The punishment should fit the crime, and even though it is a violent crime, truck hijacking would not normally be a capital offense (except maybe in barbarous countries like the United States). However, when the jacked truck in question is carrying a sealed load of Cobalt 60, setting off international alarms and a lot of silly talk about “dirty bombs” (something much easier in the movies than in real life, given the need for special equipment to handle the stuff), unfortunately a painful and horrible death is likely the fate of the unknown thieves.
The load, medical waste from Tijuana, was highjacked at a rest stop in Hueypoxtla, Hidalgo, just north of the Federal District, making international news yesterday. Before abandoning the truck, the thieves apparently opened the sealed container… not releasing any cobalt into the atmosphere, but according to specialists, undoubtedly giving themselves a radiation poisoning, and likely to die soon.
I imagine looking for the perps is not likely to rank near the top of any police agenda. Don’t say the Mexican police aren’t efficient… sooner or later, some copper is going to take a trip to the local morgues and the case will be closed.
Everybody’s favorite basketball team… the Triqui boys from Oaxaca… v everybody’s second favorite team, the San Antonio Spurs. The boys team, one of the worlds best in their (very junior) division may have an advantage in that — not being able to afford sneakers — they’ve turned their barefoot playing style to their advantage. Despite the height advantage enjoyed by the Spurs, maybe the boys team has the edge here:
In this country we not only name streets for national heroes (every town has a calle Juárez) and even national holidays (I happen to live on calle 16 de Septiembre) which foreigners find a bit odd, but even stranger, we name streets for historic slogans. I did once run across winding, hilly “Effective Suffrage, No Re-election!” (¡Sufragio efectivo, no reelección!) street… a slogan taken seriously, though like the direction and altitude of that street, the meaning given the slogan changes regularly, and is likely to undergo a few more in the coming days.
Sufragio efectivo, no reelección! was coined for Porfirio Diáz’s 1871 Plan de Noria — which sought the overthrow Benito Juárez on the grounds that one term was enough for any politician — and was picked up by Francisco I. Madero in 1910, who had the impertinence to use it to justify an uprising that cut short Don Porfirio’s seventh term in office.
And, while Mexico has never quite had effective suffrage (though I think it’s got a good voting SYSTEM, it still is not the votes that count, but the men who counts the votes who decide who wins and who loses), the “no re-election” rule has not only withstood serious challenges following adoption of the 1917 Constitution (Carranza attempted to extend his term past its expiration in 1920, was overthrown and acting president de la Huerta held office until new elections could be held. Obregón was elected in 1921, serving out the remainder of the regular term until 1924, when Calles assumed office. Obregón’s abbreviated term was the rationale for allowing him a second run… but he was assassinated before he could assume office, and — while he continued to pull the strings behind the scenes — Calles did not, as expected, remain in office, but th followed the constitutional procedures, which called for Congress to elect an acting President until the next scheduled national election. Constitutional procedure, and custom, now holds that even an “acting president” is ineligible for a second term.
Over the years, the ban on re-election has been extended to state and federal legislators and executive officers (governors and municipal presidents).
Other Latin American nations have not been nearly as strict on term limits at lower levels, but they have tended to adopt the Mexican ban on presidential re-elections, which has been something of a mixed blessing. Although meant to prevent a quasi-monarchal permanent presidency, like that of Porfirio Diáz, it has also meant a President is a “lame duck” from the time he or she assumes office… and, while the face may change, the party or faction in control of the administration is often perpetuated (as here, where the PRI held office, even with complete changes in ideology, continuously since 1948 to 2000… or, 1929 to 2000 if you count the two previous parties that the PRI considers their direct ancestors).
At the legislative and lower executive levels, there have been two problem with the ban on re-election. In-coming administrations tend to put their own supporters into key positions, who then put their own clients into lower level patronage jobs… needlessly disrupting bureaucratic procedures as the new people figure out the system (less patronage positions, and more permanent civil service jobs is the obvious solution here). In the legislatures, the “institutional memory” is short-term. With the entire Chamber of Deputies replaced every three years, there is no such thing as senority, and — although the various Deputies are usually experienced office-holders who may have served in the Chamber before — no continuity in leadership (that is, while in the U.S., the House minority leader might become the majority leader if his or her party had a particularly successful run at the polls, the incoming legislators would begin their term with some sense of who exactly spoke for their party and who to turn to within the House for leadership on any particular issue).
AND… just to complicate matters: no one presently holding elective office can be a candidate for elective office. So, for professional politicians, for whom being elected and holding office IS their career path, it means resigning the last day possible… 90 days before the next election. Luckily, at least for legislative positions, voters not only chose a candidate, but a “substitute” … who will step into the elective position if anything happens to the elected official. While a few resign, die, or otherwise leave during the normal term, 90 days before the next election, there are massive resignations in the legislatures… which leaves the substitutes (who then can’t run for office themselves). The “B” team are generally not professional pols, but usually party regulars or people with outside jobs who don’t mind a part-time job with no heavy lifting and unbelievably generous perks… and so, for the last three months of any elective term, nothing really gets done.
The Senate today approved some changes in the Constitution that would undo at least some of the quirks in the Mexican system that would open up some offices to re-election. One sticking point is whether a candidate must run on the same party he or she was originally elected from, or if they can switch parties. The present system — in which a candidate is rewarded for their support for the party by being nominated to at least some suitable other office at the end of their term — would be somewhat undermined by candidates who could run for re-election on their record in serving their constituents rather than their party might find it difficult to do so when party and local interests collide. Right now, the proposal on the table is to allow deputies and senators to stay in one party up to half their term (deputies serve three years, senators six, so 1.5 years and 3 years into their first time, they’d have to decide whether to run for re-election from their original party, from a different party or seek another office… or do something more useful with their lives).
There is no proposal to allow presidents to run for re-election (and no one is even considering that), and if anything, the limits on the Presidential powers are slightly limited. Under the Senate proposal, the Attorney General could only be fired for cause. The “causes” still to be worked out.
As to “effective suffrage”… nothing’s perfect, but much of the Senate bill deals with how elections are controlled. The Elections Board (IFE) which worked well in the past has been roundly (and I think correctly) criticized as a creature of the various parties rather than an arbitrator of fair elections. IFE’s governing commission is composed of party representatives, in proportion to the various party’s strength in the previous election, which puts new parties (which have no representative) and smaller parties at a distinct disadvantage, and makes it all too easy for decisions on electoral irregularities to be decided not on the basis of the voters’ best interests or the integrity of the election, but on a party’s own interests in the results of that decision. Notoriously, IFE heavily sanctioned PRD (the smallest of the three main parties) for relatively minor financial reporting irregularities, while overlooking major campaign spending limit overruns by PRI (the largest party).
In the bill are provisions for a new electoral commission that would replace IFE, and. so we are told have more independence from the parties than IFE does. And, what is probably the most interesting part of the bill, would give the new commission the power to nullify elections if a party goes over the agreed upon spending limits for campaign expenses. Whether it would be five percent, ten percent or some other percentage of overspending that would toss out the election is still being debated, but I imagine what we’ll be hearing are more complaints from losers about winners expense accounts, and … if we’re lucky… a turn away from the U.S. style campaigning of recent years which has been about image and salesmanship and a return to the quaint idea of campaigns about ideas.
Andrea Becerril and Víctor Ballinas, “El Senado reanuda este martes discusión de reforma política” (Jornada, 3 December 2013)
Ricardo Goméz, “Senadors perfilan cambios a Reforma Política” (El Universal, 3 December 2013)
Political Constitution of the United Mexican States (update as of 23 February 2013)
For my friends (and opposition researchers) in the extractive industries… Inca Kola News has a longish piece worth reading on how one mining company in Peru (Minera Chindin, S.A.C.) manages to build solid relations with its neighbors, and avoid the conflicts between the traditional rural sectors of the economy and the mining companies over water and other essential resources:
“Written by alpaca fibre and Peru expert Francis Rainsford, it tells of an inexpensive and effective method that mining companies can use to gain strong approval and solid community relations in Andean high country project locations.”
…“City of Night,” which turns 50 this year, chronicles the journey of a young Mexican-American from the border town of El Paso into the gay underworld of Times Square, Hollywood Boulevard and the French Quarter of New Orleans during the 1950s. As the book’s jacket boldly announced, “This is a novel about America.”
(Greg Barrios, “A First Gay Novel, a Poor Latino Boyhoodand the Confluence” New York Times, 1 December 2013)
With the American tendency to pigeon-hole authors by ethnicity, gender, gender orientation, etc., writers who span one or two categories often are dismissed by academics, perhaps for the simple reason that they don’t fit easily into a syllabus. John Rechy for one.
Rechy’s 2008 memoir, About My Life and the Kept Woman details his early attempts to “pass” as Anglo in 1950s El Paso. The son of a elderly, alcoholic Scots-Mexican composer (a favorite of Porfirio Diaz) who had come down in the world after fleeing Mexico during the Revolution and his much younger, poorly educated second wife, Rechy writes of the “shame” not only of a poverty-stricken and violent home life, but of the double-life he felt forced to lead.
Although he would blossom as something of an athlete as a teenager (and, like many gay men of his generation, would be “pumped” as an adult), he was the coddled “baby” of the family. His mother — uneducated as she was — understanding early on that young Juan was “different”, she encouraged him to pursue an education in the hope that it might at least allow him a chance for a life outside the relentlessly “macho” atmosphere of the borderlands ghettos. Already possessing a suitably Anglo family name, — his given name Juan having become “John” apparently through the whimsy of a grade school teacher — he attended the “white” high school in the segregated 50s, by claiming his home address was one picked at random in a “white” neighborhood… and having classmates pick him up and drop him off at his fictitious home. Obviously, Rechy became adept at dreaming up excuses for not inviting friends in. In short, he learned at at early age how to live a double-life, and to keep his real identity in the closet when he needed to. He rather dramatically came out… as Mexican… only in college when he blew up at a friend’s openly racist mother who had invited him to visit at an exclusive resort.
Subterfuge and a denial of identity no longer working, and a gay identity being one not possible in the El Paso of the late 50s, Rechy would take to the road (his excuse being a possible writers’ workshop in New York) where he freely accepted his other identity as a gay man, a writer, and a hustler. Details of his working life made it into his first novel, City of Night. Given its subject matter, which was shocking at the time of its first publication in 1963, Rechy was pegged as a “gay writer” (although the sub-genre of GLBT Fiction didn’t exist at the time).
While I am not a believer in the theory that one needs to know anything abut an author’s biography in order to enjoy the work, and although Rechy didn’t deal with specifically Mexican-American themes until his 1991 The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez, like “Miraculous Day”, City of Night should be on Chicano/Latino reading lists.
I happened not to have read City of Night until about ten years ago while living in Mexico City. It was one I had heard of, and had read other novels by Rechy (including “Miraculous Day”), so at least recognized the name. I happened on a first paperback edition for five pesos one afternoon being sold by a miscellaneous second-hand “stuff” vendor on calle Hidalgo. Not knowing anything about the author’s life other than he was a writer of gay fiction, but living in Mexico, what I read called to mind a work of Mexican literature.. another “shocking” novel about the gay “underworld”… Luis Zapata’s 1978 Adonis García: El vampiro de la colonia Roma… also about a male prostitute, and his peregrinations through the country, though Adonis’ country being Mexico.
Zapata’s novel was published in English (although now out of print) as “Adonis Garcia: a picaresque novel”. While there are works that could be called “picaresques” in English — “the adventures of a roguish hero of low social class who lives by his wits in a corrupt society” (as Wikipedia puts it). But, in English, “picaresques” are comical or satirical novels. While there is some comedy in City of Night and Adonis Garcia is often very funny, both are rather sad books about social outcasts forced to come to terms with their place (or non-place) in the world, and their coming to self-awareness … a theme with a long tradition in Spanish-language letters. “City of Night” is in a long tradition of such novels in Spanish (and Latin American) letters, dating back to the anonymous 1540s proto-novel Lazarillo de Tormes. Adonis, the protaganist of Zapata’s novel, like Rechy’s “Youngman” are Lazarillos. That is, although City of Night was written in English, it is a Hispanic novel, and the author should, on that point, also be considered a Latino author.
There are mentions of a home in El Paso, Youngman’s brown skin, and a amusing (and very well done) look at racial stereotyping (Youngman is kept for a time by a professor who thinks he is “civilizing” a dumb Mexican kid… until Youngman makes the mistake of mentioning his own higher education). While not overt, Youngman’s Mexicanidad is essential to City of Night. The need to “escape” and to present a double-identity to the outside world (both sexual and ethnic) gives meaning to what might otherwise have been seen as simply a titillating “road trip” (from Texas to New York, to California, to New Orleans).
Rechy’s place as pioneer in GLBT letters is secure. And, while even the most conservative of Chicano/Latino academics have — if grudgingly — given a pass to “The Miraculous Day of Amalia Gomez” to their own canons, it is only now, when Rechy is an octogenarian that his first (and, I think, finest) work is being recognized.
For the gay Chicano writer Benjamin Alire Sáenz, winner of this year’s PEN/Faulkner Award and a teacher in the creative writing department at the University of Texas at El Paso, Mr. Rechy’s novel is “without a doubt one of the finest literary works ever written.”
“It saddens me to think that it is rarely taught and mentioned in the Latino literary canon, which only goes to show how homophobic the literary establishment has been,” Mr. Sáenz said. ”What he taught me is this: to banish all fear when I sit down to write.”
What Rechy wrote was more than a Latino novel, or a gay novel, or an American novel… he wrote something much more important… as Benjamin Alire Sáenz said, “one of the finest literary works ever written.”
Having just written on the so-far successful double-arm transplant that promises so much to Gabriel Granados, I should point out a genuinely troubling problem with services to the handicapped here in Mexico.
Family and Social Services (DIF… Desarrolo Integral de la Familia) programs, at the Federal, State, and Municipal level are charged with providing services for special needs citizens. While meant to work in conjunction with IMSS (the Mexican Social Security Institute, which is also the national health care system), too often DIF is seen more as a charity… or a PR oppportunity… than as a public service. Especially at the local and state level, there’s been a long-standing custom of appointing the wife of the municipal president or governor to head the DIF — creating the impression that DIF is a charity group for the ladies who lunch… of the right political party. While that is a good reason in itself to vote for more presidentas and gobernadoras, and some state’s “primara damas” are surprisingly professional, DIF is all too often under amateur administration… or worse, turned over to party hacks.
It’s very nice that the Governor’s wife shows up at a party for children with Downs’ Syndrome, and Party leaders are always grateful when someone manages to get some story like “Mayor Provides Funds For New Wheelchairs” (although, in a recent scandal here in Sinaloa, the difference between the budgeted cost and the for real wheelchairs and the plastic chairs with bicycle wheels that were delivered raised some eyebrows… and never was explained), but there is also the tendency to use DIF to push political agendas. The DIF employees are generally hard-working and committed, and do more than they are asked, but when their administrators don’t provide funding for services to persons with AIDS, or the less photogenic (or sympathic) persons in need of services (convicts, schizophrenics, addicts) there isn’t much they can do, except refer the client to private charities.
While there are those charitable organizations that you barely hear about better equipped to deal with some issues that DIF can’t handle (referring an addict to the nearest Narcotics Anonymous meeting makes more sense than most things a government agency could do and social workers at DIF aren’t adverse to calling on the Lions Clubs or the Rotary or the Sisters of Charity when they need them), one charity in particular has become a polemical issue, not only for duplicating the work of DIF, but in a real sense, a competitor to it.
The Televisa “Teletón” is pushed by everyone from the President of the Republic (whose wife, conveniently, was a telenovela star in any number of Televisa productions), the main political elites, and … Televisa having a stranglehold on popular entertainment, of course, every popular singer, dancer, actor and celebrity of note. In addition to letting the pols show their “concern”, it also is a wonderful opportunity for major businesses to deduct up to seven percent of their pre-tax earnings as “charitable contributions”… while receiving several hours of free advertising on 80 percent of Mexican televisions… and stamping their logo all over all kinds of bling meant for… “handicapped CHILDREN”.
Everybody likes children, especially the photogenic, but unfortunate ones, but DIF is meant to serve adults and non-photogentic children as well. Because the Teletón is such a major event (last figure I saw, it had raised about 475 million pesos, and it’s not over until tomorrow night), it is seen by the administration as a substitute for DIF, the budget is often stinted, and seen as a “nice, but less necessary” item … leading to protests by “minusvalidos” of the various Latin American television networks (not just Televisa, although it’s the largest) that put on these events.
Secondly, and probably of less immediate impact on DIF, the Teletón is very much a political event… the network (besides taking huge tax breaks for producing the three day special, and… some say… turning a profit providing services to DIF) guarantees the support of the main parties through a simple quid pro quo agreement… be part of the Teletón and go along with it, or receive bad coverage — or no coverage. When it comes to DIF, it’s almost never covered (except when, say, a primara doña needs a photo op) while Televisa gives the impression that it is the main source of assistance for the handicapped. Which it isn’t, and isn’t meant to be.
While Televisa’s strangle-hold on Mexican television and news coverage is, itself, an issue, it may seem strange to outsiders that a charity event is boycotted by many and the subject of speculation about hidden motives. But it does show that Mexicans still have respect for some of their government’s institutions, and understand very well that the State cannot outsource its responsibilities to the citizens without compromising its own commitment to its people.
no al teleton (mexico), Taringa.net
Salinas, Arturo: Odiadores de Televisa van Vs Teletón por las razones incorrectas y con falsedades, SDPNoticias.com
Teletón: el monopolio de la atención a la discapacidad, Emeeques (02-12-2013)