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A good idea whose time might come

25 April 2015

Although it was shot down (for now, anyway) an interesting political reform that might pave the way to a post-party democracy has surfaced here.  Basically under the excuse that its too close to the  elections now to reform our legislative system, representatives from the 20 million indigenous Mexicans in 28 states have proposed that the indigenous communities could elect representatives to a sixth “conscription”.

indexMexico’s electoral system was designed to prevent any one political PARTY from gaining complete control.  It’s a complicated process, but in addition to the representatives elected by district or state, there are an addition batch of legislators chosen by the parties based on their relative vote within the five “conscriptions”… a multi-state regional area… based on complicated formulas that preclude any one party from having more than 2/3rds of the seats in any one house.  Meant to assure that minority parties are guaranteed at least a seat in the legislature, the system has been endlessly tweaked, mostly to guarantee the hegemony of the three major parties, PRI, PAN and also-ran PRD.

This serves the party interests very well, if not guaranteeing some politicians a seat in the legislature, at least guaranteeing they will be candidates for one office or another.  But does it serve the interests of their constituents?

I’m not convinced that living in the same general geographical area has much to do with whether a representative can speak for my interests (what does a yuppie in Guadalajara have in common with a Mixtec farmer, other than perhaps both living in the State of Jalisco?).   Though we’re stuck with administration by geographical proximity, I’ve wondered whether representation by geographical proximity is even necessary.  Maybe in the 18th century, it seemed like a good idea, just to make it easier to count ballots, there is no technical reason voting MUST be this way.  One could vote, by say, economic or social interest.

Which makes the idea floated by the indigenous representatives so intriguing.  Having common interests, but spread over 28 states (at least this group), they see common interests less tied to geography (where indigenous communities are often outnumbered by their neighbors) than ethnicity… or, in this instance, by the recognition in the Constitution of their right to adhere to “usos y costumbres”.  That is, although separated by political boundaries within the country, they share enough common values to justify representation in a body supposedly representing the people as a whole.

I’m not sure ethnicity is the best way to select representatives (perhaps by “social sector”… labor, business, education, agriculture… or whatever fits the country’s population the best), and I don’t think we’ll ever completely dispense with the need for geographical representatives or with political parties, but extending proportional voting to meet the shared interests of larger constituencies sounds perfectly rational… and perfectly “do-able” to me — the technology certainly exists to control ballot access to voters within any given constituency now no matter where the voter is in the country (Mexico pioneered the software for the gold standard of voter identification procedures) and counting ballots over the whole country to determine seats in a legislature isn’t any more complex than counting national ballots as far as the computers are concerned.

With the idea of a new Constitution having been floated by both the left and by the Catholic Church, and the low regard for political parties (especially the traditional big three) right now, perhaps Mexico could rethink the political process, creating something new, and something suitable for the 21st century.

Georgina Saldierna, Indígenas exigen elegir a sus legisladores sin partidos Jornada, 24 April 2015, page 10.

Green Party’s tactics expose fragile state of Mexican democracy

19 April 2015


Our “show me the Green” party.

Originally posted on The Mexican Labyrinth:

When Josefina M. was cold-called by the Green Party of Mexico (PVEM), she politely responded to their telephone survey, answering questions on crime, education, jobs and other issues.

She was careful not to give out her address or any other personal details, nor agree to further correspondence. A few days later, however, she was surprised to find an envelope hand-delivered to her Guadalajara home stamped with the tag, “For Green Party Affiliates.” Inside, she found a gift card in her name, containing the Green Party logo, along with a letter explaining how she could use it to obtain discounts in a variety of stores such as Sears, Chedraui and Farmacia del Ahorro.

The card is one of thousands distributed by the Green Party in the run up to the June 7 local and legislative elections, which will bring in 500 new federal deputies, nine governors, new state legislatures andGreen card 900…

View original 886 more words

Don’t get around much any more…

19 April 2015


My posting is going to be irregular for the next few weeks (maybe the next few months). I’ve been revising “Gods, Gachupines and Gringos” and… with so little sleeping and so much reading… on top of trying to get to press several books for Montezuma Books, I’m not completely out of my mind, though I’m working on that, too.

What’s going on? Mexico’s military build-up

19 April 2015

Much was made this last weekend over the 100s of U.S. military vehicles crossing into Mexico, with this video (from El Mañana of Nuevo Laredo) raising two unanswerable questions: why is there a military build-up?, and why is Mexico getting military equipment from the only country that could conceivably be an existential threat to the nation’s existence?

Although Mexico is the 11st most populous nation on the planet, and the 10th largest economy, with no foreign commitments, only once having fought outside its own territory, and its very few foreign excursions being well-executed rescue and relief operations (including New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, where the Mexican Army showed up before the Louisiana National Guard!), and the only foreign threats being more theoretical than anything else (other than the United States, which prefers a “stable” Mexico, even if it means subversion, the only possible national security threats from the outside would be the collapse of a neighboring country, and a possible refugee crisis, or a spill-over from a civil war in Guatemala) Mexico has never needed a large military force.

According to Global Firepower, Mexico is ranked the 31st on the list of military powers… between #30 Switzerland, and #32, South Africa… two countries not likely to be launching offensive wars any time soon.  Nor is Mexico.  Brazil, which does have a history of expansionist ambitions (though not in the last century or so) and a major arms industry comes in at #22… but…

Photo:  Maxresjpg

Photo: Maxresjpg

World-wide, military spending is down 4 percent, with the Latin American nations showing the largest decreases.  Venezuela’s military budget is down by 34% and even Brazil managed to cut the budget by 1.7 percent.  The exceptions are Paraguay (up 13%) and Mexico (up 11%).

Given that there has been a problem with banditry and gangsterism packaged as something new and more threatening under the names of “cartels” or the ridiculous “TCOs” (Trans-national Criminal Organizations… or what used to be called “smugglers”), there might seem to be a rationale for the build-up.  However, the government itself is claiming that crime has fallen, and the “Institute for Economics and Peace” claims that the country is more peaceful.

It may well be, as is argued, especially in the media, that crime is NOT dropping, and that it is simply not being talked about, but more and more, there has been a realization that the military is the wrong tool to use in the fight against those so-called “cartels”, and as a substitute for normal police.

So why… in a country which had always been proud of its successfully de-militarizing its government, and had kept military spending a modest 6% of the national budget for decades (even during the Calderón “War on Drugs”) suddenly spending more?

Regeneración, overtly “leftist” even for Mexico, makes a good case that the Mexican military build-up has less to do with the needs of Mexico than it does with U.S. “geo-strategic interests”.   Mesfiles has always said that the “Plan Mérida” money provided by the United States, ostensibly to fight the “cartels” was always meant to both legitimize the Calderón Administration and to prop up the US industries that provide military and “people control” equipment and services than anything else.  But, Regeneración argues that with the neo-liberal “reforms” going back to the 1980s, making Mexico more and more an economic satellite of the United States, there is the assumption now that Mexico could (and should) serve as a military adjunct to U.S. forces.

While it is troubling enough that those of us who have lived in areas supposed requiring a military backup (or replacement) of police (like Mazatlán, where I lived for several years) became inured to the sight of soldiers and sailors in the streets (and a soldier with a 50-cal rifle pointed at you while sitting in traffic) and some eye-brow raising speeches by generals hinting that their loyalty was to the President, and not the nation, I don’t see us become a militarized state.  After all, the country’s military heroes have been mostly amateurs (Morelos, the priest; Villa, the — uh— cattleman; Obergon, the farmer and businessman; Rafael Buelna, the law student) and our greatest modern Secretary of War, Joaquín Amaro, was probably the only bureaucrat in history who spent his career downsizing his department and cutting his own budget.  This is a country that cut its military budget even during its own foreign war (the “War Against Nazis and Fascists”), and just doesn’t “do” militarism.

Should Mexico be involved?

Should Mexico be involved?

But, I do see — in small movements like allowing Mexican troops to serve in U.N. peace-keeping operations (something always avoided before), and in allowing foreign agents to carry weapons on Mexican territory — as well as the economic integration with the U.S. and Canada (another military adjunct of U.S. interests) a very troubling sign that Mexico will be dragged into outside conflicts that do not serve its own interest.  And, that the military will be used to protect not our our interests, but those of the United States.  With, U.S. weapons, paid for by Mexican taxpayers.


This is not about Venezuela

11 April 2015

… or, so says Mark Weisbrot, in the Democracy Now! discussion of the Summit of the Americas.

For the U.S., the Summit was supposed to be (as it has been since the first one back during the Clinton Administration) a pep rally for U.S. economic penetration in Latin America, via “free trade” agreements.  The mismanaged U.S. policy towards the region, as well as the arrogance with with the U.S. has “assumed” Latin American nations would ask “how high” when the U.S. says “jump” have made these summits less and less about U.S. interests, and more and more simply a public display of the increasing irrelevance of the Organization of American States.

If you get a chance, and are into “compare and contrast”, you might take a look at how CNN covers the Summit, with the assumption that this is JUST about the US Cuba and Venezuela and the rest of the hemisphere is just spectators.





The warning … a (really late) Friday Night Video

10 April 2015

I always tell foreigners who want to extend their vacations by working as a street busker, or playing in a bar, that they’re gonna face some tough competition… even from little girls.



They’ll have to make the best of it…

9 April 2015

Well, this is the tale of a Korean ship

That crashed into a reef…

Kim Il-Jong would like it back,

But Mexico is causing grief.


It seems the ship is embargoed,

And besides, it doesn’t float…

The best the North Koreans can do

Is send a stiffly worded note.


In hotels in Túxpam now

North Korean sailors wait

Until the situation is

Resolved at some future date.


So, this is the tale of the castaways

They’ll be here for a long long time,

They’ll have to make the best of it —

It’s an uphill climb.


Phones that work, and motor cars,

Tequila and  TV

I’m not sure they’ll ever go home…

IN Mexico, there is kimchee.




BBC: N Korea urges Mexico to free detained ship

Reuters:  North Korea warns will act to get back ship held by Mexico

Guerrilla Comunicacional México:  Corea del Norte amenaza a México por la retención de un barco mercante

The Skipper, Mr. and Mrs. Howell, the Professsor, MaryAnn, Ginger and Gilligan.  Apologies to George Wyle and Sherwood Schwartz


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