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“Profanity Pop”

10 August 2014

Mexican artist José Rodolfo Loaiza Ontiveros, at a showing in Los Angeles, mixed Disney characters with Mexican (and Catholic) imagery to create not just another cultural mash-up, but a succès de scandale, with polemics flying back and forth on whether or not Loaiza is an artist, or a “destroyer of childhood”.  (Sin Embargo)



“Illegals” don’t pay taxes, right?

9 August 2014

While unauthorized immigrants worked and contributed as much as $13 billion in payroll taxes to the OASDI program in 2010, only about $1 billion in benefit payments during 2010 are attributable to unauthorized work. Thus, we estimate that earnings by unauthorized immigrants result in a net positive effect on Social Security financial status generally, and that this effect contributed roughly $12 billion to the cash flow of the program for 2010. We estimate that future years will experience a continuation of this positive impact on the trust funds.

Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on The Actuarial Status Of The Social Security Trust Funds. Social Security Administration, Actuarial Note. No. 151 (April 2014)

In plain, non-bureaucratic, English, “illegal immigrants” to the United States — even if using fake Social Security numbers — end up a net asset, the Social Security taxes they pay never being paid out to them as benefits.

Migrant assistance our side of the border

8 August 2014

E-mail from, August 7, 2014. Article by Guadalupe Castro. El Sol de Tijuana, August 6 and 7, 2014. Articles by Eliud Avalos Matias, EFE and editorial staff.  While too often honored in the breach and not the practice, Mexico is a signatory to international agreements on the right of transit and accepts that everyone is entitled to health care.

Guatemalan and Mexican authorities have signed an agreement to provide greater assistance to Guatemalan migrants in Baja California, Mexico.

Alejandra Gordillo, executive director of the National Council for Assistance to Guatemalan Migrants (Conamigua), estimated that upwards of 3,500 Guatemalan migrants are residing in the northern Mexican border city of Tijuana alone, virtually stranded without work or adequate economic support.

“We are interested in making the problem visible, because we’ve seen the efforts of Mexico on the southern border,” Gordillo said during a visit to Tijuana this week. “Now we want to know the problem on the northern border so we can take actions.”

Reached with the Baja California Attorney General for Human Rights, the bilateral accord proposes linking Guatemalan migrants currently in Baja California with Conamigua, for such purposes as obtaining necessary paperwork and reconnecting with families back home.

Arnulfo de Leon Lavenant, Baja California human rights ombudsman, said one issue faced by Guatemalan migrants is detention by the local police for not carrying identification, an action he judged illegal in view of the Mexican Constitution’s guarantee of the right to free transit. Healthcare is another pressing problem, he said, with his office seeing on a daily basis Guatemalan migrants who require medical treatment.

“We will continue treating the migrant as he or she deserves, as a human being with rights,” the ombudsman said.

While she was in Tijuana, Gordillo also met with the Council for Migrant Assistance in Baja California, which is headed by Carlos Mora.

In comments to the Mexican press, the Guatemalan functionary recounted the litany of abuses and dangers migrants of all ages from her country encounter on their long journey across the Mexican Republic to the United States. These include shakedowns by Mexican police, sex trafficking and even violent death. Women and children headed to the United States have disappeared en route never to be heard from again, she said.

“The worrisome thing is that the person who travels does not know the contact he or she could have with organized crime,” Gordillo added. “We have seen many cases of mass graves in which the cause of (victims’) death could not be determined. The concern persists that these are territories coopted by organized crime. It is a transnational crime of different countries that covers a circle of more countries more extensively.”
According to Gordillo, 150,000 Guatemalans migrate to the United States every year. The proportion of child migrants has risen dramatically during the last five years, she said, increasing from 1,000 children in 2009 to almost 12,000 in 2014.

Gordillo said economic motivations, family reunification, generalized insecurity and domestic violence- including cases of rape, incest and physical aggression- all help explain the migrant exodus. Additionally, immigrant smugglers, or “coyotes,” assure would-be migrants that they will be granted U.S. residency once the border is crossed, she added.

“They don’t know they could become victims of organized crime,” Gordillo said.

Meanwhile, in the first major crackdown of its kind, Guatemala’s National Civil Police this week arrested seven alleged immigrant smugglers who were said to charge $6,500 for each child transported from Central America to the United States. Interior Minister Mauricio Bonilla said the alleged leader of the smuggling ring, Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, had amassed a fortune of $3 million from his illicit activities. More arrests are expected in the case. In an August 2 statement, the Obama Administration said the Guatemalan government was investigating six human trafficking rings “in coordination with U.S. officials.”

A rising tide lifts all boats

6 August 2014

In Mexico, the mimimum wage is not calculated by the hour, but by the day.  It is supposedly calculated on a “market basket” of the goods and services needed to support a family of four, assuming the worker is employed full time and there are no added expenses.  Of course, those calculations are easily manipulated, and people living on the “salario minimo” have never been able to make ends meet.  Just as an example, my “pied-a-terre” in Mexico City (which is a maid’s room in someone else’s house) is about 180% of the salario minimo, and my ordinary expenses, not counting “frills” like a cup of coffee, or the telephone bill, are just about the salario mimimo.  I suppose with two workers living here (which would be uncomfortable) getting by at the salario mimio it would be possible, but not particularly helpful to the economy as a whole, since we’d not be spending anything outside of immediate household expenses.  And, never mind that without paying for a telephone line, and having a computer, I wouldn’t be working in the first place.  Everyone recognizes that the wage is much, much too low… that 67 pesos a day (the Mexico City wage, the highest of the regional wages) is at least ten pesos too low, and probably needs to go higher.   But even for those like myself, who are earning more (not enough, but that’s another story), and who recognize the need, there is a drawback.

Timageshe usual noise made about how a higher mimium wage will cause inflation, is usually silenced by the argument that it also means everyone will spend more.  But spending on what?  When inflation ran wild here in the 1980s and 90s, the mimium wage calculation didn’t keep up, but it was at least a meaningful number, whereas the number of pesos was not.  So, rather than try to change the price of basic government services for things like licences and fines, which would mean endless revisions of the regulations, the prices were set by the miminum wage.  A parking ticket, which at 50 pesos would be meaningless when there were 100o pesos to the dollar didn’t mean very much (and it wasn’t even worth offering the officer an “incentive” to resolve the issue) and there was no incentive NOT to illegally park.  So… things like fines and license fees were set as multiples of the mimimum wage.  And, discovering how much this simplified bookkeeping, so are a lot of salaries … including those of elected officials… and subsidies to political parties.  Who seem to see the mimum wage as a number to multiply by a factor of 100 or a 1000 when they aren’t paying a 100 or a 1000 times as much for food, clothing, shelter than the rest of us.


Juliana Fregoso, Si aumenta el salario mínimo, dice la IP, subirán multas, derechos, inflación, y los partidos recibirán más dinero (Sin Embargo, 6 August 2014)


No comment

5 August 2014

What Eduardo Galeano rightly called the largest company in Latin America NOT under foreign control is very likely to be under foreign control now:


Aug 5 (Reuters) – Mexico’s Senate gave final approval early on Tuesday to the backbone of a landmark energy reform as the government prepares to lure investment by major oil companies to stem the country’s declining oil production.


The bills, including a crucial new hydrocarbons law, govern implementation of a wider reform passed in December. They form the corner stone of a new plan to open the oil sector to private and foreign investment, aimed at attracting companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil.

If I said what I thought about this, I’d probably be deported.

Rounding up the usual suspects

4 August 2014

I’ve been distracted by real life (family and business affairs) which has meant neglecting the Mex Files … besides not writing on the massive changes to PEMEX (hint… I think they’re bone-headedly wrong) and the recent attempts to gag the media in Sinaloa, I keep running across things I MEAN to comment on, book-mark them, and never get back.

Having dumped about 100 bookmarks this weekend, at least here’s a round-up of what I would have commented on, or at least brought to your attention, was there world enough and time.

Lax Attitude Along Mexico’s Southern Border Becoming Thorn In U.S.’s Side, Andrew O’Reilly (Fox News Latino)

The favorite media source for the Know-nothings on Mexico’s “failure” to follow through on U.S. prescriptions to resolve it’s own border “issues” by exporting the types of controls that don’t work in the U.S. to Mexico.  My favorite bit is where O’Reilly says the Mexican-Guatemalan border is different because a third of it is river.. overlooking the fact that two-thirds of the U.S. Mexican border is also river… and one of the most important waterways in the North American continent to boot.

Uruguayan pot marketplace may go up in smoke, Leonardo Haberkorn, (Dis)Associated Press.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to say this, but the Latin American middle-class is not obsessed with pot, nor are Latin American particularly interested in smoking it. And middle-class people vote.

Víboras aparecen en curules del PRI en la Cámara de Diputados; están buscando su nido: perredistas,

David Martínez Huerta, SinEmbargo
Actually, a more telling tale than the humorous report on snakes (literal, not metaphoral ones) showing up in the Chamber of Deputies.  Aside from the jokes about the snakes heading for PRI seats (looking for their nest?  hunting rats?) the fact that the snakes had been in a massive floral display merited some commentary.  The floral displays were brought in to place around the bust of Lazaro Cardenas, part of a mock funeral for PEMEX and national control of the oil resources, mounted by the PRD.

Pinche Gringo BBQ: The Silver Twinkie in Mexico City, Mexico Cooks!

With all due respect to Cristina, the maven of Mexican food writers, the idea of a Tex-Mex airstream trailer invading Mexico City is not cultural fusion, but hipster barbarism.

Mexico’s New Gendarmerie: Security Game Changer or Window Dressing?, Patrick Corcoran, Insight Crime

On a more serious matter:

The gendarmerie was initially painted as an alternative to the armed forces being active in domestic security activities, and its creation was the first step toward lessening Mexico’s reliance on the army and the Marines. As Peña Nieto himself said in support of his proposal, “it would imply the gradual withdrawal of the armed forces to their barracks”. More recent reports indicate that the gendarmerie will have an explicit focus on protecting strategic regional industries.

Patrick (whose talents were stymed for years by the need to write about the narcotics export industry, as if that was the only business in Mexico, or the only criminal activity of note) questions whether the size of the new national police force hasn’t already been scaled back to a point where its effectiveness will be limited.  I question whether yet another national police force just isn’t a rationale for more U.S. spending on weapons and “training” and services that have had the effect of increasing insecurity here, though its a boon to the U.S. “military/industrial complex” as the various overt interventionist wars (Iraq, etc.) lose political support north of the border.

Nude, Gun-Toting Frida a Photog’s Creation, Susana Hayward Soler, News Taco

frida3I was fooled by the photo when it started appearing a few months ago, too.  I should have looked more carefully, or regarded it a bit more critically.  That Kahlo was self-aggrandizing enough to have posed for a photo like this (with it’s stereotyped “dangerous Mexican woman… sexy, but capable of murder) is reason enough to question whether the recent placement of Kahlo among the pantheon of Mexican (and female) aretists doesn’t have more to do with her self-created image, and less to do with her artistic merit (or lack thereof… I think she was neither a particularly original artist, nor one particularly in the Mexican tradition… her work being more self-indulgent and based on European models).




4 August 2014

Monitoring the immigration crisis requires keeping one eye on Washington and one on the U.S.-Mexico border.

One place is full of corrupt and mercenary characters who protect their interests, don’t follow the rules, play with people’s lives and who only care about making money and amassing power and ensuring their own survival.

Then you have the border.

Ruben Navarrette on U.S. political posturing over migration.


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