Rule of law in Mexico?

President Vicente Fox ended 70 years of authoritarian rule with his democratic victory in 2000, but the Dallas Morning News reports that establishing the rule of law in Mexico is proving more difficult. Respect for the law is not merely a crime problem: it undermines the effort to develop a modern economy and attract foreign investment.

Among the government actions that disturb critics:

  • The Mexican Employers Confederation, a business group, says the government violated the spirit of 1990s pension reform that created individualised retirement accounts when the Finance Ministry took $1.9 billion in unclaimed retirement savings to pay for a new rural development bank.

  • In July, Fox cancelled a multibillion-dollar airport project near Mexico City because local residents blocked highways and held several mid-level state government officials hostage.

  • Farmers from Morelos who closed a highway near Mexico City last month were given higher cash payments to make up for a drought.

  • Enforcing an arbitrator's ruling in a dispute with UHF station CNI Channel 40 over a revenue-sharing agreement, TV Azteca allegedly sent a squad of security guards in ski masks to secure the building (a charge Azteca denies). The government offered to mediate.

    "The government has taken a very weak stance in enforcing the law, and it's a very disturbing development for potential foreign investors," said Rogelio Ramirez de la O, the director of Ecanal, a Mexico City consulting firm.

    "The rule of law doesn't matter if you can mobilise thousands of people," said Yemile Mizrahi, a political expert at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, D.C.. "It doesn't matter if you're powerful and influential. There is no rule of law. In Mexico, the law of the jungle reigns."

    Source: Brendan M. Case and Alfredo Corchado, Under Fox, rule of law remains elusive, Dallas Morning News, January 24, 2003.

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    FMF Policy Bulletin\28 January 2003
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