The main culprit for this precipitous decline is no longer logging in the reserve (although that still takes place) but the huge increase in land planted with genetically modified, herbicide resistant soybean and corn crops (93 percent of total soybean acreage and 85 percent of corn acreage in 2013) in the U.S. Corn Belt.
Before the advent of democracy in 2000, order was imposed by the iron hand of a corrupt, authoritarian state. When its grip was loosened, any semblance of law and order disappeared. Unless and until this is recognized, reforms in this area will lack credibility for Mexicans and foreign investors alike, and thus are unlikely to be effective. Unfortunately, Peña Nieto, whose party ruled Mexico in the bad old days, is unlikely to be the president who breaks the mold.
The government is now afraid to use public force to prevent demonstrators from blockading roads and streets, stealing buses and trucks, ransacking supermarkets and torching government buildings. President Peña Nieto has claimed that his patience has limits, but so far the Ayotzinapa movement appears to have forced him into a corner.
Public opinion polls show that the majority of Mexicans believe self-defense is the best way to protect your community and a larger majority sees nothing wrong with vigilante justice. One could argue that such an outcome is predictable in a country where 105,000 people are kidnapped for ransom every year, where criminal groups blackmail one of every 10 Mexicans and 96 percent of recorded crimes go unpunished.
Paradoxically, whereas the Western powers are probably powerless in Ukraine, Latin America's major players could exert great influence in stopping the unfolding economic, political, and human rights catastrophe in Venezuela. But doing so requires what most Latin American governments sorely lack: vision and courage.
There has been a dramatic plunge in the monarch butterfly population that overwinters in Mexico after flying thousands of miles south from the northern and eastern United States and southern Canada. On the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, I (and all who cherish the monarch butterfly) am urging Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Barack Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper to put monarch survival on the agenda of their February 19-20 summit meeting in Toluca, in the state of Mexico.