Comparison of Canada and Mexico’s Political Systems

Introduction

Throughout history, we have seen that many countries across the globe are succeeding politically and some are living in a nightmare day by day. Some countries have better political participation, electoral processes, civil liberties, functioning governments, and a political culture. With all of these factors being analyzed, each country is then classified with the following: Full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime, and an authoritarian regime. According to the Democracy Index 2018, the global score for democracy has remained stable for the past 3 years. This shows that for the most part, all the countries with the expectations of some have remained the same politically throughout the years. But why does democracy succeed in some countries and fails in others? In this paper, I will be analyzing Canada’s and Mexico’s political system, civil liberties, policy and governance performance and institutional issues that lead to their success or failure in democracy.

Canada’s History/Political System

The Constitution Act of Canada was first written in 1867(formerly called the British North America Act 1867 and was renamed in 1982 with the patriation of the Canadian constitution to Canada. The constitution defines the system of government that includes the federal structure, its bicameral legislation, judicial system, and its taxation system. Canada has a monarchy in which the Head of State is the monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II. The monarch exercises its power through a Governor-General at the Federal Level. This Governor-General is then advised by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. However, the head of the executive is the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons and is the one that appoints its cabinet members.

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Canada’s political system consist of two chambers with them being the lower chamber and the upper chamber. The lower chamber is the House of Commons, consisting of 308 members known as Members of Parliament. These individuals are elected by the first-past-the-post system in each of their electoral districts and are distributed proportionally to the population of each province and territory. This chamber is more powerful than the upper chamber. In the other hand, the upper chamber is known as the Senate. This chamber consists of 105 members which are appointed by the Governor-General on the Advice of the Prime Minister. There are four major regions with each getting 24 seats, and the nine that remain are then distributed to the smaller regions.

Furthermore, Canada only has five political parties that are currently in legislation being representing: The Liberal Party (Centre and Centre-Left), The Conservative Party (Right of the Political Spectrum), The New Democratic Party (Social Democratic), The Bloc Quebecois, and The Green Party. All of these parties have different ideologies and a different way of working. The Members of Parliament are expected to vote along their party lines otherwise they will have some explaining to do.

Finally, Canada’s Supreme Court is the highest court and has the final saying in any civil, criminal or constitution issue. There are nine members that are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. The justices could serve until the age of 75 and then retire peacefully. Overall, in each of Canada’s provinces there is a court system, but if the issue is not resolved there, then it will come to the Supreme Court which will be having the final saying.

Mexico’s History/Political System

Mexico gained its independence in 1821 and has numerous of constitutions throughout. Mexico’s constitution exemplifies its history and political system. For instance, its longest lasting constitution aside from the one that is currently in place and adopted in 1917 has been the one from 1857-1917. This constitution has 137 articles that defines citizenship, organize the government, mandate land reform, and basic human rights for all Mexicans. The Mexican Constitution reflects those experiences that the Mexican people went through the Revolution. For example, Article 27 of the constitution states that any land that was taken from the people during the Porfiriato had to be returned. Also, Article 123 established an 8-hour workday with a minimum wage and equal pay for equal work for its people. The Mexican constitution set the standards that its own people wanted to live. Even though they had gone through a lot, they wanted to try living a normal life once again with their property and basic rights given to them.

Furthermore, Mexico currently has a Presidential system of government in place with three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The Executive Branch is headed by the President of Mexico, which is the Head of Government, Head of State, and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The President appoints its own cabinet/officers and is responsible for executing the law, but at the same time he has the power to veto any bill that comes to his desk.

The Legislative Branch on the other hand is made up by a bicameral Federal Congress which is divided into the Lower House and the Upper House. Mexico’s Congress makes all of its federal laws, declares war, approves the national budget international treaties, etc. Currently there are 500 deputies in the Lower House with 300 being elected by a majority vote and 200 elected by proportional representation. The Upper House (Senate) is made up of 128 senators with 64 being elected by a majority vote, 32 first runner up, and the final 32 elected by proportional representation.

Also, Mexico has three major political parties with them being the following: The Institutional Revolutionary Party, The National Action Party, and The Party of the Democratic Revolution. Out of the three, The Institutional Revolutionary Party has been the most successful with winning every state governor race until 1989, the most seats in the Chamber of Deputies and in many more elections. All of these parties have their differences, but each one is represented in Mexican politics.

Overall, the Supreme Court is the head of the Mexican judicial system. This is comprised of 11 members who are nominated by the President and with an approval of 2/3 of the Senate. Each member of the court serves for a limit of 15 years or less if the justice reaches the mandatory retirement age. Overall, the Supreme Court’s responsibility is to rule based on the constitutionality of the laws and making sure the people follow the law accordingly.

Canada’s Civil Liberties

To begin with, one of the main reasons why Canada has been very successful in its democracy has been due to the civil liberties. According to the Freedom in the World 2019, Canada received 59/60 when research was conducted in Freedom of Expression and Belief, Associational and Organizational rights, Rule of Law, and in Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights. For instance, Canada’s media are generally free to express what they need to say. All of their journalists are mostly protected from violence and harassment in their work. The Canadian Constitution also protects due process rights, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement to its people. Furthermore, the Canadian government is always on the works to make sure its people are living a very comfortable and safe life. Canada has legalized same sex marriage in 2005 and has made lots of efforts to enforce equal rights and protection for minority groups. Lastly, Canada gives trade unions and business association to operate freely and have discussions in regard to policy.

Mexico’s Civil Liberties

On the other hand, Mexico received a score of 36/60 according to The Freedom in the World 2019. This is one reason why Mexico has a flawed democracy. For example, the security environment for many of the journalists in Mexico is extremely dangerous. Many of these journalists are afraid of publishing their stories because they are afraid that the criminals will come to them and retaliate. Also, Mexico’s government is working on implanting a safe environment for its news coverage personnel, but they are always being harassed and threatened. Another important issue in Mexico are its trade unions. There are so many nontransparent negotiations that occur, which affects the people that are working for these groups. Lastly, the rule of law is one of Mexico’s biggest flaws. For instance, in Mexico’s justice system there is so much corruption happening. The lower courts and law enforcement are used given money under the table, which affects the process. When something has to get done, it is usually delayed or something out of nowhere occurs. There is also a lack of accountability for rights abuses that are committed by those individuals that are doing harm. Lots of these are sent to prison, but in prison is where all the crimes are being organized. Overall, the government of Mexico tries to make a difference, but in reality, there is so much corruption occurring in its government that its own people are paying for the consequences.

Canada’s Policy and Governance Performance

According to the Sustainable Governance Indicators, Canada’s economy has been increasing at a faster speed than it did in the previous years. The government has increased its infrastructure spending and has created a vast majority of jobs for its people. Canada has implemented lots of social policies that has provided a high-quality education for its people, as well as universal health care for everyone. Canada has also provided funding for programs all across the country to help bring that gap of education among indigenous and minority individuals. Another very important thing that has helped Canada on top has been there skilled and competitively government officials. These individuals work tireless in policymaking and have been very transparent with their own people. In the end, Canada’s Parliamentary oversight powers are extremely strong. The people that are working in parliament are always making decisions that are backed up by evidence and close research that whatever will be decided is for the best of the people.

Mexico’s Policy and Governance Performance

Mexico on the other hand, has ranked poorly (#36) according to the Sustainable Governance Indicators. Mexico has had a decline in oil prices and relationship with his biggest ally has not been the best. Trump’s relationship has led Mexico to slowdown in growth, greater inflation and a rising debt. Another big problem is the public spending that is occurring. Mexico’s current debt has increased by more than 10%, bringing lots of problem to its people. Mexico is also fighting in social policies. Education are not the best even though there has been an increase in funding. Also, the quality of health care that is being provided to its people varies depending on your social class. This inequality has made lots of people not care about their health, which brings a huge health crisis to the country. When it comes to governance in Mexico, it falls into the lower middle ranks internationally. Even though the government tries to implement new policies, there are so many roadblocks such as insufficient funding and corruption among the politicians. Lastly, Mexico lacks on informing its citizens about key policies. With this being said, political participation in government is not the best in Mexico. Only those that have an education or are in a stable social class are aware. In the end, the people of Mexico usually set roadblocks themselves because they fear for their lives since the drug cartels are usually monitoring what they are doing. Overall, Mexico democracy is very flawed and seems like policy and governance is not going to be changing anytime soon.

Issues in Canada and Mexico that affects their democracy

Finally, Canada and Mexico do not have not a perfect democracy. According to the Human Rights Watch, Canada is still working on recognizing Indigenous rights and land title. Indigenous people have seen so many inequalities throughout their time in Canada and hope one day this will change. Also, we see in Canada lots of violence against indigenous women. These women have been on the fight to be treated equally and with respect. The government recently announced the implementation of a National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women with the hopes of violence against them to decrease. Lastly, in Canada we have seen records of individuals that have been prosecuted due to their sexuality. Seeing this is definitely disgusting and the Canadian government needs to make a change on this. On the other hand, some key issues in Mexico has been Military Abuses, Disability Rights and Women’s and Girls rights. For example, the military is on a constant fight with drug related violence, but there have been many complaints of alleged abuses by these military personnel. The current president of Mexico has said that Mexico will be changing the constitution, but will this change really happen with all the roadblocks? Also, Mexican laws currently are not protecting individuals with disability in a way that they have not made any progress in giving them all the proper access to justice, legal standing, access to buildings, etc. Lastly, Mexican laws are not protecting women and girls against all domestic and sexual violence that is occurring. The UN has gotten involved because they saw no progress what so ever in the Mexican government. The UN has mandated the states in Mexico to help push for protection towards women and girls because they know they need to get involved, if not things wouldn’t change. Overall, there are issues in both Canada and Mexico that would help their democracy get better than it is currently. As we all know, everything is working progress, but an effort needs to made.

Bibliography

Canada. (2019, June 03). Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/canada

Constitutional history of Canada. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://constitutionnet.org/country/canada-latin-america

Darlington, R. (n.d.). Canadian Political System. Retrieved from http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Canadianpoliticalsystem

Diario Oficial. (n.d.). The Mexican Revolution and the United States in the Collections of the Library of Congress The Constitution of 1917. Retrieved from https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/mexican-revolution-and-the-united-states/constitution-of-1917.html

Diskin, A., Diskin, H., & Hazan, R. Y. (2005). Why Democracies Collapse: The Reasons for Democratic Failure and Success. International Political Science Review,26(3), 291-309. doi:10.1177/0192512105053787

Mexican political system. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://globalmx.sre.gob.mx/index.php/en/democracy-and-rule-of-law/mexican-political-system

MEXICAN POLITICAL SYSTEM – Roger Darlington. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Mexicanpoliticalsystem

Mexico. (2019, May 14). Retrieved from https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2019/mexico

Stiftung, B. (n.d.). Canada. Retrieved from https://www.sgi-network.org/2018/Canada

Stiftung, B. (n.d.). Mexico. Retrieved from https://www.sgi-network.org/2018/Mexico

 

How Mexico’s Past and Future Attempt to Tackle Indigenous and Environmental Concerns

In the face of the Anthropocene: How Mexico’s Past and Future Attempt to Tackle Indigenous and Environmental Concerns

What does society deem essential? What entitlements does society consider every human being should have? Should every human be entitled to things that are indispensable to life such as clean air, potable water, or the very land one has resided on for millennia?  Human rights are multi-disciplinary; they are not the domain of politics or law alone. Through the lens of sociology, anthropology, and science can we begin to answer fundamental questions that the study of human rights poses in new and creative ways.  Different contexts might identify some human rights more critical than others, but the bottom line is that human rights protect the ability of all humans to have agency over their lives.[1]  The environment is something all humans share, which can make it difficult to manage and protect because of competing interests, but a healthy environment is one that benefits all humans and their agency in the long-term, even if it prevents human plans for industry in the short-term.  However, in the midst of a crisis in which the planet is being worn thin because of extraction of resources and creation of contaminants all for the sake of obtaining numerous forms of energy for numerous uses, it is a grand human ambition to be able to discover how to obtain unending energy through sustainable means.[2] Unfortunately, the very people that have been the best stewards of the planet, are the ones that are most affected by its deterioration and least involved in plans to mitigate such concerns.  Mexican indigenous people have been, at times even violently, excluded from participation in the governments of the country, states, and municipalities that they have inadvertently been made a part of and have historically failed to be recognized as an indispensable resource for environmental preservations and protection efforts.  Though the Mexican government has made some (albeit small) advances towards indigenous rights recognition, and a new president promises ecological renewal, not much can be accomplished until indigenous peoples are included and valued as important members of the Mexican community whose presence enriches the diversity of the nation and whose identity promotes the preservation and care of environmental spaces.

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Mexico is comprised of a population of which 15 per cent accounts for indigenous peoples, making it the country in Latin America with the largest population of such.[3] This is a significant portion of a country’s demographic and yet historically, the Mexican government did not include indigenous rights in its constitution.  The constitution promised protection for all its citizens, but indigenous communities were exempted from such protections.[4]  Left politically vulnerable by such an action, indigenous peoples, and their rights, would become traditionally overlooked by the Mexican political systems in place. But if one takes in the account that Mexico is a semi-democracy working towards developing a politically active civil society after nearly seventy years of power under the same governmentally patronising political party, known as PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), it is expected that it would deny indigenous people equal standing under the national constitution.[5]  This is not to say that it was right that Mexico denied people within its jurisdiction the rights and privileges they were entitled to, only that it was understandable why it did. PRI was moderately successful in its hold over the Mexican populace, until this same populace began to recognize the value of governmental reliability and transparency which they found lacking in their own.[6] The year 2000 was ground-breaking as PRI was dethroned for the first time when PAN (National Action Party) won the presidential bid, this occurring just as the countries around the world began to embrace the “environmental agenda.”[7]  With the creation of the INI (National Indigenous Institute) in 1948, Mexico attempted to integrate indigenous people into the Mexican national identity. Unfortunately, this integration proved to be assimilationist and forced many indigenous individuals to forsake their culture because it did not beneficial to accomplishing the economic and political goals that Mexico had in mind.[8] 1992 was a hopeful year as Mexico changed its constitution to include the acknowledgement that it was a culturally plural society. But the words written on the document had no effect on how things were done in practice, and this gesture resulted in no positive changes for the political status of indigenous communities.[9]  One major victory for indigenous people, if it can be procured, is that of representation and participation in ecological protection developments, which unfortunately, Mexico has not been keen to grant.  Environmental impact assessment only became integrated into federal legislation in 1982, but it would only (barely) live up to its name after 1988, when Mexico produced a new environment law LGEEPA (The General Law of Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection), which asserts that projects are required to assess ecological impact both at the level of state and municipality but that that can be done at the discretion of each respective authority.[10]  Though Mexico seems to produce much seemingly legally-binding paperwork which in theory welcomes the involvement of indigenous groups, in reality it does not actually care to pursue indigenous interests. Environmental impact assessment schemes should be established for the reasons conducive to guaranteeing indigenous participation, but Mexico’s version does not include their representation whatsoever. This program does not mitigate the challenges indigenous people experience in trying to participate but failing because of language barriers, the state not recognizing indigenous community rights as autonomous region rights, the lack of ability to manoeuvre the system due to poverty and illiteracy, the lack of access to technology, and the western cultural disdain for traditional wisdom and knowledge of personal ecologies that only the indigenous possess.[11] Because of a history of restrained freedom of speech, press, and association, Mexico today still suffers from a society that is in its nascent stage of learning to be more politically active and an incompetent and disinclined government that does not adequately provide for indigenous communities to integrate politically and customarily fails in actuality to recognize Mexico’s identity as a pluricultural nation due to the richness of culture from these very same indigenous communities.[12]

Mexican history, particularly if it alludes to environmental interests, cannot be told without the inclusion of Zapatista history.  On the very same day that NAFTA was to be implemented in Mexico in 1994, the Mexican government was the target of a war being waged by the Zapatistas.[13] Consisting of indigenous persons from the Mexican state of Chiapas and other non-indigenous supporters, the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) named after Mexican hero Emiliano Zapata because of the ideals he professed during the Mexican revolution, waged war on the federal government for its lack of attention to how NAFTA threatened the interests of indigenous communities. The treaty would particularly put many local farmers out of business because of their inability to compete with cheap American products, thus ridding many local people of their livelihood.[14] The Zapatistas were striving for ten specific requests: “housing, land, employment, food, education, independence, democracy, liberty, justice, and peace.”[15] The war lasted a total of eleven days and took the lives of 300 people before there was an armistice. The San Andres Peace Accords which ordered the Mexican government to entertain indigenous interests, was drafted two years later and embodied many of the interests of the Zapatista movement. The Zapatistas wanted indigenous rights to be equally represented in the country’s constitution and this was granted in 2001 when Mexican congress legislated a bill that would identify Mexico as a pluricultural nation and would grant indigenous peoples autonomous jurisdiction.[16] Though the Mexican government would fail to uphold its end of the promise to the EZLN, the Zapatista revolution was significant for a number of reasons: it ultimately acted as an admonition for other countries with overlooked indigenous populations; it stood as an exemplary model to other indigenous people about the power of revolution and resistance; brought awareness to the Mexican indigenous cause and its suppression by the national government; and it got the Mexican government to admit (at least on paper) that it was indeed a country founded on pluralistic cultures.[17]

Though indigenous populations like those present in Mexico, and throughout Latin America have scarcely been a factor in the cause of global contamination, these same countries hold the most promise in being capable of producing various forms of energy through renewable processes.  Such news is wonderful for a world which is slowly falling victim to the polluting habits of humanity.  But there is reluctance to blindly advocating for such a reality, for the sake that perhaps it would not be fair to place such a responsibility on countries which have had no hand in creating the problem this solution aims to solve. This is a case of neo-liberalistic ideals wanting to materialize whatever way possible versus preserving the ecological integrity of countries unmarred at-large by industrialization and its effects.[18]  There are clear examples in Mexico of what neo-liberalistic industrial practices can inflict on the planet.  Take for example the consequences of colonization in Latin American countries; colonizers whose new-world resource extracting ravages not only created a degradation of ecological proportions, but also resulted in the misery of indigenous people.[19]  More recently (and quite significantly), the establishment of the maquiladora industry, which denotes the business of industrial assembly plants established on both sides of the Mexico and United States border for economic transnational cooperation purposes, has affected the ecology of the Mexican/American borderlands extensively.[20] This industry has been known to engage in illegal and unsafe disposal practices, often discarding raw sewage and contaminated metals into the surrounding ecosystem.[21]  A further threat to ecological health is the result of major flows of population to the borderlands region due to Mexicans wanting to take advantage of a job with the maquiladora business ane the “economic spill over from the United States” which makes the region wealthier than any other in the republic. This large volume of people residing in the borderland region is affecting its ecological makeup, and the Mexican government with both its financial inability and lack of knowledge to create a framework to mitigate it, leaving the region continually vulnerable.[22]  Lastly, the creation of a culture within Mexico that attributes immense social value to owning a car, instead of riding public transportation because it is deemed undignified and a sign of being poor, has caused a surge in car-ownership which then has carelessly contributed to increased pollution and a spike in demand for petrol.[23]  With a situation like this deeming public transportation unsuccessful, there is no incentive for the government to contribute to such plans, despite them being a more eco-friendly option.[24]  Such ecological disasters adequately validate the concerns that humans are having too much of a negative impact on the natural geological processes of the planet.

The Holocene era was the one in which humans “developed as a species,” but its existence is no more due largely because of the negative contributions our species has made.[25] Now we find ourselves living within the Anthropocene period, which is the term used to describe the geological effects humans have caused on the planet due to our modernization, which has been accompanied by a rapid and alarming use of unsustainable resources and a destruction of life throughout the globe.[26]  The Anthropocene, as a new term, has generated a lot of deliberation and study, though the philosophy it inspires has actually been in use for thousands of years. But when scientists, philosophers, social scientists and general contemplators of the relationship between the physical earth and humanity think about the Anthropocene, it will no longer be a question of how the earth affects its inhabitants, but rather the inverse.[27] Such a reality will implicate the need for deep awareness and active contemplation about the implications its likely to express if something is not done to prevent or reverse such a situation.[28]

Indigenous peoples are already there. There is a deep relationship between the indigenous individual and the soil upon which he stands.[29] According to a UN press release on a meeting for indigenous rights, indigenous people are “disproportionately impacted by climate change and systematically targeted for defending their freedoms.”[30]  It is then a deeply iniquitous irony that the very people who have lived on the same land for hundreds or even thousands of years are relegated into a position of not being able to have a say in how their land is used by colonizing forces which only exploit it.[31] Many indigenous populations attribute a vibrant and colourful spiritual meaning to their communities and make political decisions as a unit, which if used through the lens of human rights can prove to be a successful tool for insisting upon collective preservation of their cultural, political, and language rights.[32]  The language of human rights is also useful in joining together ecological developments and human wellbeing.[33] The right to a safe environment should concern all human beings as it addresses the threat of ecological pollution and its effects on humanity which can range from mild sicknesses to lifelong inconveniences  to death.[34] Indigenous Mexicans deserve the ability to involve themselves in national political life without having to compromise their collective cultural rights, but correspondingly, these same people must also be given the freedom to “lead their own project of development and exercise control, to the extent possible, of their own economic, social, and cultural development.”[35] The Mexican government would also benefit from such concessions as indigenous people hold valuable familiarity of their terrain which would benefit the preservation of Mexican regions.[36]

So far, the Mexican government has made some public plans about what it intends to contribute in the fight against climate change.  In the wake of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s (nicknamed AMLO) victory many Mexicans were hopeful for change after six years of disappointments under previous president Enrique Pena Nieto.[37] A month before the election, AMLO in collaboration with an organization by the name of Abre Mas Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes More) released a multi-page pdf infographic entitled “NaturAMLO” charting his plan for ecological maintenance and protection.[38] It emphasizes that work alongside “guardians of the earth” is of profound importance, which if true, holds hopeful promise that AMLO’s administration will include indigenous voices in the process of purifying Mexico’s environment.[39] The document has a section on six different topics: water, biodiversity, climate change, sustainable cities, environmental justice, and protection of coasts, seas, and islands.  Each section has a strategy that outlines what the Mexican government hopes to accomplish for each respective category by 2024.[40] The document was written by a woman named Josefa González-Blanco Ortíz-Mena who is a lawyer and ecologist and will serve as part of AMLO’s cabinet as Secretary of the Environment.[41] Besides the promise of providing clean water to more people, incentivizing cycling and walking programs to reduce pollution, protecting the poor from the ecologically damaging interests of the wealthy, and preserving Mexico’s rich biodiversity for many years to come, AMLO has also pledged to ban fracking, planting nearly two and half million acres of trees to fight against the risks of climate change, endorse sustainable energy methods, and to adhere faithfully to all international climate agreements that Mexico has signed.[42],[43]

But AMLO’s promises are not enough to convince some people, particularly ecologists and climate experts that have expressed sincere doubt about his plans.[44]  Incongruous with his enthusiasm for combatting climate change, AMLO also has plans to build a new oil refinery in order to prevent foreign imports of petroleum from hijacking already elevated petrol prices.[45]  Such a declaration by AMLO makes one’s questionings of his environmental policies justified.  Even Zapatistas are suspicious of AMLO’s ecologically progressive platform, owing their fears to a history with the Mexican government which has often resulted in disappointment and lack of action on promised schemes.[46]  AMLO has not expressed an explicit rejection of NAFTA, and since the creation of the EZLN is because of the group’s collective resistance formed against the treaty, they find this fact to be especially revealing of AMLO’s “radicalness” which they claim is just a pretence.[47] It seems the Zapatistas see AMLO as just another puppet for a neoliberalist agenda. Though the Zapatistas are wary of engaging with mainstream politics because of past betrayals, they entered their own candidate into the elections of 2018.[48]  She is a woman commonly referred to as “Marichuy” whose real name is María de Jesús Patricio Martinez, whose purpose for entering was raise awareness of indigenous matters.[49] If the EZLN were willing to submit a candidate into the supposedly incompetent and hopeless political party system for the sake of cultivated consciousness of indigenous problems, it can be implied that for all the “work” Mexico has attempted to do for this minority, it has not effectively aided the plight of these people. Furthermore, through an investigation conducted by the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, it was discovered that agrarian reform which was meant to settle the issue of land disputes, does not actually offer any solutions for that concern nor does it provide protection of indigenous boundaries nor acknowledgement of indigenous people’s right to organize.[50] It is realistic and helpful for the sake of remaining attentive to human or environmental abuses to recognize insecurities and setbacks within programs or plans that attempt or claim to solve the problem to issues as considerable as abuses to environmental communities or indigenous peoples, but there is also much to look forward to within the field of indigenous and environmental studies.

Latin America and the Caribbean are places on the planet with an incredible ability to produce the world’s most abundant supply of hydroelectric and biofuel energy, with the capacity to be able to produce many more sustainable forms of energy.[51] If Mexico makes any progress towards acknowledging the value of traditional knowledge found within indigenous communities, it will benefit from rural farmers’ understanding of protection efforts and from their resistant and relentless disposition for environmental concern even in the fact of ecological uncertainties.[52] The field of anthropology continues to uncover more and more evidence of the immense knowledge indigenous communities hold regarding how to combat climate change.[53]  Indigenous communities also have the watchful supervision of international organizations, attempting to keep the country’s governments accountable for any oppression or prejudice, such as Andrew Gilmour who is Assistant General Secretary for Human Rights of the United Nations and works toward making sure Mexican national documents implement the rights of indigenous.[54] Also, the UN Expert Mechanism on the rights of Indigenous People has made a recent visit to Mexico because it wanted to keep the government accountable regarding a fresh provision to the Mexican constitution – if programs like this continue to involve themselves in the affairs of countries who tend to neglect indigenous concerns, it might be very helpful for indigenous communities to seek the support of international organizations which can act as an arbiter and accountability partner over rights matters.[55],[56]

Indigenous and environmental rights in Mexico have had a turbulent history. Though they now identify as a pacifist group engaging in practices of peaceful civil disobedience since no resolution has yet to be determined, if it wasn’t for Zapatista activism, perhaps the indigenous groups of Chiapas and Mexico in general, would not have had their plight be brought to awareness throughout the world, thus encouraging other indigenous peoples to fight for their freedom.[57] Colonization and the exploitation of natural resources in the area have unfortunately caused environmental devastation along with historical oppression of indigenous peoples. Most recently, hazardous and careless practices of industry and social norms continue to harm already vulnerable ecosystems and contribute to the planet’s contamination. Because indigenous people maintain a deep connection with the earth, it is imperative that for their sake (and ours too) that we recognize their value as mediators between the planet and ourselves, who happened to be products of modernization which has caused their relegation, coming to a heart-breaking full circle (they have so much good to give when we’ve only given them bad).  Another impetus that pushes us to embrace healthy and appropriate environmental practices is that of the threat that the Anthropocene places in our lives. We should be constantly aware of how our livelihoods affect the geological epochs of our planet. Though the Mexican government has given many reasons to not trust in its reliability, a new party with a new face is worth sticking around and waiting for, despite the historical setbacks. Mexico has big plans for its ecology and indigenous communities are becoming more and more vocal (and recognized) as time goes on. There is hope that with push from international human rights organizations, and the ever-growing threat of climate change looming before us, the appropriate Mexican governments will recognize indigenous rights and give them the resources and power to lead us into a healthy planet.

Bibliography

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Godelmann, Iker Reyes. “The Zapatista Movement: The Fight for Indigenous Rights in Mexico.” Australian Institute of International Affairs. July 30 2014, http://www.internationalaffairs.org.au/news-item/the-zapatista-movement-the-fight-for-indigenous-rights-in-mexico/. (accessed January 1, 2019).

Gonzalez-Blanco Ortiz Mena, Josefa. “NaturAMLO: Mexico Está En La Tierra.” Abre Mas Los Ojos. June 2018. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1wtqDgsYrhY6wIxVo3nRz4ou7qK1JPEOj/view (accessed January 2, 2019)

Howe, Cymene.  “Latin America in the Anthropocene: Energy Transitions and Climate Change Mititgations.” The Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology 20, no. 2 (2015): 231-241.

Nickel, James W. “The Human Right to a Safe Environment: Philosophical Perspectives on Its Scope and Justification.” Yale Journal of International Law 18, no 1 (1993): 281-296.

Olson, Jared. “Zapatistas Maintain Suspicion of Mexico’s President-Elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, “AMLO.”” Pulitzer Center. August 8, 2018, https://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/zapatistas-maintain-suspicion-mexicos-president-elect-andres-manuel-lopez-obrador-amlo. (accessed January 2, 2019)

Palerm, Juan & Carla Aceves “Environmental Impact Assessment in Mexico: an Analysis from a ‘Consolidating Democracy’ Perspective.” Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 22, no.2  (2004): 99-108.

Smith Iyall, Keri E. “Comparing State and International Protections of Indigenous Peoples’ Human Rights.” American Behavioral Scientist 51, no. 12  (2008): 1817-1835.

United Nations, Meetings and Press Releases, Indigenous Peoples Disproportionately Impacted by Climate Change, Systematically Targeted for Defending Freedoms, Speakers Tell Permanent Forum. HR/5389, 18 April 2018, https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/hr5389.doc.htm

Williams Edward J. “The Maquiladora Industry and Environmental Degradation in the United States-Mexico Borderlands,” St. Mary’s Law Journal 27, no. 4 (1996): 765-816.

Mexico’s Relationship with the US

Civic Engagement Research Project

The United States’ diplomatic ties shared with its allies are a crucial aspect of the overall health of our country. Healthy relations with allied countries can be massively beneficial to the countries involved. Issues such as a need for trade, a need for companies to create jobs, a need for military equipment, military protection and even immigration can cause a country to seek the help of a fellow country. The United States is undoubtedly one of the most revered and powerful countries because of our diplomatic strength; our military is one of the strongest in the world, our companies provide jobs overseas, and we provide military assistance to our allies.

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In the economics phenomenon of “supply and demand” the U.S. consumes goods from other countries; and in return other countries consume American goods. Apple, Google and Nike are American owned companies that provide services/goods to people all over the globe and are major players in consumption. This in return gives American power and prestige to our economy. The economical power of these corporations is well known here in the United States and around the world. Another example of American power is our professional sports teams, these teams have followers all over the world, the NFL, NBA, and MLB sports leagues are either the most profitable in terms of revenue (NFL) or among the most profitable sports leagues in the world.

In diplomatic terms, the United States has allies all over the world, but no country shares the closeness in relation to what we share with Mexico. The relationship we have with India for example cannot surpass the importance of the one we have with Mexico, because of our closeness in proximity we take on a different perspective. Not many other countries have such a direct impact on life in the United States like Mexico. Our culture in many cities can best be described as a “hybrid” between Mexican and American culture. Where holidays such as “Dia De Los Muertos” or “Day of the Dead”, a Mexican holiday in which the dead are celebrated and remembered is a common festivity in many American cities. Also, being bilingual in Spanish and English is an extremely common accolade for many Mexican-Americans.

The relationship the United States has with our southern neighbor is extremely crucial for both countries. Our countries depend on each other for many reasons: Economical reasons, consumer goods, labor, political culture and cultural influences, these are just some of the many reasons why our countries rely on each other so heavily. While the United States reaps the benefits no matter where one lives in our country, the border we share with Mexico relies more on a healthy relationship with Mexico, and for obvious reasons. Businesses on the border rely on trade treaties such as NAFTA to ensure their businesses remain profitable, all while maintaining a relationship with Mexican consumers and companies alike.

Our fiscal actions in the United States affect economies worldwide, due to our country’s important role in them. Because of our globalist approach to trade, our grocery stores have mangoes from Mexico, fish from Chile, our shirts from China, televisions, grapes. Anything you can think of, we have it, and chances are it’s because of foreign trade. Trading with Mexico specifically is vital because of the huge presence it has in world economics. It has the 12th largest economy in the world, and part of the reason why it’s so powerful is because of business and trading with the United States.  Mexico is a hotspot for manufacturing companies, often referred to as “maquiladoras” in Spanish, from all over the world and U.S, because of the cheap labor costs these companies have to deal with. Not only is manufacturing a large part of trade between the two neighbors, tourism and fresh produce are also highly desired by the American people. Politics is another major component of the relationship Mexico and the U.S. share, without politics economics cannot be fully implemented nor explained efficiently.

The political atmosphere in the U.S. is felt not only by Americans, but by people from all over the world. Countries keep a close eye on the climate surrounding U.S. politics, what happens politically here in the U.S. creates a worldwide response. Our presidential race is viewed by countless countries and its people, and the aftermath of a president being elected never fails to illicit a response no matter where you live. Even political races, such as gubernatorial and senatorial races are closely viewed, both domestically and foreign-wide. The stakes of politics going a certain direction install some type of emotion from our citizens, our foes and allies; because politics is to be taken seriously, the actions of politicians affect the citizens of a nation on a daily basis.

The senatorial race here in Texas was so closely monitored, not only by Texans, but several news outlets reported that the French, the Japanese and some Middle Eastern countries were biting their nails at the results. Because of the size of Texas’ economy and the importance of the senate race, the world’s eyes were fixated on our political race. Countries that hold hostility toward the U.S. such as North Korea and more specifically, Kim Jong Un, was also reported to be closely monitoring the races. Whether Americans like it or not, or if we agree with it, our political actions here in the United States affect the political and economical climate throughout the world.

Mexico is one of the most attentive countries, concerning American politics. As our policies affect them greatly, whether it be directly or indirectly, our southern neighbor feels the sting or reaps the benefits. Particularly with immigration policies, the United States and Mexico have what it seems to be a “rocky” relationship on the issue at the moment, and have had one in recent years. Though there is a general consensus between the two nations on immigration, illegal or “unprecedented” levels of immigration most often cause uproar here in the United States. Another issue that holds extreme value in U.S. and Mexican border cities is businesses that conduct their work here can get caught in the immediate crosshairs of any policies concerning both countries. The policies enacted by either country affects this relationship, and the relationship we share is one that must remain healthy and fruitful on both ends.

As we have reviewed in class, Mexico is almost like a sibling of the United States. We are bonded not only by our closeness in proximity, but also in diplomatic and societal terms. Our governmental systems are reflective of the other, our cultures are intertwined, and our political actions directly affect each other, and we end up losing more than winning when one of us is hurting. It’s safe to say that both countries are so alike that they almost share the same “DNA”, our countries are no doubt, bonded at the hip.

 The Mexican government follows a very similar government system just like us. They practice a federalist system, which means that power is divided between the state and national government. We have a presidential system, as does Mexico, we have supreme courts, and our Presidents are our “Commander in Chief”. Even our countries share the same name, Mexico’s full country name is “Estados Unidos de Mexico” and in English, “The United States of Mexico.”

As you can tell our countries share many similarities in our governing bodies, even in cultural, societal norms and societal standards, we mirror one another. El Paso for example has an extremely profound Mexican influence in our culture. We are family oriented for the most part, most of us eat more Mexican cuisines than anything else and we are tremendously loyal to our loved ones. These customs are found all over the border, the Mexican influence is a part of our everyday lives and we have embraced it with pride.

The “collaboration”, between these two countries is in fact unique, our politics; not only national politics but local politics affect the well-being of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the U.S. It would not be incorrect to say that politics in American border cities play more of a role in this diplomatic effort than in Washington D.C. Border cities such as El Paso are at the “frontlines” and are more aware of our relationship with Mexico. It would be incredibly difficult to completely wrap ones’ head all the components that surround the friendship El Paso and Juarez share. It is a sophisticated relationship, in simple terms, if the United States and Mexico are siblings, then El Paso and Juarez are twins, when one is affected in say an economical sense, the other feels the sting immediately. 

As most Americans know, communities in the U.S. share a strong sense of community. We love our cities and show pride in all that is good about them, El Paso is no different. El Paso is a perfect example of a strong, close community working together for the greater good of its people. People here are welcoming and friendly, always willing to give a hand to you when you’re down on your luck. While the average person here is really friendly, there are members of our community that exhibit a brand of selflessness that is truly worth admiring.

The selfless members I’m referring to are part of the non-profit organizations and other organizations which aim to help the low-income, homeless and other unfortunate members of society. These organizations serve a wide array of peoples’ needs, from food distribution, to medical assistance, low-income housing, and many other services. If it were not for the goodness in the intentions of these organizations, American cities, border cities specifically, would have more issues with the vulnerable members of their societies. Regardless of where you live in the world there is no perfect place to live, even first-world countries have issues in their cities. In the United States, despite our power and wealth as a country, many cities/towns are plagued with issues that can be described as “regressive”; this is especially true for many border cities.

Community organizations are extremely vital for El Paso and other border cities, because U.S. border cities tend to have many issues. These issues include: large numbers of impoverished families and individuals, high levels of teenage pregnancies and high unemployment. Non-profit-organizations and other sorts of these groups help to remedy these issues as best as they can. Local community organizations attempt to make their presence well known here in El Paso, and more often than not the local community recognizes their efforts and tries their best to give support to these groups, by volunteering or donating money. We El Pasoans for example, are quite involved in our communities, if you were to ask any person on the street if they know about a local non-for profit; chances are they’ll know at least one.

This community organization’s main goal is to eradicate hunger, an issues that still affects many families worldwide and on the borderland. Chronic hunger is something that no child, family or anyone for that matter should endure; thankfully “The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry” is putting a serious hurt in El Paso. This organization strives to tackle hunger one day at a time, their mission as stated on their website is: “Our mission is to give a sense of food security and hope by providing nutritional basics and encouragement to our clients. We work hard to meet the needs of our clients and send them away with a full basket of healthy food.” (About us: Kelly Memorial Food Pantry ) While reading the mission statement, one can certainly tell that they truly care for what they do.

The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry prides itself on feeding the less fortunate, not only do they serve a noble cause, their role in public service in El Paso is impressive. It has the pride of being the largest food pantry in the city; that is an admirable feat, considering that El Paso is Texas’s fourth largest city with a population of roughly 700,000. To put a clearer image of how important The Kelly Memorial is to El Paso, they service around 2,500 families a month, which equates to around 30,000 families yearly.

The next organization I chose is “Project Vida”, this organization provides an array of social services for the low-income members of El Paso. At a first glance, the services page on the Project Vida website seems a bit overwhelming, as they provide many services from health to housing to child development. However, I will be focusing primarily on this organization’s medical assistance to low-income areas in El Paso. In terms of health-care, Project Vida provides health check-ups, dental care, and women’s care, such as breast cancer screening, to name a few of their medical services. Since Project Vida has a large number of services it offers, its goal is to provide great care for El Pasoans in all areas of their services “underrepresented” areas. When I say “underrepresented” I mean a lack of necessities such as clinics in an area, that area is more than likely impoverished. The Project Vida mission statement is rather vague but it speaks volumes of their intentions: “The mission of Project Vida is to identify the comprehensive vision of the community for its future and to develop community-based structures and programs to implement that vision in light of the needs and direction of the wider society.” (What We Do: Project Vida , 2015)

Health issues such as diabetes, plague the Hispanic population on the borderland in upsetting numbers. “People in the border region are at greater risk for diabetes and for developing its complications. The mainly Mexican-American population in the Rio Grande Valley has two to five times as much diabetes as the general population, as well as more severe complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, and amputations.” (Mondragon & Brandon, 2004) Breast cancer is another illness that most people, including those who live in the borderland, don’t know are a serious public health concern in border communities. As Mondragon and Brandon mentioned in their article, most people on the border face these health scares because of their financial situation.

All humans have the international right to migrate when their life is in danger, also known as an “asylum seeker”, their ability to migrate properly is one of the various focuses of the next organization. The “Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center” specializes on supporting immigrants through the legal journey they face. The goal of this organization is to assist as many immigrants as possible, regardless of their personal situation. According to their website, they have helped over 26,000 individuals, that’s a considerable amount considering that El Paso is the second largest port of entry to the United States, San Diego being the largest. Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center plays an important role in not only the community, but also the countless number of immigrant lives.

 Their mission statement is: “Las Americas’ mission is to see this vision realized by providing high quality legal representation to immigrants and by advocating for human rights.” (Our Mission: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center , 2018) Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center helps a wide array of immigrants, from asylum seekers, to crime victims, to battered women, and many other groups of immigrants. The website of Las Americas does not state whether the services are free of charge or of low cost, but we may infer either considering that most of the people they do assist come from impoverished backgrounds.

It was a tough decision to choose which organization I believe is the most effective in its goals. All three seem to be achieving success in their respectable goals, and all have great messages. If I had to choose one of the three organizations for their effectiveness I would have to go with the Kelly Memorial Food pantry. This is because of the number of people that depend on them, servicing as many families as it currently serves is a feat worthy of the publics’ admiration. Also the message the organization conveys about eating healthy eating, not only are they trying to tackle hunger and poor food choices, but they’re also educating.  The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry is also a non-for-profit and at the volume it operates at shows that it truly does play an important role in the public, El Pasoans are able to volunteer and help this organization run at a productive level.

In feeding the less-fortunate the Kelly Memorial Food Pantry only gives healthy food to its clientele. This organization hopes to tackle this form of oppression low-income people face. A serious lack of healthy food alternatives puts this economic class at many disadvantages, meals such as peanut butter sandwiches and vegetables are the healthy alternatives to eating fast food. The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry tackles the issue of hunger and its nutritional value makes this the most effective organization in reaching its goals.  “The overabundance of fast food and lack of access to healthier foods, in turn, have increased African American and Latino communities’ vulnerability to food-related death and disease.” (Freeman, 2007, p. 2) Andrea Freeman includes in her article that fast-food does not only appeal to all members of the lower-income group, but this is especially the case for minorities. She even mentions how important local a local food bank in Oakland, California is to the community’s health: “To counter these circumstances, three community activists founded the People’s Grocery. The Grocery runs a Mobile Market: a truck stocked with fresh organic produce and other healthy products that travels through the neighborhood like a bookmobile or ice-cream truck.” (Freeman, 2007, p. 35)

 Local organizations in El Paso not only have a profound influence on our community, but also in Mexico. This claim is supported by the obvious affect that the United States and El Paso have on Mexican politics. Mexican cities on the border have a tremendous amount of American influence; these cities depend on trade and commerce directly. Mexican citizens come and shop in cities such as El Paso, for items that may not be available in their country, such as name-brand stores. Hotels, restaurants, and other local businesses profit tremendously from Mexican commerce. Mexican consumers come to the U.S. and embrace our capitalist economy, and this alone may affect their political system.

While shopping and consuming items from businesses in the U.S. may affect the Mexican peoples’ approach to capitalism and consumerism, (thus potentially affecting their political system) this is not the only area where we influence Mexican politics. Local organizations such as “The Kelly Memorial Food Pantry”, “Project Vida” and “Las Americas Immigration Advocacy Center” may provide new, innovative ideas for Mexican politics. For example, A food pantry that provides monthly, healthy food can be an interesting option for the Mexican government to subsidize and or promote. Most importantly, an immigration advocacy center is something Mexican politicians/government need to address desperately.

I believe one of my classmates brought up in class that the Mexican government did not have a fully functioning, efficient, asylum program.  Not only does this need to change, but organizations such as the immigration group I mentioned can help “pick up the slack” of the government’s shortcomings’. All migrants, because of international law, have the right to claim asylum in another country due to the dangers they face in their native country. The migrant caravans that are currently waiting for asylum in the United States or in Mexico could receive advice, or legal representation from lawyers, who in this case, are qualified to practice law in Mexico. 

Bibliography

About us: Kelly Memorial Food Pantry . (n.d.). Retrieved from Kelly Memorial Food Pantry : https://www.kellymemorialfoodpantry.com/aboutus

Freeman, A. (2007). Oppression through Poor Nutrition . California Law Review, Inc , 2.

Mondragon, D., & Brandon, J. (2004). To Address Health Disparities on the US-Mexico Border: Advance Human Rights. JSTOR, 182. Retrieved from JSTOR.

Our Mission: Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center . (2018). Retrieved from Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center : http://las-americas.org/about-us/our-mission/

What We Do: Project Vida . (2015). Retrieved from Project Vida : https://www.pvida.net/what-we-do/