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Cupable: a short film on the for profit imprisonment of migrants

16 June 2015

A short history of Mexican neo-liberalism

15 June 2015

Biting satire …




Beat ya! Mexican Supreme Court one up on the US Supremes

8 June 2015

With the election, a “small” item slipped by the media this last week of some note… quite a bit of note, actually.

With no fanfare, and while its ruling has not yet been published (possibly held off until after the election), the Mexican Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriages are legal everywhere in the Republic.

When same-sex marriages were first legalized within the Federal District, several states (as in the United States) amended their state constitutions to define marriage as “one man-one woman” relationships.  Two states (Quintana Roo and Coahuila) have since instituted same-sex marriage and the Mexican Supreme Court already ruled (without any real discussion, or dissent) that marriages in one jurisdiction within the Republic were valid in all jurisdictions… before anyone in the US was really even aware of the Windsor case.

Last week, the Court heard, and apparently has decided, that based on Mexico’s own “bill of rights” (articulo 1° in our Constitution) that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation (something added years ago, also without any real fights), that those “one man-one woman” restrictions are invalid.

The rules of the court require hearing five similar cases, before it can order states to change their constitutions to conform to the federal constitution, and — having already ruled on cases from Oaxaca, Baja California, Sinaloa, and the State of México — a challenge to Colima’s marriage laws (Colima had created a form of civil partnership, that was separate, but less equal to marriage) was heard by the court with only the briefest of discussion before being voted on by the magistrates.

While it can be expected that state legislatures will drag their feed in changing their own marriage laws, and one can expect some last-ditch resistance (perhaps, as in some US states, trying to build in some “conscience clause” for civil registrars who don’t want to do their job), judges throughout the Republic will have no recourse but to order registrars to perform their legal duty, and basically, the fight that was never a fight here, but some kind of crusade up there, is over.

Strange people north of the border… with their quaint folkways and resistance to joining the modern world.


(J. Lester Feder, “Mexico Appears To Have Crossed A Major Hurdle To Marriage Equality“, Buzzfeed,  5 June 2015)

Situation normal?

8 June 2015

Nothing changes in Mexico… until it changes

(attributed to Porfirio Díaz)

captureDid the election change anything?  I’m afraid my vantage point was my kitchen window (looking down into my neighbor’s garage, which was a polling station), PREP data (the official vote counts which started coming in about 8 PM, and I stopped looking at 1 AM) and various news reports.

My take-away… yes and no.

As Jan Martínez Ahrens reports for El País, the PRI is still in control of the federal legislature… although it has lost somewhere around a dozen seats, its ally, the Greens, has picked up around 14.  In theory, this strengthens the PRI, but with the wide-scale scandals surrounding the Greens’ flaunting of the election laws (and growing demand that the party be stripped of its registration, or more severely sanctioned), the PRI risks losing even more credibility by its close association with the Greens, and individual Greens may defect to other parties, or be the find themselves the scapegoats for whatever the next scandal to be uncovered within the legislature might be. 

PAN … which is in the middle of its own ideological fight over party leadership (between the Madero and Calderón factions) … returns to its normal 20 percent or so of the electorate.  Where there has been the biggest shake-up is in the PRD, which has dropped from its normal 15 to 20 percent to a mere 11 percent.  Picking up the slack on the left has been Morena (López Obradór’s new party) which looks to have about 10 percent of the vote, too.

While Morena is more a populist than a leftist party (in includes some on the far right, who simply are attracted by Morena’s calls for austerity in the budget and its nationalist vision), it has a claim to be the “authentic” voice of the Mexican left, and … assuming PRD will join with Morena (and Morena, more than likely with the Workers’ Party — which seems to have squeaked by with enough support, sometimes in coalition with PRD, to maintain its registry as a party) and the Citizens’ Movement (like PRD, originally a dissident faction within PRI, vaguely leftist, though led more by the rural middle-class than the PRD’s Mexico City intelligentsia), one can imagine another fractious left-wing coalition within the next Chamber of Deputies and Senate.

One of the surprises of the night…  Social Encounter’s much stronger than expected showing looks like it means it will be registered as a permanent party, and will have a few seats in the legislature… will need to be a junior partner in one of the oppositions… that of PAN or the left is to be determined.

And, of course, with the PRD largely discredited in much of its traditional strongholds (like Guerrero), whether it would be to the benefit of a leftist coalition to have the more opportunistic pols from the old left joining the (not new, but re-newed) left is a problem to be resolved.

Within Mexico City, Morena did exceedingly well, though its candidates were, for the most part, just recycled PRD and other party switchers (our incoming Jefe de Delegación, Ricardo Monreal, was the governor of Zacatecas for PRD, then a Workers’ Party Senator for a six years, and now a Morena leader for Delegacion Cuauhtémoc), gaining five to seven delegacion leaderships and about a third of the District Assembly seats.    PRD, or PRD in coalition with the Workers’ Party, gained most of the rest, a few remaining in PAN or PRI hands.

Always aware that the left here tends to form a circular firing squad, it does look as Mexico is back to where it normally is… with PRI (though now operating through the Greens and the Alliance as partners) with about 40-45 percent of the vote, PAN with out 20 to 25 percent, and the fractured left with about a third.

So… nothing changed.  Until it did.

The foreign media has been somewhat gaga over “El Bronco” (Jaime Rodriquez) who blew away both PAN and PRI to win election as the independent governor of Nuevo Leon.  However, with Rodriquez having spent his long political career as a PRI-ista, and his slick campaign (notable mostly for its saavy use of social media) whether he is really an “independent” as claimed, or simply notable (like Vicente Fox) for mastering a new campaign style, is something that has yet to be determined.  It is notable that independents and minor party candidates (from Social Encounter) won municipal presidencies in Nuevo Leon as well.  Soccer legend Cuauhtémoc Blanco was elected Presidentee Municipal of Cuernavaca on a local party ticket, overwhelming his PRI and PAN rivals.  Another independent, Sinaloan Manuel Clouthier Carrillo won election to the Chamber of Deputies.  Clouthier Carrillo is, of course, the son of PAN’s greatest leader (who turned what had been a cranky rightist party into a genuine conservative opposition), Manuel de Jesús Clouthier del Rincón. 

The younger Manuel quit PAN (as did his sister) in protest against the party’s return to its far-right (as opposed to conservative business) roots and its willingness to make deals with PRI.  I have qualms about “independents”… wondering if they aren’t beholden — if not to factions within their old parties (like “El Bronco”) than representing as much their own financial interests (Clouthier is a very wealthy man, and owner of the Noroeste media chain in Sinaloa) as the voters to whom they appeal.  Still, a shakeup is a change.

Null ballot

Null ballot

Despite desperate pleas from the left and right to vote, if only to prevent the PRI from maintaining control of the political system, it’s becoming clear that the old system, even the so-called “reformed democracy” that has allowed for multi-party elections, is not meeting everyone’s needs.  Turnout, while higher than was feared (probably about 45 to 50%) was relatively low for such a controversial and multi-candidate election.  The percentage of “null” votes (ballots left empty or purposely defaced) was relatively high… polling better nationally than at least four of the ten parties.  There were overt calls to boycott the election, and in a few communities it appears the elections could not be held, it looks as if the system is here to stay… until it changes.  Which, it just might.

Whether the people are satisfied with the results of this election, there is growing consensus in the idea — as formulated by Juan Antonio Crespo — that Mexico is a multi-party state, but not a multi-party democracy:  that the Greens are just the PRI under a different label; that the independent candidates are not independent of outside interests differing from those of the candidate’s constituents; that the cost of the elections with 10 parties and any number of independents is more an investment in political parties and political advertising than in doing the people’s business.

And that nothing has changed… until …

 Sources:  PREP data, El País, Proceso, LaJornada, Noroeste, Vice, El Universal, Televisa.

Peña’s overthrow?

5 June 2015

Fair or not, Jorge Carrasco Araizaga (Proceso, 4 June 2015) sees Sunday’s election not so much as a rejection of the Peña Nieto administration as an admission by that administration of its own failures.  And Mexico’s

My quick and dirty translation:

Sunday’s elections are anticipated to mark a defeat for the government of Enrique Peña Nieto.

The president and his government are reduced to mere by-standers to those who have challenged the electoral process, one marked by violence and illegality.

The immediate concern is organized crime in Tamaulipas, Jalisco and Michoacan, and radical and anti-government movements in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Puebla.

If the score of murders and threats to candidates and political operatives in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Michoacan, Tabasco, Yucatan, Veracruz, Puebla, State of Mexico and the Federal District, along with clashes in Sonora, just to mention the best known cases, almost half of the states have experienced electoral violence even before election day.

Particularly troubling was the incident in Tamaulipas last Tuesday (2 June) when a grenade was thown at the headquarters of the Federal Judiciary Council (CJF) in Matamoros, the first attack ever on the Federal Judiciary. Although the CJF is alien to the electoral process, the attack that left four injured is part of the atmosphere of violence and illegality surrounding the general election.

Even more serious for the country’s stability it is that illegal activities are being driven by the policial powers and the party system itself. The persistent challenges of the Green Party to the electoral law has been one example no one can miss.

With the backing of the ruling PRI — with which the Greens are presently allied — or with PAN — which has formed alliances with the Greens in expection of a coming victory — the Greens have devoted themselves to violating the electoral law to the point that they generated an organized social reaction intended to withdraw the party’s registration.

The brazenness of the Green Party can not be taken for just a campaign issue. There needs to be a continuing discussion of the circumstances under which a party should lose its registration and how to deal with such parties as part of political coalitions.

Although it was the most obvious law-breaker, the Greens were hardly alone. Beyond the accusations of the involvement of organized crime in the elections, itself a serious problem, candidates and political operatives acted as real criminals, organized to commit unlawful acts and cover-up their activities.

Wiretaps leaked during election campaign offer a collection of evidence of varied criminal activity by those seeking to maintain or gain power.

The desire to maintain or gain power has led to parties and candidates to violate as many laws as possible with the certainty that will not be punished due to a lack of accountability.

They know that beyond the scandal reported in the press, perhaps they will be fined and their (state-funded) resources questioned, but will seek to the monetary penalty, which they will pay with public funds.

What is ideal for parties is the worst possible deal for citizens, made worse by the failure of the head of state to exercize his authority. The electoral process has shown the transcendental weakness of Peña Nieto and displays to the world the depths to which Mexico has sunk.


4 June 2015

Speaking of repackaged old political groups, the Partido Comunista de México (not to be confused with the Partido Comunista Méxicano) recently held their Second National Conference in Mexico City.

cpIf you expected a bunch of senile Stalinists, you might be surprised.  Party members quoted by Emeques were quick to defend old Uncle Joe (after all, it was a revolution) but senile they weren’t.  While they have their eminences grises, the 8000 strong PCM’s membership is surprisingly youthful, with several party leaders in their early to mid 20s.

While debating Communism for the 21st Century, and considering whether voting was even an option for a revolutionary party (let alone applying for ballot access), the comrades weren’t all work and no play… but unlike our larger parties, the Communists were rather frugal… at least they served cookies.



(Comunistas mexicanos: volver al futuro, Emeeques)



My day of reflection

4 June 2015

The “days of reflection! will soon descend in anticipation of Sunday’s mid-term elections.  All campaigning will stop at midnight tonight (bliss!!!) — theoretically to give the voters time to sort through all the propaganda — and even Mexico City will go “dry” Saturday and Sunday.  Whether the latter, as we have always been told, really does cut down on election day violence (and shenanigans) or only encourages them, is another story.

rochaThe big worry among the politicos is not that independent candidates are likely to win a few elections (notably, the governorship of Nuevo Leon… which has the “usual sources” in the media, like The Guardian and The New York Times — and a few rare birds like The Sydney Morning Herald — all paying attention to a Mexican mid-term election), but that the voters will either stay home, spoil their ballots, or worse…  violence usually being blamed on “radical teachers” in Guerrero and Michoacán.

In states like Guerrero, where the political parties, including the PRD (or especially the PRD) have been discredited, the left-wing media was generally supportive of calls to boycott the election, both as a means of expressing rejection of the existing parties and the party system, and as a way of de-legitimizing the entrenched “political class” (usually overlapping the economic powers — including gangsters) within those states.  However, with the strong polling by MORENA (Lopez Obrador’s new populist front) in the Federal District, and the very real possibility that minor parties, and sense that the bums will be thrown out, the chattering classes and “pundits” are all now urging the voters to turn out and vote… in the words of one columnist for the generally unreadable Mexico City News … for “the candidate that least offends”.

I sense a trend in the hispanic world here.  The strong showing by PODEMOS and allies in Spain, as well as the on-going scandal in Guatemala and the growing calls for President Lobos’ resignation in Honduras, as well as the stronger than anticipated support for new and minor parties here in Mexico, suggest that insurgency — and a rejection of the “same old-same old” — is growing, but at the same time, the political classes find themselves saddled with the “same old-same old” means to respond to citizen demands.  That is, creating political parties, whose candidates are for the most part recycled from the mainstream groups, repackaged as something new (like El Bronco, a 30+ year PRI operative) or just rebranded as the smarter, cleaner kid-brother of the discredited elder party (the Greens as an alternative to PRI, or MORENA as an alternative to PRD).

I question whether political parties are not more a hindrance to democracy than  anything else, and whether the 18th century method of voting by geographical district (rather, than say, social and/or economic interest) is necessary… and whether political parties can represent the people’s varied interests in any meaningful way.  Since systemic change is not possible at this time, perhaps its all to the good that minor parties and individuals are seen as a valid option by the people… who — one hopes — will be able to throw the bums out when they become too entrenched or fail to adjust to meet the needs of the people at the next election.





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