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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  August 8, 2015 4:00am-6:01am EDT

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of service for a sentence. what that meant was for inmates that were the least dangerous, presumably had low sentences, they couldn't get released because they hadn't served a long period of time. that seemed odd to us. >> so that's something we should really take a look at. >> right. >> thank you. i don't want to go too much over time. senator ayotte. >> thank you, chairman. director samuels, i want to ask you about a particular prison in my state that's important especially it's in coosk county, fci burrland. and i wanted to ask about what the status is of staffing at that facility. warden tatum has indicated the facility was staffed at about 290 and there were about 1200 incarcerated individuals there. can you give me an update on levels and also what the ultimate goal is for capacity there and staffing? >> yes. thank you, senator. right now with the planned-for
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continued activation of the facility we are working very, very closely with the warden staff there to ensure our recruitment efforts remain on target, and we're also ensuring that as we build a population, that we're making sure that the inmate to staff ratio is where it needs to be so we don't have more inmates in a facility until we're very comfortable with the number of staff that we have at the facility. and this is continuing to progress. i know there was a concern at one period of time where the applicant pool was not necessarily where we would like it. but with it the recruitment efforts, we're starting to see that we have a very good pool for hiring individuals to work at the facility. >> so one follow-up i wanted on the applicant pool. this is an area of our state where people are always looking for more jobs. and so to get people from the area that have strong backgrounds, one of the issues that's been a challenge is the 37-year-old age restriction. and has the bureau of prison
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actually re-examined this? i know i've previously written the bureau of prison on this issue. but it's important that my constituents have an opportunity that live in the area to work there. >> yes, thank you again, senator. our focus is to make sure we are aggressively hiring from the local community as well as looking at veterans. and we do have the ability for individuals who are applying, who have served, to make waiver -- to grant waivers. and we are in the process of doing that. >> well, that's very good to know and i appreciate your prioritizing hiring people from the community. i know they're anxious and would would like opportunities to work there as well as our veterans. so i really appreciate your doing that. and i think you'll find that they are a really dedicated group of people in the area. so thank you for that. i wanted to follow up on the prior panel, there was quite a bit of discussion and criticism, actually, on the re-entry
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program piece from the bureau of prison and the commitment toward where we are when someone has finished their time and putting forward successful programs and path to success which i'm interested because with our recidivism rate it costs us a lot financially and also to the individual, to the quality of life, that the person has an opportunity to set a new start if there's not a good system in place for success. so i wanted to get your comments on what you heard in the prior panel on this issue. >> thank you, again, senator. and i again will say to everyone that re-entry is one of the most important parts of our mission. along with safety and security of our facilities. and the expectation bureau-wide is for all staff, all of the men and women who work to the bureau of prisons, to have an active role in re-entry efforts.
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on any given day in the bureau of prisons for education, we have more than 52,000 inmates who are participating in education. we have more than 12,000 individuals actively participating in our federal prisons industry program, which is our largest recidivism program in the bureau of prisons. those who participate are 24% less likely to be involved in coming back to prison. and for vocational training, more than 10,000 inmates are participating. and for those who participate compared to those who are not, the recidivism reduction is 33%. and you all are very familiar with our residential drug abuse program, and we also have our nonresidential programs as well. and we are very very adamant in ensuring that these programs are provided to all inmates within our population to have them involved for a number of reasons.
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it is safer to manage prisons when inmates are actively involved, and we are definitely trying to do our part to ensure that for recidivism reduction in this nation that we are taking the leap. for the number of individuals who come into the bureau of prisons, despite all of the challenges and the fig united airlines that you're hearing, the men and women in the bureau of prisons do an amazing job. when you look at the specific numbers relative to recidivism, with the federal prison we have 80% who do not return to the federal system. 80%. now, we have that 20% who eventually end up in state and local. we have always known that the overall recidivism for the federal system is 40%. the 20% that return to the bureau and the 20% that go into the state systems. and i would just also add that when you look at the bureau of prisons, and there is a study that has been done that for the state correctional systems, and
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it's 30-plus. when you look at the overall average of recidivism it is 67%. so i would still say that we have a lot of work to do. i mean, the goal is to have 100% individuals never returning. but as i've already stated for the record, the amount of growth that has occurred over that time period, we are very limited with our staffing. but it does not remove us from the commitment to our mission. if our staffing had kept pace with the growth over the years, i do believe that i would be sitting here reporting that the 80% would have been much higher. >> so i want to give the inspector general an opportunity to comment on how you think we're doing on re-entry and any work that you've done on that. >> we're actually, senator, in a middle of a review of the re-entry programs and the use of re-entry in the middle of field work going to those institutions to look at those education
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programs, because of the concerns we'd heard. so i can't give you a report yet out on it. i think we'll have something later in the year for you to look at. but it is a significant concern. one of the issues, i'll just pick up on what director samuels said about staffing, that is a significant issue. that's a significant safety issue, security issue. re-entry. because what you see is, first of all, by most accounts, the federal staffing ratio of inmate to staff is worse than many of the state systems, what they have. and that's been exacerbated over time as the prison population has grown. there is a cascading effect of that. the director and the staff have to pull people out of other programs to do correctional work that they can't be doing some of the other programs we're all talking about. and so that i think is lost sometimes and something certainly we're looking at right now is that cascading effect. if you understaff the prisons the director has to first and
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foremost make sure the prisons are safe. >> i hope when you issue this report that you'll also give us guidance on what the models are. what are the best models for re-entry re-entry? if we're going to invest resources to create a better path for people so we can reduce the recidivism rate i think your recommendations on the piece of what's working best where we should invest resources, would be really helpful. thank you. >> thanks senator. i would note that apparently 10,000 out of the 210,000 population participating in that re-entry program can you quick describe, why both of you? i mean, it sounds like a very successful program. i mean why aren't more people engaged in it? because i think in total we release 45,000 from the briefing, about 45,000 every year. >> yes. if the 10,000 is in reference to the vocational training programs, we only have a limited number of opportunities that we
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can provide based on the number of inmates in our system. and that goes back to the crowding with increased crowding, you have waiting lists in the federal prison system, no different than any other system. and the goal is to try to push as many of these inmates through. and as we complete classes we bring more individuals in for participation. >> what i expect is an answer. i want to get that on the record. inspector general. >> yes. i think that's generally what we're finding is there are limited resources with limited resources mean limited number of classes. >> okay. senator booker. >> thank you very much. director samuels, i appreciate you being here but more importantly -- or excuse me also i appreciate the fact that you visited me in my office and take a lot of the issues and concerns. you represent the administration as a whole as the president has have done some extraordinary steps around overall criminal justice reform, and i'm grateful that you're here today. it means a lot. i also want to echo, you are a part of the law enforcement community.
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and your officers put themselves at risk every single day to protect this nation and i'm grateful for the sacrifices that your officers have made and i'm glad you mentioned, as we see on the federal and state level, we do have officers not just losing their lives in the line of duty but also officers who are injured pretty severely often in the line of duty as well. we as americans should recognize that and that sacrifice and that commitment. i want to talk to you really quick and focus my questioning on solitary confinement and begin with sol carry confinement of juveniles. there's a bipartisan dialogue going on right now about putting real limitations on the use of solitary confinement. we know that this is an issue that faces thousands and thousands of children across america. but when it comes to the federal system, this is actually a very small amount. it would probably surprise a lot of people we're just talking about kids, a matter of dozens. this is in two populations,
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really. it's children that are tried as adults that are housed in adult facilities. and then the contracts, if i'm correct that you do with state facilities for juveniles as well. do you think it's feasible that, as is being discussed in congress right now and i've been in a lot of the discussions in the senate that we just eliminate solitary confinement or severely limit it for children, being very specific, for instance, by placing a three-hour time limit on juvenile solitary confinement and banning it really for punitive or administrative purposes? is that something you would see as feasible and something would you be supportive of? >> thank you, senator. and i believe that for this issue, and in the federal system, as you've already mentioned, we contract out this service. we do not have any juveniles in an adult correctional facility. and the expectation that we have with the service providers for us is that at any time they are considering placing a juvenile
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in restrictive housing they are required to notify us immediately. and even if that placement were to take place, there is a requirement also that they have to monitor those individuals every 15 minutes. so in regards to your question with looking at the restrictions that could be considered, i would say that for our purposes, regarding this, that it would be something that is definitely something that should be considered and looked at as a practice. >> and if congress were to act on legislation putting those severe limitations on the practice, with limitations of just a matter of hours, that is something that you would agree to something that is feasible? >> yes. >> i really appreciate that. and that's actually encouraging to the discussions going on right now. and frankly, it's a small population, but doing it on the federal level would send a signal to really resonate throughout our country and frankly is already being done in some jurisdictions.
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pivoting to adult solitary confinement, if i may, this practice, as you know, is harshly criticized. if you listened to the other panel, there's a lot of data from the medical community, specifically, and also civil rights community and human rights communities. a may 2013 report which i know you're also familiar with from the gao found that the federal bureau of prisons didn't know whether its use of solitary confinement had any impact on prison safety didn't know necessarily how it affected the individuals who endure the practice, or how much frankly it's costing taxpayers in general. just this year in a recent internal audit by bureau of prisons noted inadequacies in mental health care for people in solitary confinement. as said in the previous panel, many people max out in solitary then find themselves going right into the general -- i shouldn't say general population. going back into the public.
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in many ways i think these reports are a wakeup call of the seriousness of this issue. so i first want to say, do you know right now how many people are in solitary confinement beyond 12 months or say, 24 months, or 36 months? do you have that data? >> senator, i can provide that data for you. >> okay. so we do track those folks who are staying in -- often for years in solitary? >> yes. and senator booker, i can -- first i'd like to just state for the -- the bureau of prisons, we do not practice solitary confinement. in my oral testimony and my written testimony our practice has always been to ensure that when individuals are placed in restrictive housing we place them in a cell with another individual. to also include that our staff make periodic rounds to check on the individuals. and i also believe that it is important -- >> and i'm sorry, i need to be clear on that.
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your testimony to me right now is that the bop does not practice solitary confinement of individuals singularly in a confined area? >> you are correct. the we only place an individual in a cell alone if we have good evidence to believe that the individual could cause harm to another individual and/or we have our medical or mental health staff give an evaluation that it would be a benefit for the individual to be placed in a cell alone. we do not, under any circumstances, november have we ever had a practice of placing individuals in a cell aphone. >> that's astonishing to me. and i'd love to explore that further. because all of the evidence that i have said it is a practice at the federal level. so you're telling me that there are not people that are being held for many, many months alone in solitary confinement?
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is that correct? >> when you look at the bureau of prisons agency-wide, that is not a practice which we have three forms. we have our shu, special housing units, which are the majority of individuals throughout the country placed in restrictive housing. we also have a program -- >> so in the shu, so they are not individually held? >> no, sir. and on average, agency-wide, the average amount of time that individuals are spending on average, again total, is a little more than 65 days. >> and so the shu is not solitary confinement, they are not an individual in a cell alone? >> that is not the practice of the bureau of prisons. never has been the practice. >> i hope there will be another round. >> senator mccaskill. >> thank you. mr. samuels, what percentage of the inmates that you're responsible for have been convicted of a violent crime in the federal courts?
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convicted of a federal crime -- >> of a violent crime. >> of a violent crime? give me a second. approximately 5%. >> okay. so we've got 5% violent, 95% nonviolent. i think the thing that people need to understand, which i'm not sure that people do is that that 5% that committed violent crimes, you don't even have primary jurisdiction probably on most of those crimes in the federal system. i don't think people realize that the federal law enforcement system was not designed or ever intended to address what most people think of as crime in this country. it was originally intended to be just for those kinds of crimes that because of the interstate
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nature of them, they needed to be handled by the federal government. that would be crimes involving the inter -- drugs going from country to country, and then eventually we started nibbling away at that and we started doing bank robbers, then we started doing interstate kidnappings or interstate -- and i know this because we handled a whole lot of murder cases when i was the prosecutor in kansas city, and nothing was more irritating to me. we had the best homicide detectives, i believe, in the midwest, in the kansas city police department. we had experienced prosecutors who handled murders every day. and invariably when there was a really high-profile murder case, all of a sudden the fbi would start sniffing around and try to grab that case. and find some kind of interstate part of the crime so that they would take the case as opposed to us who handled murder cases all the time. and frankly, in my opinion, biased as it may be, had much more expertise. i say all this because you're
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spending $7 billion, and 95% of that money is being spent on nonviolent offenders. that's an astounding number on nonviolent offenders. an astounding number. so my question is, how many times have you been brought into the policy questions of who is being prosecuted in the federal system and why? because you guys don't get 911 calls. nobody calls the fbi with a 911 call. i used to make the point to my friends who were fbi agents, hey, they didn't call you, they called us. so the federal system gets to pick what they -- this is not required. they get to decide what they want to prosecute. unlike state prosecutors who have to make a decision on every single case. so are you ever called in to the policy discussions about the growth of federal law enforcement and this massive amount of prosecution that's going on and the growth in the prison system? because these decisions are being dictated by the department
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of justice and how many cases they're actually filing. are you ever consulted on any of those decisions? >> senator mccaskill, i would offer that the bureau of prisons, when the discussions are taking place, we are brought into the discussion when needed by the department. but i also would share, which i'm sure you're aware, that for any policy decisions relative to who is being prosecuted, that remains with my colleague in the department, who would be more than anyone else regarding this issue capable of responding to that. >> so let's get at the stuff you can do. let's talk about the elderly offender program. the way you entered into some of the contracts, you didn't specify out what the costs of home detention was versus your detention, correct?
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in other words, what you did, you weren't able, in the pilot, isn't this correct, mr. horowitz, they weren't able to discern what a release into home detention was costing versus incarceration in one of the prison facilities? >> that is correct. the gao found that in their review. >> and so you are not in the position that you can even analyze what the costs of a home detention program versus prison would be, correct? >> well, since that time, once the finding was made, we've been working to isolate those costs. >> okay. and how are you doing that? >> we've put together procedures within our administration division, the staff who are responsible for the contracting oversight, to monitor. >> okay. there were 784 of 855 applicants for the elderly release program that were denied. 784 out of 855 were denied. can you explain why they were
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denied, that massive amount? and these are all elderly. these are not young people. >> i can take your concern back, but from the knowledge that i have regarding this, many of those individuals, it was dealing with the issue of being eligible based on criteria that was put in place. >> who sets the criteria? >> the criteria for the pilot? >> yeah. who set it? >> that was established by congress. >> so we're the ones that said if it's a low-level offender that got an 18-month sentence, they couldn't go to a home program unless they'd served 18 months? >> well the department was involved with the final determination on what the criteria would be, but that was something that was done through conversation between department and members of congress. >> well i would love to know who was in on that conversation. if you would provide that to the committee. and i'd like to see the criteria.
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because if you've got 95% of your population is nonviolent, and you've got -- we know that the recidivism rate for people over the age of 55 is somewhere between 2% and 3%. by the way, that's a recidivism rate that any re-entry program or drug court program or any state court system would die for. that is an amazingly low recidivism rate. i do not understand how we cannot even -- we're turning down 784 of 855 applicants for a pilot program. it seems to me that the institution is being stubbornly stuck in the status quo. stubbornly stuck in the status quo. and i am so excited that we have critical mass around here. as somebody who, against a lot of political headwinds started one of the first drug courts in the country as an elected prosecutor, i convinced the people in my community and the
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police department that a drug court was a taxpayer factory. because the people who went into drug court were either on welfare or they were stealing. they weren't paying taxes. and all the nonviolent crimes they were committing is because they were drug dicted. that drug court movement, ours began in 1993. it spread all over the country and the world because it worked so well. you know what, i begged the federal government to participate in our drug court program. didn't want to hear a word about it. i couldn't even get them to send us their mules, the girlfriend mules. they wouldn't even send us those. i was saying let me take your cases, your low-level drug offender cases. wouldn't hear of it in the '90s. and i'm not just not sure that we've moved that much in the department of justice. and i hope we can all work together. i know my time's up. i've got some questions. i would -- i have some questions for the record about reeves county that contract. why in the world are we using a county as a go-between on a
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prison contract? and also these criminal alien prisons that we have that half of them are immigration offenses. and i'm curious about the $1 billion price tag on that. so i'll get you those questions for the record. thank you mr. chairman. >> thank you, senator mccaskill. i don't want to put words in your mouth but i think we're finding another area of agreement here. the federal government getting involved in something from my standpoint is better left to the states and local governments because they're better at it, they're closer to it. they use a little more commonsense approach. so i've frequently said washington, d.c. the federal government, definition is the law of negative unintended consequences. i think we're seeing a lot of that here today. again, not because of good intentions and not because of people working hard and sacrificing. but i think that's just basically true. i want to be respectful of the witnesses' types. i know know senator booker had another question. let's not abuse the time. >> no i'm grateful. i think we're having semantic problems, mr. director. the doj defines solitary
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confinement as the terms isolation or solitary confinement mean the state of being confined to one cell or for approximately 22 hours per day or more alone or with other prisoners. the health consequences for solitary confinement period, are well alerted. and this is a common practice in the federal system. but it's not just with other prisoners, in the shu, and often prisoners in the special management units. it's common as well. and the average stay in that is 277 days. and in the adx or the administrative maximum prisons the average solitary confinement is 1,376 days. so this is a real problem and it does exist and forgive me if my semantics are wrong and i think i've got more precision now. >> no sir. and i did want to clarify and i appreciate you bringing the subject back for that. at the adx, when i testified in
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2012, at that time we had a little more than 400 inmates at the adx in florence, colorado, which makes up less than one-third of 1% of our entire population. and for that population, those individuals are placed in single cell. and the majority of the population also, when you look at their offenses, 46% have been involved in some homicide at some point in their lives. >> again, but the reality is, is that the actual result -- i don't care if it's a homicide, nonviolent drug crime. what are we getting for taxpayers for putting them in an environment in which human rights folks consider that torture? and we have a medical community that has a consensus about torture. and so -- or the harmful -- excuse me, the traumatizing effect of that. and so what i'm just saying is, and again, the crime and
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violent, nonviolent, i'm saying this is a nation that doesn't endorse torture or believes we should traumatize folks and if there's no data that supports us actually having something positive coming out of this it's got to be a practice that we've -- we should end or severely limit. and that's what i'm just saying. i'm trying to do a data-driven approach relying on experts and science. and just because i want to stay on the good side of the chairman, i'm going to shift off of this issue because i have enough questions to last another ten minutes and i don't think i'm going to get that. i will tread upon his -- >> no, you're not. >> -- his indulgences as long as possible. so just real quick, a real quick point. federal bureau of prison houses 14,500 women. as we talked about in the last panel, overwhelmingly, the women have children. children of -- of a minor age.
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the trauma visited upon children and those -- often the primary caregivers, there is a lot of issues and i want to get to one reality in danbury, connecticut, which as mere 70 miles away from the new york city area, i like to call it the greater newark area, which is an easy reach for visitors from the northeast. that's going to be changed and those women are now going to be moved -- slated right now to move to alabama to a facility there which is about 1,000 miles away from the greater newark area, a drive that takes more than 16 hours. so why was the 500-mile policy enacted, which is a good thing, which is something i endorse, due to the cost of travel for families, would you commit to revising the rule to have a presumption of 75 miles if possible? do you understand? is there a chance to revise that rule? >> senator, when we looked at
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the mission change for danbury we made every effort to try to make sure for fairness for those offenders who not only were living in the new england states or as far as their residence, but we had many offenders there who were from california, from texas. and we tried to make sure that with the realignment that we move those individuals who were not from that part of the country, so they could be closer to their family. >> and so we're taking care of the californians but there are a lot of people from the northeast, a lot of women with small children who are having those connections effectively severed. and that is very problematic. i'm just going to shift for now if i can and i apologize. just quickly looking at the private prison issue real quick and shift to mr. horowitz if i can, i don't want you to feel like i was ignoring you in this hearing. are you concerned about the growth of private prisons that contract with the bop, and what have you endorsed that these
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prisons are accountable to the public? because we have real issues with these contracts with a toast costing us about $51 billion for taxpayers taxpayers. and these are for-profit companies. 33,830 press certificates were held in private facilities in 2010 and that number has broken to over 38,000. i'm concerned about oversight. and then there's a lack of reporting. information that's just -- i can get a lot of information easily from the prisons that are being run by the director. but there's this unbelievable, really offensive to me, lack of information and data about our private prisons and what is going on there. and so i want to ask part of that question, then i'm done, just wait for the answer. is the abuse reports of
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immigrant detainees. now i understand these folks are not american citizens, but they are human beings. and the report of abuse at our private prisons are troubling. thousands of men live in 200-foot kevlar tents in some of these facilities that each house about 200 men. the facilities are described as filthy insect-infested horrible smells, constantly overflowing toilets. this is an affront for this nation for what we stand for. for me it's an affront. i'm just wondering what steps are you taking to hold these prisons' accountability and lift the veil that protects the american public from knowing what's being done with wells of their taxpayer dollars? >> we've taken several steps, senator.
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we issued the report on the reeves county facility this year and focused on that particular private prison and the concerns we found just like you just mentioned. staffing levels, for example. as you know, reveals county had a riot several years ago. one of the issues was supposedly staffing levels. we looked and saw there were concerns about the staffing and billing and contracting practices. we made a variety of recommendations as to that facility. we're looking at currently the adams county facility and mississippi, leavenworth and kansas private prisons, as well as a broader review looking at the bop's monitoring of overall the contract prisons because that is an issue of concern. as the spending has increased and the number of prisoners has gone from 2% to 20% of the overall federal prison population, that's an issue of concern. so we're doing those reviews. several of the contract prisons like reeves, like adams the
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northeast correctional center in ohio, have all had riots in the last several years. those are contract prisons being used by the bop and it has raised the concerns that we're looking at closely. >> and why not better reporting? why can't i or the public get the same kind of transparency in reporting that we would get with the prisons that are directly under the purview of director samuels? >> and that's something we're looking at as well. because it's an issue body -- we're looking at what kind of reporting the bop is getting from these institutions. in addition, what kind of information is flowing and is accessible and why aren't we doing more -- why isn't more being done to be transparent about that? >> thank you, senator booker. and you can have my personal assurances that i'll continue with you personally and continue to use this committee to highlight these issues and work towards solutions. i think this is an important issue. i want to thank again both of you gentlemen for the service to this nation and your thoughtful testimony. i want to thank all of the witness. i think we did accomplish the primary goal of the hearing
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again, lay out the reality let's admit we have a problem. we've got one here. i'm not saying we've got the ready solutions but we've certainly taken that first step, admitting we've got the problem. with that, the hearing will remain open for 15 days until may 14th at 5:00 p.m. for submission of statements and questions for the record. this hearing is adjourned.
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on the next "washington journal," "real clear politics" reporter rebecca berg discusses the gop presidential field. then the heritage foundation and nicole austin hillary from the brendan center for justice discuss whether the 50-year-old voting rights act is still needed. join the conversation at facebook and twitter. "washington journal," live at 7:00 a.m. eastern on c-span.
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this weekend politics books, and american history. saturday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span congressional profiles with four freshman members. pennsylvania democrat brendan boyle, louisiana republican ralph abraham, michigan democrat brenda lawrence new jersey republican tom macarthur. sunday night at 9:00 with elections coming in october we'll show you a debate among the four national party leaders in canada. on c-span2 saturday night at 10:00 eastern on book tv's "after words," charles murray argues through the use of technology we can rein in the power of the federal government. sunday evening at 7:00, susan southard talks about the city and people of nagasaki, japan from the morning it was bombed on august 9th 1945, to today. this weekend on american history tv on c-span3 we commemorate the
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70th anniversary of the bombings of hiroshima and nagasaki japan, and the end of the war in the pacific. our programming starts saturday morning at 10:00 with a conversation with president harry truman's grandson, clifton truman daniel. later visit the american university hiroshima/nagasaki atomic bomb exhibit with the university's director of nuclear studies. sunday morning at 10:00, our coverage continues with the 2000 documentary on the making of the atomic bomb. later, interviews with two bomb survivors. get our complete schedule at this month, c-span radio takes you to the movies. hear the supreme court oral argument from four cases that played a part in popular movies. from this summer's "woman in gold" to the free speech case from the 1996 movie "the people versus larry flynt." the watergate case from "all the president's men."
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and 2011's "the loving story" about the civil rights case invalidating laws prohibiting interracial marriage. hear the supreme court oral argument from four cases that played a part in popular movies saturdays in august at 6:00 p.m. eastern on c-span radio. listen to c-span radio at 90.1 fm in the washington, d.c. area, online at or download our c-span radio app. next, a look at mexico's political and economic future with a former u.s. ambassador to mexico. and a political science professor from the mexico autonomous institute of technology. they discuss allegations of corruption within the mexican government and how the recent escape of drug lord joaquin el chapo guzman is an indication of the country's many challenges. this was hosted by the interamerican dialogue. it's about an hour and 40 minutes.
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good morning. and thank you all for joining us today. it seems like it wasn't too long ago when this was a lot of talk, at least in this city about mexico's promise mexico's moment. a new administration. a political pact among its main parties. and latin america's most ambitious and wide-ranging
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reform agenda that seemed to enjoy broad support. in fact, many important measures were enacted in a short period of time. lately, however, the news from mexico has been of greater concern. security and human rights issues rule of law challenges generally have come to the fore. the disappearance of 43 students almost a year ago highlighted in dramatic fashion these persistent problems. last month, on july 11th the cartel leader joaquin guzman "el chapo" escaped from a maximum security prison, exposing what many see as systemic corruption and contributing to a loss of confidence in the government. corruption allegations have dogged president pena net toe and his administration. less than a week ago, last friday, in fact, mexican photo journalist ruben espinoza and four women were murdered in
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mexico. a stark reminder of the danger of being a journalist in mexico today. the pena net toe administration, which has three and a half years left in its term is at a critical juncture. the president's approval level has dropped to 34%. its lowest point yet. although we should remember that in many other countries latin american leaders are roughly at that same level. despite some positive signs in the u.s. economy, hex co's growth is not taking off as was promised and as many expected. this morning we will take a measure of the current situation and review possible political and economic scenarios over the coming months and years. will president pena nieto's slide in the polls continue or will he recover some ground? is there a chance that recent developments will be a wakeup call that will galvanize effective action to strengthen
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the rule of law in mexico? are the reforms producing positive changes for mexico? are they moving forward? or do they risk being stalled because of the salients of security and the rule of law issues? are u.s./mexico relations affected by the current circumstances? are the steps that either washington or mexico city should be taking to pursue a common agenda? lots of questions. this morning we are thrilled to have with us as our featured speaker dr. denise stressor and as a discussant, ambassador james jones. full bios are available but let me say a few words about each. denise is one of mexico's most incisive project nentminent, highly respected comment daters and analysts. when she speaks and writes as she does so eloquently, people pay careful attention. she teaches political science has authored many books, writes
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a column for "reforma" and writes for "processo." she has a very high profile in the mexican media both tv and radio. she is also a personal friend for many years and someone who has been close to the dialogue. she, in fact, was here as a visiting senior fellow in the 1990s, contributed the mexico chapter to the third edition of "constructing democratic governance: a major dialogue project and initiative." and most recently spoke here at an event we organized on reproductive rights in latin america. it's an enormous delight to have her with us again and we're very grateful that she's taken time from her busy schedule in washington to be with us this morning. after denise's presentation, we'll hear from jim jones who is currently chairman of minot jones global strategy and formerly served as u.s. ambassador to mexico as well as a member for many years of the u.s. house of representatives. jim knows mexico extremely well
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and tracks developments very closely there. he participates in many dialogue activities and serves on the advisory board of our daily publication "the latin american adviser," copies of which are available to all in the back. i want to thank jim very much for agreeing to be with us this morning as well. after hearing from denise and jim, we will invite and encourage your questions and comments. look forward to a great lively discussion. i want to thank all of you again for coming. we have a few friends here from the mexican embassy. thank you for being with us as well. denies, i'll turn denise, i'll turn it over to you, thank you. >> thank you very much, michael. and the dialogue for hosting me. i feel that the dialogue and a home for me in washington. and i especially appreciate your reference to our friendship which means a great deal to me.
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there was recently a widely circulated photograph that in my mind is a metaphor for the pena nieto government. it was a picture of the attorney general at the prison that el chapo's men had escaped from, a maximum security prison. and there she was very nicely dressed, in high heels and a suit peering down the hole from which el chapo had escaped from. a hole that led to a 1.5-kilometer tunnel that has a motorcycle and air conditioning and you are probably familiar with the arc tech turl and engineering marvel that the tunnel was. and her peering into that hole
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signified a great deal. it was a picture that said more than a thousand words. it seemed to represent what is happening in mexico today. peering into the hole and looking at a mess. a very difficult moment. and perhaps some of you will say, well, this is just denise stressor being critical. however, i think what i'm saying today represents the consensus of most analysts in mexico. and represents the feelings that are captured in the polls of the general population vis-a-vis the government vis-a-vis political parties, vis-a-vis the presidency vis-a-vis corruption. the peso is depreciating. and while there are many economic arguments to be made as to why that is occurring please remember that in mexico, the parity of the peso vis-a-vis the
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dollar for most ordinary mexicans is a psychological metric of how the country is doing. and the fact that it is sliding at such a rapid pace is an indicator of the lack of confidence in the government and not just what is happening in international currency markets. the price of oil is down. as michael said, pena nieto's approval ratings are the lowest of any mexican president in the last 20 years. roma uno, which was the first step in the energy reform which involved the licitation of potential oil fields proved to be a disappointment, not attracting the amount of energy excitement, enthusiasm, or bids that the mexican government had expected. it was deemed by many a failure particularly in light of the very high expectations that the
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mexican government had created regarding energyreform as being the detonator of high growth in the country. so i think there are four is that i'm going to speak of that capture the current moment. inkpen tense, insecurity, and inequality, that are creating a general sense of a ship adrift, rutterless, and without a clear sense of who the captain is and whether or not he's in charge or actually knows where he's going. starting with incompetence. the polls show it and i, for one, take political cartoons very seriously. because they are a graphic expose of a mood and sometimes they are much sharper than even a column could be. and how have mexican political cartoonists baptized enrique
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pena nieto? his image seems to matter more than the reality on the ground because he has a very how would i call it? well, trump-like haircut. or even more eloquently, a mixture of the imagery of the present of the telemarketing of the current presidency accompanied by the dinosaur vintage practices of the past. we've gone, and you can see this reflected in the international press coverage of mexico from delirium to disenchantment.
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to that the job was too big for him and the team of largely people from the state of mexico, that he had brought with him, or the old guard of the pri that doesn't seem to know how to adapt to current circumstances. now, if members of the pri were here and perhaps certain members of the mexican embassy who are here, if they feel comforted by the thought that the pri won the midterm election, i'd like to say that it was -- it could turn out to be a appearic victory in so far as yes, the pri won the midterm election but if you look at the numbers, what are the numbers showing you? that the pri is losing votes
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at -- very quickly. that it would not have won the majority in congress it has had it not been for the alliance with the green party and the multiple illegalities the committee committed throughout the election that remain to this day unsanctioned by federal lek troll authorities, the former efa that was the jewel in the crown of mexico's democratization and has since become a tarnished crown because what happened after the transition in the year 2000 when we began to develop effective counter weights and checks and balances including autonomous electoral authorities, the parties discovered they didn't like this. they removed many of the elements that make electoral authorities independent and now
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you have an eni that is facing a huge loss of credibility because of the unsanctioned behavior breaking every electoral law and accumulating 600 million pesos in fines, all of this committed by the green party that as i said went unsanctioned. even though the pri won, the negative perceptions and the disapproval are growing. and what are analysts saying? that enrique pena nieto's project is showing limitations that were there from the inception, but that many didn't recognize or understand. i think wooed by the 11 structural reforms that were quickly passed in the context of the pact for mexico leading to the sense that modernization was truly occurring and that vision and that sense of moving forward
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at this point in time in mexico, is severely compromised and the perception of most analysts is that the pena nieto's project was more about reconcentrating power in the presidency, in the pri, in the executive than it was about truly reconstructing the state. or reconstructing the way democracy works or reconstructing the incentives by which political parties operate, or reconstructing the incentives by which mexican capitalism works. so it was ambitious but i think flawed project. built on reforms that either came too late and i would say this about energy reform where i think we are four or five years too late in terms of opening up our markets. or reforms that were -- are being badly implemented or are
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insufficient as the case of telecome's reform or education reform, but i think the foundational problem was that they were built upon corruption and are being undone by corruption, because the idea was not to make the pie bigger. what we've seen now is that the project was to slice it up in a different way. that what was wanted was not real competition but rather state administered competition that would continue to shore up mexico's system of crony capitalism just with other cronies, and that the project wasn't about combatting impunity but rather taking advantage of it for this group that came. so there's a sense of malaise, of crisis, of social
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indignation, of ungovernability in which, yes the pri wins or did win the midterm but does not convince even after 11 structural reforms that have failed to take off. and when i referred to the depreciation of the mexican peso because we don't call it devaluation anymore or at least not now, many have argued this has to do more with what's happening with the american dollar et cetera, but a recent article in the financial times that did research on this topic what did it show? it underscored what has been my intuition all along. it showed that mexican households are taking their money out of the country. people who have savings are buying dollars. yesterday the bank of mexico
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spent 200 million pesos trying to shore up the -- prop up the currency because they know what it means for the mexican psyche. so -- and why are people converting their money? because they fear that there's an oncoming crisis that there could be a major devaluation, that we're going to end it in the way that many other pri ease ending because of the lack of fiscal discipline and the accumulation of debt that this government has incurred in the first three years, because of the huge gap in government revenues and income as a result of the drop in oil and of a fiscal reform that it is insufficient to cover the gap. and a crisis brought on by what i perceive as a mismanagement of
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events that the government seemed unprepared for that it has not shown -- that it knows how to confront in a way that displays willingness or ability to resolve deep-rooted kriess. some of which are con juk wall and others that we've been dragging along for a long time as corruption that's become more accent waited. so you have a place where the military executed 22 people and there's now a recent report and investigation about this. then you have the 43 murdered students, and let alone the fact that 43 students were murdered. what it was revealed was to what
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degree corruption and crime had penetrated government institutions, because those responsible for what happened, at least in the official version that we have up to now with the municipal president and the police and to an unknown degree the military. and then you got the white house scandal of which i'm sure all of you have aware of. a scandal that had it occurred in the united states, had it been revealed that michelle obama owned a $7 million house but that the title was in the name of a contractor who had won multimillion dollar bids by the obama administration and they would have been impeached or there would have been endless congressional investigation into that what is clearly a conflict
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of interest. and if you would like further details on this case, i know well because it cost someone a job on the radio, and i left with her as her collaborator, but i know how this story emerged. the investigation process, what the reaction was and how it's reacting now. in mexico is problem is that, and i always say this. conflict with interest isn't even a conflict. it's a way of live. it's the way things traditionally have been done. in terms of government relations with contractors and politicians and with another key player in the mexican political system which is telavisa who owned the first house next to the second house that was built and she says she bought with a $10 million severance bonus because she was just an incredible
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actress, but the issue of conflict, and i say this in a satirical fashion please. and this was followed by the revelation of the house owned by the finance minister that was purchased from the same contractor with the nonbanking loan at an interest rate of 5% when the going interest rate and i know this because i was paying the mortgage on my own house, was 13% and this is the finance minister the person who is in charge of collecting taxes. the person who is in charge of making sure that the budget is well spent. so imagine the perception of ordinary mexicans to find out that their finance minister was involved in the same sort of very shady or at least highly questionable relationships with the contractor.
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and then you get the executions of the military growth estimates, they're lowered on a monthly basis by the bank of mexico and every other financial institution in the country, and then two weeks ago the presentation of a study that has had a great deal of impact in mexico on inequality in mexico with some startling numbers. put this all together, and combine it with the fact that a friend and colleague who had fled vera cruz a photo journal journalist fled because of threats and it's become most dangerous place to be a journalist. 15 journalists have been killed there in the past three years. he fled to mexico city speaking
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protection for the mechanism for protection of journalists. it's a sham. it provides you with allegedly a panic button but it takes them six months to determine if your case is urgent or not. in those six months reuben was killed, and i spent friday afternoon with one of his friends, a political cartoonist who we are all trying to get out of the country. that's how things are. so what has the response from lo s penos been? they feel misunderstood and that the criticism is from those who don't want reform. those who criticize them they're against reform, that they don't want competition. that the opposition is from the
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interests that are being affected by the reforms, and in none of these cases that i've mentioned, the white house, the cancellation of the bid for the high-speed train, the escape of el chapo there has not been a single resignation of a single member of the pena nieto administration or of the cabinet. in my mind and in the mind of many mexicans, it's at the very least what should occur. not only a resignation. what does that occur? a recognition that mistakes were made. a recognition that the course has to be changed, that the buck stops here, that heads have to roll because if heads don't roll, then it means that what credibility does the term maximum security prison in
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mexico have when someone can build a tunnel and please reflect for a moment on how is it possible for a tunnel to be built over the course of a year in what is allegedly a higher supervised and controlled area, in a prison where they were digging from below and the hole was actually dug from above. so, yes, there was clearly complicity from the people at the prison but one wonders as mexicans do whether it was just that. whether it was just corruption involving the prison system. or whether it's much more deeply ingrained and affects higher levels of government in mexico. all the way to the top, or at the very least the federal police or the military. what did pena nieto say about the escape? that he was deeply upset that
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it was a regrettable indent that it was an undignified incident and that every day he asked the minister are you sure el chapo will never escape. so what did the escape do? well, it tarnished the government's reputation even more. it put the issue of government competence at the center of the public debate. it revealed deep institutional weaknesses. not only of the prison system but of just security in general, and competence -- i mean, what does it say when a government cannot keep the most sought after criminal in the world today in prison?
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so -- and this is in the context of pena nieto's official state visit to france which he didn't cancel where he took along 441 guests and shortly after his wife appeared on the front cover of all of the -- like people magazine or "vanity fair," not even that level. revealing in the minds of many mexicans a profound insensitivity in the same week of el chapo's escape the imagery of the pena nieto administration is of him inaugurating things in france. what are the hypotheses and i'm not an expert in security issues. i have friends who work on this though. what do they say? well the high bothypotheses are that
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el chapo was going to be extradited because you can't continue to run your business from a u.s. prison like you can from a mexican prison. the other idea was the mexican government didn't want to extradite him because he had too much information about how many people he'd been paying off in the government structure for the last 15 years. another idea is that he was set free deliberately so that he could actually regain, reestablish the primacy of the cartel and end the violence because the violence does not come from stable cartels. the violence comes when the heads of cartels are either heired orheir arrested or killed and infighting begins. the one thing i can can say
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having no information to validate any of these hypotheses hypotheses, and i don't think anyone in mexico does in terms of independent analysts, the one thing i can say is that he's not going to be caught any time soon if ever. the incident has turned the pena nieto administration into the butt of a thousand jokes. the first reaction was hilarity, not indignation because for mexicans now laughter is better than the alternatives. i'll give you a sense of the flavor of the reaction or the jokes. that el chapo's company, the one that built the tunnel is the one that should be building mexican infrastructure. ports and tunnels and the metro
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that has been stalled for the last year due to problems in the construction process. so -- yeah. homicide numbers are down. that's true in terms of general insecurity. but you -- what mexico is witnessing is the eruption of instances of violence that have become uncontrollable so perhaps people from the embassy would tell you yes, the homicide numbers are down. we should celebrate that but then you get something that happened two months ago where the city was paralyzed for a day due to infighting between the government and the cartels. or you get other instances like that. and the recent report i was alluding to, what does it show? what does the report say? that the mexican military has an order now to this morning as i was preparing my notes, i did
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not know how to translate this word. how would you say it? take on. civilians during the night and this is -- and this report includes official documents. these are the orders. in the minds of many, and at least in the minds of the mexican military means to kill. it doesn't mean to apprehend and submit to the justice system for trial. it means if you believe someone is a criminal, you kill him. that's the problem of having the military substituting for what is a dysfunctional police force. they are not trained or at least not trained well to deal with civilians in context of confrontation. the order is kill i don't
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recollect not onapprehend and take to trial. for now the attention has been centered on el chapo, on who allowed him to escape, and i will make a bet with you. and if i lose, i will come back to the dialogue and i will take you all out for tacos. my bet is that the only people who will be found responsible for his escape will be low-level prison guards and prison administrators, and no one else. but the escape, and everything surrounding it reveals a fundamental problem that this government and the other government didn't know how to deal with which is a nondeclared war on drugs because we don't call it that way anymore. we don't refer to it in that fashion anymore as a war but it continues to be a war.
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a de facto suspension by the military in confrontations with civilians. and adversary drug cartels in my mind and in expert's minds cannot be beaten. and this accompanied by the rising tide of criminality and violence that the war has produced. so i go to my second i which is impunity. a month ago, a respected academic published a report called anatomy of corruption in mexico where she examined that it is present in almost all transactions. there are 4 million acts of corruption in mexico committed on a yearly basis. corruption is ever-present in everyday life from the bribe you have to pay the person who collects the trash who works for the city government at the gasoline pumps where you're --
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you pay more than what you get for. corruption present in the escape of el chapo and public goods whether it be spectrum or a high-speed train. corruption present in tax breaks for mexican companies. with increasingly negative consequences. i'm sure there are people here who would argue, that can't be the issue that's holding mexico back. look at china. there are countries that are extremely corruption and they're growing. the problem is it's an emerging market that is competing for foreign investment with other emerging markets that don't have this problem. the problem of corruption that is also accompanied by the absence, the absence of the ruefulrule
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of law, or the intermittent application of the rule of law. negative consequences in terms of slowing economic growth, foreign investment. in 2014 mexico obtained a score of 35 points out of 100 possible from transparency international. 90% of mexicans believe corruption to be a problem and 91% believe that all political parties are corruption. yet ordinary mexicans are also complicit. a predatory state generates a population that is predatory. a state that dolls out justice in a discretionary manner leads citizens to take things into their own hands. and that's why i think the resolution of the casablanca will be a thermometer into
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whether this administration plans to take the corruption seriously or not. they have said there will be a report released in the next two weeks about whether or not there was a conflict of interest in that case or not. my third i inequality. i'm told that i have very little time but this is -- add to this mix, as i said, the weakening peso, the lowering growth predictions, and then in the last two weeks, the report that poverty in mexico had grown by two million people in the last year and the report with numbers that are just mind blowing. 1% of the most wealthy in mexico concentrate 20% of the income. the wealth of mexico's
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multimillionaires grew by 32% between 2007 and 2012. the wealth of the 16 mexican multimillionaires on the top of the list represented 2 % of gdp five years ago. it now represents 9% of gdp. the four men in the first four places of their list, of that list have made their wealth in sectors that involve public concessioned goods such as spectrum and telecommunications and transportation. these are creatures of the state. rent seekers that have grown in power and influence due to poor regulation or excesses in fiscal privileges leading to the perpetuation, and i've argued this before of mexico's suboptimal capitalism
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accompanied by bad social policy. the institutionization of a permanent underclass of 50 million people, 23 million of which who do not have enough money to eat. understand why then there is a polarized violent society where six vosas graves, six are discovered every day. one had become the most violent municipality in the government and the government knew this. they knew this three years ago and no one acted. and this accompanied by a low-grade democracy captured by interest that put interest at their disposal. they cannot detonate economic growth due to the inability to create level playing field capitalism, despite the 11
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structural reforms and growth that simply cannot occur in the context of the state that lacks the credibility the institutional mechanisms to provide kwoit, transparency, regulation accountability about the white house or any other issue. and how is this playing out politically and with this i will end. the pri continues to win under the circumstances i described. but what you see is a growing rejection of political parties and a crisis of representation. and that explains to you why an independent candidate who did not come out of the fold of the parties won in mexico's most important economically speaking state where the rate of participation in a midterm election which is usually 40% grew to 78% because people believed that an independent candidate outside of the party system was the way to go because there's no longer any trust in the party's system as it works
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today. there is a growing disallusionment with democracy in mexico. and the sense that independent candidates could save us. there are only 127 independent candidates out of 16,000 that ran for election in this last election. and what does this mean for politics and the presidential race in 2018? two days ago, a poll came out with the following numbers. at the head of the pack, numbers that range from between 25 to 29% of the vote. second place, mareita. the wife of the former president taking the hillary clinton route, trying to be a candidate for the national action party with 14% of preferences.
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and 14% for any pri candidate. what does this show you? they don't have a viable presidential candidate, and the winner of this crisis is the man who has built a political career as the leader of the opposition to the establishment. the anti-institutional leader who will make government corruption the centerpiece of his campaign, and i leave you with this food for thought. the crisis is empowering a left that is provincial and tribable anti-global in markets and a political force described by one
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as conservative populism that is leading to what i agree with his view -- we are not witnessing the emergence of a modern functional left with concrete policy proposes a left whose incarnation we've seen in places like chili but not in mexico. what is my conclusion? an uncertain future, a country of intense discussions over the functionality of our governance system and our democracy bitter confrontations over public policy issues, the most recent being education. increasing violence. a dysfunctional democracy that is lacking in accountability, transparency and
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representativeness and that's why you see someone like elle blanco winning. corruption intransigence, intolerance that are deeply damaging our collective ship. i, for one, continue to remain on the ship and will continue to paddle but the impression that one gets from the government and from the parties at this point is a sense of the rearrangement of the deck chairs on the titanic and not a sense of clarity as to how we deal with this crisis and resolve these problems and pull mexico out of the hole that the attorney general was peering into, and that, as i said, has become an emblem emblemmatic feel for how mexicans feel for their country
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today. thank you. >> thank you very much daenise. now for a pessimistic view. just kidding. >> thank you michael, and thank you for inviting me to comment on these remarks. dr. dresser is a very eloquent and harsh critic of mexico and the business and political leaders and has been ever since i first met her nearly 20 years ago, and i think such criticism is important even if i disagree with a good part of it. what it hopefully will do is arouse the mexican people to actually take the government and their country in their own hands. that's something that has not been a part of their history up to this point. i have a different point of view about mexico where it is now and where i think it's going to go. i have one of the advantages of having the long life.
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i've had a long history with mexico. going back 50 years when i was a young assistant to president johnson at the white house, and he asked me to go to mexico to set up his first trip there in 1966, and it truly was a third-world country. it was amazing. you talk about corruption today. well, it was really magnified in those days, and then 23 or 24 years ago, i became ambassador to the united states at roughly the same time mexico decided to enter the world having joined just a couple of years ago before that the world trade organization in the final throws of negotiating the north american free trade agreement which really opened up mexico to the world. it was a country at that time with inferior industry, inferior businesses, and inferior form of
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government and democracy and has been transformed in many ways in the last 25 years. it clearly isn't at the optimum yet, but it is so different than what i discovered 50 years ago and even 25 years ago, that it is a different country. now, i'm not here to defend any individual or office holder in mexico or any institution that dr. dresser outlined with the various grievances for am i here to defend in the most advanced democracy of the world, the united states, the situation we have in the united states where one percent of our population controls an enormous disproportion gnat disproportion at amount of wealth in the united states. i'm not here to defend the gun violence that happens all across the united states in california and louisiana and tennessee and
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new york and various states across this country. and we're not able as a government, to get ahold on the control of the use of guns in our society. for am i here to defend political parties where justice in mexico, american people are fed up with the current state of our political parties, and show it in the polls. that leads to another one i'm not here to defend, the antics of donald trump who the american people have turned to because of their disenchantment with the traditional political parties in the united states. all i'm saying is both of our countries are going through similar throws of democracy and i think both of our countries are going to come out of it just fine. i was actually -- when el chapo was released, or when we got out -- that was a mistake.
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when he got out, i was hoping we would get him here to washington and help us on our metro system which needs a lot of help from someone with his talents. i will say all the hypotheses that dr. dresser outlined are familiar because those are the same ones that experienced in mexico 20-some years ago when the then biggest drug lord seemed to be acting with impunity and one attempt to get him was compromised within the pgr, and there are he got out. but when he was caught not too long after that, he was on a plane headed to houston. his mother must have been very athletic because he had both a texas and a mexican birth certificate, and the mexican government decided to recognize the texas birth certificate and to expel him, and to this day
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he is in that maximum security prison in colorado. but those same issues were raised 20-some years ago and all i'm saying is you can get past those things, and i think the kind of public outcry helps to get you there. >> i think i think also we have to recognize where mexico was 25 years ago and where it is today. 25 years ago it was one of the most closed economies in the world. it was one of the most closed noncompetitive political systems in the entire world, and i think what you have today is one of the most competitive economic systems in the world in terms of trade, a country that has more free trade agreements with other countries than any other country. where you have a political system that clearly has its flaws still. but is competitive.
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and where the government can't intervene and basically pick the winners as i was speaking with someone who was an ambassador to a joint audiences and i was commenting in the 1994 elections we had a great deal to do with that, of having international observers and a lot of support from the u.s. government on their then-electoral system, and while the campaigns up until the election were still fraught with the problems of the past where the government intervened with different kinds of resources, the fact is on the election day and on the conduct of the election, all of the international observers and the u.s. embassy said these were free and fair elections conducted on election day and we also didn't have a media that
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was as competitive as it is today. if you'll recall, the mexican government either directly or indirectly controlled what went in the mexican press, and that is really not their ability to do that today. and one of the reasons we see things that are going on in gaerer row for example, and other states of similar problems, is the fact that they're being reported, and similar things went on when i was ambassador but they were never reported. they were covered up so to speak. so i think while things are still not where we would want them, not where the mexicans would want them, the fact is that they're substantially ahead of where they were just 25 years ago. so where they have their greatest deficiency, and dr. dresser alluded to that in all of her comments and that is while a first-world country needs an open, competitive
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political system an open competitive economic system, it needs a rule of law that their own people can have confidence in. and that's what mexico needs and must work on. they've made some strides forward with the election -- with the judicial reforms of 2008 which are supposed to be implemented fully next year. many of the states are way behind but we're hoping for progress on that. that's where mexico really needs help, because a rule of law with sound institutions that can enforce a rule of law is what cuts into corruption, cuts into the kinds of things dr. dresser talked about, and that's i think the major challenge for mexico today and if you have a rule of law that people have confidence in, i think you will not have the same kinds of
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insecurity that exist in several of the states in mexico, and you will not have the kinds of corruption that exist in many states in many governments in mexico. i think also the open economic system and the more foreign investment that comes into mexico also helps to move in the direction we're talking about in the rule of law because international investors businesses, don't want to do business. for example, from the united states. where they're going to be subject to foreign corrupt prak tigss act violations if they that is not fair and open and transparent and honest. so the influence of foreign investors, i think is going to significantly help mexico. where do i see mexico going? they've made -- and this government, has made a great start with the reforms that occurred three years ago.
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particularly in the energy particularly in education, particularly in labor reforms. the latter two of which still have to be implemented, two of the three at least have to be implemented well, and i think that's going to be a test that we need to look at mexico. how serious are they, this government in actually implementing the education reforms? education in mexico is whoafully behind. there are competitors in asia and elsewhere. it is a system that has just not performed up to the standards of international education. that's a big test. on energy, i guess i'm not so concerned about the problems of the first round of auctions, because here you have a situation where they have no experience basically, in how do you run an auction, how do you have a free market system in energy. this generation has never seen
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that. and so they're going to make mistake mistakes along the way. the question is are they learning from the mistakes and will the next round be more fair and open and if it is, you're going to see a lot more foreign investment as well as mexican investment. if it's not, it's a failure. i think it will be a success. i guess there's many more notes here i made of her comments. the fact that depacto broke apart. that's inevitable. your not going to get three major political parties agreeing on everything as you go forward so the fact that you could get that done in the first year was remarkable and it's knot remarkable or unusual that it would break apart because each of those political parties want to have their own identity so
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they can go to the polls in the next election and try to have success. so i don't think that that's anything that's -- that we should be concerned about. i do believe there's another reform that holds promise of bringing having a more representative government in mexico. and that's the reelection in the congress which is which has never been possible before. when you get a situation where you have to run for reelection you have to present yourself to the constituents who elected you one time, you want to show them what have you done for them? what have you done for them lately and during your time in office, and i think you're going to see a much more representative group of people elected to office as a result of that. we won't know because it just goes into effect, i guess 2018, something like that, so i think that's something to keep our eye
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on. again, it's a positive move in reform in mexico. so i think it's very good to criticize what's going on and on a constant basis, as dr. dresser has. i think that's good for a democracy. i think we also have to take a realistic view as to where the country was, where this has now, and where it's going, and i'm positive on that. >> thank you. >> why don't we try to -- why don't we take some questions and then maybe you can kind of you know, and then respond as the questions. we have about a half hour, and a lot of people there are a lot of issues. if i can ask you to identify yourselves, wait for the microphone. be brief. if you have a comment, don't disguise it as a question. just make the comment. let's start with jose.
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>> i'm a reporter from mexico. just a question on how you see the u.s. role-playing in all of this. it seems the obama administration is not saying that much about mexico these days. they seem rez ig nated in some ways. how are you feeling of where the u.s. could help or not on this. >> thank you. david, you want to -- >> thank you. david with princeton in latin america. one of the reasons i'm here. anyway. >> princeton reforma. >> exactly. >> can't escape it. >> given what happened to carmen, if you felt under threat of losing your job in any particular area that you're now working? >> thank you. we with have one right here and
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then we'll go to the back, and then we'll give it back to denise. >> hi. i am from mexico. my question is regarding civil society. i don't know what's the role of civil society in all this. it's been growing in mexico and it's been very strong since pena nieto, but i don't know. right now, it has fallen a little bit, and i don't know. >> great. thank you. good questions. >> denise? >> i'll take the first three questions, and i have a rejoiner to ambassador jones. i think your use of the world resigned is absolutely appropriate. i think the u.s. has given up on mexico. and what do i mean by given up?
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the obama administration has too much on its plate in terms of isis, in terms of dmisomestic violence, i don't have to delve on the list. you're aware of it. and from what i sense, and from speaking to american officials in mexico, is that ever since the casablanca scandal erupted and pena nieto came here the obama administration made a deliberate decision to not involve itself. it could have take an stand. it could have alluded to conflict of interest issues. it could have alluded to corruption. it has decided not to do so. i believe that is a deliberate stance on the part of the obama administration. and this sense of disconnection, i think has been and will be
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heightened by the escape of el chapo. because what was the first news to come out in the new york times? that government officials had immediately -- u.s. government officials immediately contacted the u.s. government offering assistance to help find him. drones and all sorts of intelligence and so on, and that the mexican government was not responding. so tie that to the hypotheses about el chapo's escape, and you'll understand the frustration of the u.s. government regarding mexico's handling of el chapo and others. and there was a fascinating piece about how el chapo was actually captured with u.s. assistance but that assistance was never made public. so if indeed, that was the case, and that was reported by
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someone from washington, if the u.s. helped capture him but it was presented by a triumph of the pena nieto administration, how does the u.s. feel now that he's escaped two weeks after the extradition request was put in. second question do i feel pressured about losing my job? well, one of the things i always tell my students and anyone who is involved in the public debate in mexico is you cannot ever have just one job. that makes you extremely vulnerable. i have five jobs. i'm a professor and columnist, i have conferences and i write books. if i'm fired from one, i have the others. in what ways have i felt pressured, and this has been very, very ugly.
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i was one of the advocates of the annulment of the vote in the midterm election. this is a position i had in 2009, and it was influential in 2009 because it led to an agenda of political reform that one adopted because it was so significant and the agenda for reform was reelection, and it was many things that became part of the political reform that they pushed through. why did it support it on this occasion? because i don't see incentives for the party system to change. i was part of the movement that pushed something called tres detres. we called on every candidate to disclose his -- how do you call it in english -- your assets.
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that was one. the other was your tax return and the other was potential conflict of interest issues, because these three things are not required of candidates by law in mexico in our wonderful democracy. we pushed and pushed and pushed. only 397 candidates out of more than 16,000 comeplied with the request. the other role that i was involved with as an activist was to get significants for the national electorate to take away the green party. we managed to get together 175,000 significants which is the languagest numberrgest numbers that has gotten in mexico. nothing has changed. not eve an debate. but because i pushed it, what happened? the parties hated me and those
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who were pushing for it because it exposes the party system. it says, don't vote. don't legitimize, instead of an staining, go and annul your vote. it shows content. and here's the agenda for what they want. after that the threats came. death threats a deliberate campaign on the part of the mexican left those -- that was the faction that felt the most vulnerable to the annulment of the vote. they're trying to present themselves as the anti- -- as the real opposition and if we were saying annul your vote because there isn't a real opposition and there isn't a party that represents you, and so the most paradoxical thing of my entire career has been to feel the worst threats in my professional career and the
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worst campaign of efforts to discredit me because i charge for conferences. i mean, just go look on twitter. you'll see. and i am an american spy because there was a wikileaks that described a breakfast that i had with someone at the u.s. bz. on and on. the worst threats and worst campaign to try and get me removed from my multiple jobs have come from the left. the role of civil society that is my source of optimism. and here is my rejoinder to ambassador jones' comments. he said dresser's harsh criticisms. i would say they're realistic and i would say who is being
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realistic here? because mexico is a country of many masks and in 1966 i was three years old, but i have witnessed the changes of mexico and i could list them and they are significant. but the problem for me is that when i hear these arguments of oh, well but you know, at least they -- they're competitive in manufacturing and they have competitive -- at least now they have competitive elections, there's more media and they're revealing corruption even if they're getting killed for it, the it's like waving a red flag in front of a bull for me because it's the argument of brdlomanos. at the very least we're better off than one. and that's what they said three
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days ago in mexico. headline, there are countries that are better off than mexico. well, i'm sorry. [ speaking in spanish ] . it's not the level of the ground. i'm not going to congratulate myself and the country because what did people used to say yrvegs wellwell [ speaking in spanish ] . we have reformed and there have been many reforms. i lived as an adult through reforms that created many of the problems that we are dealing with now. reforms that were, at the time were applauded, and were very poorly instrumented and contributed to cementing the system of crony capitalism that makes the economy uncompetitive
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because yes there is competitiveness in manufacturing. look at every other sector. this is not my impression. these are the numbers that the world economic forum publishes on mexican competitiveness and we are falling behind time and again. so why can't we reform properly? why do we never achieve our full potential? why is it that with a privileged privileged gree graphical locations, millions of talented hard working people who end up in this country, we move sideways, time and again because there isn't enough honesty in our diagnosis of the situation of the country, and when there's not enough honesty in the diagnosis, the solutions are not the appropriate ones and they're not as deep as they should be, and they do not take on the vested interests as they should. >> so why do i place my hopes
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elsewhere? at this point i do not believe that trying to influence the mexican political class to on its own, adopt appropriate public policy reforms to benefit mexican citizens. that is not going to happen. it's not going to happen unless there's pressure from below, and in that agree with ambassador jones. it's time for mexicans to take their country and make responsibility for their country. it's very difficult for them to do so as a civil society because they lack the channels. i can get 175,000 significants on twitter in a week. i can take this to every single congressman, and i will ignore the significants because there's no reelection because there's no incentive to be connected to your constituent, because, yes, there's competition but there's no accountability or representation. so yes it's a democracy with
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competition, and it works very well for the parties because we adopted a system of public financing. their survival doesn't depend on the vote. it depends on a mathematical formula related to how many people turn age 18 every year in the electoral roll call. i call it a system of extraction without representation. and civil society is learning how to organize, but it gets tired. it gets tired because it mobilizes. it organizes. it petitions. it lobbies, and change is very difficult to enact in a system that has been established to not represent people. [ speaking spanish ] . ambassador jones says, reelection. i was among many who pushed for reelection. and we got the reform, and what happened? look at the [ speaking in spanish ]
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. the parties set audiotape system of controlled reelection whereby they controlled the lists of who can be reelected. it's not reelection as it's viewed in the united states or as it works in other countries. it's another reform that was applauded and then badly instrumented. so it will not have the effect that we all wanted it to have, and this is what happens in mexico time and again. so yes, i am -- i celebrate the fact that we have education reform. i celebrate the fact that at&t is going to come to mex advances for consumers as a result of telecoms reform. i can see those little lights. but those little lights are not enough, and i don't think it's fair to compare income concentration in mexico with income concentration in the united states, because here you have that level of income concentration, but you do not have half of your population
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living in poverty. and you have a substantial middle class that actually has political representation, and when citizens in this country organize a petition with 175,000 significants, they get listened to. or otherwise the bum gets tossed out and the problem in mexico is that we, with this electoral system and this party system, we cannot toss the bums out. >> thank you. we're going to take a few more questions, and then i'm going to give you an opportunity to have a rejoinder to the rejoinder, and then we'll give the final word to denise. we want to end close to 11. let's go first to peter. >> primarily to denise but i'd love to here jim jones an this as well. you said you had some optimism
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about, and sort of there may be, that means to me some realistic path out of this moras you described. can you trace out a few of the steps steps in what you might call the best scenario you can imagine, even if it's only 1% or 5%? what's a scenario that might in ten or 15 years lead mexico to sort of a better place, and tell me what country you might want mexico to have as its objective. is it brazil? is it chilly? is it china? what's the objective. >> okay. thanks. let's go to the back. >> thank you. i am with epi. you recently wrote that mexican-used papers were shedding their investigative
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departments. what's the government's roll in this. >> thanks. yes, sir. >> i start with two disclaimers. i have only one job, so i have a stake on my personal capacity and my institutions. the second one is after listening to your second comments, my comment changed a little bit. but i believe that we mention cabs have the obligation to start a country our kids dream about. but sometimes i think we look at a traditional culture. we look at everything from the center, the president, mexico city, and i wonder if how do we empower the communities? how do we empower the local societys? imagine what would happen in the municipalities instead of having a municipal president being formed by the party which, by the way, those presidents report
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to the party and the society, if they are formed by the pharmacies, by the store owner or the professor who really care about the community?
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