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Eppur se mueve… or the Primate directive

7 December 2017

It’s official.  Norberto Rivera, Primate of Mexico  is finally going.  He is, to no one’s surprise, being replaced by Carlos Aguilar Retes, Bishop of Tlalnepantla , who only received his red hat 14 months ago.  Aguilar’s surprise elevation was widely seen as a sign of Pope Francis’ dissatisfaction with Rivera’s elitist style and his too-chummy relationship with Carlos Salinas and the political class… what the political left here refers to as the “mafia of power”.

While the new Primate is said to be personally close to Enrique Peña Nieto (he assisted Peña Nieto in untangling the impediments to his second marriage), he doesn’t carry the baggage that Rivera brought in with him when he first came to the Metropolitan Cathedral in 1995.  As Elena Reina reported for El País [Madrid] on Aguilar’s elevation to the Cardinalate:

Aguilar has been an important religious actor in the country. He was president of both the Mexican and Latin American Episcopate. “When he was president of the episcopate his relations with Rivera were very bad. Rivera comes from a crudely triumphalist Church , which wants to aggressively influence public debate, resorting to strong statements and even blackmail. [Aguilar] Retes is more sophisticated in political terms, is not [he and Rivera] are so different ideologically, but that he is more audacious in the use of politics, “says Bernardo Barranco, the Mexican sociologist specializing in religious matters.

It’s impossible not to see the Primate as a political player, especially with a watershed election coming up. While Rivera and the “old guard” churchmen were bending the laws on clerical participation in politics to back conservative and neo-liberal candidates, and it can be expected tha Aguilar’s own politics veers towards the rights, he is known as a consensus builder, which would be to the Church’s advantage in a time of social and political transformation. As de facto head of the Mexican Church, his elevation to the Metropolitan Archdiocese signals Rome’s support for a more pluralistic and flexible Church, responsive to the people and not the elites… but one more willing to engage in the political and social arena.

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Plato, Bertrand Russell, Pablo Escobar, Jesus, and AMLO

5 December 2017

Mexican political commentators just love to splash around their erudition. Defending AMLO’s remarks about possibly considering an amnesty for those involved in the narcotics export trade, Federico Arreola

How did I get dragged into all this?

(SDPNoticias.com) manages to drag in Plato, Karl Popper, and Bertrand Russell to build his defense of the Morena candidate. You can read the whole thing here, but what it comes down to is guys like Plato (as explained by Popper and Russell) are raising issues not so much because they see their suggestion as the one and only means to an end, but because they are opening a dialog.

And, given the responses from the usual suspects to that “dialog opening” suggestion on who to proceed with the “drug and violence” issue, it doesn’t sound like too many political figures outside AMLO’s camp want to even consider alternatives.  PAN chair Ricardo Anaya dismissed AMLO’s talk of amnesty as “loco”.  He expanded just a bit, referring to Colombia’s “amnesty” for Pablo Escobar as proof that it wouldn’t work… although one badly considered plan, under other circumstances, hardly counts as proof no plan would work.  Lord Russell would dismiss that bit of illogic with a sneer.

OK, so prison wasn’t so bad for me…

Margarita Zavala (Mrs. Felipe “indicted by the world court for genocide” Calderón) said she preferred criminals to go to jail.  Okey dokie.  I suppose building prisons to house the estimated 400,000 Mexicans directly tied to the narcotics industry in one way or another is a public works initiative.  Points for thinking outside the box, an finally coming up with some kind of policy initiative in her lackluster campaign for the Presidency.

Mexico City’s mayor (and possible Citizens’ Front candidate for President), Miguel Angel Mancera, frets that an amnesty means that one has sanctioned the whole business, and would effectively legalize organized crime:

Amnesty means a law of oblivion, a law of forgiveness, and the truth is that this would sanction behavior related to drug trafficking… it would stop being a crime.

I donno. Mancera states the obvious, that amnesty means a law of oblivion (at least as far as the state is concerned), but I don’t see that it sanctions the actions by any means. José López Portillo was in no way sanctioning guerilla uprisings when he sent an amnesty bill to Congress in 1978, nor was Carlos Salinas justifying the Zapatistas in his January 1994 amnesty decree.

And, naturally, the heads of the various military branches all poo-pooed the idea… even when pointed out that some of them might be eligible for amnesty.

I’m no Benito Juarez, but so what?

But, my favorite objection came from PRD’s Ángel Ávila Romero. Ávila Romero rejects the idea, not because it might not be legal (although it apparently would, and apparently does have precedent) but because it is … for lack of a better term… too Jesusy.

…forgiveness comes from a religious concept that is applied to the state. Mexico is a secular state. Juarez separated religion from politics because mixing the two can cause social polarization.

Not a bad argument really, though I recall Juarez (a former seminarian) forgiving and forgetting a lot of French soldiers and imperial hangers-on after Maximiliano was taken care of. Did he slip and think of Jesus? Or maybe Maimonides (“Better 99 guilty go free, than an innocent man wrongly suffer)? Or Carlos Salinas?

866,593

5 December 2017

866,593 valid signatures are required for an independent presidential candidacy. 

Jamie Rodriguez, “El Bronco”… the wealthy businessman and long time PRI politician, who won the governorship in Nuevo Leon in 2015 running as an independent, is so far the closest to garnering 866,593 petition signatures among the five people seeking to be included on the Presidential ballot in the July national election.  The deadline for submiting petitions is in mid-February, and, having already gained over 50% of the signatures required, is more likely than any of the other five independents to be included on the presidential ballot.

In second place in the scramble for signatures is Margarita Zavala, with almost 30% of the needed signatures.  The other three… former PRD Deputy Armando Ríos Piter, newscaster Pedro Ferriz de Con, and human rights activist and traditional nahua healer María de Jesús Patricio Martinéz, are all far behind.

“El Bronco” and Zavala have advantages that make me question how “independent” the leading independents really are.  El Bronco’s not all that surprising victory in the Nuevo Leon election came at a time when his own party was held in odium by the voters, and his main PAN opponent was a non-entity.  Other than a splashy “tough on crime” (at least street crime, like auto theft), he hasn’t governed any differently than any other PRI governor.  Zavala … the wife of former president Felipe Calderón and a former senator herself… was considered a shoo-in for the PAN nomination  Unlike the situation in the United States, where one party did have a candidate with a similar background, Zavala’s ambitions were blind-sided both by party insurgents, and … PAN recognizing it has no chance of recapturing the presidency, and fearing the likely victory of the leftist Morena party of Andres Manuel López Obrador, has opted to join a coalition with PRD and the smaller Citizen’s Movement Party.  Zavala, being absolutely unacceptable to the other coalition parties, has struck out on her own.

Rodriguez … with his own personal wealth, not to mention the relatively intact client base he built up during his 33 years in various offices as a PRI politician… and Zavala, with at least a faction of the well-oiled PAN machine to chip in… of course have a huge advantage over the others.  It seems that the Nuevo Leon governor has also benefited from having control of his state’s bureaucracy.  More than one Nuevo Leon official and office-holder has “volunteered” to coordinate the petition drives. 

This is the problem I always expected to arise with “independent” candidates. How independent are they, really? Either the candidate has a lot of money behind them (making the elections as corrupt as those in the United States, dependent on campaign “donations), is a ringer for a party or party faction… or both. The payoff, of course, is the public financing for a campaign, beyond making a point and possibly actually winning office.

“Marichuy”… Patricio Martinéz… while she is the choice of a congress of indigenous organizations and the Zapatistas, is probably the only real “independent” in the race. And, of course, has the least amount of signatures.

Reporte Indigo (4 December 2017) A paso veloz en la carrera independiente; ‘Bronco’ reúne más de mil firmas por hora

More of the same, but less corruption

3 December 2017

That’s what the one “official” presidential candidate — José Antonio Meade for the PRI — is promising.  Widely touted as “Mr. Clean”, mostly for not being the member of any political party (he served in the PANista Calderón Administration as well as the present PRI one), Meade had been, until last week, Secretary of the Treasury.  As such, he will be credited, or blamed, for state of the economy when the formal campaign season officially gets underway (AMLO has not formally announced his candidacy, although that is scheduled … with an eye towards symbolism… for 12 December, the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe).

Having to sell the PRI brand, when at least a dozen former governors and other party leaders are either in prison, under indictment and at large, or skirting by on technicalities, creating the impression of a “new and improved” PRI will be only the first challenge he faces.

How much real support there is for continuity is the big question.  The “reforms” over the last two administrations may have improved Mexico’s economic situation, but the cost seen by individual voters, coupled with the on-going “drug war” have worn down the public.  And, economic issues have never proven all that important in Mexican elections.

I don’t remember where I saw it, but the PRI strategy for this election seems to come down to just hanging on.  Given that the first past the post candidate wins the presidency (even if, like Peña Nieto, that only accounts for less than a third of the popular vote), a bland candidate in a crowded field makes sense.  AMLO is certainly “controversial” and everyone can find at least one or two of his proposals they disagree with.  There may, or may not, be two or three independents running this year (they need to gather 866,000 signatures to even qualify for the ballot, and time is starting to run out) and given the problems the coalition PAN-PRD-MC “Citizens Front” has been having on finding a compromise candidate, there may be as many as seven or eight names on the ballot.  The PRI can probably count safely on 20 to 25% of the electorate, no matter who the candidate is, and the majority parties have a history of supporting (surreptitiously or otherwise), minor party candidates in order to split the opposition vote.

In other words, PRI’s best bet is winning over enough of the anyone but the PRI vote to squeak out a victory at about 30 percent.  If not, at least to become the largest of the opposition (which, with a third of Congress chosen by proportional representation) would position them to deal with the presumably smaller opposition parties and thwart AMLO’s more radical propositions, and preserve the status quo.

From Animal Politica:

In his first speech after registering as PRI presidential candidate for the presidency, José Antonio Meade promised continuity with the government of Enrique Peña Nieto, whom he praised as “the architect of change”, although he also said that his party should self-criticism.

“…Let’s finish once and for all with the idea that this country has to be reinvented every six years. We must not demolish everything, we must not change everything,” Meade said this Sunday at the PRI national headquarters.

“We bet on experience …on knowledge and not on confrontation; on  preparation and not on improvisation, on programs, not on whims; on  institutions and the law, and not on prophecies. The revelations can not replace effort, preparation and work, “he added.

In his 30 minute, Meade continued praising Peña Nieto, for his “talent and sensitivity” in  transforming the country in areas such as energy, and creating more than 3 million jobs in his administration.

“The real change was under the leadership of a Mexican with courage, courage, and love for Mexico,” said Meade. “We are going to strengthen what has already been done.”

[…]

Without referring specifically to [several recent scandals], Meade said that his party should strengthen the areas in which it has  done well, and identify those  “realities that hurt us.”

Among the promises that he launched, is that his government, in case of winning, will launch a “frontal and definitive fight against corruption

 

Go forth and sin no more

3 December 2017

Ballsy!

Speaking in Quechultenango Guerrero — a stronghold of the “Los Ardillos” cartel — MORENA president Andrés Manuel López Obrador,  did not rule out the possibility of offering amnesty to cartel leaders as a means to ending violence and guaranteeing  peace in the country.

Although speaking in a community where no one from his own party is willing to run for the municipal presidency for fear of meeting the same fate as Armando López Solano, the Citizens’ Movement candidate for that position assassinated two weeks ago, AMLO said he is willing to convince his party’s militants to discuss amnesty, criticizing the previous and present federal governments’ security strategies. He added that, if he wins the Presidency next year, he will he will explore all possibilities to ensure peace and tranquility in the country.

Among those strategies, he said, he does not rule out offering amnesty, even to the the cartel leaders, along with demanding that the United States government implement programs to reduce consumption by its own people.

“We have to talk with Mexicans, with everyone, and we have to ask everyone to help to bring peace to the country (…). We are going to explore all the possibilities, from decreeing an amnesty while listening also to the victims, to demanding the government of the United States to carry out campaigns to reduce drug consumption, “he said.

El Imparcial (Nogales, Sonora): AMLO plantea analizar amnistía a líderes del narco para garantizar la paz, 2 December 2017

El Universal (Mexico City): AMLO analiza amnistía a líderes del narco para garatizar la paz, 2 December 2017

While this made me think of the fictional president Diego Nava’s undelivered speech in the recent Mexican political thriller “Ingobernable”*, what at this point is a vague outline of a suggested discussion point, rather than a policy initiative, is still something that has until now been a taboo among the political class. Lópéz Obrador has occasionally been compared to Donald Trump in his ability to make outrageous, headline-grabbing pronouncements, but — unlike Trump — the “out of the box” comments are not off the cuff, but are calculated statements, details of which are usually not as “radical” as they first seem.

AMLO earlier proposed an amnesty for corrupt officials. As one might expect, the commentarati were of the “no.. lock em up and throw away the key” mentality, but given the obvious difficulty (or reluctance) the government has been having in even attempting to implement a rather mild anti-corruption policy and program, some sort of amnesty is likely to be seen as a step forward.  No one expects corruption to disappear, only to be curbed.    What seems to be suggested by the MORENA candidate is some sort of “truth and justice” commission that would probably let the smaller crooks go, and seek reparations from the bigger offenders.

When it comes to the gangsters, it may be hard to understand, but there often seems to be more empathy for them as “honest criminals” than for “corruptos”.  The gangsters are seen (not by everyone, not by a long shot) as people who had to find some way to survive in a depressed rural economy, and who are as much victims of U.S. policy and consumer demand as anyone else here.  It’s not that people like the gangsters, it’s that they accept that, absent an economic policy that depresses rural wages and opportunity, and an all-too-tempting market next door that offers huge financial rewards, the problem would not affect them.

And, given the mood of the Mexican electorate towards the United States, the suggestion that “our” drug war is “their” problem is good politics…

 

*   SPOILER ALERT!   SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILER ALERT!

 

… that is, assuming AMLO doesn’t end up like Diego Nava, murdered in an elaborate plot involving the CIA and Mexican elites for planning to end the drug war (among other things) to bring peace to the country.

A coup in Mexico?

1 December 2017

While we knew this was coming, after years of “regularizing” the site of soldiers in the streets (at least in some places, like Mazatlan, where I lived for several years) and the constant propaganda turned out to discredit all opposition, from dissident unions to blaming all social unrest on “drug cartels” or other organized crime groups (as opposed to, say, desperate people looking for a way to survive), in a way, I’m surprised this has only come up now.  With the presidential elections only seven months out… and a growing assumption that the next president will be from the dissident left… unless they expect the military to necessarily side with the old establishment and not whomever controls Los Pinos by this time next year, either the establishment hopes to push this through now in order to prevent the left from assuming power, or they’re about to hand over to the very people the mainstream parties claim is a “danger to Mexico” a tool to quash any dissent from the left’s agenda.

John Ackerman in this week’s Proceso (my translation)

MEXICO CITY (Process) .- The intrusion of military forces into the political and social life of the country has reached intolerable extremes that put at risk both institutional democracy and national sovereignty. Today we witnessed the equivalent of a surreptitious and silent coup d’état. If society does not stop the rampant militarization, Los Pinos could soon be occupied by a general.

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has presented in the Chamber of Deputies an initiative for a new Internal Security Law, which aims to normalize the unconstitutional participation of the Armed Forces in public security and internal social control.

The approval of this project would imply a radical transformation of the role of the military in national affairs. Normally, soldiers can only participate in matters related to “national security”. Article 129 of the Constitution is absolutely clear: “In times of peace, no military authority can exercise more functions than those that have an direct connection with military discipline.”

However, the proposal submitted by Deputy César Camacho Quiroz, drawn up to comply with those of Enrique Peña Nieto and the Secretary of National Defense, Salvador Cienfuegos, would enable the military to be directly involved in matters of “internal security”. And this concept is defined in the most abstract and general way: as any issue that “endangers stability, security or public peace”.

With the new law, the military will no longer be exclusively limited to defending the homeland and providing support to civil authorities in cases of emergency, but would become permanently responsible for the internal “order” and, therefore, a multi-faceted and autonomous political force capable of imposing their own will at almost any moment. That is, the military persecution of the political opposition and social movements throughout the country would be formally authorized.

Ever since Felipe Calderón sent massive numbers of soldiers massively into the streets in 2006, supposedly to combat drug trafficking, the federal government has said that militarization of public security was necessary as a strictly temporary measure, while purging and professionalizing municipal, state and federal police forces.

Today, 10 years later, we see that Calderón lied from the first. The police were never professionalized and the parties in the “Pact for Mexico” have simply decided to replace the police with the military.

A few months ago, PRIANRD* reformed both the Code of Military Justice and the Military Code of Criminal Procedures, in order to allow public ministries (criminal investigators) and military courts to indiscriminately intervene in civil matters, with searches of private homes, offices and government buildings, as well as conducting direct espionage on personal communications.

With the Internal Security Law, this would consolidate and expand the scope of the law. The military would be able to completely displace the public prosecutor in the investigation of crimes committed by civilians. It would also open the door for a system of generalized political-military espionage, allowing soldiers to use any means of information gathering they chose.

Even more worrying is that this new law seeks to reverse procedures set forth in Article 29 of the Constitution related to a declaration that suspends basic civil rights in cases of “serious disturbance of the public peace”. That constitutional procedure obliges the president to receive authorization from the Congress of the Union to issue said declaration and requires that the suspension be “for a limited time” specified in the declaration.

In contrast, the new law would allow the president to unilaterally declare, and for an indefinite time such a state of exception. That is to say, the military presence on our streets would be eternalized, with all that this implies regarding the systematic violation of human rights and the freedoms of transit, expression and assembly.

The most serious danger, however, is the damage that this new law would have on our national sovereignty. It is no secret that the Mexican armed forces today not only follow the orders of the Mexican authorities, but also obey the mandates of Washington. It was the government of Vicente Fox who accommodated the Mexican militia within the framework of the North Command of the United States (Northcom) in 2002. And a growing percentage of generals, commanders and Mexican military cadets receive an mportant part of their training in U.S.

The Secretary of the Navy, Vidal Soberón, was recently named commander of the Legion of Merit of the United States government and has been in constant communication with the military high command of that country. A few months ago Soberón personally handed Northcom’s chief, William Gortney, Mexico’s Medal of Naval Distinction and Military Merit First Class.

In other words, if PRIANRD is able to get approval for their new Internal Security Law, the Mexican people will not only be subject to the constant meddling of the military forces in our lives, but our information and our freedoms would also be placed under the direct control of Donald Trump.

Instead of augmenting the intrusion of a fascist in our internal affairs, today is a good time to recover our long tradition of national dignity and Latin American solidarity. We have to turn our eyes towards the south.

*The majority parties making up the so-called “Pact for Mexico”: PRI, PAN, and PRD. Although in foreign publications the three parties are respectively labeled “Centerist”, “Right of Center” and “Left of Center”, their ideological differences were smoothed over in suppport of a neo-liberal economic policy, and a consensus domestic agenda.

False prophets … for fun and profit?

22 November 2017

(via El Diario, 22 November 2017):

Crime or not?  Just weird.

Social networks and signs outside Catholic churches are warning of false priests and bishops serving the Diocese of SanJuan Teotihuacán.

“Some people who practice some celebrations and rites of the Catholic Church, are not appointed ministers,” said Rafael Mendoza, a parish priest in Acuexcomac.

Photo: Excelsior

A parishioners named Joaquin Reyes said he heard about these false priests allegedly sacraments on behalf of the Catholic Church.

“We have already heard something, both through social networks and during Mass, and those of us in the community have been warned about these people. We need to be careful and not surprised by these false priests. They say there is even a false bishop working, giving the sacraments without any validity or support from the Church.”

Parishioners have begun to distribute photographs of the false priests to their neighbors and asked them to take precautions, fearing the fake clerics may be part of a criminal gang.

“As a Catholic-Christian community it affects us because we do not know if the documents they carry are false. Above all, there is a risk of, for example, having them officiate masses in private homes that will let them see how people live, so they can rob the house,” added parishioner Angel García Pichardo.

At the same time, the local Catholic community recognizes that these false priests take advantage of people’s haste and desperation to have a service performed.

“They are people who play with the faith of others, because sometimes we Catholics are a little impatient with our priests- We do not like to wait, and want the fast service to marry our daughter baptize our child, have a first communion service, and these false people take advantage of this situation, “said Joaquín.

The Catholic Church warned that the sacraments provided by false priests have no validity, so they urged the population to denounce these people before the authorities.

 

I wonder if there is any legal change that can be brought for impersonating a priest.  I suppose if they’ve charged for their services, it might be fraud, but a marriage service performed by a cleric has no legal validity anyway, so I assume the “crimes” are theological and out of the hands of the state.  I don’t know if a believer attends a false service in good faith, he or she is expected to have a “do-over” or not.  That is, do you need to make up the masses you missed, hold another funeral for granny, or go back to confession and do your penance again.