The main function of the state is to ensure the safety of its citizens. This has been reiterated by philosophers, jurists and political scientists through history. Unfortunately, insecurity in Mexico has grown significantly in the past decade.
While the murder rate in Mexico is below the Latin American average, it has doubled in recent years, to 21 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants and the gap with the United States has expanded significantly.
Even after considering this increase, the average murder rate in Mexico is still 13 percent lower than Latin America as a whole. Unfortunately, Guatemala stands out with 40 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants and Honduras is at 90. Although Mexico's general level of violence is lower than many other countries in the hemisphere, states such as Guerrero and Michoacán and some regions along the border are particularly violent.
The tragic disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero has pushed society to vehemently express indignation. In social networks and even the website of the Presidency of the Republic, the hashtag: #PORUNMÉXICOENPAZ has gained a huge following. I'm there.
Society has every right -- and the obligation -- to express dissatisfaction, but I'll never condone vandalism or violent protests, because impunity shouldn't beget more impunity. Anarchy solves very few problems.
What we need, now more than ever, is a strong and responsible government that can meet its obligation to provide security to all, regardless of regions, political affiliations or socioeconomic status. This is the cornerstone of the social contract. It is completely unacceptable for kidnappings, extortion or charging rent for public spaces to prevail anywhere. And it's everyone's responsibility to ensure that government of all levels fulfills its duty and destroys the poisonous weed of organized crime at its roots.
Society's discontent has come across loud and clear to the federal government and on November 27, President Enrique Peña presented a ten-point plan that should help reduce crime. The measures have been widely debated by many specialists on many sides. However, I am convinced that these measures are a good starting point to strengthen our security and the rule of law.
As part of the plan, which can be consulted at www.presidencia.gob.mx, the president will submit a bill to allow the federal government to dissolve municipal police forces that have been infiltrated by organized crime deal in a move to restore order. This is urgent given the growing suspicion that dozens of municipalities are firmly in the hands of organized crime.
Secondly, the president announced a bill to clearly define which government bodies deal with which criminal offenses. The aim is to make responsibility clear and prevent criminal elements from benefitting from any confusion.
A constitutional reform will be promoted that would eliminate 1,800 weak and corruptible municipal police forces and in their place, 32 state police forces will be strengthened, which will be much more effective in their actions against crime. This new model will begin in Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacán, and Tamaulipas, states particularly threatened by crime.
A bill that particularly caught my attention mandates the creation of three Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas that will include special regulatory framework and incentives to attract companies and create jobs.
According to the World Bank, there are 3,500 SEZs in more than 100 countries that seek to exploit comparative advantages through similar design. Given this vast global experience, it is crucial to understand what works and what doesn't.
Among the most powerful incentives are the elimination of taxes on consumption and income for periods of up to 20 years; removal of all restrictions and taxes on foreign trade; reduction of requirements, licenses and paperwork for companies; construction of highways, ports and airports; reliable supply of electricity; and the granting of land concessions for factories and distribution centers. Another powerful tool is the immediate tax deductibility of all capital investments. These could be powerful measures if implemented fully. If the zones settle for partial tax reductions or caps on deductible investments, the attractiveness for private investment and job growth will suffer.
The World Bank says the model has triggered growth in countries such as the Dominican Republic, where it spurred the creation of 100,000 manufacturing jobs. Similar success stories have been documented in South Korea, Taiwan, Honduras, El Salvador, Madagascar, Bangladesh, and more recently, Vietnam.
According to the plan, the Special Zones proposed for Mexico will have modern infrastructure, high security, preferential financing from development banks, additional facilities for foreign trade, as well as considerable tax incentives, especially payroll taxes.
International experience confirms that SEZs are effective in attracting domestic and foreign investment, increasing employment and competitiveness. I think we should use this tool firmly and decisively. The private sector can go a long way to contribute to development, especially in regions with the most pressing needs.
Congress will be encouraged to pass laws to fight corruption, another social cancer that is especially deep rooted in Mexico. As a first step, an improved public works law will be promoted so that resources are better managed, and projects are monitored and audited throughout the process.
On the key issue of transparency, the federal government will launch a new webpage containing information on the suppliers and contractors of public works as well as the number and amount of contracts awarded. But, there's no point in the federal government providing greater transparency unless we as citizens and companies exercise our responsibility to actively monitor and ensure that our resources are used appropriately.
In this and other areas, the role of the citizen is as important as that of the government. We cannot evade responsibility, since the change we want for Mexico begins with ourselves. The fight against corruption and dishonest practices begins at home, at school and in the workplace.
As always, I'm optimistic about the future of Mexico and at Grupo Salinas we will continue to do our part to develop the country.
Mexico is unstoppable, I have no doubt, but needs to change. I hope that 2015 represents a new era for our country, but this depends on each of us. The fight against crime is in the interest of everyone. Regardless of political preferences, we must stand united to support change that takes Mexico on the path to security, justice and prosperity.