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Midterms: surprised?

8 June 2021

It’s a given in the US, that “midterm elections” (those for state and local offices falling between presidential elections)… espeically when the sitting president’s election had also swept in his (or her) party (the so-called “coattail effect”) will show some loss in support for the ruling party… how much of a loss said to reflect political trends, and acting as a sort of referendum on the presidency.

Although this makes some sense in a two party system, whether it proves anything here (with 11 national parties on various ballots, not counting a few state and regional parties) is debatable, but given that in THIS midterm, the pundits and politicos broadly defined only two camps… the Lopezobradista coaliton (Morena, Workers Party [Partido Trabadora, or PT) and its lesser ally, the Greens (PVEM, for its full initials in Spanish), faced off against a “Centerist-Right” coalition (the “traditional” main parties, PRI, PAN, and PRD). Or… as the Economist and Wall Street Journal (and much of the propaganda from those opposition party’s would have it) of Leftism vs. “Democracy”. And, with Morena — as expected — losing some seats, one expects the “friends of neoliberalism” will see this as a victory of some kind.

Maybe in the federal legislature, but maybe not. The leftist coalition will have fewer members (with a system of 300 first past the post seats, and 200 by proportional representation, and votes still to be counted, not to mention the always popular demands for a recount, or complaints by close losers that there was electoral chincanery, the exact numbers won’t be know for quite some time) … BUT will still have a majority. Just not the plurality (2/3rd, or 334 seats) that was always an unrealistic goal. And, if anything, the majority coalition will be further to the left. Morena loses seats, but the further left (originally Maoist) PT will have a much larger presence in the coalition. This will be tempered somewhat by the surprisingly strong showing of the PVEM (Greens) which is not particularly ideological, and pehaps support from the Citizens’ Movement (Movimiento Ciudadano, MC). The latter did extremely well in local and state elections (even winning the governorship in Chihuahua,

MC had been around for several years, under different names (Convergence for Democracy, then just plain Convergence) hard to pin down ideologically, athough claiming to be a “social democratic” party and much of its growth coming at the expense of the old PRD, which was the main leftist party in the country until it pulled itself apart in inter-party squabbles over how left it could really be… and never able to expand its base outside of Mexico City, and a few southern states. MC could side with the leftist coalition majority more than the opposition, and … if it has any seats at all, PES which was a odd appendage to Lopez Obrador’s presidential coalition, might provide a vote or two for the left — on occasion. PES is a “Christian” party, meant to appeal to the Evangelical Protestant and Mormon vote although it has provided a platform for candidates who can’t get on the ballot any other way, In Morelos, Cuauhtémoc Blanco who is primarily known as a legendary soccer star, ran successfully for the governorship under the PES label, despite not being particularly known for any Christian piety. In this round, Jorge Hank Rhon, not only a professed agnostic, but best known as a casino magnate and race track owner (and for eccentricities like keeping pet tigers, and drinking their pee as an alleged aphodisic) ran for the governorship (and lost) in Baja California as the PES candidate.

As said, none of this seems all that surprising when it comes to the national legislature. What has been a surprise, and what shows MORENA is more than just AMLO, has been in state races. Morena and Morena coalition candidates swept the open governor’s elections… capturing 11 of the 15 states where there were elections. And, in one, San Luis Potosí, the loss was to a Green-PT (“red-green”) running separately from MORENA rather than in a broad left coalition. With northern states like Sonora, Sinaloa, and Baja California also electing governors running under the MORENA coalition, it’s impossible to claim that the party is a Mexico City/southern party.

If anything, the rather poor showing of Morena candidates for “alcaldes” in Mexico City (roughly equivalent to presidente municpal in other states, or borough president in large US cities like New York), might indicate it’s just seen as just another major party in some places… although in Mexico City, the recent collapse of a metro bridge (killing 20 odd people), being largely blamed on the present administration, and the Greens not in coalition with Morena within Mexico City (giving voters an option to vote left, but not for the party) may have played some role. As it was, PAN, the only relevant opposition party on the right did very well in those elections. With a rough demarcation between west and east, which those on the west side electing PANistas, and those further east going to MORENA, wags have already made jokes about building a wall, a la Berlin in the Cold War (and, after all, some silly travel writer once claimed the city was the “New Berlin”.. so maybe a “new Berlin Wall” is too good a meme not to exploit).

Finally… and these are just first thoughts… Tamalipas was a huge surprise. That’s the state where the governor was holed up, surrounded by armed state police, avoiding arrest warrants, and where the PAN state legislature had refused to impeach the governor, despite a federal congressional vote to impeach him, and those pesky criminal indictments on a number of charges awaiting him. The state legislative elections went overwhelmingly to MORENA, meaning… as soon as they sit… the governor is toast.

Of course, Lopez Obrador has lost SOME legislative support, but that was to be expected. However, it shows that MORENA is not some flash in the pan, populist organ for its founder, but a party that has established itself as the mainstream ruling party… and that new opposition, like PT and MC on the left and “liberal center” is shifting the “Overton window” away from the neoliberal opposition, which hasn’t faded away, not yet. Foreign observers in media like The Economist and the Wall Street Journal, may have tried to paid the midterms as a battle for democracy, but they defined democracy as support for the economic theories of their home countries. In reality, Democracy was the winner.

10,000 Years … 13 years later

2 June 2021

I realized, almost as soon as Gods, Gachupines and Gringos was first published, that it would need revised. Whatever intentions I might have had, through three moves, a marriage, dealing with having inherited by backrupt publisher, a crippling accident, a couple computers, a pandemic lock-down that’s run way, way too long … you know… “real life”, for some reason very little was ever accomplished. Although I’m not happy with, or comfortable with, this new WordPress platform (and still can’t figure out how to do anything more than drop in text),

Whether I see this as a completely different book, or just a revised edition, my first publisher and editor having died, I don’t expect any publisher is going to devote the time, effort and money that went into the original book. I haven’t really thought too much about submissions (not having done enough work to seriously consider looking for a publisher), and wonder if it may not be dump everything on some on-line platform, ask for donations, and hope for the best.

Anatole France wrote in “Le Jardin d’Epicure: “It is impossible to know the past; no one is able to read everything that one would be required to read.” Or, watch on videos, download, or rethink, either. But, one must start somewhere.

By way of an introduction:

10,000 Years… More or Less

Two things are very valuable in our country… our culture, and our cultures. Mexico was founded more than ten thosand years ago, and with all due respect, while buffalo still grazed in what is now New York, already Mexico had universities and printing presses. We have had earthquakes, familines, floods, files bad government, corruption and on it goes… [but our] culture always saves Mexico.

Andres Mánuel López Obrador

Said soon after his inaguaration in 2018, the new Mexican president was criticized for this remark, not only by his usual political rivals and those in the mass media who reflexibly picked apart the President’s fondness for hyperbole, but by many of his usual supporters among the intellectuals as well. For the intelletuals, the definition of “culture” and, specifically Mexican culture, was narrowly defined by what we see today… that modern country that did indeed have universities and printing presses while New York was still a grazing ground for buffalo. But they are thinking of “modern” Mexico, a geographic and political entity with a history going back only about 500 years, or at the most, to those advanced urban societies which have been identified, and imperfectly understood, dating back perhaps a mere thousand or so years earlier.

But then, in another sense, the President was absolutely correct. The Mexican cultures of today incorporate not only the native American societies which came before (about which we don’t know enough to say they don’t date back perhaps 10,000 years) but those which contributed to the cultures of modern Mexico. Not simply the Indigenous American peoples, but those of Iberia (Spain and Portugal), who are themselves heirs to Phoenician, Islamic, Jewish, Berber, Celtic, Roman, Greek, and Germanic cultural roots, but to the cultures of west Africa and east Asia, as well. To say nothing of more recent mainstream cultural additions from eastern Europe, the Middle East and, of course, from the United States.

The latter is the land of E pluribus unum (“One out of many”), which has only recently seen itself as multi-cultural. For most of its history, it has metaphorically considered itself a “melting pot”, in which various ethnicities and cultures are “melted” into one relatively homogenous people. That is not to say that African-Americans don’t enjoy pizza, or that Italian-Americans didn’t enjoy Motown music, but that Mexicans, unlike their neighbors to the north, recognize the different strains that make them who they are, and are much more likely to refer to their interwoven historical past than others.

It is nothing to hear or read in the political press, and even in general conversation , references to cultural traditions and history. “Pundits” think nothing of referencing Aztec history when making an argument for one or another political decision today. Politicians make historical references all the time, expecting their audience will understand them… which they do.

In a country where the past is very much part of the present—whether talking about the corn and chiles in pozole, or the lingering resentment over past invasions —misunderstanding this can be costly. I was having a conversation with a friend of mine, a Mexican reporter one afternoon when we were joined by a foreign resident, who quite innocently voiced his opinion on his perceived shortcomings of the national oil company, PEMEX. The Mexican reporter barely contained his composure, as he patiently gave an overview of Mexican-U.S. relations with reference to the extractive industries from the 1880s to the late 1930s. Perhaps not coincidentally, the foreign visitor could not understand why he was having problems signing up customers for the business he was trying to conduct in Mexico. In 2003, Mexico sat on the United Nations Security Council at a time when the United States was seeking the council’s permission to invade Iraq. It naturally expected its friendly ally to the south to back the U.S: position, but Mexico refused. for reasons going back ten, thirty-five, sixty, one hundred fifty and five hundred years: Mexicans don’t consider five hundred years that long a time, nor do they consider history as something belonging only in a classroom. Street vendors and people just commuting on the same bus as I have, often will know, and generally know correctly, the historical significance of some local landmark, or of their community. The residents of La Merced, a down-and-out Mexico City neighborhood were delighted to pitch in to restore what was recently identified as the oldest standing building in the capital… which was a mere 490 years old, and still in daily use.

For Mexicans, history is simply part of who they are, their culture … or cultures. Whether one is trying to do business or just visiting the country, you will find Mexicans think about and react based on their history; more often than most people. But does that historical memory stretch back ten thousand years?


Deer Park: a Shell game or good business?

1 June 2021

” [Oil] is the devil’s excrement!”

(Former Venezuelan Oil Minister, Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, 1975)

From Drake’s first well in 1859 up through the present, it’s been debatable whether oil has been more a curse or a blessing to those who have it. Certainly, it’s been profitable to those who WANT IT, and MARKET it, but as to those whose “luck” it is to be sitting on it…cue bono ?

Within 10 years of the gusher in Titusville, prospectors were already working here in Mexico. There wasn’t much of a market for the stuff locally, but with the (foreign built) railways providing access to the US market, oil became a big business… for foreigners. “In 1889, the Veracruz legislature passed a law titled Ley sobre subdivision de la propiedad territorial, under which the state gave land titles to private owners. The privatization of land allowed state to declare any land that was not privatized to be public land. In 1883, the Mexican Congress passed the Ley de Colonización, which allowed private land companies to survey public lands for the purpose of subdivision and settlement.” (yeah… Wikipedia. But most of us already knew this). Of course, the land wasn’t just sitting there over a lake of oil… people had been living there and using it for other purposes. BUT… there was money to be made, and that’s that. Money to be made… by foreigner “investors” who never went near the place, in nearly all cases. And… as we all know… the resentment it caused was more than just another of a series of complaints lodged against the old regime, leading up to the Revolution of 1910-20.

Once the genie’s out of the bottle… or the gusher is out of the rock… there’s no do-over. Certainly the oil industry had a tremendous effect on Mexico, turning it from an agrian nation into a manufacuring one. The British decision (by First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Chuchill) to fuel it’s navy with oil, and not coal led to “complications” during our revolution, with Britian “demanding” that Mexico’s oil continue to supply their navy (the largest foreign oil company at the time was a British firm) even though what government the country had that could claim legitimacy had no stake it that squabble among the European imperial powers, and, frankly, preferred the Germans anyway.

Although the British might control the largest single oil company, by far United States businesses were the largest exporters… and despite having plenty of resources to plunder in their own country, by 1917 needed foreign imports to fuel their own growing consumption demands… which were also growing in Mexico (and everywhere else in the world by the 1920s). With the two imperial powers (or rather, the corporations to which the imperial governments answered) controlling a large part of the Mexican economy, it was forced, if for recognition by the United States as much as any other reason, into the humilating Bucarelli Agreement of 1923, extending leases on oil fields pre-dating the new Mexican constition which had clearly stated (Article 27) that the oil in the ground, like other natural resources, was Mexican property.

The oil producers basically ignored the Mexican government (even financing their own mercerary army, and functioning as a state within the state). Until (to quote Machete), they messed with the wrong Mexican… Lazaro Cardenas. The timing was perfect. Although the imperial governments could threaten Mexico in 1938, with their own need for oil to keep their ships and airplanes and tanks and truck running in the coming war, they couldn’t afford to alienate what had becoming one of the largest single oil companies in the world.

Whether PEMEX was a curse or a blessing (and more than a bit of both), it became a model for those countries who wanted control… or at least some control… over their own resources. And, those countries realized, a political weapon. Who needs a huge army, if the armies that depend on you can’t function? And.. with the profits staying at home… good business: at least for the managers.

PEMEX went into a tailspin after the first “OIl Crisis” of 1973, when producers (mostly the Islamic nations) played hardball by cutting production as a way of “punishing” the western powers for their support for Israel. Oil prices skyrocketed after the crisis, and in 1976, just after Mexican President Lopez Portillo bragged that “those countries with the oil have the money to spend” just as prices began to fall… and fall… and fall. Ironically, in part due to the discovery of new Mexican fields in the late 1970s.

And… even more to that “one neat trick” of continually pulling money out of PEMEX for more… uh… pressing needs (than, say, the PEMEX hospital system, the schools, the National Politechnical Institute set up by Cardenas to train professionals to manage the resource, the general fund), like buying votes and lining the pockets of PEMEX directors, tame union leaders and select politicians.

And… then came Carlos Salinas… a true believer in the neo-liberal economic theories taught at Harvard and elsewhere. Better the (mis) management of “private enterprise” than that of the state for some reason. While privatizing PEMEX would be close to impossible (the people, even the ones prone to sell their votes for a potty message, were unlikely to support that), but he could — and did — push through the idea that PEMEX was not a resource management service, but had to be run as a regular coporate business. That included, of course, as the thining in business circles was (and largely still is) assessing managers on their quarterly and annual statements and … the state being the shareholder… short term profit and loss.

Short-term being the key word here. Enamoured of neo-liberalism, and besotted with the thought of foreign investments once the NAFTA treaty was signed, it was only a matter of time before someone had the bright idea of … while on paper keeping PEMEX under state ownership, spinning off subsidiaries that could take on foreign “partners”. That part of managing the oil resources was to provide gasoline, rather than invest in the upkeep and renovation of existing refineries, partnering with SHELL ,,, and then reimporting the gasoline from Texas somehow made sense. After all, refineries cost money that could be better invested in… supporting the ruling party’s hold on power, or slipped into off-shore bank accounts of favored officials (or both). That PEMEX, being treated as a business, and not a state institution, allowed for it, at least in public, to be the state’s largest tax payer, though, running at a loss, the SHELL game (selling oil, at a discounted price to SHELL, paying them to refine it, and buying back the finished product to re-import to Mexico to sell at a subsidized price) was part of a larger shell game… benefiting a few politicians and their families, but no one else.

López Obrador has been criticized for being something of a throw-back to earlier Mexican politicians, and in a sense he is. Mexican politicians used to pride themselves on knowing national history, and alluding to events of the past in their campaigns, secure in their knowledge that the people understood the reference. With privatization losing much of its cachet among voters, and even the elites beginning to question the premises of neoliberalism, saving PEMEX, if for no other reason than as a historical artifact, Calderón promised… to great fanfare… to build six refineries, both on the premise that a “first world” Mexico would need more gasoline to feed the demand of a growing middle-class lifestyle (a car in every garage) and in small measure, to “save” PEMEX. After opening site bids (based it seems on what politicians had interests in what available properties)… exactly ONE spot was chosen, a wall built around the site and… left it for Enrique Peña Nieto to come up with something “new and different”: using funds channeled through PEMEX to bribe congress into approving another “reform” that would in theory make more gasoline at competitive prices available… allowing foreign companies to open their own gas stations. Which did nothing for gasoline prices, nor for PEMEX. On top of this, there ws a growing market for “black market” gasoline, and even those tasked by the Peña Nieto adminstration with safeguarding the devil’s excrament, turned “huachicolero”… gas thieves. An estimated 10% of the nation’s gasoline was being siphoned off from clandestine taps into pipelines and even hijacked fuel trucks. In 2018, during the run-up to the presidential election, that throwback, AMLO, reached back, not to the most recent event, but to Calderón’s six-refinery promise.

It was good politics: in Mexico, those who remember the past, are going to milk it for all it’s worth. Laying out the sins of omission by the previous administrations, among them the failure to build refineries, propelled AMLO to Los Pinos (which he promply closed, and moved into a more modest apartment in the Palacio Nacional). Beginning construction on at least one new refinery gave AMLO the cover to being phase two… cracking down on the huachicoleros (which caused a short-term gasoline shortage, mostly though panic buying), closing stations that were selling stolen gasoline… while the promise of at least one new refinery was publicized as evidence that — if not today, than soon — PEMEX oil, turned into PEMEX gasoline would be available, and assuaging national pride among those that saw the seeming inability of Mexico and PEMEX to handle its own resources as humiliating. Which it is.

With congressional elections in the offing (the voters go to the polls this coming Sunday, 6 June) likely to result in an increased presence of the opposition in congress, simply buying out SHELL’s majority share of the Deer Park refinery in Texas City was a dramatic move to bolster support for AMLO’s own Morena party. It’s perfectly true that six refineries haven’t been built (or even started)… YET. But where there was one, and a couple working at about 30%, now there is one being built (and producing at 50%) and a second… lo and behold… working at 100%.

Yes, PEMEX probably paid more than it should, and, yes, SHELL wanted to get rid of it anyway (or, had to… being a Dutch company, and under a Dutch court order to drastically reduce its output of fossil fuels) but the overpayment (about a quarter billion US dollars) can be made up by not having to pay SHELL that had to make a profit out of its refining costs… an overhead on top of the overhead that PEMEX would have doing the refining itself. And, it won’t be increasing any country’s carbon footprint of emissions overall. The gasoline that Deer Park wasn’t sending back to Mexico was going somewhere else, and Mexico won’t be burning more gasoline, just more of its own, with less from sources other than that PEMEX refines (another savings for the state run oil company). Win-win.

Except for the political opposition.

All in favor of corruption, say “Aye”

31 May 2021

From “La Opinion” (Los Angeles (my humble translation)

Wanting to destroy, attack or challenge the public opinion of the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, The Economist , one of the most prestigious and historic English neoliberal defenders, says in an article published last week that the The Mexican president is honest, but it doesn’t matter, he must be opposed or removed.

“He is not personally corrupt,” says the article in the first paragraph; but immediately stressed that the president is a “danger” to Mexican democracy. In other words, the president of Mexico is a danger to the people because he is not corrupt; therefore, no one should vote for him. What a paradox.

Unfortunately for the magazine, López Obrador’s strength lies in honesty. That is why people follow him. The people know that there is much to do and correct, but they also know that the first step has been taken with him and, therefore, they continue supporting him. To a large extent, his honesty and his decades-long struggle for honest government is what brought him to power, something not understood by his critics. The Economist article emphasizes that the president speaks for the have-nots and and the disadvantaged. He is not homophobic or discriminatory. And, as the magazine admits, he has done good things, like increasing pensions, subsidizing youth educational and training programs, keeping debt under control, and maintaining the country’s strong credit rating. The magazine even suggests to the opposition learn from AMLO, since the governments of the past did a terrible job with the families that were left behind economically since the 1980s.

In its eagerness not to be so biased against the López Obrador administration, the article criticizes the country’s ruling class and calls it corrupt; but apparently it doesn’t matter, because the editorials calls on those who are corrupt to do whatever it takes to stop the President.

The importance of the June 6 elections is that the entire Chamber of Deputies, the body that controls the budget, is at stake. Currently the [Lopéz Obrador’s party (Morena)] has a simple majority, but with the allied parties it enjoys an absolute majority. The Economist and the opposition in Mexico want is for López Obrador to lose that majority to block any type of legislation that violates the economic interests of multinationals with advantageous contracts.

Three years into AMLO’s mandate, thousands of corporations have been paying taxes that they’d evaded before, unequal conract with the state have been modified, and the minimum wage has risen by 50%. There has also been changes to the laws on subcontracting, which has literally elmited workers’ rights.

The article, far from painting AMLO as , “The false messiah” claims he is a “danger” for democracy in the country. Rather, López Obrador is a danger for some corrupt corporations that evade taxes and exploit Mexico’s resources and workers. The only thing that the current administration is doing is insist businesses and individuals comply with the law. You can still make a profit, but you ca’t go looting.

Recently Mexico managed to be among the best 10 countries in the world for direct capital investors, and AMLO was classified as one of the first two leaders in the world with most support from his own people. Unfortunately, the main objective of this magazine, in conjunction with corporations and corrupt ruling classes, is to call for Mexico to return to the era of past six years, when these classes could take over natural resources, ignoring and impoverishing the people themselves. Needless to say, the looting of the past was done with the complicity of the political class of what is now known as “PRIAN” (Institutional Revolutionary Party-National Action Party).

On September 27, 1913, The Ecoomist published an article favorable to the coup against the democratically elected President Francisco I. Madero that brought the dictator, Victoriano Huerta, to power. On that occasion, it stressed that Madero was “a problem for Mexico.” In the same way, The Economist last week stated in its cover article that the Mexican president, also over-whelmingly elected in 2018 by democratic means, is a “danger to democracy”; the danger, according to the Economist being that he is not corrupt.

Rage, rage, against the dying of the right

27 May 2021

Carlos Mota may have said (and he did) that the cover story and (unsigned) lead editorial in The Economist would give the “members of the 4-T” (i.e., supporters of the “fourth transformation” … the various implemented, implementing, and proposed reforms and restructing of the government, the political structure, and reparation of the social contract) a heart attack.. though the reaction has hardly been a call for even smelling salts. More like the reaction one might have to an annoying Chihuahua nipping at your ankles.

Apparently, Mexicans are supposed to be appalled or ashamed that The Economist’s lead editorial is entitled “Voters should curb Mexico’s power-hungry president”. In English. Although the editorial, among its list of AMLO’s supposed “sins” included one that fits the bill (“Mr López Obrador divides Mexicans into two groups: “the people”, by which he means those who support him; and the elite, whom he denounces, often by name, as crooks and traitors who are to blame for all Mexico’s problems”), the first — and by large the largest — doesn’t include very many people who read English, English magazines, or for that matter, gives a crap what a mouthpiece for British neo-liberals think. As to those others, the elite, by and large, they have been exposed as crooks nd traitors.

For that matter, doesn’t every politician basically lump people into two groups… those with me, and those against me? I don’t think AMLO is much different from Joe Biden, or Donald Trump, or Boris Johnson in that. Ah, but here’s the difference. AMLO, as the cover “helpfully” tells us is “Mexio’s False Messiah”… Where have I heard the Messiah before (and I’m not talking about Handel)?

“Tropical Messiah” was a coinage of Enrique Krauze, the fearless defender of the status quo. The epithet was echoed several years ago by the late US media quote-whore George Greyson, whose 2007 Mexican Messiah was the to-to source for all commentary by fly-in pundits (and those who never commented on Mexico before, outside of maybe some “concern” over “illegal aliens” and alleged “terrorist crossing the southern border”). For both Krauze and Grayson, the Messianic hold AMLO held over the masses (presumably of the unwashed variety) was that he had a vision of what Mexico could be, one based in Mexican values (thus his continual references to both Mexican history and Mexican political thought… particularly Alfonso Reyes’ “Moral Primer” of 1946) and not, as “acceptable” (to the global north) politicians who were free to wander within Mexican values… as long as they didn’t cross any line laid down by the “Washington Consensus”, the neoliberal economic theories of Milton Fridman, or do anything really outrageous like follow in the footsteps of presidents like Lazaro Cardenas or Adolfo López Mateos and have the effrontery to see Mexican resources as possibly a benefit to Mexican citizens beyond a source for a meagre paycheck.

As to the particulars of the messianic sins (can a Messiah be a sinner?): First off, he’s “too democratic” (“He calls a lot of votes, but not always on topics that are best resolved by voting. For example, when legal objections are raised to one of his pet projects—moving an airport, building a pipeline, blocking a factory—he calls a referendum”. Is that bad? While The Economist notes that very few people turn out for these referenda on “pet projects” (as opposed to, say, the previous administration’s pet project of an airport in the middle of a swamp, or Calderon’s “Tower of Corruption”) it does mean more than the usual “stakeholders” (neoliberal speak for the people with money interests ast stake) to voice their opinion. Whether or not the people vote is no reflection on the democratic principle of giving a voice to the people affected by the decision.

And.. he supposedly is illegally extending the term of the outgoing (maybe outgoing) Chief Justice. He has had bills introduced to keep the justice on while the entire judicial system is being reformed… reforms that began under the Calderon administration, and require changes in court administration and structure. The Chief Justice wants to finish the job, the President and Congress (most of them) want to finish the job… and there’s no Constitutional bar to extending his term, so what’s the problem?

Well, the problem are the things left unsaid: taking back control of PEMEX, building railroads (although that’s apparently a sin as well), taxing the rich, and tossing the crooks into jail.

But then, again… The Economist, channeling the ghost of Woodrow Wilson, “must teach them to elect good (corrupt) men. Heck, that’s what they said about Peña Neito back in 2012.


Voters should curb Mexico’s power-hungry president, The Economist

Mexico’s Moment, The Economist

México responde a The Economist por portada contra AMLO, SDPNoticias,

Así reaccionaron a la portada sobre “AMLO: El falso mesías” de The Economist, SDPNoticias.

El Falso Mesías: la dura portada de The Economist en contra de López Obrador, 24 Horas

The Economist tilda a AMLO de “falso mesías” y llama a EU poner atención en “su patio trasero”, Proceso

A bunch of right wing lunacy, and a lot more sane comments on Facebook and Twitter.

Peru: the commies are coming!

27 May 2021

Yeah, this is MEXfiles, not PERUfiles, but worth noting. Like here, and elsewhere, it’s the upstart leftist parties that are pushing the old establishment parties to the fringes. In Peru, it’s Peru Libre, a “Marxist-Leninist and Maríateguist” (Maríategue was a Peruvian Communist philospher, who argued that in Latin America, European theories of proletarian revolution needed to be adjusted to the realities of the culture here.) that surprised everyone when, with only 20% of the vote in the first round for the upcoming presidential election, it came in first (not too hard with 30 parties on the ballot), followed by the standard bearer of the old guard and establishment, the proto-fascist Keiko Fujamori, the daughter of disgraced former dictator, Alberto Fujamori.

Peru is the county where one-time presidential candidate (and world establishment favorite) Mario Vargas Llosa described a previous election (in which Fujimori fille also faced a “radical leftist”) as the choice between dying of cancer and dying of AIDS. Which disease is Fujimori’s and which is rural school teacher and union leader Pedro Castillo’s is best left to the Peruvian electorate. But the powers that be, among others, opt for not dying of whatever it is Castillo has.

Which, according to the not always accurate latest Peruvian poll, is what’s going to happen. An IPSOS/Ameríca Television poll has Castillo leading Fijimori by a comfortable 4 percent (52 to 48) with indications that his support is growing (and, taking into account that it’s difficult or nearly impossible to poll in some rural areas, where Castillo has the most support).

Fujimori polls much better when it comes to the nitty-gritty of politics (knowledge of the media, professional teams, etc.) and knowledge of the business community. On the other hand, for all his Marxist-Leninist rhetoric, it has to be remembered that Castillo’s rise in public affairs was as a union organizer and negotiator… suggesting a more pragmatic as opposed to ideological driven style, opposed to Fujimori … a “legacy” candidate’s background as a business owner.

What got Mexfiles thinking about Peru… besides noticing a rejection of “politics as usual” here and throughout Latin America (and the inevitable attemps to turn back the clock to “normal”… i.e. corrupt and elitist… political discourse) is that, despite having neither the money nor the knowledge to even risk a modest amount in mining stocks, Mexfiles is a huge fanboy of Inca Kola News, a mining investment newsletter and blog coming out of Lima.

Without any background or information on the issues involved, “Otto’s” two latest posts show why I expect Castillo will be the next president. Although he has been warning of a downturn in the value of Peruvian mining stocks (or, rather, investments that include Peruvian assets, especially in copper) and that investors are wise to consider their options, one company’s shares have been rising considerably… in good part for the simple reason they’re not dicks… they’re “responsible” miners (as responsible as is possible in a dirty, exploitative industry), playing by the rules set by the Peruvian state, not over-exploiting their labor force, and so on… while at the same time, another Canadian operation is pulling out of the country, and no one … neither the workers, nor the investors… would be sorry to see them go.

In short, the “good” miner (Element 29 Resources) “…wasn’t conceived by dirtbags as a way of ripping off idiots and turning director paper into dollars as quickly as possible.” And, something any investor (or “expat” with a business plan) should remember… governments change, the left is rising and… no matter who is in charge, or in what country:

“Once the shock of change is over, track records and [a history] as a good corporate or social citizen will matter most. Payback time for bad actors? Well yeah maybe, but this is less about upcoming acts of vengeance and more when national policies affect local stakeholders, companies with strong track records will be defended by locals, rather than attacked.”

Actualadad, IKN.

“Dance of the 41″… Porfirian porn?

17 May 2021

Not the sex scenes — the misuse of history, the reliance on stereotypes, and the unnecesary rehabilitation of protangonist, Ignancio de la Torre.

Carlos Monsivías, who if not inventing, at least made respectable, the study of LGBTQ+ culture and history in Mexico, called the “incident” of the night of 17 November 1901 the birth of homosexuality in Mexico. Certainly, it was the first time gay sex (or perhaps “same gender sexual activity”) was a media sensation, discussed widely (and condemned) in the coded language of the press of the time, an object of ridicule to Jose Posada, but saying more not about men having sex with men (nothing new since … well… forever) but about Posada’s (and society’s) distaste for the decadent “one percenters” of the era.


Herbiero Frias, one of the more populat journalists of his time, had written about prison drag queens, and there are plenty of records, going back as far to the Conquest , if not before1. On the other hand, would the subject had been explored had it not, as Monsivaís said, marked the beginning of such scholarship? As it was, the word, although coined in Germany in 1869, wasn’t used in English until 1901, and barely used in Spanish (“homosexualidad”) until after de la Torre’s rather undigified death (during a hemorroid operatin in 1918).

In itself, it should not have been a problem with the film, although presenting what is seen as a “secret vice” in the film is something reserved for the very wealthy, and worse… that it was particularly unjust that rich twits shoud be the ones to suffer. Which is historically incorrect. In the film, and in popular imagination, the wealthy party-goers were carted off to the Yucatan (for back of a better term, the Porfirian gulag) when in fact, they were let go with a stern warning and a fine. There was no law against sex among persons of the same gender. “Sodomy” had been strick from the legal code in the late 1850s, although there was (and still is) a crime called “outraging public morals”… and pedastry. Those who were sent to the “gulag” were not those nice, overly pampered main characters, but the rent boys hired for the occasion (the second block of what is now calle Madero was the Zona Rosa of the era). As it was, it’s not even established that de la Rorre was at the party (although one of the Emperor Maximilano’s godson’s was, along with several other socialites of the time) … nor was it a secret club. NOR were the particiants being particularly under surveillance by the police. What brought them to the venue was that neighors had noticed a lot of carriages showing up at a hall rented for what the landlord had been told was a baptismal party… Carriages being the limosines of the time, and baptismal parties, with a baby as the guest of honor, usually don’t go on all night.

Not to say this wasn’t a massive injustice, only that to call this a “true story” is more than a stretch. Nor that the legend is not important. Given the furor raised in public (or at least by the upper middle class and upper class) and the emphasis put on propriety by late Porfirians, the story nicely encapsulates the hypocrisy of the upper classes, and of the sypathethetically portrayed de la Torre. Who was, by all acccounts, not only a rotten husband, but a absolute monster who served as a symbol for all that was wrong with his father-in-law’s too long regime. As Emiliano Zapata, who took care of the horses on de la Torre’s vast estate in Morelos noted, the horses lived better than any person in the state… and was a key factor in Zapata’s own revolutionary conversion.

What bothers me is that I really liked the film. The sets are beautiful, evoking what I want to believe is how the wealthy lived at the time. The sex scenes are erotica rhat than porn, well done, and one sympathizes both with Amanda Díaz (de la Torre’s deceived wife) and his partner, the entirely fictional Evaristo Rivas. But, if the true story, or rather the true fiction, of the Dance of the 41 had any impact on Mexican consciousness, it was in creating a stereotype of men who prefer men as either decadent rich assholes, or as effeminate. And that made me feel dirty.

  1. Against Nature: Sodomy and Homosexuality in Colonial Latin America,” Zeb Torcorici, History Compass 10/2 (2012) pp. 161-178 (DOI: 1478-0542.2011.00823) and “When Medicine is a Sin: Sex and Heresy in Colonial Mexioco“, Farren Yaro, Recipes Project. Also: “Love (that dare not speak its name) among the ruins“, MexFiles, 5 November 2013.

Jesús Campos, “La verdadera historia del baile de los 41 y el yerno de Díaz” (Chilango, 15 May 2021)

No decriminalization of marijuana, yet… and that’s a good thing

16 May 2021

Sorry, tourists, hipsters… and Canadians… and Canadian hipster tourists…. but the much expected legalization of the marijuana trade had not passed by the Supreme Court ordered deadline of 30 April, and is unlikely to be debated by the legislature until the next term.

And that’s a good thing? Initially, the proposal was fairly simple, to allow individuals (with or without a license, from… some government agency or another) to grow somewhere between two and five plants for their own (adult) use, and for smallhold farmers to grow and sell their crop either to a state-run buyer (I proposed calling it PotMex) or to some licensed retailer for sale to consumers, either through state, or privately (and perhaps licensed) outlets. In other words, there were details to be worked out, but in the main, the purpose was to allow users to obtain marijuana for their own use (whether for medical or recreational use) and small farmers to sell legitimately a cash crop to buyers NOT connected to organized crime.

As I feared, the pressure came from outside corporate interests, including Canadian firms already in the retail marijuana trade (for months, the various foreigner and “expat” sites here had offer after offer from people looking to set up multi-lateral market schemes for selling various marijuana related products, the poster nearly always claiming some connection with some “respectable” Canadian firm with experience in the trade. And… of course, “big ag” wasn’t about to start dealing with small hold farmers, preferring… if they were going to buy Mexican marijuana… to be able to buy in export quantity and control the market… something that’s been obvious since Vicente Fox — whose family business has been exporting crops to the United States for three generations, and came to the Presidency as a neo-liberal business executive — first excited the English speaking parts of North America with his “conversion” to the pro-legalization movement.

While the bill, as intended, was not perfect in the form passed by the Senate, once it reached the Chamber of Deputies, it was deformed beyond all possible belefit. As was said by Jorge Javier Romero Vadillo in SinEmbargo (translated by “Mexico Voices”):

The legislation that was aborted suffered from great congenital deformities: 

  • it did not decriminalize simple possession or cultivation because complicated requirements were established. These were largely conceived to benefit Canadian companies developed under the protection of the law that already exists in their country and which sought to expand their production in the benign Mexican climate. 
  • The bill sent by the senators to the deputies opened up business opportunities that seemed juicy, but it did not guarantee the rights of consumers who have been victims of an iniquitous prohibition. 
  • It barely opened a loophole to compensate for the damage inflicted on rural communities which, over decades, have been producers of cannabis for the clandestine market and, thereby, victims of drug trafficking organizations as well as of the Mexican State.

AND… just to top it off, bad as it was, the Chamber decided to confuse everything by prohibiting exports and creating harsh penalties for violating already confusing regulations which, in effect, made the whole marijuana business even more likely to get one tossed in the vertical bars Hilton than the laws are now.

SO… back to the Supreme Court, with the Chamber’s recommendation that the courts rule on some provisions in the public health laws … perhaps with the idea of just making marijuana another crop, like cotton or potatos or cactus or flowers, regulated like other agricultural products (perhaps weith health warnings, like those on alcoholic beverages and sugary beverages) or… much more likely, to buy time to come up with something more workable and less contradictory.

A political drag race?

15 May 2021

The road to political victory is, apparently, paved with good intentions. Mexico has done tremenously when it comes to gender parity in public office… half, or almost half, of both chambers of the legislature are women, as are the two second most powerful offices in the country after the President (Claudia Sheinbaum, the governor … Jefa de Gobierno… of Mexico City and the Home Secretary/Interior Minister … Secreteria de Gobierno… Olga Sanchez Cordero). Striving to recognize that gender inequality is not the only form of inequality in the country… and that gender is a more complex matter than just the binary traditional male/female split, the election rules in this country have what might be called affirmative action rules for party candidates, mandating not just that there be as many female candidates within a party slate as there are male candidates, but that the parties strive for (but fall a bit short) of LBGTQ+ candidates, indigeneous candidates and… from districts with a large Afro-Mexican contituency, Afro-Mexican candidates.

And there’s the rub. While perhaps among the Zapotecs, and a few other indigenous communities that recognize “two spirit people” (biologically male, but accepted as female) who fill several minority quotos … LGBTQ+ (although, given their sense of self, they are neither homosexuals, nor have they “adoped” another gender, but are what they are), findignous and… perhaps also filling a position for either the male or female slots on the ticket, the legal definitions of who is, or isn’t indigenous, or Afro-Mexican, or LGBTQ+ are largely a matter of self-idenification. Indigenous people are defined by those whose “uses and customs” are descended from those uses and customs of people who spoke a non-European languge prior to 1521… which, with some stretch, could include just about anyone, although it’s one of those things where, to paraphase a US supreme court judge who said he’d know pornography when he saw it, “we know whose indigenous when we see him or her. However, when El Financiero reporter Verónica Bacaz questioned PAN candidate Daniel Martínez Terrazas about his claim to a slot on the ticket as an indigenous candidate, he couldn’t name his alleged ethnic community (claiming only Nahuatl (which would be like saying “Slavic” when asked if you were Polish, Ukranian, Serbian, Croat, Russian, or from where in eastern Europe), claiming he couldn’t remember the name of his community but only that it was “someplace in Guerrero, I forget the name” and … for good measure, accusing Ms. Bacaz of racism… while induging in a few racial sterotypes himself.

An indigenous person does not have to be one meter tall and have a complexion of one color.

It gets even trickier (or the candidates do) when it comes to gender identification. Who is to say you are, or aren’t gay or lesbian? It’s all to the good that the state encourges otherwise qualified office holders to come out, but there have been any number of questions raised about the bono fides of some claims. And… rather amusingly… 18 would be candidates for the Fuerza de México party laid claim to LGBTQ+ and/or female seats, based on their say-so that they were transsexuals…basedon apparently just saying they were. Admittedly, not all trans* people can, or do change their birth certificates to their new gender, and no way the state can (or should) prevent you from changing your gender, it normally requires a bit more than a simple say so in a declaration when filling out a candidate application. In Tlaxcala, the state elections board was forced to defer to organized LGBTQ+ organizations to define who was, and was not, of the community.

So far, there have been no reported problems of “passing” (in reverse) for Afro-Mexican seats, which in some ways is a surprise. Mexico, like other former Spanish colonies, never had a “one drop rule” (where in English speaking nations, any direct African descent classifies one as African), but reje3cted such racial terms in the law at the founding of the Republic. And… while Afro-Mexicans as a whole are somewhere beteen 1.5 and 2.0% of all Mexicans (and Mexicans, on average have two or three percent African ancestry), the set-asides apply to “Afro-Mexican COMMUNITIES” which are majority Afro-Mexican… and encompass only a few Costa Chica towns, a couple in the State of Veracruz and the Moscogos of Coahuila… places where, basically, everybody already knows everybody.

SOURCE: Carmen Morán Breña, Paridad electoral con falsas trans en México. El País, 15 may 2021

Mexico’s Day of Infamy

14 May 2021

When Italy declared war on Britain and the other allies in 1940, several Italian merchant ships did not receive notice in time, and were in neutral ports. Under the Law of the Sea, they were seized by the governments of the neutral nations in whose ports they happened to be… one of those Italian ships being an oil tanker in Mexico. Britian and the US, having attempted a boycott of Mexican oil after the expropriation of 1938, had only recenly resolved their disputes with Mexico, and — while for a very short time following the rift in relationships, it ha sold oil to the Germans and Italians — the country’s foreign policy had been anti-fascist, Mexico being the only nation in the League of nations to stand up for Ethiopia when Italy invaded that country, and had been one of the few to openly support the Spanish Republic.

Despite Mexican neutrality, it stopped selling oil (and had only done so clandestinely) to the Axis, and while maintianing neutrality (Mexican consulates and embassies in the occupied and fascist countries serving to facilitate refugees and even protecting allied citizens trapped in those countries) and providing material assistance to the allies… especially oil.

With the US declaring war in December 1941, it was only a matter of time until Mexico would be forced to declare war. When the Potrero de Llano was sunk by a U-boat on 13 May 1942, Mexico declared war on the Axis the following day.

How many zombies are in Honduras, anyway?

1 May 2021

Via the Wilmington, Delaware office of the Customs and Border Patrol comes word that 40 rounds of “Zombie Terminator .38 ammunition” was confiscated by the US Coast Guard in a shipment bound for Honduras. As any aficiando of zombie films knows, you need a double tap to kill a zombie,so the 40 rounds seized would only kill 20 zombies. However, accourding to the press release:

“CBP remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners like the U.S. Coast Guard to detect, deter and disrupt illegal activities and dangerous products at our ports of entry.”

40 rounds… i.e. one box of bullets (“Tombie Terminator” is just a band name… a clever one, to be sure, but nothing special) justifying a press release is pathetic. While the US, and various political faction in the United States whine that narcotics passing through Central America and Mexico manage to find their way north DESPITE the best efforts of various law enforcement agencies both in those nations and in the United States and small seizures are not anything worth mentioning, firearms and ammunition from the United States apparently passes with such regularity and lax enforcement of export regulations, that a tiny, rather insignifcant seizure is worth a press release.

Paper Silhouette Artworks : David Reeves

Bringin’ in a couple of Keys…?

16 April 2021

The issue isn’t with the shit being grown, but WHO will be harvest it. Export crops (and there’s really not that much of a national market) end up under the control of big (foreign) agrobiz corporations, not really benefitting small farmers like this marijuana grower.