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USMCA review preparations underway, "champion of fentanyl", Sheinbaum stopped in Chiapas, pension reform approved

Lauren TerMaat

Buenrostro names USMCA/T-MEC review a “priority” before end of AMLO’s term; Mexico called “champion of fentanyl” by top official in Attorney General’s office; Pension reform approved in Chamber of Deputies and Senate; Sheinbaum stopped by masked men in Chiapas. (Week of 04/19/2024 - 04/25/2024)

Week of 04/19/2024 - 04/25/2024

Mexico called “champion of fentanyl” by top official in Attorney General’s office

The head of Mexico’s Criminal Investigation Agency, Jesús Gallo Gutiérrez, referred to Mexico as the “champion of fentanyl production” in a conference on Tuesday (04/23), contradicting the position held by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that Mexico is not responsible for the production of any fentanyl. 

In a conference on synthetic drugs in Mexico City, Gallo described how Mexico has been the “champion” of the production of methamphetamines since the 1990s, and now is specifically the “champion” of fentanyl production, emphasizing the existence of thousands of laboratories across the country. President López Obrador, who throughout his administration has denied Mexico’s role in fentanyl production, dismissed Gallo’s comment as “alarmist” and politically motivated, and asked the Office of the Attorney General (FGR) to clarify Gallo’s claims.

Given that Gallo’s Criminal Investigation Agency falls within its administration, the Office of the Attorney General (FGR) issued a statement on Thursday apologizing for Gallo’s “inadequate” word choice. Gallo himself admitted a public apology, and explained that he used the word “champion” to highlight the “long legal battle” that the country has had to undertake in facing the threat of synthetic drugs. 

Pension reform approved in Chamber of Deputies and Senate

President López Obrador’s proposed pension reform, which will establish a new pension  fund, was approved by the Chamber of Deputies on Monday (04/22) and later by the Senate on Thursday (04/25). 

The reform to the pension system creates a fund that will be financed with unclaimed savings from inactive Retirement Funds Administrators (Afores) accounts. More specifically, about 40 billion pesos of unclaimed savings of individuals aged 70 or older in inactive accounts will be put  in a fund for workers who earn under a certain amount, so that they may receive 100% of their salary upon retirement. This fund will also be financed by profits from state-owned entities, like Mexicana de Aviación, the national airline, as well as the Maya Train.  

Opposition legislators have already expressed their disagreement with how quickly the reform passed through both houses, and many have noted their plan to take the reform to the Supreme Court (SCJN) on the basis of unconstitutionality, citing the reform’s encroachment on private property. President López Obrador has admitted the possibility that the Supreme Court finds this pension reform unconstitutional. 

Sheinbaum stopped by masked men in Chiapas

While traveling through a municipality controlled by drug cartels in Chiapas on Sunday (04/21), the car carrying leading presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum was intercepted by a group of masked men who asked her to address violence and crime in the region. 

The group of masked men, one of whom was filming the incident, approached Sheinbaum’s van at a security checkpoint and spoke to her through the window as she calmly listened to them. Citing the violence, extortion, and fear in the surrounding municipalities, the masked group asked the presidential frontrunner to “remember the poor people” who feel “powerless” in the face of cartel violence in the region if she wins the June 02 elections. 

Following the incident, Sheinbaum commented that she did not believe that the armed men who stopped her were involved in drug trafficking nor did she believe herself to be in danger at the time, and she found it very strange that reporters from a news outlet were at the checkpoint when the incident occurred. President López Obrador echoed her statements and suggested that the encounter may have been staged by his political opponents. 

Buenrostro names USMCA/T-MEC review a “priority” before end of AMLO’s term

The Secretary of the Economy, Raquel Buenrostro, stated on Tuesday (04/23) that President López Obrador’s government has been prioritizing preparations for the upcoming review of the USMCA (known in Spanish as T-MEC) trade agreement before the President’s term comes to an end in October 2024. 

After its enactment in 2020, the USMCA trade agreement will face its first mandatory six-year review in 2026, but Buenrostro explained that groups have already been formed by the current administration to work with the private sector in order to determine what changes ought to be made to the agreement. She highlighted the close interdependence in trade between the three North American countries and stressed the importance of strengthening the agreement so that it may continue for years to come. 

The two leading presidential candidates have expressed different areas of concern in terms of what needs to be updated in the agreement. Claudia Sheinbaum, the leading candidate from the MORENA party, does not expect great changes to happen to the agreement, but she noted that migration and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in agriculture ought to be considered during the 2026 revisions. A representative for Xóchitl Gálvez, the opposition candidate, commented on Tuesday (04/23) that the most pressing issue for North American trade is the role of China. 

To learn more about the history of the USMCA agreement and its future outlook, read this article

About the Author

Lauren TerMaat

Lauren TerMaat

Staff Assistant Intern, Mexico Institute
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Mexico Institute

The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute.   Read more