Peña Nieto proposes plan to fix '2 Mexicos'

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Beleaguered Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto says his country has split into "two Mexicos" and it's going to take a bundle of reforms and a massive economic stimulus package to stitch the nation back together.

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In a new security and development plan announced last week, the president announced a 10-point initiative to restore rule of law and narrow the gap between Mexico's northern economic powerhouse and the impoverished southern states. “The disparities are growing as time passes,” the president said.

The president's plan at a glance:

  1. A new law to prevent the infiltration of organized crime in municipal authorities; the federal government will seek to take control over municipalities where there is evidence of infiltration.
  2. A constitutional reform to redefine and clarify the role and accountability of each government institution in the fight against organized crime.
  3. The elimination of 1,800 municipal cops and replacing them with a new state police force.
  4. Creation of a national telephone number for emergencies and a unique code of personal identification for each citizen, similar to a social security number that will facilitate financial and governmental procedures and services.
  5. Federal forces will secure municipalities in the states of Guerrero and Michoacan and reinforce those in Tamaulipas and Jalisco.
  6. Institute a broad agenda of judicial reforms, including protection of consumers' rights, workers’ wages, abuse from authorities, etc.
  7. The creation of a National System for the Search of Lost Persons and a National System of Genetic Information, as well as the strengthening of investigation procedures and protocols for the prevention of torture and kidnapping, while improving coordination with civil society organizations and the National Commission of Human Rights.
  8. Increase presidential support for the National Anti-corruption System and other transparency laws being debated in Congress.
  9. Create an information portal where citizens can access information about government contractors and service providers.
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In addition to the security measures, Peña Nieto announced a development strategy for the southern states to reduce “poverty, margination, and inequality in Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca.” These measures include new incentives to attract investment, a $14 billion stimulus package for infrastructure, scholarship aid for the Normalista rural schools such as the one in Ayotzinapa, and a job-creation plan.

“Peace is also built with development, and it is our duty to prioritize the region that is lagging behind,” the president said.

But not everyone sees the novelty in the president's plan. Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas, said the crux of the president's plan is recycled promises, or "re-editing the same product with a new wrapping.” Security analyst Alejandro Hope tweeted that the plan was little more than a “verbatim” echo of arguments made by the former administration of president Felipe Calderon.

The ruling party, however, insists the new plan is the president making good on old promises. “The president is now facing frontally and integrally that which has been postponed," Javier Vega, director of foreign affairs for the ruling party (PRI), told Fusion.

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“The socioeconomic gap is the real underlying problem,” Vega added. “We need to solve the problem of inequality.”

Mario Melgar, who served as the minister of social development of the state of Guerrero from 1987 to 1990 and worked for the federal council charged with overseeing Mexico’s judicial institutions, believes it will be extremely complicated to implement the president's plan since it would mean a push for greater centralization — reminiscent of an unpopular push by Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, who ruled Mexico from 1876 to 1911.

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Melgar says the proposal to centralize power in Mexico by eliminating municipal corps was also attempted by Felipe Calderon in 2008, and was rejected for the same reasons.

“The country should remain decentralized and strengthen its municipalities and states, not the other way around,” Melgar explains. “If this is allowed, the country would become a centralized republic.”

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“Peña Nieto did well in recognizing there are two Mexicos, but his reforms do not aim to tackle the inequality within the system,” Melgar told Fusion.

Javier Osorio, political science professor at New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice, is not optimistic. Osorio tells Fusion that previous security initiatives have achieved little or no visible results.

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Nonetheless he says Peña Nieto's recognition of two Mexicos is a positive step, as well as the president's economic stimulus plan for south. Osorio warns, however, that the government would be mistaken to think that the proposed development plan will reduce violence.

“The most violent zones in the country are not concentrated within impoverished municipalities," he says. "Violence is much more complex. This could certainly reduce political violence — protests, insurgencies, vigilante groups — associated with poverty, but not necessarily criminal violence.”

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While Peña Nieto talks of two Mexicos, critics continue to unite against his embattled administration. Today tens of thousands of demonstrators march across one Mexico.

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