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The Cafe

Transcript: Mexico - Failed state?

As Mexico's drug war rages, we ask if the new government can end the violence and steer a democratic path to prosperity.
Last Modified: 17 Jan 2013 11:56

Please read the full transcript of The Cafe - Mexico: Failed state or economic giant? below:

Mehdi Hasan:
It’s a tale of two countries. One has assassinations, mass murders and grisly beheadings. 60,000 dead and counting.  This Mexico is on the verge of becoming a failed state.

The other Mexico has a rich cultural heritage, a booming economy that threatens to overtake Brazil and is home to the world’s richest man.

Hello and welcome to The Café. I’m Mehdi Hasan and this week we’re in vibrant Mexico City, home to 21 million people.  

Mehdi Hasan:
The country benefits from massive trade with the United States, but it’s the cocaine, marijuana and heroin flooding across the border that’s the main cause of the bloodshed that threatens to destabilise this young democracy.

Mexico is fighting, and some would say losing, the war on drugs.  The cartels are so powerful that they kill with impunity and corrupt the government that’s trying to defeat them.

Meanwhile half the population lives below the poverty line.  Many of them in fear of their lives.  So, will the new President be able to end the killings and steer a democratic path to prosperity?

Let’s find out inside The Café.

Joining us in The Café are Senator Manuel Camacho Solis, a former Mayor of Mexico city and a former Foreign Minister.  He was one of the founders of the PRD, the left wing alliance that is now the main opposition and he’s a critic of the war on drugs.  

Arnulfo Valdivia is the International Affairs spokesman for the President-Elect, Enrique Peña Nieto.  He maintains that his party, the PRI, which is preparing to take power in December, is no longer the authoritarian force it once was.  

Julian Lebaron is a farmer from Northern Mexico who turned activist after his brother and several other members of his family were murdered by drugs traffickers.  He is one of the main figures in the movement for peace.

Ana Maria Salazar is a well known security expert, Mexican journalist and TV host.  She was an adviser to the White House on the drugs war and believes it’s imperative that Mexico carries on its fight against the cartels.

Jamie López-Aranda is the Head of the National Information Centre of the outgoing PAN government.  His agency is at the centre of all Mexican government branches involved in fighting crime and drug trafficking.

And Leticia Floresmeyer is an outspoken university student, a critic of the President-Elect, and one of the main organisers of the new youth movement that has rocked Mexico, “I am 132”.

Thank you all for joining me here in The Café in Mexico City. I want to kick off with a question for all of you about the war on drugs which is what the rest of the world hears so much about when they talk about Mexico, when they look at what’s going on in Mexico.  Over the past six years 60,000 people have died. I think in 2011 alone there were 596 beheadings, and the drugs trade is bigger than ever. So is Mexico winning or losing the war on drugs? Arnulfo.

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, PRI PARTY

We have much better institutions now than we did six years ago to attach the organised crime in general.  However we do see a problem in terms of the focus of the strategy.  And then of course you have the other issue, which is law enforcement, the judiciary.   When you have a judiciary that has in the case of organised crime somewhere around two percent rate of success - out of every hundred people only two are in jail - then you have a problem.  

Mehdi Hasan:
Jaime, you’re a representative of the current outgoing government.  He says the strategy has lacked strength, it’s lacked focus, it needs to be changed.  Do you think you’re winning or losing?

Jaime López-Aranda:
DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INFORMATION CENTER

The war on drugs is a rhetorical gimmick.  It’s a handle.  I mean it’s something you say, like the war on obesity, the war on cancer.  The reality of it is that it is law enforcement, continuous law enforcement, and you never win or lose law enforcement.  You should think about this in stages, let’s put it that way.  When we first started, I mean when President Calderon first started, there were precious few tools to work with.  So most of this government, I mean I think the focus was on building institutions on all three fronts.  I would agree that there’s still a lot to be done, but the blueprint, I mean the general strategy has already been laid down.  Some institution problems, of course.  Some issues with the blueprint; I mean there’s been a lot of discussion about it.  There might be some changes that can be done, to be adjusted.  But the general layout and the construction, I mean the building for infrastructure we needed has already been done.  

Mehdi Hasan:
Ana Maria, six years ago when President Calderon kind of launched this offensive under whatever rubric or title you want to give it, were you someone who supported it?  Were you saying “this is the right thing to do”?

Ana Maria Salazar:
SECURITY ANALYST & JOURNALIST

It had to be done, and I think we need to put into context what Mexico is facing.  They’re facing among the most dangerous criminal and most violent criminal organisations in the world.  Countries like the United States, European countries, have special mechanisms to deal with very dangerous organisations.  United States has Guantanamo, England has very specific anti terrorism laws, and they have institutions that have been trained and they’re given the resources to be able to do this.  In Mexico there’s a couple of problems.  One, not only are they facing very dangerous organisations, but you don’t have the institutions to be able to face these types of organisations.  And even if the laws were implemented with restrictions, let’s say we just invested millions and trillions of pesos into creating the perfect institutions, you have to have laws that allow you to do this in a legal manner, in a constitutional manner, to be able to address these types of organisations, and Mexico doesn’t have that either.

Mehdi Hasan:
Okay, well let me ask Manuel.  60,000 dead, to an outsider looks like something is going wrong.

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
FORMER MAYOR, MEXICO CITY

I think that the point is not to say that it’s just a failure of the government, because that would be misstating diagnosis.  It’s a failure of a lot of citizens, institutions, society, public opinion, and the solution is not going to be just to improve intelligence.  That’s not enough.  We need real national agreement in which everybody assumes the responsibility of what’s happening in those places.  Because if it would be our family that we are affected, we would be suffering.  But it’s not only on personal terms.  On national terms it’s a shame that a country like Mexico has to suffer the death of 60,000 people during this last six years.
 
Mehdi Hasan:
Well you mention families who are suffering.  Julian, you’re someone who’s had to experience some of this violence first hand up close and personal.  Tell me about your story.  What happened to you and your family?

Julian Lebaron:
FARMER & PEACE ACTIVIST

Well I’ve had my brother-in-law murdered, my uncle murdered.  Nobody’s ever seen them again.

Mehdi Hasan:
By whom?

Julian Lebaron:
Drug people. And my brother was kidnapped, Eric was kidnapped. My brother Benjamin was a peace activist and he was kidnapped from his home and his brother-in-law came to help him, who was one of my best friends, and they were both kidnapped and murdered. They left behind ten orphans, all below the age of seven, seven years old, and it’s such a tragic thing.  But you ask me if we’re winning the war on drugs, I would say that we’re not using the right tools for the war on drugs.  I mean government is a tool.  It’s not something that occurs naturally in nature. People build governments and I think that the problem is that we’re trying to use the wrong tool. You can’t force people to be good. I mean if you’re scraping the ice off a wind shield with a hammer and break the wind shield, it’s not the hammer’s fault, it’s not the government’s fault.  I think the apathy, that we’re an apathetic society and until we step out of that apathy. And I think cowardice is even better than apathy because a coward runs away from a problem because he recognises that a problem exists, but apathy doesn’t even register the fact that we have a problem. And I think that fundamentally it’s a problem of compassion and a conscience, and I know this because when my uncle was murdered I didn’t say anything, I didn’t even do anything. And when my brother was murdered of course I was, the pain was overwhelming, that I realised that I am the problem, and that we are the problem, because we don’t have enough of a conscience to step out of our apathetic place and do something about it as people.

Mehdi Hasan:
Ana Maria.

Ana Maria Salazar:
When you talk about who’s to blame, I mean there’s a lot of people to blame out there. Legislators that have not passed laws that would allow for these national security institutions to be able to do this in a legal manner. Civil society, I would say the business community, where is the business community?  What role are they playing in being able? The church, where is the church?  Where is… And then you look at both the federal governments which I believe have been very disorganised in terms of implementing the strategy, and the state governments who have made it very, very easy to say “You know, this is not my responsibility, this is the federal government’s.” I mean there’s a lot of blame to spread around, but at the end of the day even if everything functioned with perfection and everybody fulfilled their role, we’ve got to remind the world that these organisations are among the most dangerous organisations in the world.

Mehdi Hasan:
And are these organisations losing or winning their struggle against the government?

Ana Maria Salazar:
Right now I think unless the structures change dramatically, I think there will continue to be a lot of violence, because you can’t ask – and Julian is absolutely right, civil society has to play a fundamental role in this. But at the same time you can’t ask civil society go and fight for their rights when they know that if they try to put these people in jail, they’re gonna kill the judge, they’re gonna kill the prosecutor, they’re gonna kill every single cop that wants and tries to do their job. You can’t ask civil society also to run the risk that Julian is running every day when he talks about this, when their families are threatened and they can be killed. So I mean the international community which also plays a very interesting role in terms of how they support Mexico and how they buy drugs and how they allow the trafficking of people.  So I mean there’s a lot of blame to spread around.

Mehdi Hasan:
We’ll come back to the international community in one moment.  Leticia, what do you see, what’s the public’s view, especially young people who are growing up in this society? How do you view the war? Is it something you look at with enthusiasm, indifference, apathy or revulsion?


Leticia Floresmeyer:
FOUNDING MEMBER, #IAM132 MOVEMENT

Well when I hear politicians or public servants talking about the war on drugs, they talk about a blueprint and they talk about intelligence and I see dead people, you know. I see blood shed. It is our responsibility as well as civilians, and it is the world’s responsibility.  It’s people buying drugs, it’s people consuming drugs and they have to stop. But there has not been something to go along with the fighting to open public spaces, to improve education, to …

Mehdi Hasan:
It’s all been military led, violence led rather than …

Leticia Floresmeyer:
It’s military and violence; it’s not, okay but we’re gonna do…

Mehdi Hasan:
Community building and other things.  

Leticia Floresmeyer:
… yes, social programmes to rehabilitate people and make them comprehend the situation or trying to stop the violence at its core.

Mehdi Hasan:
The new President when he comes in and wants to do things differently, change the strategy, as long as you are taking a military approach to certain areas, some people say that it’s almost a cockroach strategy, where you slam down one place and they just go elsewhere.  That, you know, you cut the head off the hydra and it reappears elsewhere.  How do you actually win this war or to use whatever phrase you wanna use, when they can just move to different areas every time you send in the troops?  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well I think that it is indeed a very long shot to think that you’re going to end the problem.  No country in the world has ended the drug problem.  I think what you have to do, and what we have been saying over and over again, is that we want to create a strategy to reduce violence.  You see, it’s not a problem of attacking or not attacking the problem, it’s how you attack the problem, and what means you use to attack that problem.  And what we have today is a strategy that unfortunately, and I say sad, with all its good parts, it also has generated and created extreme violence, and at the same time not attended some of the more every day worries of the population.

Mehdi Hasan:
You’re coming into power I think after 12 years away from power.  Before that you ruled I think for seven straight decades.  There are some people who say that they’re worried that you guys are gonna do a deal with the cartels as you did in the eighties and the seventies, do a truce.

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well…

Mehdi Hasan:
To cut the violence, as a means of stemming the violence.  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Mehdi, the nature of organised crime and the nature of drug violence and drug cartels in the eighties or in the seventies was radically different from what we have today.  My first question would be who could we strike a deal with?  

Mehdi Hasan:
There’s so many of them.

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, PRI PART

There’s, I mean, to start with. But secondly, we have said over and over again that collaboration between not only Central America, not only North America in particular the United States, but also Central American countries, is key to beating a cancer that is really destroying the social fabric of many of these communities.  And that is something the government of any party, and I would talk to Manuel here, every party in the campaign and every party in general, just in general declarations, has had a commitment to continue some sort of a drug war.  

Mehdi Hasan:
Well let me ask Manuel. Some might say it’s easy on the sidelines to criticise, but when you’re in government you have to take these actions even if blood is spilt. What would you do differently if you were in power?

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
First I would not have declared the war, because it was a mistake, a political mistake to create that type of relationship.

Mehdi Hasan:
That dynamic, yes.

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
CO-FOUNDER, PRD PARTY

Second, I would not have politicised the war.  I would not have made it a party issue in which all the benefits were for the party in government.

Mehdi Hasan:
You think President Calderon politicised the war?

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
Yeah.  First, I would have worked with everybody in the system.  That means with governors, mayors.  I would have established a national consensus in Congress so that everybody has the responsibility.  And of course I think that the judicial reform and the social component of the policy makes a whole difference.

Mehdi Hasan:
But even after you’ve done all of that, a cynic might say that’s fine, those are important measures, but what do you do with say the Zetas?  These guys revel in violence and blood shed, you can’t negotiate with such people.

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
Well there is an area of inevitable conflict, but that you have to approach it through the rule of law, through a constitutional state.  I mean you have to sustain your actions in terms of what the constitution establishes, because otherwise you become a police, a military state, and…

Mehdi Hasan:
Do you think Mexico is on that road to becoming a military state?

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
I think that a lot of human rights have been violated in these years.  

Ana Maria Salazar:
JOURNALIST & TV HOST

I think there is not a generalised acknowledgement as to how bad the situation is in some parts of the country.  Mexico is at war in some parts of the country, some parts of Chihuahua the population live in the same way that people live in certain areas of the world where they’re at war, in Afghanistan when you look at the numbers. I mean Tamaulipas is owned by a cartel.  I mean nothing happens in that state unless the Zeta, that’s not including media, everything, business.  So when you have war like situations, you almost have to recognise it in order that you create the laws and the checks and balances so you can protect not only the population against these thugs, but also you can protect potential defenders in a war like situation. So I think we haven’t recognised the gravity.  I mean it’s not all Mexico, but certainly parts of this country is a war like situation.  

Mehdi Hasan:
Julian, I mean you’re a campaigner for non violence and peace.  But parts of the country look like Afghanistan Ana Maria is saying.  How is there any solution other than a military solution?

Julian Lebaron:
FARMER & PEACE ACTIVIST

I would like to say that I don’t even think the government is about authority on the subject of violence, period, because everything the government does is by violent enforcement.  The most you can hope from a government is to suppress the violence, the violent nature in people, completely destroy their humanity and later that manifests itself on the streets with chopped off heads and people addicted to drugs doing unmentionable things.  And I do not think that you can use a government to attend the problem of violence.  That has to be attended in a different way by the citizens, by the citizens non violently organising and non politically aligned with any party; In fact I think with any civic organisation.

Jaime López-Aranda:
DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INFORMATION CENTER

We haven’t had … we are just witnessing the rise of the civil society that’s committed, that is calling, I mean it’s trying to get the government to be more accountable, and is devicing solutions of its own to deal with the problem and to actually strengthen the ties.  So I would say at this point, again I would argue, you have to see this as stages.   There have been some successes.

Mehdi Hasan:
Some people say that America has a lot to answer for here.  The guns come from America, the drugs go to America and Mexicans are fighting a war on behalf of the United States.

Leticia Floresmeyer:
FOUNDING MEMBER, AM132 MOVEMENT

30 billion to the drug industry comes from the 95 percent of drugs that are sold in America. And Mehdi, the question you asked before to Julian, there is that division in our own government. There is no justice inside the government, you know.  The government makes all these deals and they go, as you said, to bed with the cartels and nothing happens to those…

Ana Maria Salazar:
But you see, I think it’s a mistake to think that this is only a drug problem.  Just recently there was a major seizure of cigarettes.  I mean the biggest seizure in the world here in Mexico.

Mehdi Hasan:
So it’s a wider organised crime problem.

Ana Maria Salazar:
This has to do with, you know, it has to do with cigarettes, it has to do with fuel that they’re selling illegally, it has to do with selling women, it has to do with selling migrants, it has to do with selling stolen cars, it has to do…

Mehdi Hasan:
They’re the masters of every crime.

Ana Maria Salazar:
They have a know how that is so important that even if they legalised drugs tomorrow, they would have enough business to do anything else.

Mehdi Hasan:
You’ve anticipated my very next question, one of the last questions of this half before we take a break.  You said earlier, Arnulfo that no country’s been able to deal with this problem. But some are proposing radical solutions including former Presidents of Mexico, Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo from your party I believe, who have said it is time to legalise drugs.  Is that something this new government is willing to look at and give some thought to?  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
That is something we have said, Mehdi, that could and should be discussed.  And I will give you my very personal view and the view of Enrique Pena.  He has publicly expressed…

Mehdi Hasan:
The new President-elect.

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
The new President-elect, who has publicly said it. We don’t believe that legalising drugs unilaterally solves any problem.  This is a global problem.  So if you do it, I mean it’s just a matter of demand and supply. If you legalise in one country but don’t do it in the other, what you just do is just create tremendous, tremendous imbalances in the trade of drugs. So again it’s something that we would be open to discussion but it’s something that we personally do not support.

Mehdi Hasan:
Does anyone here support the legalisation of drugs, see legalisation as a way forward?  

Leticia Floresmeyer:
Well I think it’s a discussion worth having because it’s not the only problem.  There’s human trafficking, and crime going around the street.

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
But I think that there is a common denominator in all these things that have been said at this table, which is that unless we have stronger institutions we will not solve the problems.

Mehdi Hasan:
Very quickly, Ana Maria, you advised the White House on this issue I believe.  Do you think the Americans would even allow Mexico to go down this road?  I believe they got very upset recently with Uruguay for daring to consider legalising marijuana.

Ana Maria Salazar:
I think it’s not what United States thinks because at this stage…

Mehdi Hasan:
They have a great deal of influence over the Mexicans.

Ana Maria Salazar:
Yeah, but I think when you listen to what the United States is saying right now, I think the issue now is more and more focusing on violence because this violence is now starting to be felt much more on the southern states of the United States.  And I think where this discussion is going to be going in the next couple of year is how do you control extremely dangerous organisations that are now starting to filter into the United States within a mechanism that allows both countries to do this within the rule of law. I think that’s where this is going to go. I think the issue is gonna be focusing much more on violence because you know what? Cocaine is being consumed much less in the United States.  And the truth is in the United States they’re consuming much more drugs that they can get out of their parent’s bathroom than cocaine.  So that’s I think where the discussion is going.

Mehdi Hasan:
Julian, one last point to you in this half.  Are you optimistic?  Do you have any sense of hope that things are going to turn around on this front given the kind of huge suffering you’ve been through personally?

Julian Lebaron:
Well honestly I’ve searched for the answer to the problem of violence because I did not want revenge, I did not want bitterness in my life.  And I found a mentor and I want to use one of his quotes.   He said that the degree of civilisation that any people come to is the sum of the acts of compassion that occur within that society, and government is not compassion.  Government cannot solve the problem of drugs.  You can’t force people to be moral.

Mehdi Hasan:
But do you think that Mexican people can?

Julian Lebaron:
I don’t think that they can, I know that they can, and I believe we will.

Mehdi Hasan:
Follow us  @ALJAZEERACAFE - @MEHDIRHASAN

On that optimistic note let’s take a break. In part two we’re going to be talking about whether Mexico can become a political and economic super power. Join us then.


PART TWO:

Mehdi Hasan:
Welcome back to The Café here in Mexico City. We are talking about the Mexican economy, Mexican politics, here in the heart of the country. Julian Lebaron has left us but Elena Poniatowska has joined us. We’re very delighted to have her here, one of the icons of Mexican journalism and writing. A pleasure to have you join us here, Elena. I want to kick off with a question about the economy, the Mexican economy, because again as an outsider I get two pictures painted for me. There’s a picture that says Mexico was hit hard by the financial crisis in America in 2008, that the utility companies need to be liberalised, unemployed Mexicans are returning home. And then there are other people who paint a picture and say this is a booming economy, it outgrew Brazil last year, I think a four percent growth rate. What’s the correct picture, Arnulfo? Where does Mexico stand right now in economic terms?

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well Mehdi, we are at a great opportunity to unleash the potential of this country, but at the same time it’s that simply potential.

Mehdi Hasan:
Ana Maria, what’s holding Mexico back from joining the BRICS, Brazil, Russia, India, China, these emerging economic power houses?

Ana Maria Salazar:
A couple of things and I think we’ve already spoken about that in the first section of this show.

Mehdi Hasan:
But the war on drugs obviously has a big effect, the violence.

Ana Maria Salazar:
SECURITY ANALYST & JOURNALIST

Well it has but not as much as you would think.  I mean I do think we have to underline that despite all what you read in the news, there’s still a lot of companies investing in Mexico, extraordinary amount of companies, because they’re investing in the future.  They perceive perhaps much more than we perceive that Mexico is a potential economic… and will continue to grow and things will stabilise.  They see that, perhaps we don’t see it right now.  

Mehdi Hasan:
How big an issue here in Mexico is this issue that every country’s tackling with, which is the distribution of wealth?  You know, wherever you go now you hear this phrase, which started in the United States, the 99 percent versus the one percent, Manuel.  

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
FORMER MAYOR, MEXICO CITY

It’s a huge issue because we are more unequal now than what we were six years ago or 25 years ago.

Mehdi Hasan:
Inequality is on the rise here?

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
In terms of the number of poor people and in terms of the difference between the ultra rich and the poorest people in the country.  We have done a good job in terms of stabilisation of the financial sector, but in terms of the capacity, the potential of development of the country, we are far behind.  And it’s not an issue of the last 12 years; it’s an issue that comes from the eighties in which we have had permanent discussion between going deeper in the radical reforms of the right with the Washington consensus, and trying to stop those reforms because we considered that they are going to create more inequalities.  So we have to agree on a development strategy that generates growth and distribution.

Mehdi Hasan:
And Elena, how bad is poverty? I mean you read statistics, 50 percent of Mexicans almost living below the poverty line.  How big a problem is poverty now compared to 15, 20 years ago in your view?

Elena Poniatowska:
JOURNALIST & WRITER

Well poverty first of all, here we have ten very rich millionaires, more than millionaires…

Mehdi Hasan:
Billionaires.

Elena Poniatowska:
… who have, I think they have all the millions that the poor should have, no?  So it’s a very unequal economy and besides that all poor Mexicans they all go to the United States, so we are recuperating all our lost territories.  There was Texas and everything, because of the Mexicans and it’s exactly the poor Mexicans who are doing this.  For instance the people who here were gardeners in the Unite States they become university professors.  And they have this opportunity they didn’t have here in this country.  This country is the country of lack of opportunities.

Mehdi Hasan:
Jaime, is that a fair assessment?  Mexico is a land of lack of opportunity.  That’s why so many Mexicans go to the United States, even though I believe a lot are coming back now since the financial crisis.  

Jaime López-Aranda:
DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION  CENTER

Yeah, that’s just the thing.  I mean I think the situation has reversed a lot in the last ten years. This is something that one has to take into account. Right now for example, we’re not only seeing Mexican migrants coming back from the States, we’re also seeing Mexican international companies coming back to Mexico formation. And why is that?  I mean China, China cause of the race of course. But there’s the logistics, the actual supply chains are changing again, and this has nothing to do with what we think or what we do or what the big companies are doing.  

Mehdi Hasan:
Carlos Slim, Mexican telecoms billionaire, we all know Carlos Slim, world’s richest man we’re told.  

Ana Maria Salazar:
And he owns this café.

Mehdi Hasan:
And he owns this café?

Ana Maria Salazar:
He owns the café.

Mehdi Hasan:
Thank you very much, Carlos. If you’re watching. We all know Carlos Slim, world’s richest man. His personal wealth I’m told represents six percent of Mexican GDP. You look at that, you look at the ten, twelve other billionaires Elena referred to them, and then you look at the people who are living in poverty, just struggling to survive.  It’s a very stark juxtaposition isn’t it?  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, PRI PARTY

It is, it is, definitely.

Mehdi Hasan:
But what are you going to do about it, is my next question?  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well that’s, that’s something we have recognised and we have recognised over and over again.  And there’s really two, there’s really two sides to this.  And the first thing is Mexico needs more and better competition.  Mexico needs more and better competition in not only the telecommunications sector which is often cited as the ultimate example of…

Ana Maria Salazar:
Monopolies, monopolies.

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Yeah, monopolies. But in many other areas of the economy.  

Mehdi Hasan:
Is the new President going to aspire to cut the gap between the Carlos Slims of Mexico and the non Carlos Slims?

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
It doesn’t matter how much you grow economically, or it doesn’t matter how stable your micro finances are, if you do not create the opportunities in terms of health, education and in terms of just simple quality of life for the less favoured in this country, there will be no chances.

Mehdi Hasan:
Leticia, do you see, do people of your generation, do they see this as a land of lack of opportunity as Elena says, or a land where actually you think you can get a job, you do see yourself fitting into the workforce?

Leticia Floresmeyer:
FOUNDING MEMBER, IAM132 MOVEMENT

Well, in my generation as compared to other growing economies, I think Mexico is doing really well in job opportunities for my generation. It’s about nine percent unemployment in the younger section. However I do see that the distribution of wealth is terribly distant. And I wanted to ask Arnulfo how is it that the new government is really going to try and stop the monopolies that are happening, because they talk about the fiscal reforms, which is making what everyone pay taxes.  But they have protected the monopolies and they align with one of the biggest monopolies in television. And they are now going to break it or what is gonna happen?

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well I mean you have to realise that we were not in the position to break any monopoly.  I mean if you want to refer back to what Enrique Peña Nieto, the President-Elect has done in the recent past, he was a state governor, and that does not allow us to do anything about that.  And things are like they are in Mexico.  What we have proposed is strengthening the competition commission and giving it autonomy and giving it the capacity, the legal capacity to take decisions.  So that monopoly is not only as I said in telecommunications, but also in other parts of the economy can be broken through the rule of law.

Mehdi Hasan:
Let me bring a big issue.  When you talk about economic reform and the future of growth, everyone always talks about corruption.  A corrupt country can never be a sustainable, booming, growing economy because corruption is an obstacle to growth.  Manuel, how much do ordinary Mexicans on a day to day basis have to struggle with corruption?

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
I think that we are conscious of the corruption and that it’s not a narrow thing, corruption is all over.  It’s a matter of starting at the top and at the right moment.  And what we have to do right now is to solve the problem of corruption that was linked to the election. Because if nothing changes right now, he has very clear ideas, but that is not going to make the difference if the political alliances that you made to become President respond to these histories and if the policies that you are going to follow are precisely the policies that have created inequality. So we have to stop impunity in Mexico and stop it at the top and right now. Something has to happen out of this debate of what happened in the election in Mexico which many, 40, 50 percent of the society, think that the election was bought. So there has to be an answer of the judicial system. There has to be an answer of all political forces because otherwise nobody is going to believe that corruption is gong to end.

Mehdi Hasan:
Well let me ask Elena. One of Mexico states most famous politicians, I have a quote from Carlos Hank Gonzales, which amused me.  He said a politician who is poor is a poor politician. How corrupt do you think Mexican politicians are?  You’ve been following and writing about them for many years now.

Elena Poniatowska:
I think we have the disgrace of having the worst political class in maybe in Latin America in corruption.

Mehdi Hasan:
Ana Maria, would you agree with that?  The worst political class in Latin America?

Ana Maria Salazar:
It’s pretty bad.  It’s pretty up there. I’m not too sure. The Venezuelan political class could beat us out. But I mean part of the problem in this is also, this is a theme that we’ve been… Central American politicians are also pretty much up there.  But part of the problem is it has to do with institutions and the credibility of the institutions, because in the past when they’ve tried to prosecute some corrupt official, it’s also been perceived that they’re going after that quote unquote corrupt official for political reasons.   

Mehdi Hasan:
Their own agenda.

Ana Maria Salazar:
Because there’s an own agenda.  I do think that the new President is going to have to send a very clear message because, not only because of what’s happening in this discussion right now in terms of how he was elected.  But more importantly, if there is any hope of being able to control organised crime, he has to go against governors and mayors and those who have been in cahoots with these big organisations.

Mehdi Hasan:
I want to come to the new President-Elect in one moment. Just let’s look at the outgoing President.  Jaime, we talked in part one about how President Calderon declared a war on drugs. He didn’t really declare a war on corruption did he, because I look at the Transparency International Index over the past ten years hasn’t budged Mexico on that index. It’s still as corrupt as it was ten years ago. Why do you think the incumbent government didn’t do enough to tackle corruption?

Jaime López-Aranda:
Corruption is not only a plague or a disease that affects countries.  It is also a tool for entrepreneurs for criminals.  I mean for just about as long as the country has existed, many people have taken advantage of weak institutions to advance their own agendas, and one of the mechanisms they use is corruption.  This is one of the things I would disagree with Manuel, it’s not about starting at the top, it’s about starting at the bottom.  It’s about getting people not to park, for example not to do illegal parking and pay enough bribe to the transit cop to get out from the tickets.  It’s about people not skimming on their taxes for example on the federal tax…

Mehdi Hasan:
So coming back to Julian’s point in part one, personal responsibility.  

Jaime López-Aranda:
It’s about personal responsibility as much as it is government responsibility.

Ana Maria Salazar:
This is a problem of leadership. Part of the problem what happened with this administration is President Felipe Calderon comes in and he wins the election by point zero five…

Mehdi Hasan:
It was very narrow.

Ana Maria Salazar:
Very, very narrow.  So there’s a lot of questions about his credibility.  The only way he could get anything done was he had to negotiate with the other parties.  If he started going after corrupt officials in the other parties he wasn’t going to be able to re-negotiate.  So the problem here is leadership. 

Jaime López-Aranda:
… true accountability sustained accountability cannot be brought about saying the person has to put in jail these five high profile names.

Ana Maria Salazar:
It would help.  

Jaime López-Aranda:
Yeah, but, no, no, but at the same time I think it is profoundly unfair because accountability starts in Congress for example.  Accountability starts in the local government.

Mehdi Hasan:
Well let me take a specific issue.  Jaime, let me take a specific issue. We’ve talked so far about monopolies, we’ve talked about corruption. One industry in which there’s an accusation of monopolies and corruption is the media here in Mexico. That seems to combine both. And your party’s come under a lot of criticism recently, the new President-elect.  The Guardian newspaper in my country published documents suggesting that your party had gotten into bed with Televisa which controls I think 70 percent of the broadcast industry, hugely influential broadcaster which was basically promoting your candidate during the election.  How do you respond to those charges?  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well I respond like all the other charges, Mehdi. The Guardian never proved that those documents were legitimate. It is indeed something that has been said over and over again, and we have said over and over again as well that we would be open to a third, fourth or fifth television chain in Mexico, which proves that…

Mehdi Hasan:
Because there’s two right now controlling I think 96 percent of the industry.

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
That’s right, and that’s something we… it’s not under our control right now.  I mean…

Mehdi Hasan:
But you can guarantee that your party doesn’t have any kind of illegitimate or untoward relationship with Mexico’s biggest TV broadcaster?

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well, you see…

Mehdi Hasan:
There’s no special relationship.  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, PRI PARTY

The figures that, of broadcasting of every candidate, not only during the election but also during the previous period, have been just been published and it’s not, these are not ratings or measures created by the television networks.  They’re created by the national University of Mexico which has a credibility.  And it turns out that they had exactly the same exposure, all the candidates, and the exposure that they were allowed by law to have, and there was no special attention to our candidate or to our party.

Mehdi Hasan:
Manuel, you were mentioning this problem earlier.  He says they all got equal coverage.  Your party is very critical of this relationship. What’s the problem?

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
I understand that he has to defend his candidate, and we put him in a difficult position.

Mehdi Hasan:
But he’s citing evidence.

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
CO-FOUNDER, PRD PARTY

Yeah. But, well, the evidence is there has been a total backing of Peña Nieto by Televisa for a long period of time. There is a need to change the relationship between the government and the media to democratise the media in Mexico what the young people are saying on the streets, they are right.

Mehdi Hasan:
Let me bring in Leticia on that point.  You were at the, I think it’s called the Ibera American University where President-Elect Peña Nieto during the campaign came and spoke.  Lots of students, I think you were one of them, correct me if I’m wrong, heckled him, interrupted him over these allegations.  He then hid in the toilets I believe and then had to escape.

Leticia Floresmeyer:
FOUNDING MEMBER, AM132 MOVEMENT

We didn’t interrupt him. He gave a two hour conference and he couldn’t answer our questions. He lied to us.  He, after he finished his conference, he went back to answer this question of human rights violation and he lied to us. He said that the people who had committed these crimes had been prosecuted, which is not true, and he said that he has done what was in his power with all the power given to him by the lot to re-establish peace. And we were very offended about this.

Mehdi Hasan:
And tell me about this group IAM132. Where did that come from?

Leticia Floresmeyer:
Well, this group came because after this incident that Peña Nieto stayed in the restaurant for a little while and it became a trending worldwide, they released a video with people from their party, young people who work at the party, posing as either American students and saying that it had been a success.  And all these newspapers around the country saying that it was a success, and believe me I was there, and it was not a success. And we were very offended by this fact so we released a video, we were 131 students posing with our student ID saying that we were not infiltrants, we had not been trained for anything, and we were students and we gave our name and our student number, and then a lot of other universities started sending more videos and calling us.  And we were 131 students…

Mehdi Hasan:
I AM 131.  Tell me now, what is right now, that was several months ago, you still exist, it’s now an official group.  What is the aim of IAM132 right now within Mexican society?

Leticia Floresmeyer:
To change the country.  

Mehdi Hasan:
How?

Leticia Floresmeyer:
I think we have very poor political class, which is one of the biggest problems in our country.  And it’s run by monopolies, it’s run by corruption, so right now we are, apart from all the protests, we are gathering all the students in the whole country to discuss the problems.  We’re trying to fight apathy which is what Julian was saying is the core problem of the country.

Mehdi Hasan:
Well let me ask Arnulfo. Here is a group of students. They don’t like your candidate, they don’t think he said the right thing, fair enough. That happens in every society. Exactly. So why not, why not engage with them rather than dismiss them as left wing infiltrators?  How does that help?  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
Well I mean the movement declared itself against Enrique Peña Nieto, which we think is fine and we think it’s a healthy situation for the country.  I think what they stand for is something that in many ways we would share. And we have offered and we have said it over and over again that democratising the media is one thing we would do. And in fact one of the administrative structural reforms that the new government will be proposing will be the creation of a citizens’ committee that makes more transparent the relation between the mass media and the government at every level.  Because here we have to be very clear again. And this is something just like we were talking about corruption and again that’s one of the key points of our government proposal, to create a national anti corruption agency that is independent from the government, which doesn’t happen right now.

Mehdi Hasan:
Briefly Leticia, briefly.

Leticia Floresmeyer:
I think that these proposals are fantastic, you know, as a theory, but the reality is the have not discussed with us anything.  We proposed a debate and the candidate would not assist to the debate even though he was assured of security and everything.  

Ana Maria Salazar:
JOURNALIST & TV HOST

I sometimes think we over estimate the power of the media, especially traditional media.  So what this movement did it reminded us there is this kind of opening that is very democratising, which is Twitter, which is You Tube, there’s other forms of media which is pushing the political class in Mexico to kind of be able to be much more transparent and reactive.  If you’re going to blatantly like about something, you better believe that someone’s gonna come out either through Twitter or You Tube to show that you were lying.  So I’m hopefully in the sense that they were able to demonstrate that.  And I do think that we do require more competition in the media.  

Mehdi Hasan:
How do you see it?  Do you see it as something radically different on the Mexican landscape?  

Elena Poniatowska:
JOURNALIST & WRITER

I see this movement with great hope. I think it’s going to change Mexico.  I hope, I touch wood, I hope it’s…

Mehdi Hasan:
Is it a Mexican spring?  

Elena Poniatowska:
It is, absolutely.

Mehdi Hasan:
Manuel, when you look at Mexican democracy now today, 12 years after the transition in 2000 to free and fair and multi party elections and rule, even now international observers aren’t that impressed.  You look at Freedom House which ranked Mexico as only partly free, almost not free, the Economist Intelligence Units calls Mexico a flawed democracy.  How democratic do you think Mexico is today?

Senator Manuel Camacho Solis:
Vargas Llosa, the Latin American writer, said that Mexico under the PRI was the perfect dictatorship.  I think that it has now become a very imperfect democracy.

Mehdi Hasan:
How democratic is Mexico going to be after another six years of PRI party rule, your party rule?  You of course ruled for 70 odd years.  There was then a 12 year gap where the PAN party ruled, and now you’re back and people are worried.  

Dr Arnulfo Valdivia:
What I have to say is that what has changed in Mexico is the system.  It could not, this country could not be governed as it has been said over and over again, that it will be governed as in the past.  Well we’re not in the past.  And one thing that is very true is that organisations like 132 which we believe is very legitimate and will be out on the watch, and will be I think gradually refining their objectives and their politics and their means, it’s very, very good for the country.  I think it’s healthy.  And I also think it’s very healthy to have groups that do not agree with us and I think it’s very healthy to open discussions.  And let me tell you, we think that’s the way Mexico’s going to be governed because it could not be governed other way now.

Mehdi Hasan:
Well let me ask one last question before we finish.  And that is this: we talked about America earlier, your neighbour.  A lot of people in American policy making circles, generals, intelligence chiefs, politicians and government, they look at Mexico and they say openly that we worry Mexico is on the path to becoming a failed state.  That’s said openly.

Ana Maria Salazar:
Oh no, no, they didn’t say that.  No, they have not said that.

Mehdi Hasan:
Well then, what’s, so respond to that.

Ana Maria Salazar:
No because I saw that report, because I saw that report and I saw who wrote it…

Mehdi Hasan:
Well respond to that.  What would you say to those across the world, not just America, who look at Mexico and think they’re not going in the right direction, what is your response to them?  

Ana Maria Salazar:
There’s a lot of things that Mexico has right in an environment which is very difficult worldwide, let’s talk about what’s going on in Europe and your economies.  I mean, you know, this is, this is, I mean there’s a lot of things that are going right in Mexico.  And are there going be discussions and protests?  Absolutely, and thank goodness you have the students coming out.  And thank goodness that the left is protesting as vehemently.  And thank good you have writers like Elena Poniatowska saying you guys are screwing up and you need to change.  Mexico has problems but believe me, it…

Mehdi Hasan:
They’re not as bad as they look…

Ana Maria Salazar:
… is not as bad as it looks.

Mehdi Hasan:
Jaime.

Jaime López-Aranda:
DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INFORMATION CENTER

Do we have the democracy we want? No. Do we have institutions we want? No. Are we working towards them? Yeah.  Do we agree on what will they look like? No. And that’s perfectly healthy. As long as we can withstand this level of debate, we have functioning institutions, we should be fine.  

Mehdi Hasan:
Elena, are you as optimistic as Jaime about the future of Mexico?

Elena Poniatowska:
Yes of course. I am optimistic because of IAM132

Mehdi Hasan:
IAM132.

Elena Poniatowska:
Mexicans we all needed “Saber hacer” i.e., to know how to do things, because it’s the only thing that is going to save us.  And I think that if we create a movement in which all people who have no possibilities of anything can enter into this movement and get help in this movement, and we can get help from them also, I think this is going to work.

Mehdi Hasan:
That was Elena Poniatowska, an iconic figure in this country, striking a note of optimism here in Mexico City. That was also the last Café of this current series. I hope you’ll agree with me that it’s been a fascinating journey, through eight cities on three continents. Join us again soon for the next series of The Café.

Follow us  @ALJAZEERACAFE - @MEHDIRHASAN

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Source:
Al Jazeera
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