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Sunday, 17 June 2018

Claudia Sheinbaum will have her work cut out for her as Mexico City's new mayor

La politica es la politica has posted 32 articles - one for each state in Mexico, including Mexico City - in advance of the July 1, 2018, presidential election. For links to all 32 articles, scroll to the bottom of this post.

Mexico City is not only the capital of Mexico, it is also the most populous city in North America. Though the official population is around 9 million, the greater metropolitan area has over 21 million, making it the largest in the Western Hemisphere. On July 1 the city will be electing a mayor – a powerful position of national importance – as well as three federal senators.

According to a survey conducted by Massive Caller, Claudia Sheinbaum, the candidate for the Morena Party-led “Together We Will Make History” coalition appears most likely to win. Alejandra Barrales of the right-left coalition “For Mexico City in Front” is Sheinbaum’s nearest rival, while Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Mikel Arriola is lagging in third place.

This is perhaps not surprising, given that the leading presidential candidate is Andrés Manuel López Obrador (also known simply as “AMLO”), who was mayor of Mexico City from 5 December 2000 to 29 July 2005. AMLO’s tenure is generally seen as a success. He left office with an 84% approval rating and, according to one accounting, kept 80% of the promises he made.

One of the biggest issues in Mexico City is the plan for a new airport. President Enrique Peña Nieto announced the project in 2014, but AMLO claims there are serious flaws in the location due to the fact that the 5,000-hectare site is on what was once Lake Texcoco, and sinking. As a result, to prepare the site deep pilings were installed. As well, due the fact that the runways will experience repeated impact from heavy aircraft, layers of geotextiles and tezontle have had to be laid down.

AMLO initially said he would cancel the $13 billion project, arguing, aside from the poor location, that the financing was riddled with corruption and too expensive. But the project is now well underway, and AMLO has recently softened his tone, saying instead that he wants to open contracts to private concession, thus addressing in part some of the corruption associated with the tendering process, which has favored a small group of business interests with close ties to government.

It was a smart move, as it helped endear him to the larger business community, while also easing some concerns that as a left-leaning candidate he would be averse to private sector involvement. And it not only helps AMLO – it also gives a boost to Claudia Sheinbaum, who if elected mayor will work in concert with AMLO to realize Morena’s polices.

Security is also an issue in this campaign. Mexico City was once considered a dangerous place, but over the twelve-year war on drugs it has emerged relatively unscathed from the drug war – until recently. In 2018, homicides have surged to the worst four month period in 20 years, with 382 intentional homicides between January 1 and the end of April.

The four month figure is 14% higher than the 335 recorded in the same period last year, and 24% higher than the murder rate registered in the first four months of 1998, when there were 309 homicides.
Mexico City: a spike in homicides in first four months of 2018

Mexico City authorities claim that these statistics are not indicative of an outbreak of violence on the streets, as most of murders are not linked to organized crime. However, part of the increase has been due to security operations against retail drug dealing, specifically with gangs active in specific neighborhoods such as the Tláhuac Cartel, Los Rodolfos (in Xochimilco), La Unión de Tepito and La Fuerza Anti-Unión.

In July of last year when the Marines killed the boss of the Tláhuac Cartel, known by the alias “El Ojos,” narco-blockades cropped up in the city. Though this has occurred elsewhere in the country, it was unprecedented in the capital.

To date, it is believed that drug trafficking is limited to storage and sale, and not drug processing. But with a market of over 20 million people, it’s easy to see how the problem could quickly grow out of control. As it stands, a report by the National and Mexico City Citizens’ Observatories claims that retail drug trafficking soared by 113% in the first quarter of 2018.

Guns are a big problem. Though Mexico technically has strict gun control laws, in reality firearms are easy to purchase illegally in Mexico City, explaining in part why guns are responsible for three quarters of all killing. Of the victims, nine out of ten are men.

Mexico City is the media center of Mexico, with the largest broadcasters and newspapers headquartered there. It is perhaps not surprising, then, that it can be a dangerous place for journalists. In Mexico City a total of 27 journalists were murdered in the 20th century and up to the beginning of the drug war in December, 2006. Since then, six more have been killed in the nation's capital.

There is some good news. The Mexico City Attorney General’s office said compared to 2016 that kidnappings fell by 13% in 2017 and extortion decreased by 19.4%. There were 40 reported kidnapping cases last year— fewer than 2016. As well, last year in Mexico City six criminal groups dedicated to extortion were broken up.

The authorities are continuing to take the fight to gangs, keeping the security issue front and center. At the end of March authorities captured a gang leader known simply as “H” or “El Hugo,” who was arrested along with ten other people. The authorities were pleased to announce that the takedown occurred without a shot being fired. The reason might be the overwhelming show of force: around 800 officers were present during the arrests.

The economy is also always an issue in Mexico City, though the capital has such a diverse population it is difficult to tie it with any specific industry. As a rule, the electorate in Mexico City tends to be more progressive, voting for economic policies that favor investments in social services and public transit, though that may be put to the test given that Mexico City’s economy grew by only 2.77% in 2017 – almost two points below the rate achieved in 2016.

Given its immensity, Mexico City faces significant administrative challenges, specifically with regard to infrastructure. This was exemplified recently when close to a million people were left without running water due to a spike in demand from high temperatures, damage to the power grid by high winds, and water diversion for farmers. 390 trucks were needed to deliver emergency water supplies in seven boroughs.

Clearly Claudia Sheinbaum, if she wins, will have her work cut out for her. Not only is the security situation worsening, the city is also recovering from the massive earthquake on 19 September 2017, and it is also facing a looming water shortage. But it appears that the electorate believe that Sheinbaum, a writer and activist with a degree in electrical engineering, is up to the job.


Below are the links to the posts for each state: 


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