Analysis Agenda. April 1st, 2013

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The informational lethargy – or at least the low attention on news from a large sector of the population – due to the Holy Week vacational period (for most), has come to an end. In this week, Congress returns with the promise of embarking on the discussion of several pending reforms that, ideally, should be voted before the current regular session ends on April 30. Naturally, the Senate debate on the Telecommunications Act, one of the flagships of the seemingly weakened Pact for Mexico, will stand out. On the other hand, President Peña has signed the decree that guarantees recent amendments on the Amparo Act, whose implications on future political and economic developments in the country will not be small. Certain matters of interest that will be worth analysing are outlined below:

1- The more than 2,800 dead in the emerging six-year term. This Monday, Mexican newspaper La Jornada published in its front page an estimated calculation on murders related to organised crime during the first 4 months of Enrique Peña Nieto’s government. Even though it would be naive to believe that the return of PRI to the Presidency would substantially reduce the violence indexes in the country, there are points that are worth the attention. It is still surprising the absence of a security strategy different from the one of the previous government (except in the field of social communication). What is also striking is the State of Mexico’s current number of murders, having become the number one in the country. Even though Peña’s government could “justify” the alarming numbers of executions by placing the blame on the former administration, how long will that pretext last and until when will the mass media damage control be “effective” ?

2- The sabotage of the educational reform… from the weakness of state governments. After the roadblock of the México-Acapulco highway, right at the beginning of the Holy Week vacational period, teachers of Guerrero were able to bring pressure on their Governor, Ángel Aguirre, as well as the local Congress, in order to consider several of their demands, which are opposed to the recently approved educational reform. Likewise, state of Oaxaca Governor, Gabino Cué, was about to concede similar disposals to appease the local teachers’ belligerance although, in the end, decided to get rid of the problem through the upcoming reform proposals on the General Education Act, trying to avoid legal controversy in the federal framework. What are the responsabilities (and obligations) of the national and local governments in light of these type of conflicts? Will the educational reform be able to support itself and be enforced on the terms in which it was designed?

3- Contracted public transport in Mexico City: mobility or blackmail network? A rate increase in taxis, Metrobus and minibuses, announced last week by the local government, came through several roadblocks, headed mainly by contracted transport operators, who demanded the abovementioned rise as an adjustment due to inflationary pressure on their inputs, particularly, fuel. While the operators’ claims might be justified, it is also true that the everyday user of public transportation doesn’t see any improvements in quality of service. Most of the transport units are in abysmal conditions, its drivers are rude and constantly taking advantage of what little the transit authority can do to exercise traffic regulation. Is a rate increase on an inefficient, dangerous and sometimes, corrupted mobility network justified, then?

4- A “tax reform” before the tax reform. April 1st was the last day for public legal entities to file their tax returns. In this scenario, Mexican newspaper Reforma published that several national companies, such as Liverpool department store or Telefónica phone company, would appeal against a Federal Decree, through which state and local governments had granted the faculty of not charging its bureaucrats with income tax, as a form of stimulus to overcome insolvency and over-indebtedness of many local authorities. Private companies claim an inequitative treatment from the Finance Ministry, by giving fiscal privileges to the public sector and, in the other hand, strenghtening its revenue policymaking with private contributors. Will this have been Peña’s first “tax reform” passed even without Congress approval? Would appeals be enacted before or after changes in this law?

5- Class actions as an instrument of the State. This Monday, it was reported that PROFECO (Federal Consumer Attorney Office) launched a class action lawsuit against undue charging of users by Telmex. In future, any dissatisfied costumer can join the initial request and, given the case, reap the benefits of a ruling in his or her favour. Since 2010, Mexican Constitution specifies the legal concept of class actions as a legal mechanism for the defence of common interests in a single act. Its regulation only dates from August 2011. Besides citizen’s groups of 30 or more persons and not-profit civic organisations, State bodies such as PGR (The Office of the Mexican Attorney-General), COFECO (Federal Competitiveness Comission), CONDUSEF (National Comission to Protect and Defend Financial Serivices Users) and PROFECO possess this faculty. What are the main political implications for the State with this legal instrument? Will there be any risk that individuals may be exposed to abusive decisions from the government?

Antonio De la Cuesta

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