The disappearance of 43 students in the state of Guerrero on 26 September has continued to fuel public outrage about Mexico’s dire security situation. Widespread protests in Guerrero have led to the resignation of its governor and Mexico City has not been spared from turmoil either, indicating discontent with the federal government as well. After being criticised for apparent apathy (it took over a month before he met with the families of the disappeared), President Peña Nieto hopes to regain the initiative with a proposal to abolish municipal police forces in favour of state-level corpses. Indeed, what has particularly triggered public indignation in the disappearance case is the direct involvement of local police with ties to criminal groups.
This highlights the ‘failed state’ nature of the Mexican areas most affected by the ongoing turf wars between rival drug gangs. The southwest of the country has especially suffered in recent months, as evidenced by the Guerrero disappearance case as well as the grave violence between drug gangs and armed vigilante groups in the adjacent state of Michoacán.
Impact on country risk
Though unlikely to trigger mass violence, the public outrage over the students’ disappearance may have real political consequences given the upcoming legislative (and local) elections in July 2015. If the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) loses much support in the Chamber of Deputies, this may complicate decision-making during the three remaining years of Peña Nieto’s presidential term. On the one hand, this seems a likely prospect in light of Peña Nieto’s low approval rating. Along with discontent about insecurity, this is in turn explained by the slow Mexican economy, which is set to grow by a disappointing 2.4% of GDP in 2014 (following a dismal 1.1% in 2013). In this context, the President had hoped for his ambitious reforms (for which he is internationally praised) to bear fruit more rapidly. Instead, the economic outlook has become more uncertain given falling oil prices, even if recovery in the US is good news for Mexico as well. On the other hand, the divided opposition too is suffering from public disenchantment with politics, and may thus fail to take advantage of the PRI’s weakness.
Analyst: Sebastian Vanderlinden, email@example.com