Mexican politics are characterized by polarization between political parties that rewards confrontation and that stands in the way of coalition-building, said Beatriz Paredes, the president of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Such politics aggravate the various public security, economic, and demographic challenges Mexico faces, and can adversely affect governance, she added in the conference jointly organized by the Inter-American Dialogue and the Mexico Institute.
Regarding Mexico's public security challenges, Paredes said the country needs to make improvements along the following lines:
- professionalizing security forces (by purging bad elements and raising salaries)
- encouraging transparency
- improving intelligence-gathering
- making appropriate use of the military.
She qualified Mexico's public security situation as "a phenomenon where there should be a mutual responsibility [on the part of the United States] to fight organized crime." Asked to rate the Mexican government's campaign against drug trafficking, Paredes said that President Felipe Calderón "has acted in a way that he sees as absolutely necessary."
Mexican public finances will be adversely affected by the U.S. economic slowdown and by declining oil revenues, Paredes said. She said economic policy should not be a one-sided coin only focused on fiscal policy, but rather should involve efforts to stimulate enterprise and productivity through development bank and other forms of financing. "The best social policy is a redistributive economic policy," she said.
On fiscal policy, Paredes stressed the need for Mexico to improve tax collection. She indicated support for a review of the "federalization of tax collection," i.e. the tax-collecting potential of the Mexican states, which do not directly collect taxes. She added that the Mexican federal tax agency, the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT), should boost its collection rates to 1 percent of GDP. She stressed that the PRI is opposed to levying taxes on food and medicine, which currently go untaxed.
Discussing the impact of economic problems on indigenous people, she said that a principal difficulty is that indigenous communities do not "fit into the neoliberal framework," adding there exists a need to find viable economic spaces for such communities, as well as to enable them to take advantage of their natural resource wealth.
Pemex and the Energy Sector
Addressing Mexico's recent drop-off in oil output, she acknowledged that Mexican state oil monopoly Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX) is a company that has been weakened [by restrictions on its reinvestment potential].
Yet she did not indicate support for further immediate reforms to the company's operations. She said that existing reforms, aimed at increasing PEMEX's efficiency and passed in 2008, should be fully implemented before any new reform debate.
Paredes said that Mexican society is undergoing significant demographic transformations, citing the consequences of internal and external migration and an aging population. These effects, she said, have led to changes in a traditional Mexican family structure, removing the "safety net" that had ensured that older relatives were cared for by younger ones.
In spite of these changes, however, the Mexican labor market still is unable to absorb a surplus of young workers. On Mexican youth, Paredes said that young people will grow up frustrated if optimistic dreams, such as those embodied in the "American Dream," go unrealized, and if realities fail to match expectations. Such conditions could make youth more susceptible to joining gangs, she suggested.
Mexican Foreign Policy
Paredes also addressed the issue of Mexico's place in the world and in the hemisphere. She faulted the previous administration of President Vicente Fox for having an "erratic" foreign policy because of its response to the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, because of its approach to Cuba, and due to its lack of solidarity with some countries of Central America.
She indicated that in international affairs Latin America should be conceived as a single bloc and should not be "fragmented."
By Robert Donnelly, Program Associate, Mexico Institute
Edited By Andrew Selee, Director, Mexico Institute. Ph: (202) 691-4088