence [Accessed 10th Mar 2014]
News In Other Categories
It is another busy day for Abhishek Dhawan in Delhi. His phone has not stopped ringing and he has a series of business meetings.
With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
Police have reported three people to the procurator fiscal and warned a further six after a crackdown on illegal motorcyclists in Fife.
A policeman who was hurt in a knife attack at a sectarian flashpoint in Belfast is among guests invited to the White House to mark St Patrick's Day.
Two wallabies have escaped from privately-owned land in County Down and police have warned the public not to approach the animals.
American writer George Saunders has won the inaugural Folio Prize for his "darkly playful" short story collection, Tenth of December.