SB 1070: A Discussion with Brewer’s Primary Opponent


Here’s a link to my most recent article on AQBlog, titled “SB 1070: A Discussion with Brewer’s Primary Opponent”

Date published: October 25th, 2010

I hope you find it interesting.

Here’s a copy of it:


When Governor Jan Brewer became vocal about and stood by Arizona Senate Bill 1070 (referred to as the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” after its approval), she catapulted her way into the Republican candidacy for the 2010 gubernatorial election, and most likely, an incumbent landslide victory over Democratic candidate Terry Goddard.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss SB1070 and related issues with Matthew Jette, who ran against Brewer in the Republican primaries. Jette faced harsh opposition from his party members in multiple occasions when he tried to bring some sense and rationality into the undocumented workers’ rights discussion and eventually lost the primaries because he stood by what he knew was right.

Had it been implemented as it was originally drafted, the bill would have made not carrying immigration documents a criminal misdemeanor and would have given state police officials the power to detain people based only on suspicion of their immigrant status and provided them the right to demand proof of holding federal identification papers. My conversation with him presents an interesting look at what SB1070 is really about.

When I asked Jette about the overall state support for the bill (70 percent voter approval rate), he shared that “SB1070 is bad policy and the wrong mechanism in an effort to marginalize and blame a certain group of people for the depressed economy and housing market. […] The people ofArizona are frustrated with a lot of different issues ranging from health care, education, the economy, and housing. [Politicians] using this frustration as a driving force, have rationalized their actions with SB1070.”


In sum, undocumented workers are being used as a scapegoat for Arizona’s larger problems, but as Americas Quarterly’s own Christopher Sabatini recently blogged in a great piece on the evolution of immigration, “despite what the anti-immigrant nativists would have you believe, immigrants—even undocumented immigrants—pay more in taxes than they take out, providing a critical source of new revenue for those soon-to-be retiring baby boomers that threaten to bankrupt our social security system.”

Jette provides further insight on the subject: “Arizonaranks last or near last in many education measurements. Yet, this Governor and others routinely have decreased spending and perpetually under-minded education by investing public dollars into failing charter schools.Arizonaranks last in new job creation nationally and is one of the few states falling further behind in its recovery.” Unfairly, undocumented workers are being blamed for the shortcomings of others.

Now given the focus on racial and ethnic issues that the bill provoked, the majority of Americans failed to understand that besides providing an easy channel for harassment and detainment of Hispanics (documented and undocumented), SB1070 is in reality an attack on the civil liberties of all Americans visiting or residing in Arizona.

When you empower a law enforcement official to detain someone based on nothing more than his perception or suspicion that they might be an unauthorized immigrant, you are de facto throwing presumption of innocence out the window, one of the bastions of theU.S. legal system. Moreover, as Dr. Jette mentioned in our interview “regardless of the language, immigration is a federal issue. A state officer cannot ask for or charge anyone for not carrying federal papers. [Also,] holding individuals for an unspecified amount of time does infringe on one’s civil liberties.” If the citizens ofArizona were keen on these facts, I believe support for SB1070 would dramatically drop.

Fear mongering and ignorance about the effects of SB1070 are not the only things tainting this already controversial piece of legislation. KPHO, a CBS outfit, recently reported on what could be Jan Brewer’s real motivation for supporting the bill. Her Campaign Chairman and Policy Advisor have been linked to lobbying for the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), which, in turn, has been a campaign supporter for the incumbent governor. CCA is one of the frontrunners in privatizing prison systems.

Jette shares his views on why the CCA has backed Brewer and SB1070: “SB1070 is more about money and corruption than it is about race, security or wasted dollars.Arizonais the only state attempting to privatize their prisons and the CCA is the one entity that would benefit the most with the passing of SB1070. The Correction Corporation ofAmericamade a financial contribution to helping Governor Brewer pass Proposition 100 (the 1 cent sales tax increase) and the significance of that rests with the fact that the CCA is the only entity which would house immigration detainees as a result of SB1070.” As it turns out, Brewer (and her team) is in bed with those who stand to win the most out of an increase in arrests (justified or not) stemming from this piece of legislation.

For now the most controversial portions of SB1070 have been put on a leash by District Court Judge Susan Bolton via an injunction, but Brewer has made it very clear that if need be, she is ready to take her appeal through the court system all the way up to the Supreme Court. And when she does, hopefully theUS Justices will have the right minds to discard her plights.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

The Costs of Mexicana’s Bankruptcy


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “The Costs of Mexicana’s Bankruptcy”, published on October 13th, 2010.

Here is a copy of it:


On August 2, Mexicana de Aviación wrote the first pages of its version of Gabriel García Márquez’ Crónica de una muerte anunciada (Chronicle of a Foretold Death) as it successfully filed for bankruptcy. Mexicana argued that rising energy costs and the effects of H1N1 on air travel became too much for the company to bear. However the airline’s business practices have also been questionable for a long time.

Just like in García’s novel, the end result (the death of Santiago Nasar, the main character) became apparent immediately after the bankruptcy announcement. Anyone who had access to a newspaper, TV, radio, or the Internet knew this was the beginning of the end for Mexicana. What we did not know was the amount of time, and more importantly, government resources, this operation and its fallout would require.

Pilot and staff layoffs, air travel chaos, rising prices from Aeroméxico (its main competitor and now the only truly reliable source for national air transportation) and a myriad of customer complaints characterized the weeks that followed the bankruptcy declaration. On October 12, the Senate even announced the creation of a bicameral committee to deal with the break up, acquisition and restructuring of this business mammoth. As Andrew Ross Sorkin would put it, the government decided that Mexicana de Aviación was just too big to fail.

Unfortunately, this situation comes at a time when all major events in Mexicoare being politicized and used by the parties as a means to strengthen their positions ahead of the 2012 presidential election. Such is the case with the recent populist statements by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) regarding lowering the value added tax back to 15 percent from last year’s 1 percent increase. This would force the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) and the federal government to publicly announce that it would veto such a proposal as it would result in an unsustainable hit to the government’s budget.

The newest bit to come out of the political turmoil surrounding Mexicana is an agreement being discussed in the PRI-led Senate (to be voted on October 19) , which would effectively request that the Ministry of Economy reimburse all unfulfilled travel costs to customers. PRI member and President of the Senate Communications and Transportation Committee Fernando Castro Trenti recently said that the current situation is the result of the federal government not stepping in and doing things properly earlier on. “The truth is that someone is paying for this [government] negligence and that someone is every person who paid three, five thousand pesos [for unused tickets]. It seems appropriate that we create a legislative determination which can solve this situation,” according to Castro yesterday.

The senator’s proposed solution will make the affected customers happy. It will probably give a boost to the Senate and specifically to the PRI for stepping in for the lay man. The problem is that the PRI’s solution actually sets a terrible precedent for the relationship between private business and government, in the end, making civil society pay for the failure of companies too large to be left to their own demise.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that asking the Ministry of Economy to pick up the tab is an indirect way of prorating the airline’s liabilities to all tax-paying Mexicans. After all, where does the money from the Ministry of Economy’s budget come from?

In late 2008, the laser hair removal company Neoskin went bankrupt, leaving thousands of women who had paid for lifelong treatments in the mud. Should we all pay for their losses? It’s not a popular point of view, but the Mexican people have no more an obligation to cover the losses from unused plane tickets then they do for hairy legs.

If this agreement does go through, the costs for the funeral of Mexicana’s foretold death will come out of our taxes.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

The Need for Reform in Mexico’s Congress


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “The Need for Reform in Mexico’s Congress”, published on October 6th, 2010

Here’s a copy of it:


Pedro Ferriz de Con (one of the most influential voices in Mexico’s radio airwaves) and I rarely see eye-to-eye on a number of issues. However, the dire need for a more efficient Mexican Congress seems to place us on somewhat common paths. 

For about a year now, Ferriz de Con has been rallying support for his “intellectual revolution,” a movement mostly focused on eliminating party-list proportional representation in the Mexican Congress.  His plight gained public support in late 2009 and early 2010 when the Juanitas scandal was unveiled. 

For those who have forgotten or did not hear about this, the Juanitas scandal refers to a series of women who ran for Congress last year (through direct and proportional election) only to fill gender equality quotas and then cede their seats to their husbands, siblings and other contacts (all male) soon after. They were called Juanitas as a reference to Rafael Acosta Ángeles “Juanito,” another pseudo politician who ran for representation of the Iztapalapa delegation in Mexico City under the promise that he would give this position to Clara Brugada after the elections.  The difference was that the Juanitas did not make their intentions to resign public until after the elections.

The Juanito and the Juanitas incidents were embarrassing moments in our political history. For a moment, civil society protested by supporting Ferriz de Con’s intentions to oppose proportional representation and inefficient government.  But soon after, people went back to their daily obligations and forgot about these diputada replacements who nobody voted for and who shamefully continue to legislate in today’s Congress.

On September 23, the intellectual revolution got a second boost when Julio Godoy Toscano, a PRD party member wanted by federal authorities for suspected close ties with organized crime, was sworn in as a diputado thanks to a legal technicality (amparo) and the collusion of the PRI and PRD in the Lower House. Presumably, Godoy Toscano hid inside the trunk of a car to get past security at the legislature and take the oath, thus receiving  fuero constitucional—a twisted legal resource that makes diputados, senadores and other publicly elected figures exempt from prosecution. 

Godoy being sworn in is yet another mockery of our political system. Clearly, our congresistas have lost sight of the supposed mission of representing the interests of those who elected them.  Protecting and harboring a suspected criminal by making him a congressman is simply beyond belief, even for Mexico. 

The day after Godoy took the oath, Ferriz turned on the microphone in his 6:45 am show and once again called civil society to join his cause.  He clearly had reasons to keep pushing. Due to popular frustration over Godoy’s antics, the intellectual revolution now has around 3 million supporters nationwide (this number will surely continue to grow).

I agree with Ferriz de Con that at one point in time Congress lost sight of why civil society created it. I also believe that there are too many diputados and senadores and they could do as bad a job as they do now with a Congress half its size. 

But the main problem with Congress is not the proportional electoral system. The real issue has more to do with accountability. There is no real punishment for missing congressional sessions.  No one limits the salary raises they give themselves. Nobody forces congresistas to read (let alone understand) the legislation they vote on. There is no obligatory legal training for diputados or senadores under the excuse that the Congress represents all people (not just the educated elite or the legal profession).

In fact, congresistas don’t even have to hire a legal advisor to help them understand the legal implications of the laws they pass.  This of course, results in a backlog at the Supreme Court of Justice. Justices spend most of their time rendering congressionally-passed laws unconstitutional. This creates a legal system filled with holes for criminals and deviants to navigate through.  Unfortunately there is no failing grade for faulty or useless legislation.

And as long as we cling on to the “effective suffrage, no re-election” ideal from 100-year-old revolution, there is no real incentive for our legislators to change the system and make their role more efficient and useful.

My suggestion for Ferriz: besides trying to get rid of the plurinominales, add these more serious and more relevant challenges to your effort to improve congress and you’ll have one more follower for your intellectual revolution.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Ciudad Juárez’ Silent Cry of Dolores


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “Ciudad Juárez’ Silent Cry of Dolores”, published on September 21st, 2010

Here’s a copy of it:


Mexico celebrated its Bicentennial Independence Day last week by honoring the Grito de Dolores (Cry of Dolores)—Miguel Hidalgo’s call for the people to join him in arms that is re-created across the country every Independence Day.  

On the morning of September 16, 1810, Hidalgo rang out the Dolores bell and after a motivating speech yelled, “¡Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe! ¡Abajo el mal gobierno, ¡Viva Fernando VII!” (Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! Down with bad government! Long live Fernando VII!).  This act, referred to as el grito, is recognized as the beginning of the struggle for autonomy and independence in Mexico.

In present day, the tradition is that at 11:00 pm the President, governors and city mayors each step out to a balcony in a public square, ring out a replica bell and honor the heroes of our independence through a modification of the Cry of Dolores.  Each chant for every hero mentioned is followed by a loud retort from the amassed people in the squares, yelling “Viva!”  In the major cities, these festivities are accompanied by popular concerts, pyrotechnic shows and gatherings of up to millions of people.  

El grito is a manifestation of freedom and joy, and the Bicentennial was geared up to be a huge celebration nationwide.  Though security measures were heightened in access points to public squares and during the ceremonies, most of the country was able to honor this important occasion regally.  However, nine cities in the border state of Chihuahua fell hostage to fear from organized crime and drug cartels and were forced to cancel their celebrations.  The harshest case was Ciudad Juárez, a city in which rule of law has become as plausible as the tooth fairy.  

Known as the most violent city in Mexico, Ciudad Juárez (estimated population 1.4 million) became a ghost town as citizens refrained from public parties and gatherings, too afraid to go out late at night.  In past years ¡Viva Mexico! chants had been yelled in unison by as many as 35,000 congregated in the town square.  Yet escalated violence, peaking with a car bomb two months ago, murders and decapitations, and the appearance of narcomantas (threats presumably from drug cartels, printed in signs and placed in different places in the city) just days before the celebration, were enough reasons for a whole city to decide to stay at home.   

Mayor José Reyes Ferriz, who has repeatedly been a target of public threats from the drug cartels, caved in a couple of days before Independence Day and declared that he would cancel the ceremonial gathering.  Instead, he invited citizens to view the grito through their television sets at home.  

It was a sad scene as Reyes, notably nervous and fearing for his own life, stepped out to a balcony hovering over an empty square.  Sweat pouring down his face and trying to control his trembling, the mayor of Ciudad Juárez whimpered his Vivas without any response other than utter silence.  The only ones present at the 200th anniversary of our independence in Juárez were a dozen soldiers (called in for security purposes) and about 15 neighbors who stepped out to witness the heartbreaking scene.  Fireworks were banned in Ciudad Juárez, under the assumption that people would confuse them with gunshots and bomb explosions.  This was the silent cry of Dolores.

Ironically, just a couple of miles across the border in El Paso, Texas, 7,000 migrants felt safe enough to hold El Grito as Mexican Consul Roberto Rodríguez led them through each of the Vivas.

I asked a person from Juárez (who requested to remain anonymous) how she felt about the way her city had celebrated 200 years of independence.  She said “I love Mexico, but I don’t love it enough to risk my life in order to attend its party.”  She consoled herself by saying, “At least we were able to see the fireworks from across the border.”  

Mexicans hiding or having to go to a neighboring country to commemorate their own independence because they fear for their lives in their homeland… is that what we are celebrating?

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Can anyone live on minimum wage in Mexico?


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “Can anyone live on minimum wage in Mexico?”, published on August 30th, 2010

Here’s a copy of it:


In a quaint coffee shop in the heart of La Condesa  (one of Mexico City’s trendiest neighborhoods), Ana and Ricardo sit down and take a break from their jobs. One of them orders a shot of espresso, the other a soft drink and a muffin. Their bill exceeds 120 pesos ($9.10), excluding tip. After a while, they get up, pay and happily go on their way. 

One block from the café another Mexican, Silvia, mops the floor of a local supermarket and earns minimum wage. A single mother of two she has to make ends meet with 345 pesos ($26.20) a week working six days.

Her story is not an exception.  It is a reality shared by 12 percent of this country’s economically active population.  Another nine percent of our workers earn the sum of two minimum wages, 115 pesos ($8.74) daily.  This creates problems and challenges far greater than what these figures reflect.

In the U.S., the minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour. At 13 pesos to the dollar and an 8-hour workday, this means that a minimum wage employee in the US earns 13 times as much as one in Mexico. Does this tell you a little bit about the risks migrants are willing to face in order to illegally cross the border?

Politicians in Mexico love to relate purchasing power to the price of the tortilla. At current rates, one minimum wage is the equivalent of 6 kilos of tortilla per day. This sounds like a lot (this is why they love to use this figure). I guess politicians expect us to live off of tortillas (and people wonder why our country has one of the worst obesity problems in the world). Unfortunately, though tortillas are cheap, nothing else on the shelf is. If Silvia pays a really low rent, she will blow the rest of her income when she goes to the  supermarket once a week and buys a box of cereal, a carton of milk, a couple of cans of food and a 2 liter bottle of her soft drink of choice. Not nearly enough to feed a family, let alone provide a balanced diet… Wait, don’t forget your tortillas!

The problem does not stop with migration or obesity.   On average, a corner drug pusher in Mexico earns 8,000 pesos ($608) a month. That’s almost six times as much as Silvia. Oh yeah, he doesn’t pay taxes either and works about half of the hours.  He also gets to carry a gun and earn the respect (or fear) of his peers. Schoolchildren in his neighborhood look up to him in ways that will never compare to a person whose work tools are a mop and a bucket.

Now, we tend to think that what will break the poverty cycle is access to higher quality education. Well, let’s look at the costs and aim for the highest quality we can find in the country. In Mexico that would be Tecnológico de Monterrey. At a university level, this institution currently hosts almost 50,000 students nationwide (on more than 30 campuses).  Tuition costs average 72,000 pesos ($5,470) per semester.  If Silvia wanted to put one her kids through this university, she would have to find a way to fully evade taxes and for her and her children to survive without food or shelter. She would also have to work 70 hours a day. 

Following a correct path, if he’s lucky Silvia’s son will have access to a low quality public high school. If he’s really lucky, he will graduate from a public university and maybe start earning  5,000 pesos ($380) per month. Selling marijuana to rich kids is a likelier (and more profitable) career path for him.  Maybe he will turn to stealing, kidnapping or extortion. And can you really blame him for resenting Ana, who nearly spent his mom’s daily income on a muffin?

Without a doubt, high quality education is the key to open many doors. The good news is that Tecnológico de Monterrey and other private institutions are exploring ways to make education more accessible. The bad news is they are not doing it nearly fast or creatively enough.

In the meantime, a revision of this critical figure and the way it is calculated is long overdue. We can no longer determine minimum wage levels based solely on the price of basic goods without taking into account the context we live in and the society we are trying to build. There is a lot more at stake stemming from this than a package of hot tortillas.

In Mexico, Corporations May Be Better Poised to Address Social Concerns


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “In Mexico, Corporations May Be Better Poised to Address Social Concerns”, published on August 18th, 2010.

Here’s a copy of it:


According to Keynesian economics, the state (and specifically government) was created to step in, regulate and control market abuses. The idea was that laissez faire gave profit-seekers the power to sidetrack certain aspects of organized societal living, such as fair distribution of wealth, worker conditions and education so government involvement was necessary to tame the private enterprise beast.

Ironically enough, today in Mexico (and one could argue the world), large companies are making it part of their business strategy to get involved and address those problems in which government has faltered. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is becoming much more efficient than state action and the past 15 to 20 years have seen visionary companies embrace this concept, creating a partnership and bonds with communities that politicians have never been able to nurture.

Large companies like Banamex, Bimbo, CEMEX, Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma, FEMSA, and even Telmex have been setting up ambitious projects and foundations to promote development, alleviate poverty and improve health and welfare. They are also finding a business logic to self-regulation and obtaining efficiencies in their processes that deal with carbon emissions and use of natural resources.

Why does CSR have a better chance of succeeding than government actions? Three key concepts: ongoing concern, a drive for profitability and accountability.

We learn about ongoing concern in accounting classes. It is the idea that for accounting purposes, one should believe that the entity will continue to exist perpetually. Though companies may come and go (after all even business mammoths go bankrupt, think Mexicana de Aviación) they are far more permanent than government administrations at a state and federal level. The fact that Mexico does not have re-elections (or political memory, see my previous post) provides no incentive for specific government administrations to address problems or worry about their reputations in the long run.

If a company is efficient in its use of natural resources, its costs go down. If they are able to project themselves as a company that honestly (and this is key) wants to partner with civil society and cares, their products become more attractive and may even provide better margin. If managed correctly, CSR provides profitability advantages to companies willing to invest themselves in intelligent business strategies. Government administrations on the other hand, seldom seek profitability or even sustainability. Government officials try to find personal profit and many a time they do it in very creative (corrupt) ways, but that’s a topic for another article altogether.

The third key aspect is accountability. Today’s consumers are becoming more and more selective with their brand preferences and in many product categories. Price is no longer the only variable. Even after massive PR campaigns we still remember the child labor stories of a certain shoe company. The Gulf of Mexico crisis is not yet contained and BP is already thinking of changing its corporate branding to try to soften the PR blow. Consumers are making companies accountable for their actions and hitting them where it hurts the most if they do not deliver.

Even in terms of talent attraction, companies must keep in mind that tomorrow’s (even today’s) white collar labor market will choose to approach companies based on their reputation as a respectable entity. It’s easy enough to understand why a company is more concerned in pushing forward the social agenda than government. When was the last time that a Mexican governor or president was effectively held accountable for his shortcomings?

So I say give my taxes to the business mammoths. They’re more likely to put them to better use.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

‘El Peje’ to Run Again in Macondo, Mexico


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “‘El Peje’ to Run Again in Macondo, Mexico”, published on August 5th, 2010.

Here’s a copy of it:


On July 25, Andrés Manuel López Obrador emerged from his long self-imposed silence, took to a stage in the heart of Mexico City and announced his intention to run for president in 2012. It was not unexpected, as ridiculous as his candidacy may seem to many.

Plaza Zócalo was filled with supporters welcoming “El Peje,” as López Obrador is known, and chanting “Es un honor, estar con Obrador” (It’s an honor to support Obrador). Confetti flew, arms raised in unison and slogan-covered signs flourished among a group that, once again, threw their hearts and hope at the once and future candidate.

This scene brings to mind the magical town of Macondo, created by Gabriel García Márquez in Cien años de soledad, where the whole population loses its ability to remember.  And as in the Macondo of Cien años, it seems we in Mexico need our own José Arcadio to figure out how to get the population to remember again.

Radicalism and disappointment with Calderón explain some of the support for Lopez Obradór. But if he has enough support to be considered a presidential hopeful, it is only because our citizens have forgotten the aftermath of the 2006 election. We have forgotten his complete disrespect of democratic processes and of our institutions, the same processes and institutions he now pledges fealty toward in order to have second shot at office.

Those of us who lived through the chaos created by a losing candidate who refused to accept his defeat (even after the Electoral Tribunal’s decision), violently overtook Congress on various occasions, and set up camp in the middle of Mexico City’s most important avenue, with complete disregard to the damage inflicted on both local transit and the general perception of rule of law in Mexico, are seriously worried that this fiend still has a leg to stand on in the 2012 presidential race.

The Mexican José Arcadio also must help the candidate to remember the past. In 2006, during the Convención Nacional Democrática López Obrador named himself the “legitimate President of Mexico” and refused to recognize Felipe Calderón as the actual leader. López Obrador set up a parallel government (in a parallel universe, perhaps) and thanked the nation for giving him the honor to serve. Taking that at face value, López Obrador should not be allowed to run in 2012, since Mexico of course does not have a reelection process.  Moreover, López Obrador’s display and announcement is a clear violation of the electoral procedures (Código Federal de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales, COFIPE), which do not allow proselytism prior to official campaign dates.

Most of us refuse to believe that López Obrador could actually win the next election. Leftist parties will have to choose between Lopez Obrador and Marcelo Ebrard—ironically Ebrard has always been considered Lopez’ protégé—and this division will only strengthen the chances of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s likely candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.

Between the absence of a strong Partido Acción Nacional candidate and the political pattern set in recent state elections, it’s altogether likely that 2012 will end the two term break from PRI’s 70 year rule. Yet again, this country’s memory is short. In the Macondo of Cien años, a swarm of yellow butterflies/flowers symbolizes both irrational and overwhelming love and the concept of death. How fitting that in Mexico yellow is also the color of El Peje’s Partido de la Revolución Democrática.

The United States’ Limited View of the War on Drugs


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “The United States’ Limited View of the War on Drugs”, published on April 6th, 2010.

Here is a copy of it:


It took the deaths of two American citizens and the husband of a diplomatic employee—all tied to the U.S. Consulate inCiudad Juarez—for the Obama administration to apparently take notice ofMexico’s drug problem. Still, it seems that even the rhetoric fromWashington will limit itself as much as it can to address this crisis as long as the bloodshed continues to hit outside ofU.S. national borders.

On March 14all the headlines focused on the targeting of U.S. Consulate employees in the border town ofCiudad Juarez, which has become one of the main stages for drug-related violence in the recent years. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was quick to respond to these attacks in an unusual address on a topic that had been left off the agenda until recently.

It seems that as long as the victims of drug-related violence did not carry U.S.passports, the Obama administration only cared enough to issue petty warnings to American tourists not to visit our country. Yet when Enriquez, Redelffs and Salcido were gunned down President Barack Obama told the world he was outraged and promised a quick response to the issue. Clinton said that “this is a responsibility we must shoulder together” and subsequently made an official visit toMexico 10 days later. There, she met with key officials in Calderón’s administration to work on a joint solution to the problem.

The promise of a shoulder-to-shoulder collaboration on (in this blogger’s view at least) a problem generally created by the most profitable market for the drug trade filledMexico’s hopes. But we were reminded of former Mexican President Porfirio Díaz’ famous quote “Poor Mexico! So far from God, so close to theUnited States.”Clinton’s visit toMexicoturned out to be yet another example of quick and shallow politics to diffuse a media situation, instead of addressing the real problem head-on.

Reminding us of the $1.4 billion investment the U.S. is making over three years in “a thus-far unsuccessful effort to crush cartels who ship $40 billion worth of illegal drugs north each year” Clinton came to Mexico to accept part of the blame of this problem by saying that the U.S. should crack down on gun control. “These criminals are outgunning law enforcement officials […] And since we know that the vast majority, 90 percent of that [weaponry] comes from our country, we’re going to try to stop it from getting there in the first place,” Clinton said. As always, the question ofU.S. consumption was marginally addressed and no specific strategy to decrease it was put on the table.

In a recent interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, President Calderón said that as long as the largest market for these illicit products is not willing to discuss alternative solutions (such as legalization), debate over these strategies in source countries is futile. Both Calderón and Porfirio Díaz’ words hit right on target.

As long as the Obama administration continues to look at the problems brewing south of theU.S.border as something of marginal importance—deeming his attention only when cares enough to cover the death of Americans—Mexicois left alone to deal with this growing hot topic. $1.4 billion and a promise on gun control are just not going to cut it.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Seven Ideas for Defeating Drug-Related Violence in Mexico


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “Seven Ideas for Defeating Drug-Related Violence in Mexico”, published on Feb. 17th, 2010

Here’s a copy of it:


As headlines continue to report a tale of horror, violence and massacre in what had seemed to be a peaceful country, a growing debate stirs on whether or notMexico’s government stands a chance to win the war on drugs.

The general consensus is that President Felipe Calderón has inherited a cancer that the Partido Revolucionario Institucional(PRI regime) had contained through institutionalization of corruption. This is a cancer that former President Vicente Fox was unable to effectively cope with when he took office, ending the PRI’s hold on power. Now Felipe Calderón is trying to get rid of this disease by beating it with a big stick and empowering the military to crack down on criminal organizations such as the Zetas and Beltrán Leyva’s group , but as Ana María Salazar has stated recently, “Mexicans are paying a huge price

Calderón’s war on drugs seems limited if the goal is to effectively address the complex issue of drug-related violence. A recent conversation I had with a group of Thunderbird School of Global Management and Tec de Monterrey postgraduate students proves there are at least seven more ideas that the President should consider incorporating into his strategy:

1. A hard line political and militarily line is needed, but we should recognize this is not the path to a solution. This part of the strategy should be seen as mere containment. Just like the Planarian worms if you try to cut the head off a criminal organization, it will grow back and sometimes even multiply , but you need to keep doing so to prevent the worm from growing stronger.

2. Strengthen the rule of law. Don’t just prosecute dealing. Make possession and consumption outside of tolerance areas punishable by law. Help law enforcement not just by providing better salaries, but by providing the means for officials to get access to credit and health insurance. Bring the police back to your side. Work enforcement and border officials to crack down on arms trading.

3. Accept that the problem is not going to go away entirely. Create drug-use and related industry tolerance zones (relocate casinos and gentleman’s clubs) and tax entry to these areas. Inject the funds allocated though taxation of unhealthy habits into the comprehensive strategy to combat drug-related violence.

4. Create an alliance with the media. Get the national media to understand that its sensationalism is hurting Mexico’s reputation worldwide. Most of Mexicois not facing the level of violence of Ciudad Juarez, but the printed press is making it out to be that way. Responsible, objective coverage is needed to avoid a contagion effect with creative yet less powerful deviants.

5. A comprehensive strategy to strengthen education. This does not relate to the naïve idea that educated people don’t do drugs. However, better schools give children the tools to go out into the world and to have better possibilities of succeeding with an honest job. Investing in education does not just mean a “Don’t do drugs” campaign. It should be seen as a long-term strategy to make it harder for drug dealers to recruit “mules.”

6. Make the economy work for you. Drug consumption inMexicobecame relevant when theU.S.economy dropped and security tightened to the point where profit margins for drug sales plummeted in It will be way more effective to figure out ways to cut their margins inMexicothan it will be to capture or kill a drug leader and wait for the next one to come along.

7. Make it easier for businesses to become your allies. Instead of overtaxing private enterprise, the government should provide incentives to grow. This creates more jobs. People with full-time jobs that are fairly paid have neither the time nor the need to engage in illicit activity. Help business by running an international public relations campaign. Just like he recently did inJapan, Calderón needs to become a better spokesperson and attract foreign direct investment back intoMexico. Volume drops resulting from the recent crisis have temporarily leveled the playing field with regard toChina. This window of opportunity is closing and Calderón needs to act on it now.

Mr. President, you need to be more intelligent and creative than they are.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.


Mexico’s PAN-PRD Alliance


Here’s a link to my AQBlog article “Mexico’s PAN-PRD Alliance”, published on Jan 28th, 2010.

Here’s a copy of it:


Mexican politics are frustratingly fascinating

This seems like a paradox, but then again, so does our history as a modern state. With presidential elections 2.5 years away, unlikely candidates and alliances are already beginning to form. This leaving me wondering if this country has any recollection of the political roads we’ve traveled and the costs they’ve instilled on us.

Let’s retrace our steps for a minute. The Mexican Revolution that started 100 years ago was supposed to set the basis for a system, which would alleviate the poverty gap, provide better worker conditions and at the very least, treat citizens with respect and provide the political rights that people lacked.

But this complex era in Mexican history resulted in what Luis Aboites Aguilar called (in a very politically-correct manner) “a political arrangement which made stability possible in the long term.” Along came the time of the PRIismo, an authoritarian regime with a masked one-party system run by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI). As they had with Diaz, once again Mexicans deposited their trust in a strong presidential figure who fed them with the possibility of a better tomorrow.

Tired of instability and revolt, society happily welcomed a structure that turned huelguistas (protestors) into sindicalistas (organized union advocates). Far from a democracy, this electoral system continuously rigged elections and left the poor-rich divide unattended, replacing it with a constant rhetoric of “institutionalized revolution.” The message during the first decades of PRIismo was “we’re working on it.”

After their 70-year chance at “institutionalizing revolution” a strong opposition led by a right-leaning party (Partido Acción Nacional–PAN) that had been denied access to power at the federal level was able to bring PRIismo to an end. A young (mostly middle class) generation filled with hope rallied behind soon-to-be-President Vicente Fox under the cry of “Sí se puede” (“Yes, we can”). And on July 2, 2000, yes, they did.

But the 2006 election was characterized by a polarized and heated debate between PAN candidate Felipe Calderón Hinojosa and a charismatic left-wing radical, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD). Left and right battled it out. One crying out against “the rich tyrants that oppressed the peoples” and the other promising that development would result from attracting FDI and promoting employment via a partnership with the private sector. Calderón got the job with 35.9 percent of the vote, only 0.58 percent more than López Obrador.

The aftermath of the 2006 election is well-known: López Obrador did not accept the results, labeled Calderón “The spurious president,” set up camp in Mexico City’s Zocalo, and blocked off Paseo de la Reforma (the city’s most important street).

Now there is a new twist in this long-standing political telenovela. The “Yes we can” promise has not produced expected results, leaving Mexicans disillusioned to the point that many believe the next elections will be a landslide. The assumed victor: the PRI.

But how is the incumbent PAN party preparing to avoid this? With the most unlikely (and ridiculous) of alliances. César Nava, national president of PAN has publicly accepted that his party is working on a deal with the PRD to have joint candidates for the upcoming state elections.

The two political parties that were at each other’s throats three years ago, now say “we have some differences, some topics in which we have different views, but those will be left aside.” It seems that the candidates will run under “unity in our conviction to change things.” Change things into what? I guess they’ll cross that bridge when they get to it.

Do the PAN and the PRD believe that Mexicans have forgotten a country under siege after the candidate from one of these parties would not accept the victory of the other one? And for that matter, have all of us forgotten the empty promises made by the PRI for 70 years? Are we now ready to give them another chance at “working on it?”

I am not sure who is lacking political memory, the political parties or the citizens subject to their game. What I am sure of is that the same reasons that brought turmoil to this country a 100 years ago are present and relevant. We are not ready for history to repeat itself.

*Arjan Shahani is a guest blogger to He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.