This is where AMLO pushes back?!

In mid-November the US Justice Department dropped previously filed drug charges against former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos, paving the way for his return to Mexico.  My first thought upon reading this was, “So this is where AMLO chooses to push back against the United States?

There is no question that the Trump Administration has repeatedly bullied Mexico and that Mexico has implemented policies that got Trump off its back. But this latest role reversal, with Mexico apparently demanding that Cienfuegos be returned is both unusual and jarring.

There is a lot to unpack here and reasons for concern by the citizens of both our countries:

  1. Just a few weeks ago US prosecutors believed they had enough evidence to indict and arrest the former Defense Minister. That should be a matter of concern to both countries. If Cienfuegos is guilty, then we were running our counterdrug efforts with an institution whose leader was in cahoots with the traffickers. This should outrage us all because of how many lives have been lost in both countries to the drug war and to drug consumption.  
  2. How is it possible that Cienfuegos’s case was important enough for US prosecutors to avoid extradition and go straight to detaining the General as he passed through a US airport one month, and then unimportant enough to drop the charges the next.  Clearly, pressure was exerted on the US justice system. It is reported that none other than US Attorney General Barr made the decision to drop the charges. This is not how the U.S. justice system is supposed to work. 
  3. What does it mean for “justice” with respect to the specific charges brought against Cienfuegos? When the case was dropped in US,  it was done in such a way that Mexico “may” pursue charges against the General.  In US legal documents, you always have to watch out for the word “may.” They may. They may not. It is yet to be seen if the Mexican government will attempt to prosecute Cienfuegos.
  4. Why did AMLO decide that the US bullying should stop here? The Mexican president described the General’s arrest as a violation of sovereignty. So, returning a General accused of drug offenses is where Mexico draws the line on national sovereignty? It wasn’t on trade; it wasn’t on the wall; it wasn’t on water; and it certainly wasn’t to help Central American migrants. It was to protect the reputation of the Mexican military.
  5. All of the above points to the power of the military in Mexico and the United States. The prosecution of an accused drug trafficker became a matter of the highest level of national interest. The institution of the Mexican military was not going to be undermined by the United States. And, as I mentioned in a previous column about the arrest of Cienfuegos, the US/Mexico military-to-military relationship is both relatively new and extremely important to the US military.  The relationship itself is something that the US worked hard to establish and does not want undermined. 

Where one chooses to pick battles says a lot about their priorities. AMLO picked drug charges against a General as his line in the sand, and the Trump Administration sent the General home in what looks like an effort to prioritize the bilateral military relationship. 

The citizens of both countries have something to worry about when it comes to civil/military relations.

Previously published by 11/23/20.

The Need for Shared Values

We’ve all seen the street celebrations in the United States. Personally, I’m still waiting for the euphoria that comes with a win. Don’t get me wrong, I’m relieved that the election has been called for president-elect Joe Biden. But I still have this underlying sense of dread. Much of the turmoil that has gripped our nation in recent years, and especially this year, is roiling just beneath the surface in this country.

If this election has taught us anything, it is that the United States is a mess. We are horribly divided. The presidency has been called, but the legal challenges will continue. There is still a pandemic that is daily infecting record numbers of people. Racial frustrations cannot be ignored. And, almost half of U.S. voters think that it is okay for the president to lie about issues big and small.

Four years ago, when Trump won, I felt like I no longer understood the political context in my own country. I wasn’t alone. Dozens of books have been written attempting to explain what’s happening. I did a deep dive into the literature. It has covered the urban/rural divide, disaffected white men, identity politics, the loss of manufacturing jobs, etc.

I’ve gathered a lot of insights from this reading, but I’m not sure that I understand my country any better.

One thing I learned was that in trying to communicate across ideological differences, it doesn’t help to tell, or document for people, how wrong they are. Not surprisingly, “Science is on my side and you are an idiot,” doesn’t get us very far. For people to hear another’s perspective they need to connect at a values level. Once shared values are recognized, people can hear each other.

So, here’s my problem. Half of my fellow Americans support President Trump, who lies constantly and says horrible things about other people. Things that I wouldn’t tolerate coming from a five-year-old.

But let’s give the Trump supporters the benefit of the doubt; maybe they don’t think that lying is okay. Maybe they think that other things matter more – like the economy or ending abortion.

Either way, there is a value gap here that I struggle to surmount.

It is hard for me to imagine that Trump supporters are at home teaching their kids that lying is okay, that they should talk smack about others, and if they lose in sports that they should take their ball and go home, or better yet, contest the loss.

I think that we need to re-establish a sense of shared values. I don’t really know how to do that, but how about this? In 1990, Robert Fulghum wrote a book called, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Here are his top ten (some of which seem useful in a pandemic as well):

1. Share everything

2. Play fair

3. Don’t hit people

4. Put things back where you found them

5. Clean up your own mess

6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours

7. Say you’re sorry when you hurt somebody

8. Wash your hands before you eat

9. Flush.

10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you…”

As we embark on a new administration and winner takes all politics swing to the Democrats, let’s start each day with this list in mind.

First published in 11/9/20

What to Glean from an Arrest

Former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda was arrested at the Los Angeles International airport (LAX) on October 15th on drug and money laundering charges. This arrest concerns me on three levels. 

The most obvious concern, expressed by many, is that a former Minister of Defense is charged with being in cahoots with a drug cartel. The military has been considered the Mexican security body that was the cleanest. They were the go-to institution, the ones you could trust.  

I’ve always questioned this assumption of cleanliness. Think about it. The Mexican military has been eradicating poppies the same parts of the State of Guerrero for the past 50 years. Either eradication is not a constructive strategy, or there is serious corruption going on.  I suspect that both are true.  Anecdotally, I’ve also heard too many stories of corruption and human rights violations in the context of Mexican military counterdrug operations to believe that this institution is purer than the driven snow.

Second, if the former defense minister is guilty of drug charges, how untouchable must he have felt to risk traveling to the United States? He would understand better than most the extensive surveillance efforts that are part of U.S. counterdrug operations. So, either he is: not guilty or thought he was untouchable.  

Why might a defense minister think that he is untouchable in the United States? My guess would be because of the importance to the U.S. of its relationship with the Mexican military. For decades, the U.S. had little contact with the Mexican military.  While the U.S. had military assistance and training programs throughout the hemisphere, it had none with Mexico. That changed under President Ernesto Zedillo, when national interests aligned as he declared drug trafficking to be Mexico’s number one national security concern.

The US/Mexico military relationship is critically important to the United States. I recall a visit to the Northern Command in the years after the establishment of cooperation.  The US personnel I interviewed were almost giddy about the collaboration. For them, it was (and I think still is) critically important to have a close relationship with the armed forces of bordering nations. My view at the time was that the relationship itself became an end in itself, and not a means to an end.  

I don’t know what happened in the case of Cienfuegos, but if guilty, it is not hard to imagine that he felt he had a special relationship with the United States. 

Lastly, why did the Mexican government not seem to know that this arrest was coming? Instead of presenting whatever damning information the U.S. had to the Mexican government and ask them to prosecute, or request extradition, U.S. authorities laid-in-wait for him at LAX. In this case, and a few other recent cases, it seems that that the AMLO administration was not notified that an arrest was coming. One can draw two conclusions. Either the U.S. did not believe that the evidence would be held in confidence, or they did not believe that the government would pursue prosecution. 

I suspect that level of trust between our two nations leaves something to be desired. One of the great tensions in the bi-national pursuit of counterdrug operations has always been information sharing. Information sharing requires trust.

My take-aways from the Cienfuegos arrest are this. If he is guilty: 1) we need to get over the idea that the Mexican military is institutionally clean; 2) there is tremendous arrogance in corruption and idea of a special relationship can be problematic; and 3) whether he is guilty or not: trust between our countries is on the rocks.

First published in 10/27/20

What Does Mexico Want?

As the US presidential election draws near, I keep wondering, “What does Mexico want out of its relationship with the United States?”

Since the beginning of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s administration, the results are consistent. When conflict arises between the two countries, Mexico agrees to what the US demands. Victory is declared by both sides and we all move on.  

This has happened on migration, trade and most recently water.  

It begs the question, what does Mexico want? Or better yet, how does the AMLO government define national interest in the bilateral relationship? The one message that has been clear is that Mexico doesn’t want conflict with the United States – at least not during a Donald Trump administration. Conflict avoidance is not a policy.

God only knows who will win the US presidential election. Pollsters tell us that it is likely to be former Vice President Joe Biden. I’m leery of betting the farm on polling after the 2016 election. Furthermore, there are too many possible scenarios for legal challenges to the election results. Add to that President Trump’s statements already calling into question the results before the election has even happened.

Now I have to take a deep calming breath.

Clearly there is a great deal of uncertainty about the political future of the United States.  That is exactly why Mexico should be laying out its priorities for the US/Mexico relationship. The conflict avoidance policy pursued by the AMLO administration has brought Mexico into alignment with the Trump Administration. This has not gone unnoticed by those in the Biden camp. They see this practice as outlandish, and found AMLO’s trip to Washington in July, mid-pandemic, to be the offensive icing on the cake.

It is one thing to appear coerced into being non-confrontational with Trump, because Mexico has bigger domestic fish to fry and doesn’t need the burden of a confrontation with the United States. It is another thing to have an in-person press event, during both a pandemic and US election season, in which you praise the sitting President, even if it is around the signing of a trade agreement.  

What are Mexico’s priorities for a new administration or a second Trump administration?  Does Mexico want an immigration policy like that defined at the beginning of the AMLO administration, based on respect and opportunity for migrants in Mexican territory? Is Mexico satisfied with being a proxy for US border security? What about the rights of Mexican workers in the United States?  Will Mexico push the US to take serious action against US arms trafficking into Mexico? 

In foreign policy terms, the US election is a challenge for the AMLO administration. It might need to rethink its strategy. A Biden presidency could create the space for Mexico to embrace a set of policies more closely based on Mexico’s national interest, but that interest needs definition. Soon we will see if Mexico forges its own path, or if AMLO’s foreign policy goes down in history as “go along to get along.”

Published in 10/12/20

The Majors List or the Pot Calling the Kettle Black

The US has a hypocritical and downright offensive practice that is part of its national drug policy.  It is called the “Majors List.” Required by law, each year the Administration must publish a list of major drug producing and transiting countries, and then determine whether or not countries are making substantial progress in improving their counter drug efforts. 

The annual presidential determination on the Major’s List was published in mid-September. Twenty-two countries were determined to be major producers or transit countries.  Of those, 17 are in Latin America or the Caribbean. The determination has ten paragraphs addressing specific countries, half of which are dedicated to Mexico. The Mexico section concludes with this warning, “Unless the Mexican government demonstrates substantial progress in the coming year backed by verifiable data, Mexico will be at serious risk of being found to have failed demonstrably to uphold its international drug control commitments.”

If countries are judged not to be trying hard enough, the US must cut off aid to that country, unless the continuation of aid is in the US national security interest. 

Who is trying hard enough is always a political question. This year, Venezuela and Bolivia were found to be wanting, but both were given the national security waiver.  Since the US has recognized Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, they would technically have been cutting off aid, to his government, not the Maduro Administration, which actually controls drug policy. In practical terms that makes no sense. For years the government of Evo Morales in Bolivia rejected US assistance and developed its own rationale for control of coca leaf production as it is traditionally chewed as a mild stimulant, like coffee.  But Morales is no longer president, clearing the way for a Bolivian drug strategy more consistent with the US vision. Not found to be wanting this year is Honduras whose President, Juan Orlando Hernandez, has been credibly linked to drug trafficking and whose brother was convicted in the US of drug trafficking just last year.

Furthermore, this process is the pot (the US) calling the kettle (other Latin American countries) black.

The title of World’s Biggest User is difficult to calculate because it depends on: the drug; the calculation method (per capita or total); the regularity of use (casual vs. lifetime user), etc.  There is no escaping that the United States is high (pun intended) on the list and has a serious illicit drug problem. 

If the US had fewer consumers, production and trafficking in other countries would be reduced. 

What’s the US’s responsibility to countries impacted by its consumption?  How often do we hear about the illicit drug trafficking that happens throughout the United States? It isn’t like all of our users wait at the ports of entry to pick up their drugs. 

Then there is marijuana. While we judge the “progress” other countries are making to stop the trafficking of marijuana, medical marijuana is legal, in some form, in 47 of the US 50 states.  Recreational marijuana is legal in 11 states and another 16 have decriminalized its use.  

If we are going to look rationally at the illicit global drug problem we need to be a lot more honest about the problem and how the illicit businesses constructed around it work. 

For example, how dangerous is the consumption of cannabis compared to legal drugs like alcohol or tobacco?  Should we focus on the drugs causing the most harm? At the moment in the US that would be fentanyl. What about the impact of violence and corruption that accompany illicit businesses?

The Major’s List, based on a theory of change that sees the public shaming and threating and aid cut-off, doesn’t work. It creates diplomatic annoyance and hostility around a problem that can only be addressed through international cooperation. 

If the US keeps the Majors List, I would like to see the countries of Latin America, like Mexico, who are currently being called out, start their own annual evaluation of how successful the United States is in dealing with its own illicit drug problem. That would be fair.

First published in 9/28/20

Diego Luna and the Rare Conversation

During this time of intense political polarization on both sides of the border, Mexican actor Diego Luna’s new show, Pan y Circo, is striking because it shows the viewer what real conversation looks like and reminds us of the importance of being heard.

Each episode is a dinner conversation with curated topics, food and guests. A marvelous chef is highlighted and prepares the meal. The dinner table filled with people, brought together because of their own personal experience with the chosen topic. Luna facilitates, modeling respectful conversation. He asks questions and listens to the discussion. All are heard. Even the chef participates in the conversation. While the discussion can be intense, no one shouts. 

I am not Pollyannaish about how political discourse was done in the past. The polarization being experienced in Mexico and the United States is not historically unique. Nonetheless, we are not in a good place and today’s social media fosters polarization and confirmations our own biases. When you communicate through social media you are talking almost entirely with people who already agree with you – your “friends” on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Your friends, who mostly hold similar beliefs, send you feedback generally confirming your pre-existing biases. It is a self-reinforcing circuit.

Pan y Circo attempts to break this circuit by showing an issue discussed, with time for nuance in hopes of build new understanding.   

In politics there is a phrase, “Where you sit is where you stand.” How you view an issue is shaped by how you experience it. We don’t all come from the same experience. To build understanding, and ultimately more constructive and less polarizing public policy, we need to hear how problems are experienced by others.

I read critiques of the show online to see opinions other than my own. Some found that the perspectives represented on the show were not divergent enough. I know some of those who sat around his table and they do not all agree with each other. But they shared their views in a respectful manner. Having sets of dinner guests screaming at each other would not achieve the goal of better understanding.

An adage in the field of communications is, “It is not what you say, but how you are heard.” We all want to be heard. With Pan y Circo, questions are posed and answers given in a non-hostile environment. It is easier to be heard in an environment of mutual respect.   

This show is about civility, conversation and understanding an issue from someone else’s experience. But, the I think it does more than that. Hearing another’s experience and understanding it in a new way can create empathy. And empathy allows us all to relate to a problem differently and moderate our own views. 

Kudos to Diego Luna for not complaining about the political polarization but attempting to be constructive by bringing us examples of the rare conversation.

This column was first published in 9/14/20

The Hemisphere Needs Mexico to Hold Steady

Mexico has a defining role to play in the upcoming election of a new president for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). Mexico will be key in determining if the bank falls under the control of Donald Trump’s nominee for the foreseeable future.

The Bank is slated to elect a new leader in September when the current president, Luis Alberto Moreno ends his five-year term (he has served 3 terms). Established in 1960, the IDB has chosen its leadership under an unwritten rule. While the Bank would be located in Washington, DC, the president would be a Latin American. In the international banking work, the International Monetary Fund is run by a European, the World Bank by someone from the US and the regional banks, like the IDB, by someone from that region.

Bank watchers were stunned in June when President Trump broke with tradition and nominated Mauricio Claver-Carone, his Latin America National Security Adviser, as a candidate for the IDB’s top job. The precedent and the candidate are reasons for concern. Claver-Carone has been at the center of a decidedly unilateral approach to Latin America policy, the execution of “America First” on the regional scale. Remember the Trump administration’s aid cut-off to Central America to make countries stop migration, tariff threats against Mexico with the same goal, and unilateral sanctions against Venezuela?

The next IDB president will be chosen by the Board of Governors in an election expected to take place at the September board meeting. The weighted formula for calculating the winner is based on shareholder proportionality as well as a majority of the borrowing countries. The US is the largest contributor to the Bank and holds 30% of the shares, giving Claver-Carone a strong starting place. Additionally, Brazil and Colombia have agreed to back Trump’s candidate. This is a nail biter. The US is reportedly close to having the votes needed to win; but there are two other candidates, former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Argentina’s Secretary for Strategic Affairs Gustavo Béliz. 

The logic of electing a man who has been at the right hand of Trump, just two months before a U.S. election that Trump might lose, is being called into question. If Claver-Carone is elected, he would serve for five years, potentially through a Democratic administration in the U.S.  That sets up potentially serious conflict between bank leadership and the U.S. government at a time when Latin American countries need funds to deal with the impact of Covid-19, and the Bank needs a capital replenishment. 

Argentina and Costa Rica support a delay and other countries are now quietly positioning in support of the same. The vote is a delicate subject in the diplomatic world. Politely, yet encouragingly, Mexico’s finance ministry recently said that the election should wait “until conditions were right.”

The IDB vote is a short-term/long-term test for the AMLO administration. As the date for the IDB election gets closer, pressure from the U.S. will no doubt grow for Mexico to back Trump’s candidate. Mexico needs to play the long game. If U.S. voters send Trump packing in November, why leave his man in charge of the IDB for the next five years?  That’s just asking for trouble. 

Let’s hope that Mexico holds steady, continues to support a brief delay in the vote, and ensure that the IDB remains under Latin American leadership.

Published in 8/17/20

How to think about the future?

How to think about the future?  This is a question I’m struggling with during the pandemic. 

The future seems on hold. While logic tells us that there will be a vaccine and the Covid-19 pandemic will end, it doesn’t feel that way right now.  With each passing month, I understand the impact of this pandemic in a different way.  In March, I thought that we would all stay home for a few months and the economic impact would be manageable. I got out the board games and we sort of acted like we do when a big snowstorm passes through – hunker down, ride it out. 

By June, I thought we just needed to get through the summer. The virus would calm down, some speculated that the schools would not re-open in the fall, but that seemed unlikely. Businesses began to reopen, but the unemployment rate in the US continued to rise. Then the coronavirus cases began to rise as well.

Now it is the beginning of August. The virus is not under control in U.S. or in Mexico.  Too many people have ignored public health rules about social distancing and mask wearing or not followed quarantine requirements as instructed. Others continue to work without proper protection because they have no option. We have become tolerant of the new death tolls.  The U.S. is now over 150,000 and projections are made about when the toll will hit 200,000 soon, a number that seemed outrageous in March. Mexico reports 48,000 dead.

Amidst so much uncertainty about the future, I keep thinking about what we know. We know that until there is a vaccine, or better public health controls on human activity, the death toll will continue to rise.  We know that the impact of the virus is higher on the poor and that in the US, poverty and race walk together.

We know that when we come out at the other end of Covid-19, those who have suffered most will be those who were already the most vulnerable in our societies. According to the UN’s regional economic analysis body, ECLAC, the number of people living in poverty will increase by 45.4 million. This is truly sad as the region had made impressive strides in reducing poverty and inequality over the past two decades.  In Mexico, the poverty rate is expected to increase by 7.6% in one year. The Urban Institute, which does economic and policy analysis in the U.S., estimates that the poverty rate in 2020 will vary between 8.9% and 11.9%, depending on whether or not Congress approves pending economic supports.

I now understand that our lives will not change, or should not change, until there is a vaccine and likely for a good while after that.  While back in March health officials told us that, I couldn’t hear it.  

It is hard to think about the future right now, but as individuals and nations, we need to respond to what we know. People around us are both dying and sliding into poverty at alarming rates. We know that those out of work need support. We know that recovery will take a long time. We know that we can slow the impact of this virus if we act responsibly wearing masks, social distancing and listening to public health officials.

This column was first published on, 8/3/20

Kick the Can

Originally published by El Faro

There are definitely times when no action is the best action. The current conundrum created by the United States’ unprecedented nomination of its own candidate for the Presidency of the Inter-American Development Bank is a problem that falls into this category.

There are definitely times when no action is the best action. The current conundrum created by the United States’ unprecedented nomination of its own candidate for the Presidency of the Inter-American Development Bank is a problem that falls into this category.

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is poised for a leadership transition. The bank’s current president, Luis Alberto Moreno, has served three five-year terms.  His current term ends in October and competition for the soon to be vacant position is well underway.

Early in 2020, a number of names were being discussed as possible candidates.  However, in recent weeks the field has narrowed dramatically as the United States has surprised many by flaunting tradition and proposing its own candidate, Mauricio Claver-Carone. Aside from Claver-Carone, who has already cornered commitments from a number of countries, including Brazil, the other candidates are former Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Argentina’s Secretary for Strategic Affairs, Gustavo Béliz, who spent almost 15 years at the Bank.

Since its inception in 1960, IDB leadership has been selected under an unwritten understanding. The Bank would be located in Washington but led by a Latin American. The number two position would be held by someone from the United States. Furthermore, since a representative of the United States serves as the President of the World Bank, regional banks have always been led by someone from their respective regions.

This is a key moment for the IDB. The global COVID-19 crisis has hit Latin America hard. Governments must provide urgently needed financial support to guarantee access to public health institutions, food, and other aid to those who have lost work, as well as help for businesses struggling to survive — all of this while the COVID-driven loss of economic activity has dramatically reduced the government’s normal revenue. Countries need money fast, and the bank is stretched by new requests. 

This is also a key moment because the bank will need its first capital increase in a decade. In recent years, the United States has not supported attempts to provide new funds.  

President Trump’s nomination of Claver-Carone on June 16th was controversial not only because it breaks with tradition, but because of the nominee himself. 

Mauricio Claver-Carone has been the U.S. Deputy National Security advisor overseeing the reversal of the Obama Administration’s opening toward Cuba and leading U.S. sanctions policy against Venezuela, both decidedly unilateral approaches. He also has experience in financial institutions having served as U.S. Executive Director at the IMF and in posts at the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Claver-Carone’s supporters believe he could shepherd a capital increase for the bank. Since the United States has impeded previous increases, picking their candidate might eliminate that problem. But this scenario would only go smoothly if President Trump is re-elected.

If elected at the September board meeting, the new IDB president would begin service in October, just a month before the U.S. election. If Joe Biden wins the U.S. presidency, the Bank’s leadership would be set for a complicated relationship with the new administration, and the new IDB president would serve through the entire term of Biden’s potential presidency. 

Furthermore, the new U.S. president does not unilaterally decide what new funds will be provided to the IDB — that requires Congress. Senator Patrick Leahy, of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee (which would have to approve any capital increase), made this unusual statement on June 26th, after Claver-Carone’s nomination:

As someone who has supported the IDB for decades, including at times when amendments were proposed to eliminate or reduce the U.S. contribution, it is important to be aware that this nomination could jeopardize United States support for, and cooperation with, that institution. Further, if the U.S. Treasury Department and other IDB shareholders believe this nominee will help to build support for a capital increase for the Bank in the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, of which I am Vice Chairman, Mr. Claver-Carone is the wrong nominee to make the case for such an increase.

What does this election mean for Central America? Central America knows what the politicization of financial processes looks like. It was the Trump Administration, under the advice of Claver-Carone, that slashed aid to the Northern Triangle countries, not because of corruption or for other fiscal reasons, but because it wanted to stop immigration to the United States. Now imagine that kind of leadership and manipulation at the head of the IDB. If we have learned anything from the Trump Administration, it is that it holds fast to its motto, “America First.”

Now imagine what the bank might look like with a different kind of leader, say a woman, a former President of Costa Rica, a country respected for its fiscal management and equitable economic development. That would present a very different vision for the Bank and for Central America.

The nominating process formally begins on July 27. The new IDB president will be chosen by the Board of Governors in an election expected to take place during the September board meeting. The rather complicated formula for calculating the winner is based on shareholding proportionality as well as a majority of the borrowing countries. 

There are things that can be done to keep the Claver-Carone power play by the United States from becoming a fait accompli.  Those countries opposed could come together behind one candidate, instead of the current two. As it is, votes would be split.  

The best outcome would probably be to wait. Without a quorum, there is no vote.  If there is no vote there is no new President. President Moreno retires in October. Why not wait and see the outcome of the November U.S. election, instead of potentially setting up the bank for years of conflict with its largest donor? The IDB is a solid institution that could operate without a president for a few months. In other words: kick-the-can.

A Path Beyond the “Historic Truth” – Ayotzinapa

It seems inexplicable that 43 young people disappear one night in the state of Guerrero in September 2014, and we still do not know what happened to them. But we are getting closer to the truth about this mass disappearance -known as the Ayotzinapa Case- because a solid investigation is finally underway.

The first investigation concluded that the young people, who had commandeered buses to take them to a protest in the southern city of Iguala, were captured by local police and turned over to a local drug gang. Burned human remains were found in a nearby trash dump in the town of Cocula, where the victims were supposedly cremated and their remains thrown in a nearby river. Only one victim was identified. Officials called these findings the “historic truth.” For them it was a closed case.

But the case was not closed in the minds of the victims’ families. The International Group of Experts (IGEI) a team of renowned judges, prosecutors and investigators under the auspices of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) raised serious questions about the government’s conclusion of the investigation. The IGEI found that suspects had been tortured prior to providing information, that evidence had been mishandled, and that important lines of investigation had not been pursued.

Hope that more would be learned surfaced when the AMLO Administration named Omar Gómez Trejo special prosecutor and head of a special investigative unit to pursue the case in June 2019. An attorney and human rights expert, Gómez Trejo had served as the executive secretary of the IGEI.

Reinvestigation of the case is now under way. An arrest warrant has been issued for Tomás Zerón, former head of criminal investigations in the Mexican Attorney General’s office who was in charge of the original investigation. The warrant charges him with torture, judicial misconduct and forced disappearance in relation to this case. He is suspected of having fled to Canada and extradition has been requested.

Earlier this month, one more victim was identified, Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre. His remains were not found in the Cocula trash dump, but about half a mile away. This new identification coming from a different location confirms a new line of investigation.

Both independence, scrutiny and political will are key to uncovering the truth. There appears to be the political will to get to the bottom of the case as AMLO has made a personal commitment to the families and followed through by appointing the Special Prosecutor and providing appropriate staffing. The Special Prosecutor is a person uniquely qualified for this job. To assure quality and oversight, the case is being accompanied by a number of national and international groups, including the globally respected Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, most of the original members of the IGEI, the Centro Prodh human rights group who is the legal representative of the families, and Tlachinollan a human rights center in the state of Guerrero that has accompanied the victims’ families from the beginning.

This is a difficult case, made more difficult by the original investigation, the political interests surrounding it, and all the time that has passed.

It has been almost six years since the 43 went missing. The families want the truth about what happened that night and they have remained steadfast in their demand for it. The identification of Christian Alfonso Rodríguez Telumbre demonstrates that there is more that can be learned and has hopefully revealed a new path forward.