Tag Archive | "Mexico"

Exit Through the Bathroom: An Ineffective War on Drugs


A Mexican soldier destroying opium poppies in Navalato, Sinaloa State. The New York Times. Fernando Brito.

On July 16, 2015, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexican drug kingpin and leader of the Sinaloa cartel, escaped from federal prison in Mexico. He did so via a one-mile tunnel from beneath his private shower at the prison. The tunnel was equipped with a modified motorcycle that led to a half-built house overlooking both the prison and the nearby military base. Besides concerns about the effectiveness of one of Mexico’s most secure prisons, it leads me to wonder whether his capture in the first place was just an exercise in futility.

Guzman’s penchant for tunnels extends past his daring prison escape. For decades, Sinaloa has been using tunnels to move drugs, people, money, and guns into the United States from Mexico. In Chicago, for example, roughly 80% of the drugs come from the Sinaloa cartel and Guzman’s capture did not shut off that tap. Art Bilek, a former Chicago detective with six decades on the job, states it well: “At this point [drug trafficking is] so well-established, it’s part of the culture.” This is a problem.

Our current tactics are clearly not working. The war on drugs needs to be updated. The war is so outdated, that at a recent International Law and Drug Policy Reform session in Washington, D.C., the current drug conventions were called “Jurassic” in nature compared to other international treaty regimes. This framework will hopefully be handled and updated next year at a United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs.

In the United States there has been some move towards drug reform as marijuana is the talk of the town. Still listed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is prohibited under federal law. Other members of the Schedule I family include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy). However, 23 states have legalized marijuana in a medical form and four of those have legalized it for recreational use. Why would any state condone the use by its citizens of a member of that dangerous Schedule I grouping? That leads us back to the severely outdated drug laws that the US and many other countries still have in use.

Steps are being taken on the federal level to resolve these outdated laws. For the most part, the Department of Justice looks the other way for patients in those 23 states who use medical marijuana. However, if U.S. Senators Rand Paul, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker have their way, state medical marijuana programs would be legalized under federal law under the recently proposed “Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act”. Additionally, under the Act, marijuana would be reclassified as a Schedule II drug, grouping it with regulated drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Adderall. While this will not eliminate people like Guzman and the Sinaloa cartel, it may be a small step towards accomplishing the goals that the long ago proponents of the “War on Drugs” had in mind.


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Julia Preston reporting on the immigration crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Critical Analysis: Mexican and Central American Children Seeking Refuge in U.S.

November 1, 2014

The United States has caught more than 68,000 children crossing the United States border—primarily via the Rio Grande Valley into Texas—in the past year, doubling last year’s number.
  The majority of children are coming from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.  In fact, less than a quarter of the children caught are from Mexico.  The increase of children from these Central American countries began in 2012.  Violence, family reunification, and poverty are the main reason for this surge.  For those children from Honduras, there is an especially strong correlation between the increase in children caught at the border with an increase in homicides.

Due to the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2008 (“TVPRA”), children from Central America have a longer before their deportation hearing than those children from contiguous countries (i.e. Canada and Mexico).  Unlike children from Mexico, a Border Patrol officer does not have the authority to make an on the spot determination as to whether a Central American child can stay in the country.

Julia Preston reporting on the immigration crisis at the U.S. border with Mexico.

Julia Preston has been reporting on the immigration crisis at the United States’ border with Mexico where Central American migrants are crossing. Photo and Caption Credit: Todd Heisler/The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/times-insider/2014/08/01/witnessing-the-border-crisis/?_r=1

The unequal treatment of children from Mexico versus children from Central America has draw criticism from both sides of the political isle leading to the President to take a strong stance on combatting this influx. In July, the President Obama White House urged an increase in funds—to the tune of just over $2 billion—to strengthen border security, expedite immigration case resolution, and deal directly with the humanitarian issues occurring in the countries of origin.  As with just about every policy and budgetary recommendation this White House has made, this recommendation was met with hostility both on the part of liberals and conservatives.

Liberals, on one hand, believe that the White House’s proposal upsets due process leaving thousands of children vulnerable.  Conservatives, on the other hand, believe this planned action is too little too late.  Regardless of your political stance on the issue, the larger underlying challenge is the United States’ role in this crisis and the potential responsibility it owes to mitigating its effect.

Honduras’s President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been quite vocal as to the United States’ hand in the immigration crisis.  The demand for drugs stemming from the United States has lead to an increase in violence and a decrease in roads for opportunity.  The illicit demand for drugs in the United States, no matter how frowned upon by the government and many citizens, has, in the opinion of many, has created a duty to address the humanitarian impacts.

The United States has the unique challenge of striking a balance between providing appropriate due process to those children who have made the journey to the United States, working with the immigrant’s countries of origin to address the underlying humanitarian issues, and corresponding the rate of deportation with the progress made in addressing humanitarian issues.  Perhaps easier said than done.

Alicia Guber is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Editor in Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Graph of Unaccompanied Alien Children by Location of Origin 2014

Critical Analysis: The U.S. Immigration “Humanitarian Crisis” at Its Source

Here in the United States, there has been a recent uptick in news about the “humanitarian crisis” stemming from children migrating across Central America and coming across the United States southern border. The news reports are less frequent now than they were a few months ago, but over the summer months headlines of the “humanitarian crisis” flooded news services. On June 30, 2014, President Obama released a statement recognizing the “humanitarian crisis” that was stemming from the danger and violence in Central America resulting in the influx of children and individuals crossing the border. But what exactly is causing this humanitarian crisis? The current crisis is more than the current influx in border crossings, decades old problems facing youth in Central America is making the international issues of Central America feel very real here at home. See Maria Baldini-Potermin, A Step Forward and Back: The Border Crisis and Possible Solutions Focused on Fundamental Fairness and Basic Human Rights, 91 Interpreter Releases 1401, 1401-02 (2014).

In June 2014, Vice President Joseph Biden traveled to Guatemala to speak with leaders from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico to discuss the shared responsibility of the region. Vice President Biden was also trying to reiterate the current administration’s stance on the futility of trying to obtain legal status without a proper visa. Minors from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras make up three quarters of the total numbers of migrants coming into the United States. Between last October and August, 63,000 undocumented children were detained at the southern border. Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico, while addressing the situations within their own nations have also pushed back on the United State’s policy, seeking better conditions for the detained children in the United States and criticizing American drug consumption, which makes their nations the staging grounds for trafficking.

Graph of Unaccompanied Alien Children by Location of Origin 2014

Unaccompanied Alien Children (UACs) by Location of Origin for CY 2014: Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala
Image Source: pewresearch.org

How does the United States’ deportation policy play into the “shared responsibility” idea? According to the home nations, it does not play out well. Children who are deported back to their home nation face the same violence they were fleeing and if they were trying to escape gang activity, it is often futile. The cycle of violence continues. The Americas have the highest rates of homicides of the UN regional breakdowns, with Central America having the highest rate within the region. There are two points of concentration that generate this violence: gangs and organized crime.

According to a study that Elizabeth Kennedy, a Fulbright Scholar, is conducting in El Salvador, children are migrating to the United States because of fear of gang violence. Currently, over 600 children have been interviewed for the study; these interviews are comprised of basic questions, questions about the child’s neighborhood and gang presence, and finally, why the child wants to go to the United States. Sixty percent of the children have listed gangs or violence as the reason that they want to migrate. After gang violence, the next highest-ranking reason for wanting to migrate to the United States is family reunification. Family reunification makes up 35 percent of the children interviewed, which is interesting because of how low that number is when considering that over 90 percent of these children have a family member in the United States, and over half have a parent in the United States. The numbers that Ms. Kennedy has uncovered around gang violence are particularly striking: 145 of 322 children live in a neighborhood with a gang present, 109 have been directly threatened, 14 have had a family member murdered by the gang, and 32 are so afraid they never leave their homes day or night.

There are common features between Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras that are pushing children, despite the danger, to attempt to migrate across Mexico to the United States. These reasons include poverty, institutional challenges (particularly in crime control), political instability, migration, and destruction of the social fabric. In El Salvador, there has been an active attempt to mitigate the gang violence and two years ago, there was truce designed to protect police and civilians. While initial results of the truce dropped murder rates by 40 percent, killings have since doubled. However, recently five gangs have approached the government wanting to reopen negotiations, but the President is hesitant to follow the gangs’ program. Mexico, meanwhile, has aggressively begun to sweep migrants off “La Bestia,” creating roadway checkpoints, and raiding safe houses along the voyage north. And not surprisingly, Honduras is facing monumental challenges in addresses migration problems when statistics show that 64.5 percent of Hondurans lived in poverty, economic growth is 2.2 percent and San Pedro Sula, is the world’s “murder capital.

Commentators suggest that the real way to solve the humanitarian crisis is to focus on the poverty, violence, and suppression that are preventing the people in these countries from maintaining a healthy livelihood, and to make humanitarian visas to the United States more accessible. It certainly does seem that just trying to stop transport via “La Bestia” is not going to change migration trends or protect the lives of those who are constantly under threat of gang violence. The only way to solve this humanitarian crisis is going to the source.

Alison Haugen is a 2L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.



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Critical Analysis: The Lime Crisis of 2014

The other day, I walked into a bar and ordered a gin and tonic. Instead of the customary lime wedge or wheel, my gin and tonic came equipped with a slice of orange. In response to my confused look, the server mumbled something about Mexican cartels. This piqued my interest and led me to discover that Mexican cartels, while a key ingredient, are not solely to blame for the current lime shortage. Flooding, disease, and a domestic lime shortage are also contributing to low lime supply and elevated prices.

Conflict in Mexico is contributing to the shortages of limes and the increase in prices. Image Source: Huffington Post

Conflict in Mexico is contributing to the shortages of limes and the increase in prices. Image Source: Huffington Post

Lime prices in Denver are currently set to a troubling high of $.50 each at Safeway, and $.89 each at King Soopers. Large-scale orders are faring even worse, with 40-pound cases going for a whopping $100, compared to just $15 last year. The graph to the right is a U.S. Department of Agriculture graph, republished by the Huffington Post, which demonstrates the price spike.

This price elevation is mainly due to the age-old relationship between supply and demand. Supply is down because of a disease, huang long bing, also called “Yellow Dragon,” that has hit lime trees in the Yucatan and is spreading to other regions, such as the high export state of Veracruz. Unusually harsh rains in November and December also diminished lime yields because of damage inflicted to lime blossoms. Demand, however, has remained stable and is even increasing, particularly with the Americanized Cinco de Mayo holiday just around the corner.

The panic, however strong in Denver, seems all the more real in New York City, where some people are growing their own in order to avoid the shortage and even profit from it. Things are getting even scarier in the Mexican state of Michoacán, where the conflict is coming to a head. The violent Knights Templar Cartel has been threatening and attacking local farmers, taking their limes and their lands hostage in order to take advantage of elevated lime prices.

Image Source: Latin Post/Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Forty pound cases of limes are selling for $100 each. Image Source: Latin Post/Getty Images/Joe Raedle

An interesting twist to this story is that a handful of farmers and laborers in Michoacán have taken up arms to protect their families and their livelihoods, forcing the Knights Templar to retreat out of the area. Some speculate that this could lead to revolution on a larger scale, particularly as people who had migrated to the United States return home to combat the cartel. Hopefully, this conflict will demonstrate to Americans that even the seemingly inconsequential decision of garnishing their beverage of choice with a lime wedge can lead to striking consequences abroad.


Katie McAuley is a 2L, a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy and the incoming Candidacy Editor.

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Critical Analysis: The 20-Year Anniversary of NAFTA

How did you ring in the New Year?  Did you raise a toast to the 20th anniversary of North American Free Trade Agreement?  Probably not, but January 1, 2014, marked the 20th year of NAFTA’s existence.  NAFTA is one of the largest trading blocs in the world and thus still remains a relevant point of discussion when evaluating United States (U.S.) trade policy.

In many ways NAFTA did just what a free-trade agreement is primarily aimed at accomplishing: increase trade.  Today, trade between Mexico, the U.S., and Canada has increased by 3.5 times the levels seen in 1994.  In 2010, the U.S. had $918 billion in trade with Canada and Mexico.  Mexico has become a major automaker.  It now produces 3 million vehicles per year, an increase of 50% since 1994.  Finally, the U.S.’s and Mexico’s investment in Canada has tripled since 1994.

In terms of trade liberalization, NAFTA is a success.  Yet, NAFTA still faces criticisms for perpetuating economic and social barriers and inequalities.  Some of the identified underlying economic and social goals of the signing parties to NAFTA are as follows: promote equitable wages, job growth, align environmental standards, and increase investment.

As NAFTA turns twenty, the agreement has accomplished what it was designed to do - increase trade. Image Source: The Economist/Dave Simonds

As NAFTA turns twenty, the agreement has accomplished what it was designed to do – increase trade. Image Source: The Economist/Dave Simonds

Although there has been an increase in automotive manufacturing in Mexico, the jobs in the industry are notoriously low paying (about 15% of wages paid in the U.S.).  The wage gap between Mexico and the U.S. and Canada exists in other industries as well.  However, Mexico has failed to strengthen its labor unions even though the competition (Latin American and Asian countries) has, keeping Mexican wages low and failing to reach the goal of wage equality.

Economists still debate whether NAFTA has led to net job growth or net job loss.  On one hand, more jobs have been created in Mexico and Canada in the manufacturing sector and more export related jobs have been created in the U.S. On the other hand, manufacturing jobs in the U.S. have been outsourced to countries, such as Mexico, where the wages are lower. In the manufacturing sector, it seems as though NAFTA members must first accomplish the goals of equitable wages before job growth is a possibility.

Upon the ratification of NAFTA, NAFTA members negotiated a parallel agreement focusing on environmental concerns: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAACE).  The NAACE aims to improve member nations’ understanding of the effects trade has on the environment and to align member nations’ environmental policies.  Although the NAACE has set forth an environmental agenda for NAFTA members, measuring its success has been difficult.  The body has not yet determined what data would produce high-quality environmental linkages to trade.  The connections the NAACE has made show that trade liberalization depletes specific natural resources and leads to increased air and water pollution.  The main reason for such impacts is that NAFTA member nations have failed to integrate trade and environmental policies that combat such negative impacts.

NAFTA has increased investments in all three signatories.  The binding arbitration panels for foreign investors allows “investors to bypass the courts with complaints that government regulation unfairly affects their businesses” and, therefore, are quite favorable to investors.  Those complaints brought before the panel deal with resource management or environmental rules.  In total, Mexico and Canada have paid about $350 million in damages to foreign investors.  What about the U.S. you ask? Well, the U.S. hasn’t paid a penny.  These panels overwhelmingly rule in favor of U.S. investors, exasperating yet another inequality where the U.S. ends up on top.

These failures cannot be overlooked, but is the correlation to NAFTA really as strong as critics seem to think?  NAFTA has done exactly what free trade agreements are supposed to do: increase and liberalize trade.  In order to accomplish the underlying goals, governments need to make broader policy changes. First and foremost, member nations need to align their policies in the areas that effect trade, for example, environmental and worker protection.  Second, members need to invest in themselves to get up to par with these policies.  Third, members need to let go of protectionist measures and let comparative advantage do its work. The U.S. continues to protect markets (namely agriculture) in which it does not have the comparative advantage, disallowing counties (namely Mexico) from holding a larger stake in those markets.

Using free trade agreements as motivation to make larger policy changes might work, but free trade agreements themselves will not fix broken policies.

Alicia Guber is a 2L and the Alumni Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: The Zapatista Rebellion: 20 Years Later

New years day marked the simultaneous 20th anniversary of the famed Zapatista uprising, and the date at which the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. On January 1st, a number of Zapatista sympathizers gathered in Mexico and around the world to remember the violent uprising and to bring light to the continuing mission of the Zapatistas and the EZLN.

On January 1st, 1994, armed insurgents from the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) stormed cities in the Mexican state of Chiapas.  Following decades of increasing frustration with land distribution and a growing guerilla population, the EZLN rebelled to protest the overall treatment of indigenous Mexican people, the implementation of NAFTA, and President Salinas de Gortari’s decision to amend Article 27 of the Mexican constitution and allow for the privatization of indigenous lands. NAFTA provisions allowed foreign and domestic private investors to purchase indigenous land. The Zapatistas set out not to overthrow the Mexican government, but primarily to stand against the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had held power in Mexico for over 60 years. During the conflict, approximately 3,000 Zapatista supporters burned military buildings and released inmates in San Cristobal de las Casas, a small city in southern Mexico where many political prisoners were being held.  Their efforts were met with resistance on January 2nd, when the Mexican Army counterattacked, resulting in in significant casualties.  Fighting ended January 12th, when Samuel Ruiz bishop of the Diocese of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, acted as a mediator between the EZLN and the PRI, and declared a ceasefire.  Although the Zapatista ideology and rebellion began long before the 1994 uprising, the New Years incident is often considered the starting point of the ongoing Zapatista quest for indigenous land rights in Mexico.

Zapatista supporters celebrate the 20th anniversary of the rebellion. Image Source: AP

Zapatista supporters celebrate the 20th anniversary of the rebellion. Image Source: AP

The Zapatista ideology, Zapatismo, draws from a number of schools including traditional Mayan practices, libertarian socialism, and Marxism. Closely associated with the former National Liberation Forces (FLN,) the EZLN was heavily influenced by a Marxist-Leninist goal of creating an army to resist post 1968 “Cultural Revolution” state forces.

Today, many Zapatistas live in independent communities on the land gained during the 1994 rebellion.  Called “caracoles,” these communities are independent from local government. Signs warning visitors of the nature of the community line the entrance to each village with sayings like: “You are in Zapatista territory in rebellion: here the people rule and the government must obey.” The schools are lined with murals depicting the rebellion, and the farms are run independently.  These small communities remain essentially autonomous from the Mexican government. Despite the implied picturesque notion of small farming communities delighting in total freedom, the Zapatista villages remain in poverty in large part due to their refusal of government aid.

The EZLN movement is still alive today, and although the Zapatistas still remain at war with the Mexican government, the current fight is essentially nonviolent and largely theological.  Still retaining the signature black masks, EZLN representatives sporadically appear on local TV and Internet live streams. “The EZLN remains alive, not as a military option, but as a social and political organization that fights for a dignified life,” says Catholic Bishop of San Cristobal de las Casas and long-time Zapatista supporter Felipe Arizmendi.

However, support has decreased substantially, in large part due to the prominent indigenous empowerment efforts elsewhere. “They left. Some went faster than others. And the majority of them don’t look at us, or they do so with the same distance and intellectual disdain that they did before the dawn of Jan. 1, 1994,” Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marco said in a recent statement.  Additionally, although the Zapatistas are often publicly vocal, the group has received heavy criticism for their abrupt and extended periods of public silence.

Although the Mexican constitution was amended in 2001 to protect indigenous rights and lands, discrimination against the rural indigenous population, and a frustration with the effects of NAFTA on the Mexican economy remains widespread. Additionally, with Mexico’s recent approval of a number of energy reforms allowing for foreign oil drilling, many worry that frustrations are reaching a similar level to that of 20 years ago.

Bree Plasters is currently a 2L and a Staff Editor at the Denver Journal for International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: History in Progress: Four Years in, the International Community Eagerly Observes Mexico’s New Justice System Take Form

The system reforms!

Mexico is wrapping another year in the eight-year process that has been set aside to transform the country’s criminal justice system entirely. In 2008, the Mexican government passed a series of constitutional and legislative reforms that would effectively change the country’s entire penal system. The 2008 judicial reform gives Mexico until 2016 to switch from a secretive paper-based system to oral trials, bolstering the defendant’s due process rights by ensuring the presumption of innocence and better access to adequate defense counsel. The new reforms give police a larger role in criminal investigations placing a larger emphasis on evidence used during trials.

Mexico’s criminal justice system has been criticized for being exceptionally antiquated and ineffective. Advocates have been fighting for years to overhaul inadequate investigation, trial, and detention systems known to encourage torture and allow hardened criminals to walk free. Proponents of the change claim that the reform is vital to the success of the country’s ongoing drug war.

But the process has been painstakingly slow, and some critics say the federal government is not moving as quickly as it can to pass the necessary revised criminal procedure code. Last year, President Calderón sent a proposal of the federal code to Congress, but the Senate failed to pass it. The new, revised criminal code would unify and advance the implementation of the 2008 reforms. The country is technically halfway through the transition phase, but less than half of Mexico’s states have taken steps to change their justice systems, and the policies put in place vary. For example, the state of Chihuahua has been a pioneer by implementing its own state level shift in 2007, a year before Mexico enacted the federal reforms.

One of the biggest obstacles lies in the fact that states using the new oral trials-based system cannot yet pass cases on to the Federal Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República) for review. The Attorney General’s Office does not yet have the new criminal justice system fully implemented because Mexico has not passed the revised federal criminal code. So far, only 18 of Mexico’s 32 states and entities have passed their own criminal procedure code, 11 of which have advanced to actually implementing and conducting oral trials.

The remaining three years of transformation require not only federal and state legislative reforms. A successful transition will also entail investing billions of dollars to remodel courtrooms, training Mexico’s roughly forty thousand active lawyers and thousands of judges, and reworking the law school curriculum. This undertaking will require the political resolve and concentrated focus of Mexico’s next administration, especially to overcome the older generation of jurists who are resisting the change.

Gaby Corica is a 3L at DU law, a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal for International Law and Policy, and a General Editor for The View From Above. 

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Critical Analysis: Mexico’s G20 Meeting

G20 Finance Ministers Meet in Mexico (HispanicBusiness.com)

Amidst the Presidential election turmoil in the United States, there was another type of turmoil in Mexico City this past weekend, where  the Finance Ministers of the G20 met to discuss the world’s economy and how to address the current financial challenges.  Topics at the meeting included Japan’s currency issues, the U.S. “fiscal cliff,” and the European Union’s tensions between promoting job growth and austerity.

Even countries that have weathered the financial storm fairly well are starting to encounter economic issues that need to be addressed by the G20.  For example, when the strength of the euro declined, investors flocked to the Japanese yen, impacting Japan’s export market.  The relative strength of the yen has led to a decline in Japan’s previously strong automobile and electronics export industries.  Japan now faces a trade deficit for the first in years.  Japan Finance Minister raised Japan’s currency concerns at the G20 meeting, noting, “There weren’t any particular objections and I took that as showing other countries understand our concerns on currencies.”

Another major topic of discussion was the U.S. fiscal cliff, which several G20 policymakers see as the biggest short-term threat to global growth.  Although no one had a specific solution for the United States, there was agreement that the U.S. should “carefully calibrate the pace of fiscal tightening to ensure that public finances are placed on a sustainable long-run path while avoiding a sharp fiscal contraction in 2013.” 

Meanwhile, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble continued to insist that Greece and other weaker members of the euro zone swallow austerity medicine even as their economies sink deeper into recession.  Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras warns that if parliament does not approve a new round of austerity measures, Greece could be forced out of the euro.

Despite the urgency of these economic issues, little progress was made at the G20 meeting last weekend.  The lack of progress may have been due not only to differing opinions, but also from fatigue from meeting just a couple of weeks earlier at the IMF’s annual meetings, and the absences of some significant players, such as U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi.

There may be one step forward from the meeting, however, as the Financial Stability board has requested the endorsement of the G20 Finance Ministers for the draft Charter for the Regulatory Oversight Committee of the Global LEI System.  Part of the mission of the Financial Stability Board is to “coordinate at the international level the work of national financial authorities and international standard setting bodies and to develop and promote the implementation of effective regulatory, supervisory and other financial sector policies.”  Under the proposed Charter, the Regulatory Oversight Committee would be responsible for governance of the Global Legal Entity Identifier System, which provides identifying information on legal entities who are parties to financial transactions throughout the world, hopefully creating more stability and transparency in the global economy.  Although this may be a small step for a big problem, possibly getting an endorsement by the G20 and FSB for the Regulatory Oversight Committee Charter could be the one tangible step forward that came from this G20 meeting.

Katelin Knox is a 2L and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Mexico City In Crisis: The Western Hemisphere’s Largest City Can’t Quench Its Thirst

A recent hiccup in Mexico City’s water quality has sparked new debate around the metropolis’ water system. In the last few weeks, Mexico City residents have been complaining about their tap water. Inhabitants have noticed an extraordinarily strange taste and smell of their water, but the country’s National Water Commission (CONAGUA) assures the public that the water’s quality remains intact. It appears the culprit of the foul water is an algae growth inside the Valle de Bravo dam that is part of the Cutzamala water system. Cutzamala hydrates Mexico City and is a network of seven dams and Valle de Bravo is one of the three largest dams in the network.

Various activist groups, including the Coalition of Mexican Organizations for the Right To Water (COMDA), are rallying their memberships to demand transparency from CONAGUA. CONAGUA is the entity responsible for monitoring the integrity of the water held inside the Valle de Bravo dam, and earlier this week, the Commission released a statement assuring the public that, while there is more algae living inside the dam, the new growth is not harmful to consumers. However, CONAGUA clarified that it is still collecting information to assess the impacts of the outgrowth.

Mexico City has a long history of water troubles. The City started off as a lake when the Aztecs founded it in the 1300s. When the Spanish took control of the city, they drained most of the lake – literally sinking the earth beneath the city’s feet. This gave the city the opportunity to sprawl throughout the Valley of Mexico, but centuries of population growth and increased water consumption from the aquifer beneath the City is causing it to sink. Mexico City is sinking down into the lakebed at about three inches per year. This steady descent wreaks havoc on the already delicate water infrastructure that runs beneath the city and makes it harder each year to pump water into houses and buildings.

Modern day Mexico City continues to encounter water scarcity issues as well. Between droughts and a supremely antiquated and neglected water infrastructure, water service can be intermittent and sporadic. The city’s pipes are reportedly so leaky that about 40% of the water is lost in transit to people’s homes. To boot, the country receives the vast majority of its precipitation during four months out of the year, which makes it difficult to provide a consistent water supply to its population throughout the entire year.

CONAGUA says it’s safe …
(Houston Chronicle)

Solutions to these growing problems are tenuous. And, despite a slight global decline in private sector participation in what have traditionally been publicly held utilities, Mexico City continues to rely on private entities to supply its inhabitants with potable water. The city’s water distribution system is divided into 16 districts – private companies are present in all of them. The Mexican media is quick to point out that bottled water is a form of water privatization. Mexico consumes an enormous amount of bottled water. As of 2010, its annual bottled water consumption was measured at 234 liters per capita. This aside, more obvious forms of private entity participation are evidenced throughout the country. From facilitating local municipal water services to constructing water treatment plants and large-scale dam projects, private entities have long been deeply established in Mexico’s water utilities. Opponents argue that even in quasi-privatization endeavors where the government leases a damn project or municipal water system to a private company for a certain period of time, the public still suffers. What tends to happen is that a government will contract a water treatment plant or dam project out to a private company, that company will finance and manage the project and then reap its benefits for the length of the contract – say 30 years. Then, the company turns the project over to the government after reaping the benefits of the project’s most lucrative and efficient years, typically leaving the government with a plant or a dam or a water system that, by that time, is outdated and poorly maintained.

For now though, funny smells and tastes aside, CONAGUA maintains that Mexico City has the best, purist and tastiest tap water in the Republic.

Gaby Coria is a rising third year law student at the University of Denver.  She is a Staff Editor on The View From Above.

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Sources: CNN, The Atlantic, Reuters

News Post: Looking into the Alleged Iranian Plot

Sources: CNN, The Atlantic, Reuters

Sources: CNN, The Atlantic, Reuters

The United States claims to have uncovered a plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States.  The U.S. filed a criminal complaint against Manssor Arbabsiar alleging that Mr. Arbabsiar solicited a Drug Enforcement Agency informant, thought to be a Mexican drug cartel member, to bomb a D.C. restaurant while the ambassador was present.  The complaint further alleges that Mr. Arbabsiar, a U.S. naturalized citizen, conspired with a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to pay the hit men from the Mexican drug cartel $100,000 as a down payment, followed by $1.5 million more if the attack was successful. 

Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi announced Monday, October 17th,  that Iran would be willing to consider the evidence alleging Iranian involvement in the plot.  The announced willingness of Iran to consider the issue contrasts the response by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.  Khamenei called the allegations “meaningless and absurd” and contends that the allegations are part of scheme by the United States to isolate Iran.

Khamenei is not the only critic of the allegations alleging Iranian involvement.  Reza Aslan, a religious scholar and author, told CNN that the plot “just does not fit the Quds Force’s [modus operandi].”  If Iran was targeting Saudi Arabia, there are a lot of other places to have carried out an attack, not on U.S. soil.  An attack of a Saudi ambassador on U.S. soil would clearly be construed as an attack on the United States and contrary to “Iran’s interest in any legitimate way.”

The allegations are supported by four pieces of evidence: taped conversations between the informant and Mr. Arbabsair, taped conversations between Mr. Ababsair and his alleged co-conspirator in the Quds Froces, details about the $100,000 down payment transfer, and a confession by Mr. Arbabsair made after his arrest on September 29thCritics remain skeptical as to the motivation behind Mr. Ababsair’s confession and the strength of the connection between Mr. Ababsair and the Quds Forces.  The original complaint against Mr. Arbabsair, which remains sealed, might explain part of the motivation behind Mr. Arbabsair’s confession.

As of now, Mr. Ababsair is in U.S. custody, while his co-conspirator is at-large and believed to be in Iran.  The U.N. Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, announced Monday, October 17th, that the issue has been referred to the U.N. Security Council.  President Obama has promised to push for the “toughest possible sanctions” against Iran.

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