Specter of Corruption Looms Over Mexico as NAFTA Talks Get Rolling

MEXICO CITY — Roberto Martin Guerrero Valdez browsed through a newsstand recently in the nation’s capital and saw headlines about bullet-riddled bodies, a narco blockade in the city, looming trade talks and candidates jockeying in advance of their presidential campaigns. He barely shrugged.But when he glanced at a headline about the latest national corruption scandal, the deliveryman and recent victim of armed robbery pointed to the story, pushed the paper aside and walked away in disgust.“That right there is why we can’t move forward as a country,” said Guerrero, 45, who toils in the underground economy like more than half of Mexico’s workforce. “That’s what keeps me up late at night, worried about the future of my sons.”These are crucial times in Mexico. Corruption is so pervasive in Mexico that at least 16 former governors, including those from states bordering Texas, are on the run, under investigation, or in jail. Last month, the country was shook by revelations that the government used sophisticated spyware to monitor an international team of investigators seeking answers in the 2014 disappearance of 43 students following clashes with police.The country will enter talks to renegotiate NAFTA on Wednesday, it will elect a president a year from now, and cartel-related violence has reached a record high. Corruption’s specter hangs over each of those issues. It even reaches into entertainment and futbol. Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department accused singing sensation Julion Alvarez and Rafael Márquez, the captain of Mexico’s national soccer team, of acting as fronts for a drug cartel.The concern is so high that the U.S. government insisted on putting anti-corruption measures on the agenda for the NAFTA renegotiation talks. Trade representatives from the U.S., Mexico and Canada will meet Wednesday in Washington and hold a second meeting in Mexico City in September.Chris Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, praised the call for the anti-corruption measures.“U.S. companies feel at a disadvantage when domestic competitors are using bribes or other practices to facilitate doing business,” he said. “Mexico’s corruption problem creates a bad image for the country, so it’s important that Mexico be seen on the international stage supporting strong anti-corruption accords.”Trade with Mexico generates about 4.9 million jobs in the U.S. Texas exports more than $92 billion worth of goods there, and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the state depend on trade with its southern neighbor. More than 50 Mexican companies operate in Texas, and more than 200 Texas companies in Mexico.More North Texas companies would operate there if accountability measures were effective, said Luisa M. del Rosal, executive director of the Tower Center and Mission Foods Texas-Mexico Center at SMU. Some area companies hesitate to do business in Mexico because of rampant corruption, she said.“The opportunities between Texas and Mexico are limitless, but won’t be tapped to its full potential without the security of strong institutions, an effective rule-of-law,” she said. “Existing conditions have allowed so much trade and investment between our two regions already. Imagine how much more could be done across the border if institutions guaranteed security of investments.”  Continue reading...

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