July 4, 2006:
Because the presidential election was so close, a recount is needed, and that will take another week. But the pro-business candidate, Felipe Calderon of the PAN (National Action Party), appears to have won by less than one percent. PAN has most of its strength in the more prosperous and better educated north and west. Northerners have long joked that several of the states up there should apply for admission to the United States, because Mexicans in the north think more like folks across the border, than those to the south. There is a split in attitudes, and for the moment the ideas from the United States (education, encouraging entrepreneurs, honest government) are in the lead. But just barely. The forces of "tradition" (state control and corruption) still have a lot of followers. Tradition has been taking a beating from all those millions of Mexicans who have illegally crossed into the U.S., and then casually report how things are so much better "in the north", mainly because things are done a little differently. The questions keeps coming up, if Mexicans can prosper in the U.S., why not in Mexico as well?
July 3, 2006: With votes still being counted, the Mexican election remains too close to call. A razor thin margin separates Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) and Felipe Calderon of the PAN (National Action Party). So far the Mexican presidential election (held July 2) is being called "the cleanest in Mexican history." What's helped improve Mexican elections? Scrutiny by the outside world is partly responsible, in part due to 24/7 news and the internet. Another big factor is the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE). The IFE is an independent board that oversees the elections and counts votes. The IFE was in charge of the 2000 Mexican presidential election, where Vicente Fox (PAN candidate) won, ending seven decades of PRI control. The IFE said on its website that the presidential election had over 970,000 elections observers (drawn from the participating parties and various political coalitions). IFE website is http://www.ife.org.mx/
June 30, 2006:The Mexican economy continues to grow. The current growth rate is about four percent annually. However, Mexican unemployment remains high, which means wages stay low and fail to keep up with increases in the cost of living. One reason is Mexico's population growth, which is about one percent annually. A number of economists argue that despite NAFTA the Mexican economy remains insulated and uncompetitive; for example, many Mexican companies are slow to adopt new technology. There are also other Mexican domestic factors, some not so obvious. US educators argue that Mexico's weak compulsory education system contributes to unemployment. So does the low minimum working age in Mexico (14 years old). How do these contribute to unemployment? Mexican law only mandates education up to what is effectively a ninth grade level. Enforcement of truancy laws is also irregular, and one source estimates that 45-percent of Mexican children never complete intermediate school (middle school). As a result, some 8-10 million children aged 12 through 15 are in the work force in Mexico. Historically, child labor has a number of deleterious effects (besides the exploitation of children); these effects can include driving wages down and forcing adults into unemployment. Naturally, someone who dropped out of school at 14 to go to work will, in a couple of years, be likely to find himself replaced by younger worker. Mexican unemployment fuels illegal immigration into the U.S.--and its causes are complex.
June 29, 2006: In an apparent act of gangland terror, a severed head was dumped in front of a government office building in Acapulco. Mexican police report that the Sinaloa drug cartel is fighting a turf war over Acapulco with the Gulf drug cartel. The "Los Zetas" hit squads who work for the Gulf cartel are fighting the Sinaloa cartel's "Pelones" gang.
June 26, 2006: A senior Mexican police officer and his bodyguard were murdered in the resort town of Cancun. The police report said their vehicle was ambushed on a city street. The murdered officer was not involved in drug investigations but a senior Mexican prosecutor said the murders looked like another "narco-killing."
June 26, 2006: The drug gang hit squads seem to have been watching Al Qaeda videos. Mexican police found four policemen killed in the state of Guerrero (and one of the bodies was decapitated). Acapulco is in Guerrero.
June 26, 2006: Three municipal police officers were murdered in Tijuana and decapitated. Approximately 1000 people have died so far this year in "drug gang violence."