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Everybody but U.S.

15 July 2018

U.S. media is full of Trump, ignoring what goes on in the rest of the world (except maybe when it’s Trump in some other part of the world)… and apparently the rest of the world is going on without them.  Translated from AFP Spanish-language report:

New York, July 14. – With the exception of the United States, the United Nations member nations approved the creation of a non-binding global pact on migration Friday. The pact unites countries in a consensus on a subject that divides some European nations, and puts Washington at odds with Latin America.

“Migrants are an extraordinary engine of growth,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, welcoming the new “global pact for safe, orderly and regulated migration.”

The pact is not “binding, but it is an unprecedented step to increased international cooperation,” he added.

Under the leadership of two facilitators, Swiss ambassador Jurg Lauber and his Mexican counterpart, Juan José Gómez Camacho, the negotiations dragged on for 18 months. The pact will be formally endorsed in mid-December at a scheduled conference in Morocco.

The document outlines a series of principles – defense of human rights, the rights of children, recognition of national sovereignty – and includes a catalog of measures to help countries cope with migration: action plans to better integrate migrants into their new countries, and for countries to exchange information and experiences in managing migration.

“The global pact will not impose anything on anyone, but it offers solutions”, summarizes Gómez Camacho.

“We have no choice to accept or reject the migration, they [migrants] are there, all over the world,” the president of the UN General Assembly, Miroslav Lajcak, told reporters at the opening of the negotiations.

“We can stick our heads in the sand, think that we will deal with it tomorrow, that it will be for another generation, during another crisis, or act, plan, organize a system and respond to a global phenomenon for a global solution,” he added. .

According to Antonio Guterres, 60,000 migrants have died since the year 2000 at sea, in the desert or elsewhere, so it is not possible to continue with crossed arms. The 25-page document aims to “increase cooperation on international migration in all its dimensions” and combat trafficking in persons like those in Libya.

– Detention of minors –

The text, which is compared in scope to the 2015 Paris accords on climate change, preserves “the sovereignty of the states” while recognizing that “no nation can face the phenomenon of migration alone …It is crucial that international migration unites us instead of dividing us,” the text reads.

Washington withdrew at the end of 2017 from drafting of the pact, because it included provisions contrary to the immigration policy of Donald Trump. The European Union, on the other hand, despite having several member states that have sought to prevent migration into their continent, “spoke with one voice” during the negotiations. Despite requests from Amnesty International, which demanded “zero tolerance” in the matter of child detention, the global pact recognizes that the United States “tries” to reunite children separated from their parents, and that detention might be used … but only as a last resort. Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross, called for “lifting the barriers that prevent vulnerable migrants access to humanitarian aid and basic services.”

The number of migrants in the world is estimated at 258 million, 3.4% of the world’s population.


What Messiah for the Tropical Messiah?

13 July 2018

I had been meaning to write on AMLO’s religion, but Andrew Chesnut (Patheos Global Catholic Review) and Jan-Albert Hootsen (Americas Magazine) beat me to it.   Both writing in Catholic publications, they both take it as given that AMLO is a Catholic, noting that he mentions that he was an altar-boy, and that he carries a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe in his wallet.  Of course, as Chesnut notes, AMLO has described himself as “Christian”… a term generally used in Mexico to mean Protestant, and both authors not that his coalition included the Evangelical Christian PES (Social Encounter Party, for its initials in Spanish), and he has campaigned with a Bible in hand, a rather un-Catholic practice.  Neither seems to note that AMLO spent several years working and living in a predominantly Presbyterian Chontal community, and had close ties to that denomination early in his career.  During his 2006 campaign, a whispering campaign (this was pre-Twitter days) suggested as much.  During his 2012 campaign, he was photographed receiving a laying on of hands by Evangelical pastors.

But, “once a Catholic, always a Catholic” … we’ll say he’s a Catholic.   But what kind of Catholic is he?

His 2012 Presidential campaign’s coalition had the clunky name “For The Good of All, But First The Poor”.  That’s very much in the tradition of Liberation Theology, which has been criticized for its references to Marx… but then, as a Socialist, one assumes AMLO is a Maxist.  And a Catholic… or did he go off the reservation for a time, perhaps dabbling with Evangelicalism?  Or perhaps he’s been influenced by the Charismatic Renewal movement within Catholicism, which adopts some Pentacostal and Evangelical practices?

I think the latter is possible, but consider where AMLO comes from, both politically and geographically.  AMLO has said often enough that he is a political heir to Benito Juárez… a nationalist always, anti-clerical by necessity.  Juárez, remained a believing Catholic even after his excommunication, but saw his excommunication as a worth-while price to pay to guarantee the state’s independence from unsought outside influence.  Coupled with the traditional anti-clericalism that reached its zenith in the aftermath of the Revolution (especially under Calles, the founder of the PRI), it was taboo in Mexican politics until recently to even talk about religion.  There was an assumption that to be Mexican meant to be Guadalupian, and Catholic by default, but until very recently, it would be national news if a President or Governor (or Mayor of Mexico City) went to Mass, or was even seen in the company of an ecclesiastic.  It was something of a national scandal when Vicente Fox kissed the Pope’s ring during a state visit.  And Fox, after all, was from a party that had its roots in Catholic anti-revolutionary reaction.  Fox and the Pope were the subject of the very first Mexfile I wrote, by the way.

AMLO emerged on the national scene as one of the left-wing PRI politicians who rejected the party’s rightward (and capitalist) drift.  Ironically, the party of Plutarco Elias Calles was the party to open relations with the Vatican, and to embrace the anti-Liberationist Bishops who came to prominence during John-Paul II’s long papacy.  Tolerance for the clergy, or rather the Catholic hierarchy, was a threat to the Protestant minority, and it has been at times amusing as one raised in the United States, to see Evangelicals openly backing the most radical leftist parties seeing them as the least likely to undo the protections they enjoyed in a state which openly opposed the Catholic Church.  One of my favorite moments in Mexico was talking to a confused tourist who couldn’t fathom indigenous people selling religious art under a banner featuring those saints… Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Emiliano Zapata.  In a country where one of the last of the revolutionary guerilla leaders… Ruben Jaramillo… was a protestant pastor… it’s a mistake to presume social conservatism and socialism are antitheses. Among other things, this would account for AMLO’s willingness to bring in the PES to his successful coalition.

And, AMLO is very much a son of Tabasco, the setting of Graham Greene’s “Power and the Glory”.  AMLO was born in 1953, about a generation too late to be part of the openly anti-catholic Red Shirt youth movement under the leadership of Tomás Garrido Canabal. Even in rural Tepetitán, smashing up churches and beating up priests had been a popular sport in the not so distant past, and altar-boy or not, to be a Catholic in Tabasco was not something to be paraded about, nor was it a place where the clergy were likely to expect one to show the outward and visible signs of one’s faith in public.  It has to be said, as well, that Tabasco is one state where Protestants are a much larger percentage of the population than in the most parts of Mexico, and too close an identification with any particular sect would be politically unwise:  less a matter of broad tolerance, than of being a member of a community.  In Tabasco, a small community might be entirely Jehovahs’ Witnesses, while the next is Seventh Day Adventists, and the next Roman Catholic.  Catholics in the JW town might find their electricity cut off, or their pigs killed, as would Adventists in the Catholic town.  If one is going to practice politics at anything beyond the village level, it wouldn’t do to identify one’s self completely with one or another sect.

AMLO’s generation of Catholics is the Vatican II generation.  His was the generation of Catholics who went through the “Revolution” and were exposed to experimentation and upheavals in expressions of faith.  His two mainstream opponents, both of whom made mention of their Catholicism during the campaign, were enough younger to have been raised in a Church that had come to some sort of consensus on what Catholicism was, and how it was practiced.  In a way, it was like the difference between politicians of the Revolutionary era… willing to think “outside the box” when it came to governance, and the post-Revolutionary PRI… with its incongruent factions left over from the Revolution, but a set way of governing.    Both of those opponents were from the upper middle class, for whom Catholicism  is as much a matter of proper behavior and doing the expected thing than anything else.  For a rural Tabascan of the lower middle class, a shopkeeper’s son sent out to find his own way in the world (AMLO had to leave home when he was 17, after being blamed by his father for an accident that killed a younger brother), a believer at a time when how to believe and how to express that belief was a question that could be asked, it is probably enough to say AMLO is a believer, who also believes in power to the people, the masses, whether or not he attends Mass.


What will they think of next?

12 July 2018

There’s been a lot of on-line discussion of what the incoming AMLO administration might do (like legalizing marijuana for personal use) than there has of what the president-elect and his cabinet are doing ahead of taking possession of the government in December.  While AMLO has assuaged the business community talking about what his government is NOT planning to do (renationalize key industries, interfere with the independent Banco de México, raise gasoline prices…) we are starting to get a feel for what is coming:  less glamorous big-ticket projects and splashy front-page thrillers like truth commissions (though those could be coming too) than wonkish administrative and budgetary changes.

Meeting with the incoming congressional representatives elected on the “Together We Make History” coalition (Morena, Workers’ and Social Encounter parties), AMLO has outlined his legislative agenda for the incoming administration.

First up: fulfilling a popular campaign promise, he would like to eliminate presidential pensions, arguing that as state employees, former presidents are already covered by the ISSSTE (the social security program for government employees) and, besides, he hopes to raise old age payments which will cover ex-presidents over 66 years old.  

Speaking of Presidents, AMLO is also pushing “his” congress to fix the loopholes in that pesky paragraph in Article 127 of the Constitution that mandates federal officials be paid a lesser salary than the president. e would like to see changes in the regulatory laws covering Article 127 of the Constitution. That article mandates that no official receive a salary greater than the President, but … there’s salaries, and then there are… oh… “expense accounts” and other creative ways around that.

And, I guess cutting down the presidency will apply to him too. AMLO is seeking a change in Article 108 of the Constitution to allow for sitting presidents to be tried for electoral or corruption charges. Incidentally, this would also eliminate immunity from all public officials. A separate proposal would open the way for citizens to recall elected officials, and to influence legislation by way of referendum.

In a bow to “law and order” types, now that Mexico has changed its legal system to allow suspects to post bail, AMLO is supporting a move to remove corruption, election fraud and fuel theft from the list of bailable offenses.

Eventually, he’d like to transfer responsibility for preparing the federal budget to the Secretariat of Finance and Public Credit. That makes sense.

As does transferring the “Estado Mayor” … the Presidential army… back to the Department of Defense. While there has been some rumblings from the military, and from civilians, about this, AMLO had made doing away with this special force (which includes not only special forces soldiers, but a battalion or two of paratroopers, intelligence officers and even a ceremonial artillery unit) and making do with a “normal” Secret Service type security force.

He also wants to do both water privatization and re-do educational reforms. When it comes to education, one constitutional change being envisioned is to clarify in Article 3 of the Constitution that the right to free public education covers education at all academic levels.

The congress, according to AMLO and his advisers is also being urged to consider an increased minimum wage, at least in the northern border region.

And, if the agenda isn’t full enough, the incoming administration’s austerity plan will require changes in laws and regulations, to carry out plans to merge certain departments and programs, eliminate some cabinet under-secretarial positions, and redefine the roles of some unionized public service workers.

Return to tradition

6 July 2018

I had been hoping the election would signal a return to some of the best in Mexican traditional values, but I didn’t quite expect this.

In Azcapotzalo, a Moctezuma presided over the opening on a new Ullamaliztli (Aztec basketball) court. Ok, local assembly delegate Professor Pedro Moctezuma Barragán, but still…

Faro Poniente Xochikalli. Photo by Yasmin Ortega Cortés (you knew a Cortés would be an onlooker, of course).

From the lunatic fringe

5 July 2018

I looked, so you wouldn’t have to (you’re welcome).

In the American Thinker, buried in all the blah-blah-blah about “Venezuela” and “Mexican nationals and their descendants in the U.S. who glorify La Raza” (right-wingers have a real hang-up about La Raza), columnist Colin Flaherty manages to drop in the “oh, by the way” comment that

The newly elected president, Andrés López-Obrador, was gleeful during the election when he told his compadres they should all move to America, illegally.  His encouragement along with his pro-poverty policies will set the stage for another tsunami of illegal immigration.

The “gleeful” statement is fleshed out by Lloyd Billingsley in Front Page Mag that “Immigrants, he [AMLO] said, “must leave their towns and find a life in the United States” and this was “a human right we will defend.” So the new Mexican president wants to dictate policy for the United States, no surprise given the dynamics driving illegal immigration. Billingsley’s article is a hot mess … among other things, leaving the reader with the impression that José Vasconcelos is a contemporary Mexican politician (he died in 1959), before veering into something about California politics, the cost of serial killer Juan Corona’s incarceration, Venezuelan weight loss, a recent primary victory in New York State, some insensitive remarks by the boorish Vicente Fox about the 43 missing students, and God knows what else.

The constant on the far right — both by their “pundits”, and from the usual suspects you read in the “comments” section of any U.S. news aggregator — has been the claim that AMLO is planning to “invade” the United States, by forcing, or encouraging, or cheering on, migration across the border. I was pretty sure I knew where it came from, but confirmation came from a surprising source: a writer I’ve never understood … a guy who lived in Mexico, has Mexican children and for at least the last 18 years, has had a column in a white supremacist site (which I’m certainly not going to provide a link to). The guy at least gave the original quote, and the full translation, which would make sense. It’s not that “Immigrants must leave their towns”, but “Immigrants WHO FROM NECESSITY must leave…”. The full context was that if people want to go see the world, they have the right to do so, but they shouldn’t live in situations where emigration is their only choice, and that Mexico supported the rights of those who had to emigrate, or to cross its territory in search of a safe haven. You’d think the white-wing would cheer… but, then they’d have to support the “communist” … or Venezuelan, or whatever. Not that rightists ever make sense anyway.

Mercedes Olivera, D.E.P.

5 July 2018

Although we never managed to meet up in person, Mercedes Olivera and I were regularly running across each other, as “facebook friends” and reading each other’s work.   She passed away last Friday (29 June) just before THE election here… something I know she’d have much to say about, and something I selfishly wish she’d hung on, and been well enough, to write about.

Olivera was a consummate pro, while I’m someone fortunate enough to be able to pick and choose what I want to write about… although what I chose to write about often as not, was something she had either written about herself, or showed a keen interest (and had insight) about.  She was generous in sharing her vast knowledge of Mexican-American culture, and, having worked in Mexico, kindly steering me away from false assumptions I was likely to make from my own vantage point.  On the other hand, something especially rare to find with a professional journalist who was quite proud of her international experience (she had lived for a time in Mexico and later in England), she was always receptive to counter-arguments that might undermine what she thought based on her own experiences and memories of her time in Mexico and the viewpoint of the Mexican migrant community in Dallas.  I know she was looking forward to a possible retirement here (though I somehow doubt she’d be happy just sitting around with old gringos and not getting out there and exploring — and writing about — her new ´hood) and am very sad to hear she was much too sick to take on a new assignment.

Her obituary, in Saturday’s Dallas Morning News was written by Eva-Marie Ayala:

Mercedes Olivera was an essential voice of Latino communities in Dallas for many years, friends and colleagues say.

The longtime columnist for The Dallas Morning News focused on the important — and often untold — stories that ranged from highlighting the little-known Hispanic leaders quietly working to improve education to describing the impact of immigration debates to showcasing up-and-coming artists.

“The community really counted on her to keep them informed,” longtime friend Elva Perez said. “For so long, there was no one else in newsrooms or TV stations who would stay focused on Latino issues and really drill down to what they meant and how they impacted us in Dallas.”

Olivera died Friday after a long battle with cancer. She was 69.The Dallas native had one of the longest-running columns devoted to Latino issues in a major metropolitan newspaper. The column launched in The News in 1975.


Olivera wrote about everything from the importance of holidays such as Dia de los Muertos — the Mexican holiday that pays respects to the deceased — to notable political shifts in the community. She explained the historical significance of events through a Latino perspective.


Olivera was a Dallas native with deep roots in the city’s “Little Mexico” neighborhood, where her grandmother opened a Mexican restaurant called La Original and her extended family long operated Luna’s Tortilla Factory. Her mother, Catalina Valdez Scott, and grandmother were active community leaders , organizing various fiestas including the annual Cinco de Mayo festival at Pike Park.

“She came from a very long line of active Latinas,” said her daughter, Monica Olivera Hazelton. “Mom felt very passionate about giving back to the community because of the example left to her. She spoke out on behalf of Latinos because she knew there weren’t a lot of people who could.”

Olivera graduated from the all-girls Ursuline Academy of Dallas in 1967 and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from the University of Dallas and a master’s from New York University.

In 1996, she was a Fulbright Scholar teaching communications and doing field work in Veracruz and Chiapas states in Mexico, where she pursued anthropological studies.


“Everyone talks about what a tough lady she was with a strong voice, but in some ways she was insecure because I don’t think she knew what a difference she made,” Hazelton said. “She would be shocked to see the impact she had.”

She, who must be obeyed

3 July 2018

This nice lady is Lopez Obrador’s choice to run the Secretaría de Gobernación… in charge of not just getting bills through the legislature, but also in charge of immigration, internal security and heading CISEN, Mexico’s version of the CIA. As the #2 person in the Federal administration, she is de facto Vice-President, chief spy-master and head of Homeland Security. Very little has been said about Olga Sánchez Cordero, although she was interviewed by Agence France-Presse a few weeks ago, something worth taking another look at.

My rather loose translation is from El Economista, 13 June 2018.



Former Supreme Court Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero, admits she was surprised to be proposed to becomes Interior Minister following the expected victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in July 1 presidential elections .

Sánchez Cordero, 71, who sat on the court from 1995 to 2015, outlines what she will do at the head of the vital secretariat should López Obrador, who maintains a double-digit lead over his rivals in every poll, reaches the presidential chair.

“We are not going to fight violence with more violence, the armed forces will only be deployed in certain specific places, she told AFP, by way of criticizing the controversial military anti-drug operation launched by the Calderon government (2006-2012) and continued in the Enrique Peña Nieto administration.

Sánchez further added that she will also seek to decriminalize recreational marijuana use and implement “transitional justice” — a series of special legal mechanisms that can be activated after systematic violations of human rights in the country.

However, the security landscape is complicated: 2017 was the most violent year in two decades and femicides, disappearances, executions and murders are almost daily occurrences in this country.

With this in mind, Sánchez Cordero outlined Lopez Obrador’s proposals in an interview, including the controversial amnesty to end the violence.

-How will you guarantee full respect for human rights?

– For the moment truth commissions in very specific areas. We are going to bet on transitional justice, centered on bringing truth and justice to the victims.

-How is the amnesty going to work for the perpetrators of crimes?

– I am thinking of a law to reduce penalties for informants that will lead us to a true and accurate information, and something comparable in working on finding the disappeared.

I believe that we don’t have the material, human, or economic resources we can allocate to finding all the disappeared, given that the “black numbers” [the estimates of unreported, or under-reported incidents] are so high.

-Who would you include the amnesty?

– The “leva”… those forcibly recruited. These are the young men who if they don’t join, are killed.  Either they join the criminals, or the criminals kill and disappear them.

We have a generation of young people who are being disappeared, especially young men mostly between 15 and 21 years old. We have been losing a generation of young people over the last 18 years. We can not continue like this.

– How to convince a boy to forgo the easy money made from crime?

– We will offer schooling, and culture of peace, if they lay down their arms. It may suit a young man to have another future.  His immediate goal might be a Hummer, but his future does not end there.

-There are areas such as the Sierra de Guerrero where people devote themselves to opium poppies.  They claim there is no other industry.

– We have to start thinking about decriminalizing drugs.  That’s it: decriminalize drugs.  Obviously marijuana.

-Only marijuana?

– Marijuana for recreational and any other use is one thing I will propose to Andrés Manuel: decriminalizing the planting, harvesting, transfer and recreational use of marijuana.

Speaking of opium poppies, we would consider something like Afghanistan has done. It is highly valued for pharmaceuticals and for medicinal use:  use opiates for legal drugs.

– And how to fight other criminal activities?

– It is true that already criminals have diversified their industry… not just drugs, but fighting for control of public spaces, kidnappings and so on, that must be punished. 

Foreign investment is drying up precisely because of public safety concerns. Let’s be honest. Do you think that a foreign company will want to invest in Mexico when it knows that its merchandise will be stolen from trucks, from trailers and that they will even derail trains?

-What to do in the case of train or fuel robberies which are often perpetrated by the local residents?

– The situation is not explosive or out of control. Yes it is very difficult: poverty, lack of opportunities, lack of work, shameful wages, are why people dedicate themselves to things like this.  It’s because salaries are truly ridiculous. Andrés Manuel López Obrador wants decent wages, we all want decent wages.


So, criminals beware! She’s coming for you, and gonna turn you into a solid citizen.