Apologies for not posting regularly over the last week and a half. I was busy with some personal business (my own wedding among other things), but hope to have an opportunity to comment (if only briefly) on some of the items in the news that … while not always “top of the fold” in the news cycle (dominated by the upcoming elections, and the latest massacre the government claims is not a massacre*)… are glimpses into the many Mexicos of today.
In the generally conservative to middle-of-the-road Milenio, Álvaro Cuevo asked in the Sunday edition (17 May 2015) “What the Hell is wrong with this country that we condemn teachers and praise gangsters“? Cuevo questions whether the attacks on “corruption” in the teachers’ union isn’t being used to justify vilifying what was an honorable profession here. Certainly there was and is corruption and feather-bedding within the union, but one asks who is responsible for that, if not the PRI, when they imposed leaders and tried to make the union an arm of the party? That the union leadership eventually moved closer to PAN, and bought into bad ideas imported from the north like teaching to the tests, and education for work, rather than education for the sake of an informed citizenry, are as responsible as anyone else.
There was a two or three day dust-up when tapes of a telephone conversation in which the president of the Elections Commission (INE), Lorenzo Córdova Vianello, used less than respectful language towards indigenous community representatives (“Me big chief Sitting Bull”). As politicians are wont to do, Córdova offered a non-apology apology (“If anyone was offended, I’m sorry”). While there’s some speculation that the thing was a set-up (the indigenous group apparently was a front for one political party, or, rather, a faction within a party), and discrediting Córdova — or forcing him to resign — would complicate the elections and/or open up one more vote for disqualifying the Green Party (as demanded by all but the Greens and the PRI, which dominate the elections commission), it’s one more reminder that Mexico still has a long way to go in coming to terms with its own indigenous community.
In Saltillo, a rehab center run by the Cristo Vive church was fined 250 salarios mínimos for discrimination against gays and lesbians. Coahuila always seems to be the odd man out in northern Mexico… despite our perceptions of el norte as conservative (the leftist parties barely exist in the states bordering the U.S.), it was the first state to have “civil unions” and now one of three jurisdictions (along with Quintana Roo and the Federal District) where there is no impediment to same-gender marriages. Even more head-turning, the discrimination suit was brought by the communidad San Aelred, a Roman Catholic Church organization.
A report on word-wide banking trends published in The Guardian caught my eye, mostly because Mexico was a different color on one chart than any other country. While 51% of all adults in the U.S., Canada, AND Mexico took out loans last year (a bit higher than most of the world, though about the same percentage as Scandinavians), while Canadians and USAnians borrow mostly for mortgages (32% of all loans in both countries), Mexicans borrow for healthcare and education expenses. While I haven’t seen the figures being discussed here… yet… it would seem to indicate we need to spend more public funds in those areas, which are already the largest portions of federal spending.
And, not to wax “Friedmanesque”, but having taken more taxis over the last two weeks than I normally do, I dipped into Thomas Friedman’s patented bag of one trick, and asked a taxista his opinion about the protests (and Tuesday’s taxi strike) against Über’s infiltration of Mexico City’s public transit . My driver was more concerned with “piratas” than Über itself … the legitimate taxis having not only to paint their cars a ridiculous color (pink and white) but to pay for medallions, insurance, inspection, replacement cars and… above all… special plates, the piratas (whether pink and white or not) are giving the legitimate drivers a bad name. Über, as he sees it, is mostly handling the airport corridor and the wealthier neighborhoods normally serviced by tourist taxis and limousine services, and probably just needs regulated the same way those higher priced private transport systems are. I’ve been fascinated though, by the foreign response… the “expat community” (i.e., the mostly white, north American and northern Europeans with money and living in the wealthier enclaves of Polanco and Condesa) are quick to condemn the taxis, often for carrying “those” people, while those of us (even if we are in Roma Sur) who are “those” people and depend on taxis and the Metro and the buses to get around aren’t likely to get hung up on a car having better seats than another or bottled water, and just want to get from point A to point B.
Politically, I think this is a no-brainer for the municipal government. There are a lot more poor voters, and a lot more voters with friends or relatives who drive taxis than there are people who use (or can afford to use Über, and which requires having a smart-phone and a credit card). And… stupidly, during the strike, Über doubled its rates.
* Both of which I’ll post about tomorrow
When in Mexico we speak of “mafias” we are not referring to gangsters so much as “special interest groups”, generally with an economic interest … say, taxi owners, or the inner circle of business groups, or political factions. AMLO famously uses the phrase “mafias del poder” to refer to his opponents — the entrenched establishment leadership, the “one-percenters” of Mexico.
Yet… if we are to take remarks passed on by Televisa evening news presenter and journalist, Joaquin López-Doriga, perhaps the Mexican “mafias” are considering resorting to a style more like that of old-fashioned ethic gangsters. Writing in last Friday’s Milenio, López Doriga passes on remarks he has heard in “business circles” (his phrasing) to the effect that the present government (presumably though political errors) is paving the way for AMLO to return to presidential politics, and that he has to be stopped, by any means necessary. Or, so López-Doriga hints, when he says it would be a grave error in a democracy to eliminate a presidential candidate, as happened the afternoon of 23 May 1994 in Lomas Taurina, Tijuana. Without spelling out what exactly he’s getting at, the date and place is the equivalent in US political writing of saying November 22, 1963 in Dealy Plaza, Dallas. In short… political assassination.
As with John Kennedy’s assassination, the May 1994 assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio, widespread doubt surrounds the official story. Moreover, while Colosio was “only” a candidate for the Presidency and not the sitting President, as the PRI candidate in the pre-reform system, there is a stronger sense of “what might have been had he lived” surrounding Colosio than there is around Kennedy. Colosio was expected to reform the political and social system, widely seen as another Lazaro Cardenas (our FDR), as well as a reformer who would put the brakes on neo-liberalism and … more ominously to the “mafias” … “break with the practices which have made (the Party) a rigid organization”. Two weeks and three days after saying this in public, he was dead.
And so, López-Doriga’s not so cryptic comment is being read as a warning to not just AMLO (who the journalist, as a Televisa employee, did his best to paint AMLO as a “danger to Mexico”) but to the “mafias of power” as well. López-Doriga points out that AMLO may not even be a Presidential candidate in 2018, and that the comments about stopping AMLO are more directed at what business leaders see as the mistakes of the last two administrations than at AMLO himself… that is, the business establishment seems to be saying “IF we don’t get our act together, AMLO will take over”.
Not that I think that’s a bad thing, and — as Ciro Gómez Leyva writes in El Universal — entirely plausible. Mexico is a multi-party state (in large part, due to the reforms that followed the shock of Colosio’s assassination) and the president is not, as in most Latin American countries, elected by a majority (50 percent plus one) which usually requires a run-off, but by simply plurality of votes. AMLO’s last two times out, he received a third, or a bit more than a third of the vote. The three main parties — PRI, PAN, and PRD are all losing votes, PRD … hurt by revelations of several of its office-holders having ties to organized crime, was the biggerst loser, but AMLO’s new party, MORENA, has been rapidly growing, polling (the last time I looked) a respectable 10% of the electorate… which is pretty damn good considering the party didn’t exist a year ago..
While the left is fractured among several parties, presumably in 2018, they would run a fusion ticket. Headed by AMLO, he only needs to do better than the PRI, which is also hemorraging members to minor parties, PAN — which, while not losing as much of its membership, is beset by infighting, and the sense that it is neither able to deliver on its promises, nor offers a real alternative to PRI. So, Gómez Leyva sees a real possibility of an AMLO presidency in 2018.
No friend of AMLO’s, Gómez Leyva does lay out a few scenarios that would stop AMLO, short of those hinted at by the businessmen. AMLO could die of natural causes. PRI or PAN could somehow discover a credible, popular figure to run for President in the next two years… something not on the horizon now. Or PRI and PAN (dismissed as “PRIAN” by the left anyway) could run a common candidate, as presumably the various parties on the left would do, all backing AMLO (as they did in 2006, when he may have actually won).
And, perhaps a back-handed sign that AMLO’s future candidacy is a very real worry for the establishment, Felipe Calderón was back in the news today… sounding like a broken record, he was warning that a vote NOT for the establishment is a vote for another Hugo Chavez, or… AMLO.
One nice thing about Mexican elections, though, is the candidates aren’t even officially running until 90 days before the vote. So… while all this is speculative, about April 2017, the U.S. media may again be full of stories about the “populist firebrand” and such-like nonsense. Only this time, maybe the “populist firebrand” will win.
Gómez Leyva, Ciro. “Quién puedo derrotar a López Obrador en 2018?” El Universal 15 May 2015
López-Dóriga, Joaquin. “AMLO es el blanco” Milenio 15 May 2015
“Felipe Calderón: habrá violencia si se ganan candidatos populistas” Proyecto Diez, 12 May 2015
“These fourth-rate politicians misuse tax revenues, squander what belongs to us for their personal benefit instead of completing public works for the benefit of our communities.
“Our country is being left crippled. . . .
“If you think that we young people are unaware of the problems, allow me to set you straight, because we are the ones most affected by corruption, and of course we know and we understand every move you make. Not all youths are ignorant, and we know that corruption continues to grow…”
… perhaps he was merely confused, or dazzled, or just chose to overlook the fact that she explicitly excluded politicians when she finished up her oration with a paean to the people … the honest Mexicans, not the politicians, who wish for health, happiness and prosperity.
I’ll leave it to Franc Contraras (presently with CCTV-America, China) to lay out the situation
So, let’s see. The US has “given” Mexico 2.4 billion dollars to allegedly “fight drugs”. Not mentioned, most of that 2.4 billion is already spent in the United States, not including the half billion spent buying new Humvees for the Army. The cost of all those Blackhawk helicopers is not included.
US. consumers purchase somewhere around 600 billion dollars in “drugs” every year, which I suppose makes it sensible that the US might want to “fight drugs” just to protect its own domestic narcotics traders, but doesn’t explain why Mexico then would buy US equipment.
Supposedly, the Peña Nieto government was going to de-emphasize the “drug war” of the previous administration, and while the Peña Nieto administration hasn’t been able to keep its promises, that excuse wears thin.
I don’t like to frame everything in terms of the “drug war” (there are drugs, there are gangsters, there is not a “war”… except maybe on the poor in this country), and I think there is a simpler explanation for the massive purchases.
The U.S. is an expansionist, imperialist power, whose economy largely depends on military spending. Mexico has never been expansionist, and has been cutting its military budget consistently over the last eighty years. Even during the Second World War, the Mexican military budget dropped as a percentage of overall federal spending.
However, with the United States now “over-extended” throughout the world (with bases in 180 countries) and despite pro-military propaganda (both official and unofficial… Hollywood films, TV shows, etc.) is having trouble filling its ranks. The US military has openly coveted using Mexican troops to swell its own ranks and serve its needs.
Making the Mexican forces dependent on U.S. equipment, the U.S. accomplishes two key goals. Not only does it bind the Mexican military to the United States as its supplier, it also lets the United States accomplish a long-range goal (one it never has given up) of direct control of Mexico. The Mexican military always saw the United States as the most probable foreign invader and, in the supply department, those items it had to buy from abroad, it bought from a basket of countries… Sweden, Germany, Russia, France (and in the past, Belgium, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia) … none of which (except France) have ever had any territorial ambitions in Mexico, nor been in a position to subordinate the country.
Using the premise of the “drug war”, the United States is, without formally invading, “conquering” Mexico. Given that if the US did invade, they’d win no matter what, the best defense … besides unilaterally ending the “drug war” and investing more in human resources and jobs would be to lessen cultural and economic ties to the U.S.
Don Porfirio was right about that, never putting all the import/export eggs in one basket… in the economy or in military hardware. For that matter, Santa Anna was right, though buying second hand British weapons (left over from the Napoleonic Wars) was a mistake. I’ve suggested before that Barack Obama is another Woodrow Wilson (not a good thing to Latin Americans), but in this matter, his administration is another James Knox Polk.
I’ve posted on this before, but being a permanent resident (and on my way to just getting naturalized), I don’t pay much attention to the costs of temporary residency. From a post on Mexconnect, I got this:
…my total fees for the 3year RT [three year temporary residency… which can then be turned over into a permanent resident certificate] were MXN $7154.00. This price included $1,000 pesos for my lawyer, and $6154.00 for the Mexican Government including the fee for change of address. In today’s USD that would be about 476.00…
The price for APPLYING for a Green Card in the US is $1,078 (in today’s USD, this would be… $1,078), and the lawyers’ fees would run somewhere upwards of several thousand more on top of that.
Maria Elena Velasco, QEPD.
The comedian’s “la India María” was one of the most brilliant characters in Mexican film… creating the classic “country bumpkin”: the innocent rural “Indian” who outwits and triumphs over the elites and sophisticates through her natural goodness and tenaciousness. While there are those who saw her character as perpetuating a stereotype, it was by using the stereotype and stock situations that she gently, and effectively skewered our class and racial assumptions about Mexico, laughing with, and not at, the absurdity and sometimes surrealism of a country where contemporary values and customs co-exist with the traditional and timeless.
From one of my favorites, the “haunted house” parody “El Miedo No Anda En Burro”: