Freedom of Speech in Mexico: How will employee misconduct get reported?

MEI report coverHOUSTON (MEI Report No. 774) — We started this report in mid-January by asking ourselves what might be learned from comparing Mexico to other countries, including France, where there are challenges to freedom of the press. Over the years there have been many reports on the state of the “freedom of the press” in Mexico done by international organizations such as Transparency International. In such reports, Mexico appears in a list of some 190 countries.

In all these reports, Mexico scores in the bottom 20%. Several UNESCO reports studied press freedom and various aspects of society, including overall economic freedom and growth.  They found a positive correlation between freedom of the press (FOP) and regulatory quality, governance and economic development. One observes that Mexico is an anomaly like Singapore, with much higher economic freedom and growth than would be expected by the low level of FOP.

Our Report No. 774 extends the scope of inquiry beyond freedom of the press to include freedom of speech. We know of no dataset that tracks freedom of speech apart from freedom of the press.

  1. What we find, from personal and institutional anecdotes, is that there is a sharp restriction on the freedom of speech in the workplace in Mexico in both the public and private sectors.
  2. It is also fully documented in the public record that the drug cartels are looking for ways to generate new revenue and launder old money by getting involved in the energy sector, and not only by the theft of petroleum products.

With these two facts on the table, a new question equally applicable to public administration and corporate management arises. The government intends to hire at least 1,000 new federal employees to be involved in the administration of the reformed energy sector. Companies and their contractors that receive awards will also have to add staff. We may suppose that it is only a matter of time that one or more of these employees has, at the time of employment, or later will come to have, connections with organized crime.

It also would only be a matter of time that a co-worker would come to have either evidence or suspicions of this person’s connections to drug cartels.  Our question is this: Given the sharp constraints of free speech in a culture in which self-censorship is a dominant value, how would this suspected misconduct of the employee or public official get reported to that person’s supervisor, the police or the media?

We bring this question up because it represents an unsuspected dimension of risks for stakeholders in the public and private sectors alike.

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Mexico Energy Intelligence

Baker & Associates offers niche-market business and policy intelligence related to Mexico's oil and gas, power and chemical industries. Over 1,000 reports have been issued in the last 20 years. Subject matter expert and publisher George Baker, who directs the firm, has carried out consulting assignments starting in the late 1970s at the height of the Oil Boom in Mexico. He brings bilingual and bicultural skill-sets to understanding and responding to challenges of business and public policy, coupled with a deep familiarity with the history and idiosyncrasies of the Mexican operating environment.

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