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Jan. 25, 2012

Analyst says Mexico must continue frontal fight against organized crime, but must also work far harder on improving education and other areas

Mexico must continue its war against organized crime, but needs to create a true rule of law, improve its educational system and foment greater and more equitable economic growth, including more production for the domestic market, Gabriel Guerra Castellanosanalyst Gabriel Guerra Castellanos said Thursday in Tijuana.

Speaking to the COPARMEX business group, the former diplomat lamented that a recent poll asking Mexicans what they were most worried about found only 1% placed a priority on education. He said Mexico remains far behind other developed countries in its formation of civic organizations. He said a LatinoBarometro study found that when people were asked how they would try to go about solving a societal program, 53% of Guatemalans said they would form a group, while only 27% of Mexicans said they would do so, well below the Latin American average of 32%. He said he thought the formation of more such organizations could help improve Mexico's education system; he said the country's requirement for all schools to have parent-teacher associations, while it may have been helpful for many schools, has not been enough.

Castellanos, who heads his own strategic communications company and appears as a political analyst on Mexican TV news shows, said the Mexican statistics agency INEGI recently said poverty had moved from 48.8% in 2008 to 52% in 2011. He said 55% of the population had salaries lower than 8,000 pesos ($608) a month, or $7,296 annually.) He called this unacceptable and shameful for a country of Mexico's standing in the world.

He said Mexico has a lot to learn from Brazil, saying "They beat us at soccer and beach volleyball" and in many other areas, including the efficiency of its oil operations (Petrobras, as opposed to Pemex). He said The Economist magazine reported that during Luis Inacio Lula da Silva's eight years as president from 2003-2010, Brazil took 20 million out of poverty and has created a growing middle class that is helping cause an upsurge in the economy.

Guerra avoided blaming anyone for the situation that has brought about Mexico's drug war. He said Mexican drug production on a large scale started when the United States needed morphine during World War II, bringing about the planting of poppies in Sinaloa state. He said the Mexican government concentrated in the 1960s and 1970s on fighting guerrilla groups and not on battling traffickers. The U.S. success in restricting the flow of illegal drugs through the Caribbean in the 1980s and the U.S. achieving a great control of its border with Mexico in the 1990s helped concentrate the power of organized crime in Mexico, he said."It is too soon to judge the results of the drug war yet," he said, while also saying, "The power organized crime had achieved was intolerable for any country." He said it was a necessary war without return and unable to be postponed.

While he lamented the around 50,000 deaths in the drug war, he said many Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Venezuela, continue to have far higher murder rates than Mexico. He said the perception of greater violence in Mexico is due to the many massacres that have taken place, such as the casino fire that killed 52 in Monterrey in August, the dumping of bodies in Veracruz and the killings of bus passengers in Tamaulipas.
Update, Jan. 26: Or the eight killed in Monterrey the day after Guerra Castellanos's talk.

Addressing the National Action Party Feb. 5 contest for its presidential nomination, Guerra said Josefina Vázquez Mota continues to have a big lead in the polls but noted that the polls are recording the wishes of PAN "sympathizers, which are not the same as adherents." He said that while the Institutional Revolutionary Party candidate Enrique Peña Nieto still has a large lead in voter surveys for the July 1 general election, his numbers are no longer greater than the total of his challengers. He wondered whether populist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador could attract moderate voters.
Vazquez Mota's visit to Tijuana.

Guerra said it well could be that there will be no congressional majority again. He said he thought it was no accident that there has been no majority since the 1990s. He said Mexicans feel that "for too many years, those majorities let parties do what they wanted." He said many Mexicans shudder when they think about what President Vicente Fox might have done if he had had a majority in Congress when the PANista ousted the PRI in 2000.

Frontera's society page on the COPARMEX Guerra event (PDF). Jump page.