Mexico Domestic Issues

By | March 22, 2021

Police officer in Chapala, Jalisco

Police officer in Chapala, Jalisco

The neoliberal economic reorientation of the 1980’s was generally at the expense of the population: land distribution was declared over, obsolete industry and unproductive agriculture could not compete with cheap foreign products. The steadily growing working population could no longer find permanent jobs. Those who could chose to go to the USA, others opted for illegal business.

The migration of Mexicans and Central and South Americans to the USA through Mexican territory has been an explosive domestic issue with social and economic effects on society and politics since the mid-1990’s. It is estimated that around 260,000 Mexicans and 300,000 Central and South Americans cross the US border each year. The Mexican government has changed migration laws so that people without a residence permit are no longer considered criminals. However, this is often of little help to the migrants. With the aim of getting to the USA, they stay away from the police and authorities, even if they are victims of criminal gangs or drug cartels that abuse or enslave them, for example, to transport drugs across the border. It is not uncommon for the police to be involved in these crimes.

An increasingly sensitive issue in domestic politics is escalating violence and the government’s powerlessness against crimes, which are often caused by the security forces themselves. An example of this that caused a stir internationally is the Ayotzinapa case, in which 43 students disappeared. As a rule, acts of violence go unpunished. The fact that crimes are not punished promotes the spiral of violence.

2018 was an important election year in Mexico, a country located in North America according to transporthint. In addition to the presidency, 3,231 political offices were filled. In the presidential election, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO for short, emerged as the clear winner. MORENA candidate Claudia Sheinbaum was also able to prevail in Mexico City and is now the first woman to hold the office of mayor of the metropolis.

Drug war

Since the late 1990’s, Mexico has developed from a transit country in the drug business from Central and South America to the USA, initially to a producer and finally to a consumer in the last few years. The military operation against the cartels, initiated by then President Calderón immediately after taking office in 2006, led to an escalation of violence with the arrests and killings of drug barons and other actors, without making a solution to the problem any more promising.

The number of cartels is increasing, despite ongoing attempts to split or break them up. The killing of a drug lord is followed by the appointment of a successor. In some coastal ports, in the northern states and on the border with the USA, the cartels are fighting bloody battles for supremacy. If one cartel is weakened, the power of another increases. It is well known that the military and the police often had no choice but to work for the cartels. The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture made grave allegations against all levels of police, military, prosecutors, judges and doctors, as suspects committed appalling torture during arrests have to endure. It cannot be ruled out that some politicians are involved in drug deals. Journalists must fear for their lives if they cover the drug war, drug crime, and political entanglements in business.

According to conservative sources, more than 150,000 people have been murdered since the start of the military offensive against the drug cartels. Human rights organizations, however, estimate the number at over 200,000. In addition to the murdered, there are also the many disappeared. Many of the victims are innocent. Ex-President Calderón once referred to these innocent victims as “collateral damage” to the conflict. Due to the bloody clashes between the police, military and criminals, this statement met with incomprehension in Mexican society. According to the journalist P. Burghardt in his article “The evil spirit of Z-3” in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (October 13/14, 2012 p.8), Mexico is the country with the second largest volume illegal financial flows. Profits from drug, people and company businesses are to be laundered in Europe and the US and invested globally.

Rulers and power groups

The hegemonic position of the PRI throughout the country for over 70 years created a rigid power structure in which the president and governors made all political and socially relevant decisions from the center. The proximity to the management elite guaranteed the best possible deals. Despite the efforts of the government, Mexico has not yet got the resulting non-party corruption under control. To name just one example, mention should be made of corruption at the state oil company PEMEX, which has brought millions, acquaintances or business partners of politicians and officials of the company in the last two terms of government.

To hold an influential position in the political landscape can easily be misused in this system to only stand up for the expansion and maintenance of one’s own position of power, instead of taking on political and social concerns. One example of this was the life leader of the Elba teachers’ union, Esther Gordillo, who tried to establish her own party (PANAL) to improve her negotiating position vis-à-vis the government within the new diversity of parties. The new PRI government saw the powerful woman as an obstacle to introducing administrative reforms in the school system. For the reason she was at the end of February 2013 on charges of embezzlement of 122 million euros arrested and thus pulled out of the political landscape. She was released from prison in 2018.

The links between politics and organized crime, often at the local level, are well known. Local politicians are often forced to work for criminal organizations or to pay them “protection money” so that mayors can carry out their duties without problems, or criminal gangs are ordered by police officers to eliminate uncomfortable opponents.


The last presidential election took place on July 1, 2018. MORENA emerged as the strongest party with its presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador with 53% of the vote. López Obrador left his competitors far behind. Ricardo Anaya, the candidate of the conservative PAN, achieved the second best result with only 22.5% of the vote. The previously ruling PRI party and its candidate José Antonio Meade suffered a major defeat. With 16.4% of the vote, it did worse than ever before in a presidential election.

Andrés López Obrador took office on December 1, 2018.

Important political decisions

The military operation against the drug cartels cost the conservative PAN politically the sympathy of the population. The party, which carried out many but insufficient reforms in two presidencies, was punished with the return of the PRI to power. President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is opposed by intellectuals and many students, was expected to change the strategy regarding military action in the drug conflict. Peña Nieto underscored his government’s intention to minimize direct military confrontation with the drug cartels and instead focus on reducing violence. The government announcement, the death toll due to drug conflicts under the new PRI rule, Mexicans do not take it very seriously because of the terrible reports it reports every day.

At the beginning of 2013, Enrique Peña Nieto presented a reform package (the so-called Pacto por México), the main core of which consists of five strategic axes with 95 topics for modernizing the country (education, telecommunications and financial reform). Despite massive protests, Peña Nieto prevailed with his education reform, which, however, was limited more to breaking up encrusted teacher union structures, to promoting private educational institutions and to mandatory performance assessments for teachers.

The oil monopoly and the energy industry as a whole, some of which were already in private hands, are being privatized (especially oil production). The implementation of the reforms from 2015 onwards allows foreign companies to bid in public tenders and thus enter the Mexican economy, e.g. B. in the oil industry to invest. The break-up of monopolies, such as in the telecommunications and broadcasting industries, is being promoted. Human rights groups warn of restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, as the new law obliges telecommunications companies and internet providers to pass on personal data to national security forces and the national intelligence service.