Posts Tagged ‘Mexico’

Jeb Bush, pro-immigration candidate

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Jeb Bush (born 1953) is actively campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination and seeks to distance himself from his brother, former President G W Bush. FT columnist Edward Luce reports live from Chicago, where Jeb Bush delivered his first foreign policy speech.

Jeb Bush knows George W Bush, he was raised with George W Bush and can safely declare that he is no George W Bush. ….

Their personalities could hardly be more different. …. George W happily wore his ignorance on his sleeve. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, is a fluent wonk. ….

If there is a Bush comparison to be made, it is with his father, George H W Bush, whose distaste for the campaign trail was ill disguised. Bush senior never claimed to be the type with whom the voter would want to have a beer. By that measure, Jeb is his father’s son. ….

By emphasising openness to immigration — unprompted and in some detail — Mr Bush made it clear he would not withdraw his welcoming mat to outsiders, even if that cost him votes among conservative voters. On a couple of occasions he even spoke in Spanish. George W once quipped: “Hell, I can barely speak English.” His younger brother, by contrast, seems happy to admit fluency in at least two languages. In that regard, also, Jeb Bush is clearly his own man. [Emphasis added.]

Edward Luce, “New Bush sweeps clean on foreign policy“, Financial Times, 19 February 2015.

Jeb Bush married Columba Garnica Gallo, a Mexican national, in 1974. He met his future wife in León, Mexico, where he was teaching English as a second language.

corruption continues in Mexico

Monday, February 16th, 2015

Corruption and crony capitalism has a long history in Mexico. Sadly, despite many promises, nothing changed with the return of Mexico’s leading political party (the PRI) to power. Mr Luis Videgaray, Mexico’s finance minister, provided an “unusually candid assessment” in a recent interview with the Financial Times. This is surprising since Mr Videgaray most definitely is part of the problem.

[President Enrique] Peña Nieto’s poll ratings are the lowest for any Mexican head of state for 20 years. ….

There has been vehement criticism of the president’s “White House” family mansion and the finance minister’s weekend home on a luxury golf course, as well as the government’s leaden handling of the disappearance and apparent grisly murder of 43 students in the state of Guerrero. ….

While entrenched corruption has long been tolerated in Mexican politics, public patience would appear to have snapped as the scandals have multiplied. ….

But Mr Videgaray refused to blame disgruntled powerful interest groups, which include trade unions and big businesses shaken up by the reforms, for fanning popular discontent. “We need to take responsibility for what we have done and what our challenges are,” he said, while acknowledging this required consistent policy rather than “cute speeches”.

The promise to use fewer words and more deeds was underlined with last week’s arrest of the brother of the former opposition governor of Guerrero, and several former state officials suspected of diverting millions of dollars in public funds.

Jude Webber and John Paul Rathbone, “Mexico urged to rebuild public’s trust“, Financial Times, 17 February 2015.

crossing borders, moving borders

Sunday, January 4th, 2015

In the United States, there exists much discontent today with immigration from Mexico. Few distinguish between ethnic Mexicans who crossed the US/Mexican border, and those who became US residents almost by accident because they happened to live in territory ‘liberated’ by US immigrants or by the US army.

In 1821, following its War of Independence, Mexico decided to welcome non-Spanish, non-Mexican immigrants to a thinly populated northern territory: Texas. The vast majority of the new immigrants came from the United States, and many of them refused to respect Mexican law or customs. The number of immigrants continued to rise, even though Mexico in 1830 prohibited immigration from the United States. By 1834, approximately 30,000 immigrant families overwhelmed 7,800 residents of Mexican descent. Texans revolted openly against Mexican rule, and the territory was annexed formally by the United States in 1844. (For details, see Wikipedia.)

In 1848, following a brief invasion of Mexico by US armed forces, Mexico ceded an additional, larger swath of land to the United States. The vast size of this liberated territory can be appreciated in the map below, published last year by The Economist. As might be expected, the density of ethnic Mexicans is relatively high in areas that once formed part of the Estados Unidos Mexicanos (United Mexican States).

The counties with the highest concentration of Mexicans (as defined by ethnicity, rather than citizenship) overlap closely with the area that belonged to Mexico before the great gringo land-grab of 1848. Some are recent arrivals; others trace their roots to long before the map was redrawn. They didn’t jump the border—it jumped them.

Old Mexico lives on“, The Economist, 1 February 2014.

deporting wetbacks and other undesirables

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

In 2010, there were an estimated 10.8 million undocumented persons living in the United States. Some citizens would like their government to deport all of them. FT columnist Gary Silverman thinks “There is simply no precedent in US history for deporting so many people in one fell swoop”.

The closest we have come in recent decades was probably in 1954, when General Joseph May Swing, commissioner of the US Immigration and Naturalization Service, led a massive round-up of illegal immigrants in Texas. Such were the cultural sensitivities of the time that the effort was named Operation Wetback.

Gary Silverman, “Absorbing immigrants is a national talent”, Financial Times, 22 November 2014 (metered paywall).

According to Wikipedia, “There were 1,078,168 apprehensions made in the first year [1954] of Operation Wetback …. The total number of apprehensions would fall to just 242,608 in 1955, and would continuously decline by year until 1962, when there was a slight rise in apprehended workers. Deported Mexicans faced extreme conditions and were sometimes left in the desert; 88 deported workers died in 112 degree heat in July 1955.”

A reader from Los Angeles writes that Mr Silverman overlooks an earlier, even larger repatriation of ‘Mexicans’, large numbers of whom were US citizens.

There was a period during the end of the Hoover administration and spilling over into FDR’s presidency where millions of Mexicans were deported. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans who were US citizens were also deported in the mass sweeps. …. I find it horrifying that this sordid period in US history is not taught in state schools alongside what was done to Japanese-Americans in the second world war.

Andy Serrano,”Two million repatriated to Mexico over 15 years“, letter to the editor, Financial Times, 28 November 2014.

I would add more history to that supplied by Mr Serrano. US troops invaded Mexico in 1846 and ‘liberated’ the present-day states of California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, and parts of Texas, Colorado, and Wyoming. This vast territory – nearly half of Mexico’s land mass — was ceded to the United States in a treaty signed in 1848 by a defeated government. Most Mexicans living in occupied territories remained and, with the exception of native ‘Indians’, became US citizens, even though they were looked down on as ‘foreign’ by the Anglo population.


For further reading, see Wikipedia, and a 2009 unpublished essay by Craig S. Frame titled “Mexican repatriation: A generation between two borders“. Mr Frame wrote this informative essay while studying for an MA in history at California State University-San Marcos.

Source: via Craig S. Frame (2009).





Source: Craig S. Frame (2009)

voluntary pension contributions in Mexico

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Mexico’s contributory Social Security pension scheme is modelled on the Chilean system of individual, privately managed accounts. Contributions are mandatory for all government employees and for workers in the formal sector of the economy. In 2005 workers in the self-employed/informal-sector were allowed to participate voluntarily, but only 260,000 of the country’s 30 million self-employed/informal workers opened retirement savings accounts. Nearly all these accounts have been inactive at least since 2008.

CONSAR, the Mexican pension regulator, recently announced the results of the first survey on the saving and consumption habits of self-employed/informal-sector workers. The government divides those workers into two groups: The first group comprises professionals who are licensed and work independently—such as doctors, dentists, and lawyers; the second group comprises own-account workers who are in business for themselves and provide products or other types of services. According to the government’s statistical agency, close to 60 percent of the economically active population (nearly 30 million individuals) belong to those categories of workers. The government conducted the survey because since 2005, when the self-employed were first permitted to participate in the individual account program, the take-up rate has been very low, only 260,000 accounts.

The survey covered men and women aged 18–55. Of all survey participants, 60 percent have never had an individual account and 40 percent have an account but have not contributed to that account for at least 6 years. About 30 percent of those surveyed are professional, and the remaining 70 percent are own-account workers; both groups of workers represent a variety of socioeconomic levels. About one-third of the own-account workers have completed secondary education, while nearly all of the professionals are licensed.

United States Social Security Administration (SSA), International Update, October 2014.

Informality explains why Mexico can achieve universal coverage only with non-contributory social pensions.

the explosion of obesity in Mexico

Saturday, October 18th, 2014

A quarter of a century ago, two-thirds of Mexicans were of normal weight, according to official statistics. Now, about a third of the population is clinically obese, and more still are overweight – adding up to a supersized segment of adults second only to the US.

The explosion coincided with Mexicans’ embrace of US fast food alongside their beans and tortillas, plus less exercise – almost a third of children spend four hours a day in front of computer screens, for example – compounding a genetic propensity to accumulate fat, the state health service, IMSS, says.

Jude Webber, “Education and taxation called to arms in Mexico’s obesity fight“, Financial Times, 17 October 2014.

less work and later retirement

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

We’ve got it all wrong, says Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms tycoon and world’s second-richest man: we should be working only three days a week. …. Instead of being able to retire at 50 or 60, he says, we should work until we are older – but take more time off as we do so.

“People are going to have to work for more years, until they are 70 or 75, and just work three days a week – perhaps 11 hours a day,” he told the conference [in Paraguay] ….

“With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life. Having four days [off] would be very important to generate new entertainment activities and other ways of being occupied.”

The 74-year-old self-made magnate believes that such a move would generate a healthier and more productive labour force, while tackling financial challenges linked to longevity. ….

Another of his deep-held beliefs is that education should be rethought. He told the conference … that it should “not be boring, but should be fun” and should teach people “not to memorise but to reason; not to domesticate but to train”. He also called for more vocational training.

Mr Slim, meanwhile, appears to have no plans to retire.

Jude Webber, “Carlos Slim calls for a three-day working week“, Financial Times, 19 July 2014.

This is an idea worth considering! Mr Slim has already begun to implement it in his Mexican telephone company. A collective trade union agreement allows employees with a sufficiently long work history “to retire before they are 50 [so] he has instituted a voluntary scheme allowing such workers to keep working, on full pay, but for only four days a week.”

ageing in the world’s oldest profession

Sunday, June 1st, 2014

A photographic essay (16 slides) of women who live in Casa Xochiquetzal, a shelter for elderly sex workers in Mexico City.

Bénédicte Désrus and Celia Gómez Ramos, “Tough love: An intimate look at Mexico City’s retired (and semi-retired) sex workers“, Salon, 21 April 2014.

Moving towards universal pension coverage in Mexico

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

For the curious, here is the full text of my blog, posted at Pension Watch (HelpAge International)on 15 May 2014. It is a concise summary of Briefing no. 13 (May 2014), downloadable here.

Despite having one of the highest per capita incomes in Latin America, Mexico was a “latecomer” in terms of introducing non-contributory social pensions. This meant that in 2000 only 22% of older Mexicans received income from a pension, and all pensions were contributory. By 2013, thanks to social pensions, coverage had risen to 88%.

The rise in pension coverage began in 2001, with the introduction of a universal pension for residents of Mexico City (the Federal District) aged 70 and older. The pension proved to be extremely popular and the governor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, left office with high satisfaction ratings. He left to campaign for the presidency, vowing to extend his universal pension scheme to the rest of the country. He was the only candidate to support a social pension in the 2006 presidential race. Although the promise of a universal pensions resonated with voters, Mr López narrowly lost to Felipe Calderón, who disliked non-contributory pensions in general, and universal pensions in particular.

Despite President Calderón’s opposition to social pensions, parliamentarians were able to launch the universal 70 y más pension scheme, providing monthly benefits of MX$500 (US$45) for rural residents aged 70 and over. In January 2012 the unthinkable happened – Calderón announced that he was extending the 70 y más scheme to urban Mexico. The target population (rural and urban) increased 75 per cent, to 3.5 million, even though the scheme now excluded those with earnings-related pensions, so was no longer universal.

In the meantime, 17 of Mexico’s 31 states had followed Mexico City’s lead by introducing social pensions on their own. Interestingly, the federal entities that introduced social pensions have little in common in terms of health, education, income or coverage by earnings-related pensions. Sub-national schemes also vary significantly in terms of coverage and benefit level. Interestingly, the only two federal entities to introduce universal pensions were, respectively, the most developed (Federal District) and the least developed (Chiapas).

By 2012 social pensions in Mexico had shifted from a marginal political issue supported by a single political party, to one supported by the presidential candidate of each major party. Enrique Peña Nieto promised to provide a pension to every Mexican from the age of 65. He won the election and, on assuming office, reduced the age of eligibility from 70 to 65 years.

Mexico has moved quickly from limited to near universal pension coverage. By the end of 2014 all resident citizens, and non-citizens with at least 25 years residency, from age 65 are expected to receive some sort of federal pension. This rapid expansion of pension coverage is commendable, but much remains to be done. In early 2014 nearly 1 million older people received no federal pensions, and the social pension of MX$580 (US$44) a month covered only half the cost of food needed for bare subsistence.



Towards universal pension coverage in Mexico

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

HelpAge has published an 8-page briefing on social pensions in Mexico that is now available online.

Until recently, there was no social pension provision in Mexico; all pensions were earnings-related, financed with government subsidies and payroll taxes. Mexico introduced social pensions long after other Latin American countries, and for that reason had pension coverage of only 22 per cent as late as 2000. Just 13 years later, 88 per cent of older people had pensions. Nearly all of this remarkable increase in coverage was due to social pensions: non-contributory benefits, unrelated to employment records.

This briefing chronicles the rise of social pensions in Mexico. First, it summarises the pension system prior to the introduction of social pensions. Then, it describes how Mexico City, 17 of Mexico’s 31 states and the federal government initiated social pensions: a policy eventually supported by all three major political parties. It concludes with suggestions for improvements. [snip]

Continued at the link below:

Larry Willmore. Towards universal pension coverage in Mexico. Pension watch briefing no. 13, HelpAge International, May 2014.