Shannon K. O'Neil

Latin America's Moment

O'Neil analyzes developments in Latin America and U.S. relations in the region.

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Reads of the Week: Public Opinion in Mexico and Guatemala, Argentine Elections, and the Fall of “La Barbie”

by Shannon K. O'Neil
September 2, 2011

Argentine President Fernandez waves to supporters after hearing the first results of the nationwide primary election in Buenos Aires (Enrique Maracarian/Courtesy Reuters).

The Pew Research Center released the results of a wide-ranging public opinion poll based on interviews with some 800 Mexicans (the study is part of their larger Global Attitudes Project). It finds strong continued support for military – 83 percent favor their role in the drug war – and for U.S.-Mexico security cooperation, with nearly 3 in 4 Mexicans supporting U.S. training and weapons for national security forces. Calderón, despite an economic recession and ever more bloody drug war, still enjoys the confidence of a majority of Mexicans, with 57% saying they view his political influence in a positive light. While these numbers look bad vis-à-vis past Mexican presidents entering their last term in office, other Western Hemisphere leaders (Barack Obama and Sebastian Piñera, for example) would be quite pleased with such levels of support.

A recent survey of the Guatemalan judiciary, on the other hand, paints rule of law institutions in a much more more troubling light. The Plaza Pública study shows that overall Guatemalans see judges as corrupt, controlled (by vested economic interests and other political elites), and inefficient.

This Cefeidas Group report provides an update on the Argentine elections, where Cristina Fernández de Kirchner looks even more likely to win a second term in the October 23rd election, due in part to the weakness of the opposition.

On a different note, Rolling Stone has an in-depth and well written article about La Barbie, a native Texan who rose to become the top drug kingpin in Acapulco. The behind the scenes narrative of his rise and fall shows why going after kingpins will not, on its own, make Mexico safer.

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