Conference examines Mexican politics

Students and academics interested in Mexican politics came to Yale from Friday through Sunday to discuss modern political challenges facing the country.

More than 100 students and guests convened at Yale this past weekend for Convergencias, a three-day conference focused on Mexico’s development and growth. The event was coordinated by Yale’s Mexican Student Organization and marked the second time that the University has held the conference, which featured four two-hour panels on issues that affect Mexico’s political climate: health care, government, economy and drug wars.

“We want to bring together students interested in Mexico’s challenges and progress to foster discussion that goes beyond the classroom level and to bring forward the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico,” said Ana del Toro ’13, who co-directed the event. “This year, elections year, is crucial for forging the pathway to a better political system in the country.”

After an opening panel discussed the challenges Mexico faces in having both private and public health care systems, Saturday’s second group of speakers talked about Mexican politics — particularly in light of the 2012 presidential elections that will take place July 1.

Three guest speakers offered their viewpoints about the nation’s political environment and the problems that the four presidential candidates will have to address in their platforms, such as public safety and the ongoing drug war. All three agreed that Mexico has numerous political problems.

Javier Livas, a Mexican lawyer, member of the National Action Party (PAN) and a candidate for the 1993 PAN presidential nomination, said he believes the country’s political issues are internal. He described the government’s executive, legislative and judicial branches as “dysfunctional institutions led by corrupt individuals stepping on citizens’ human rights.” Still, Livas said he is hopeful that the situation can be fixed, adding that he believes the PAN party is the most nation’s most trustworthy political faction.

Isabel Miranda, president of the civil association “Alto al secuestro” and PAN’s current candidate for mayor of Mexico City, also called attention to the problem of safety that plagues the country. Miranda said her son was kidnapped and killed, and that the firsthand experience with violence motivated her to pursue justice by joining the political arena and attempting to fix the “broken political system.”

The third member of the panel, Luis Eduardo Zavala, who is a visiting fellow at Yale and professor at the Mexican university Tec de Monterrey, said he believes the country needs more division of power and should “switch from government to governments.” He criticized the Mexican government for its insufficient citizen representation and rule of law. He added that it is imperative for the Mexican government to inform its citizens of their rights, citing his multiple visits to jails around Mexico and numerous conversations with indigenous people who did not know their rights until they were imprisoned.

“The government needs the capacity for development and implementation of human rights,” Zavala said.

In addition to discussing Mexico’s political situation, the conference also touched upon the country’s economy and the United States’ relations with Mexico, especially with regard to the drug war.

Conference co-directors Lissy Giacoman ’12 and del Toro both said recruiting speakers was the trickiest part of organizing the conference. While speakers approached for the conference were generally interested in attending, many said they could not leave Mexico because of intense politics leading up to the elections, del Toro said. The conference brought in 10 speakers, nine of whom either studied in Mexico or are Mexican.

Ten participants said they enjoyed the conference and found it informative.

Guillermo Zamarripa, who graduated from the New York Institute of Technology in 2009, said attending the conference inspired him to take action and address problems in Mexico.

“Action is the next step, but it comes in many ways,” Zamarripa said.

Convergencias was first hosted at Yale in 2007, but until last weekend had met at the University of Pennsylvania every year since then.

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