Tag Archives: Mexico Drug War

Mexico Midterms: Implications for Peña Nieto & US

The party of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to retain its majority in the lower Chamber of Deputies. But numerous legislators who lobbied for his reforms will leave due to one term limits in Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

The party of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is expected to retain its majority in the lower Chamber of Deputies. But numerous legislators who lobbied for his reforms will leave due to one term limits in Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)

A version of this story aired on the Texas Standard, a public radio collaboration led by KUT in Austin, Texas.

Here’s a link to a panel discussion on NPR member station KPBS, San Diego analyzing the results.

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — Midterm elections in Mexico, as in the United States, are a referendum on a president’s performance.

On Sunday, Mexicans will elect an entirely new congress along with 17 state legislatures and a host of governors and hundreds of mayors. The results will set the tenor for President Enrique Peña Nieto’s final three years in office.


Lorne Matalon
President Enrique Peña Nieto greets citizens, Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Nov 28, 2013. His mandate will be strengthened or diminished in Mexico’s midterm elections and there are implications in the results for both Mexico and the United States.

Congressional representatives in the lower Chamber of Deputies are limited to a three-year term. Senators serve a single six-year term, as does the Mexican president.

The new congress will support, or stall, the second half of Peña Nieto’s term. And the election outcome has implications for United States-Mexico relations.

After a 12-year absence, Peña Nieto led his PRI party back to Los Pinos, Mexico’s White House, three years ago pledging to change the national conversation.

Eighteen months ago, Peña Nieto was hyping economic and political reform. Mexicans loved the message.

He had arrested the corrupt head of the politically powerful teachers union and he was crafting energy and telecommunications reform in an unprecedented attack against state and private monopolies. And he said he would confront corruption. But today, opposition election ads focus on one theme.

“Zero tolerance for corrupt politicians,” an opposition party’s radio ad exclaims. It castigates Peña Nieto, saying his anti-corruption rhetoric is hollow and cosmetic.

His presidency has been tarnished in the past year by violence and evidence of continuing corruption.

Last September, in the most shocking incident, 43 students were taken off buses in a small town in southern Mexico and murdered, allegedly on orders from an elected mayor. The mayor allegedly ordered his local police to hand the students over to assassins who may have been told the students were members of a rival cartel.

Peña Nieto was widely criticized for a slow and inept response to the crisis triggered by those murders. The slaughter was and is still seen as a symbol of the historical nexus between government and organized crime inside Mexico.

More recently in April, criminals murdered 15 police officers, shot down a military helicopter and set at least 15 banks on fire. One news report in Mexico called it an “unprecedented attack.”

And in May the government was again on the defensive after a shootout that left that 42 purported cartel members and one policeman dead.

Some Mexicans have stated publicly that they believe the dead were executed, a contention based on preliminary forensic data compiled by families of the deceased.

“Making change without spilling blood isn’t easy,” said Raul Acosta in Spanish.

He’s a retired political science professor. He said Peña Nieto’s predecessor Felipe Calderón also wanted change that ended in violence. Calderón thought he would stabilize Mexico by confronting organized crime. It didn’t work.

The violence seen today has its roots in Calderón’s war.

Now, Acosta said the biggest obstacle facing all parties isn’t disdain, it’s apathy.

“People have no motivation to vote,” he said. “There’s general discontent out there.”

Roberto Grado, a local leader of the opposition PAN party in Chihuahua, agrees.

“People are despondent,” Grado said in Spanish. “They don’t have faith in any political party.”

That’s also because in the last three years, there have been a series of allegations of corruption raised against every party.

The voices of political analysts are echoed by people on the streets of this northern Mexico state. Alan Salvador Andrade is a clothing distributor in Ojinaga.

“I don’t trust them, they’re all the same,” he said of politicians in general.

His worst fear, he said, is that nothing will change and that violence and corruption will continue to scar Mexico.

“I’m afraid of what’s going to happen,” he said looking ahead to the vote.

In some states, some voters have said they will not participate in the election. And in some regions, election supervisors have said they are afraid to staff polling stations because of actual or implied threats of violence from any number of disaffected interests.

There’s currently a movement to annul or destroy votes by leaving ballots unchecked. Activists have blocked roads urging drivers to annul their votes to signal dissatisfaction.

Salvador doesn’t like that strategy.

“Our vote is the most important weapon that we have to change this situation,” he said.

Turnout in midterm elections in Mexico is notoriously low and this time around may be even more so. National polls suggest flagging support for Peña Nieto.

“There is a story here for us in the United States,” said Andrew Selee.

Selee is a Mexico and Latin America specialist at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. He said there are fundamental questions the U.S. hopes are answered on Sunday.

“Is Peña Nieto going to come out of this election strengthened? Is he going to come out being seen as a leader who has a mandate, who has control of congress, in which case he’s in a very strong position to look at some of the international issues including issues of economic opening with the United States, issues with migrants in the United States and lot of things that have to do with our country,” Selee said.

There are other issues of importance to the U.S. For one, American energy companies are also monitoring this election campaign. They’re eager to enter Mexico’s domestic energy sector.

Peña Nieto helped change Mexico’s constitution to allow foreign companies in. He overcame the opposition of Mexican nationalists who maintain that outsiders have no place in Mexico’s energy market.

If the Mexican president is rebuked at the polls, some of those companies will undoubtedly revisit and refine their plans for their prospective operations in Mexico.

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Making Deals With Informants: US Visas And The Juárez War

Story originally published at




In this Fronteras Desk web exclusive, Lorne Matalon speaks with Jason McGahan, the author of a report for The Daily Beast news site entitled, “U.S. Visas Helped Fuel The Juárez Drug Wars.”

Matalon also speaks with College of William & Mary Professor George Grayson, the co-author with Sam Logan of “The Executioner’s Men: Los Zetas, Rogue Soldiers, Criminal Entrepreneurs and the Shadow State They Created.”

A Mexican Federal Police officer stands guard in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Juárez. Residents said some of their neighbors had left when the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels fought during some of the worst years of the violence. March 15, 2009 (Lorne Matalon)

A Mexican Federal Police officer stands guard in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Juárez. Residents said some of their neighbors had left when the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels fought during some of the worst years of the violence. March 15, 2009 (Lorne Matalon)

Grayson has chronicled other examples of U.S. authorities paying informants inside the Mexican underworld.

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Juarez Cartel On Trial In El Paso: A Conversation With Jason McGahan

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A recently concluded trial in El Paso, Texas, has revealed the inner workings of how the Juarez Cartel used sophisticated communication technology to orchestrate murders, while United States law enforcement and intelligence operatives eavesdropped on calls between the killers. This came out while the prosecution was making its case against Arturo “Benny” Gallegos.

On Tuesday investigative reporter Jason McGahan was interviewed by Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon about his work on this case.

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Mexican Congress Backs Bill To Support Drug War Victims

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(Reuters) – Mexico’s lower house of congress has approved a bill that will require the federal government to provide financial support to victims of the country’s brutal gang violence.

The lower house said congress unanimously backed the bill, known as the General Victims Act, which will provide financial, legal and medical aid to Mexicans caught up in the turf wars between drug gangs and their clashes with security forces.

By Lorne Matalon

(Lorne Matalon)

More than 50,000 people have died in drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderon sent in the army to crush the cartels soon after taking office in December 2006.

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“World Views” Interview With Zach Messitte: Mexico, Cartels & Mexican Election 2012

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Lorne Matalon joins the program for a conversation with Zach and Alan McPherson about the escalating drug violence in Latin America. “WorldViews” is produced by NPR member station KGOU at the University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK.

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