Mexico’s child labor and the perils of a lost education

For many in Mexico, economic necessity puts kids in the workforce.
For many in Mexico, economic necessity puts kids in the workforce.

By Natasha Ghoneim / AlJazeera

“Cutting sugar cane is like running a marathon every day.”

That’s what the leader of a 35-person crew in the state of Veracruz, Mexico told me as the sound of fire cackled in the air and a cloud of ash was raining down on us. The tinny monotony of machetes slicing into sugar cane stalks was a kind of musical accompaniment to one of the hardest day’s work I’ve seen.

Cutting sugar cane is not just like “running a marathon”. It’s like running while inhaling dangerous smoke from burning the sugar cane, with the risk of cutting yourself with a machete, being bitten by snakes and scorpions, and without enough water and protein to keep you hydrated and give you energy.

Seeing Mexican teenage boys, many still years before their growth spurts, working in such difficult conditions is a stark reminder that for so many in the world, economic necessity puts kids in the workforce.

According to the National Statistics Institute, 2.5 million kids are working in Mexico. A 2013 World Bank report says 870,000 working children are below age 13.

Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage in Jalisco

AP – Mexico’s Supreme Court has struck down language in a Jalisco state law that defines marriage as between a man and woman. The decision means Jalisco becomes the fourth jurisdiction nationwide where gay couples can automatically get married, joining Coahuila and Quintana Roo states along with Mexico City.

Zetas turned prison into mass grave

InSight Crime – An ongoing investigation into the Zetas has revealed how this violent criminal group used a prison to dispose of over 150 victims, focusing attention on the shocking level of corruption within Mexico’s prison system and state governments. Investigators from the Disappeared Persons subdivision of Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office say the Zetas killed more than 150 people at the Piedras Negras prison in northern Coahuila state between 2010 and 2012.

Mexico plans to boost scouting of players in U.S.

ESPN fc – Mexico’s football federation has set capturing more talent in the United States as one of its central plans of action in 2016. Santiago Banos, sporting director for Mexican national teams, announced that increasing the scouting of Mexico-eligible players in the United States was a priority for the FMF.

Explore the “magic towns” of Mexico

Magic twn SayulitaSmithsonian – Most tourists are drawn to Mexico’s big-name destinations, like the pre-Hispanic ruins of Chichén Itzá or the crowded plazas of Mexico City. But the country is dotted with lesser-known ruins and other cultural sites, too—places that go far beyond the obvious tourist must-sees. In an effort to highlight those other locales, Mexican tourist officials have been quietly funneling their focus—and money—toward the selection of Pueblos Magicos, or “magic towns,” all over the country.

Report links Mexico violence to youth unemployment

Mexico's nini population is linked to homicide rates
Mexico’s nini population is linked to homicide rates

By David Gagne / InSight Crime

A new World Bank report states there is a correlation between homicide rates and the number of unemployed male youths during the apex of Mexico’s drug war, a telling reminder that improving public security requires more than just criminal justice reform.

The recently released report examines the risks facing Latin America’s “ninis,” a term used to describe youth who are neither in school nor active in the work force. Using data from Mexico’s national employment surveys, the study concludes that there is no correlation between the amount of ninis and homicide rates from 1995-2013.

But there is a positive and significant correlation, the study finds, between the rate of ninis and the number of murders between 2008 and 2013, when violence related to Mexico’s drug war reached its peak.

When discussing how to improve public security in Mexico — and, indeed, the rest of Latin America — the conversation tends to center on a few key topics, such as police reform and combating criminal groups. The World Bank study cautions against taking such a myopic approach to addressing patterns of violence.

Love of Coke persists after Mexico imposes tax

Bloomberg – Mexico’s two-year-old tax on junk food is failing to dent its citizens’ love of sugary drinks, and that’s good news for bond investors in Coke bottler Coca-Cola Femsa.

The company is sidestepping a rout in global debt markets after reporting a rebound in purchases of soft-drinks in 2015 that erased the drop it suffered a year earlier, when the levy took effect.