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They’re coming! Be very afraid!

18 July 2019

Takedown of the week… er.. month…er… year

14 July 2019

Francisco Goldman on the latest travesty (“López Obrador’s cost-cutting spree is transforming Mexico — and drawing blowback from bureaucrats“) in the Washington Post:

The Washington Post is always so inept and slanted whenever they write about Mexico.

” Enrique Peña Nieto was so stylish that the famed Beverly Hills boutique Bijan designed a wristwatch in his honor. But his term was stained by scandal, including his wife’s purchase of a $7 million mansion from a government contractor.” Oh yes, that’s all that was wrong with that government, a little bit of that scandal stain, a mansion, and so was that the worst of it, then? The mansion? What are they going to write when EPN ends up in jail, what wristwatch will they design for him then? Always count on this kind of journalist to trot out Castañeda when they write one of these dummy pieces.

“It’s a vision that goes well beyond fiscal austerity, said Lorenzo Meyer, a prominent historian here.

“The whole idea of Mexico is different,” said Meyer, who supports the president.” This quote is funny, it’s posed like it’s supposed to make the reader wonder, Hmm, what’s he smoking. But the reporter did feel obligated to get into the piece that yes, the whole idea of Mexico is different, which is what AMLO campaigned on.

As a smart Mexican journalist friend put it to me the other day, AMLO is the best thing this government has going for it. AMLO is also the worst thing it has going for it. But, you know, did Peña Nieto’s government have anything actually good for it, besides his ability to inspire wristwatches and gushing USA headlines about being Mexico’s savior? Does the US president have anything good going for him? Does Guatemala’s president have anything good going for him? So, you know, even accepting the truthfulness of a seemingly a backhanded compliment, a president being the best thing a government has going for it does suggest that some interesting and worthy things are going on. (And also suggests that there are problems too; among those problems are rabid supporters who won’t accept any criticism of their leader and troll critical voices, including in the media, I’m sure which sounds familiar to an American reader.)
Of course this government is only 7 months old. It’s not easy, trying to “change Mexico,” especially when you inherited a mess like the new government did, and have to deal with the malevolent and incompetent bully to the north. As far as I can tell after just 6 weeks being back here, some things seem to be going well, others not so well. But the priorities speak for themselves, some of them mentioned (more or less dismissively, such as, you know, trying to shift spending to help the poor) in the article. Peña Nieto’s zillionaire lawyer buddy Collado was arrested on money laundering charges this week (Peña fled to Madrid, where he was said to be hiding out in that lawyer’s mansion — another mansion!), and people close to the government say this is just the start of what promises to be a tough, long and riveting legal fight against Mexico’s corrupt political mafia (Salinas, etc). The international judicial experts drummed out of the country in 2016 for coming too close to the truth in their investigations of the missing 43 Ayotzinapa students praise the new commission that has been established to investigate the case. A lot of people voted for AMLO because they wanted a government willing to take on the crisis of corruption and impunity — something Mexico has never had before, certainly not in the governments and government circles a creature of old Mexican establishment power like Castañeda moves in. (Castañeda, who when we were interviewed on the ludicrous Charlie Rose show, called me a conspiracy theorist when I said the 43 hadn’t been burned in the Cocula dump; he’s so lucky the episode didn’t air.)

Mexico needs to be reported on in a serious way. This is shallow slanted tripe. As usual.

Adios plastico…

4 July 2019

From MXCity Guia Insider:

Mexico City Congress has approved a bill prohibiting the use and commercialization of single use plastics beginning in 2020.

In the ordinary session and with 51 votes in favor, zero against and one abstention, the bill has been presented to the presented to the presented by the Commission for the Preservation of the Environment, Climate Change and Ecological and Animal Protection which will write the final regulations. They foresee gradually replacing single-use plastic articles with biodegradable products; beginning with bags, later adding cutlery, drinking cups, straws and stirrers.

This final regulations will be sent to Chief of Government, Claudia Sheinbaum, for promulgation in the Offical Mexico City Gazette, and further dissemination in the Official Gazette of the Federation.

The vice-coordinator of the Green Party, Alessandra Rojo de la Vega Piccolo, explained that the ruling that reforms and adds several provisions of the Solid Waste Law establishes the prohibition of the sale, distribution and delivery of single-use plastics, as well as as those containing added microplastics such as bags, cutlery, mixers, plates, straws, among others.

During the session, which also attended the Secretary of Environment of Mexico City, Marina Robles García, the local deputy explained that the measure aims to make the industry more co-responsible with the final destination of the products, so that can reintegrate into the environment or the circular economy.

The bill is designed to give the plastics industry time to re-orient its production, and coordinate with the post use disposal industry. PAN deputy Gabriela Salido Magos cautions that the measure is only a 10 year soldution, the measure is a solution for 10 years, since the demand for natural products could also have negative consequences, when other measures may need to be considered.

You broke it, you bought it…

28 June 2019

If you are unaware of why conditions in Central America (being the nations from Guatemala to Panama) are so difficult, as a historian I work with those causes. Foremost in the economic and political instability in the region is the violation of the political and economic sovereignty of the region carried out by Great Britain and the United States for much of the nineteenth century, all of the twentieth century, and so far all of the twenty-first century (more recently Canada is also joining the fun).


On Law, Illegality, Borders and Morality: Thoughts on Central American Assylum Seekers

Friends and fellow voters: it is not unpatriotic to review both past practice and current policy in an effort to advocate for improvement. The real patriot and citizen looks at their country and aspires for it to live up to its highest potential instead of covering for its most primitive Hobbesian urges. If you believe the United States has the potential to be a shining city on a hill, there is nothing wrong in recognizing it hasn’t always lived up to that potential. Take the time in the upcoming voting season to select candidates who will reject our drift away from law when they declare asylum seekers and refugees “illegal,” and instead choose candidates who see the potential in what a truly inspired nation can accomplish. Keep our laws and provide asylum claim review on a speedy manner. Some people will be able to stay. Others will have to return to Central America. But live up to our moral obligation by providing livable conditions with united families now and engage in an act of repentance by healing the wounds caused in Central America by 150 years of intervention.

The devil made him do it? The susp-exorcist

24 June 2019

Notas rojas (police beat news items) are generally paid by the word, which means the writers become brilliantly creative, conveying the simplest information in the most convoluted way possible, and … although Proceso does not really publish that peculiar literary form… there is no way any media outlet in the country can avoid the feeding frenzy for stories about Leonardo Avendaño’s murder two weeks ago. Although at the time, Avendaño’s murder was paired with that of another private university student in Tlalpan, in a country with an anticlerical history, and strong feelings about the role of the Roman Catholic Church, the murder of a seminarian and parish assistant has crowded out the other (not all that exciting) murder. Besides, when the prime suspect is not just any priest (and, yes… one can speculate on the relationship between the young deacon and the aging cleric), but a celebrity, if not one we’d normally read about in the gossip columns, and of a sort that leads to all manner of questions about the survival of folk beliefs in Mexico (as if this kind of celebrity isn’t also found in the United States and elsewhere); a faith healer and exorcist.

And it gets stranger from there.

Freely translated from Carlos Olvera, “El cura acusado de asesinar a Leonardo, experto en “recibimientos” y exorcismos“, Proceso, 22 June 2019.

Monday, Wednesday and Friday, locals and out of towners lined up starting at midnight at the door of Cristo Salvador parish church in Tlalpan, hoping to be received by Father Francisco Javier Bautista Ávalos. Not this week, the 58 year old cleric and reputed faith healer/exorcist having been arrested Saturday on suspicion of involment in the murder parish assistant Leonardo Avendaño, a 29 year old seminarian whose body was found two weeks ago strangled and showing “signs of torture”.

Belivers and neighbors report that on “reception days” the street was “chaos”, overrun with traffic, street vendors and the faithful waiting to see the renouned priest.

Regardless of weather or season, it was common to see mothers and fathers outside the parish with portraits of their children, some addicts, others missing, still others who had been abducted. Some came seeking to cure physical ailments, other to be relieved of spiritual pain, and still other, although less common, seeking to be freed from “demons”.

Streaming in when the church doors were opened about a quarter past six, Father Bautista
began “receiving”, generally hading three or four cases before starting his 8 AM morning Mass. After Mass, the priest continued his sessions.

The reception ritual invoved facing the priest while detailing the complaint, during which Father listened and prayed… his assistant, “Guille”, never more than a few steps away. Then, “in a language I do not know, maybe Latin,” says an assistant, the father would put his hands in front of you, at chest height and without touching you, and would continue to pray.

If necessary, the father nodded to his sexienarian assistant and constant sidekick, “Guille”, who would pull out a bottle of olive oil, or what was said to be holy oils, for the priest to annoint the sufferer and complete his or her “cure”.

“Guille” lives a few blocks from Cristo Salvador and, along with her husband and daughter, sells religious objects and musical Cds in front of the church. She is said to be the one with the gift for detecting “evil” or diagnosing the problem of those Catholics who come to the church.

Fifteen years ago, Bautista Ávalos was the parish priest at another church in the neighborhood, although it is said he was called to Rome to be prepared as an exorcist. The Vatican has been unable to confirm that the priest had any training as an exorcist. Since his return from Rome, his fame as a healer resulted in his being sent on a “retreat”, and reassignment to Cristo Salvador upon his return.

His acts of healing and exorcism, as well as his appearances on television programs specializing in these subjects, and books such as “Psalms and Prayers for Healing. Father Fco. Javier Bautista ” have given him some notority.

Believers say Padre Francisco Javier does not even have to be present to affect a cure. Fernando, a doctor who lived in Puebla at the time claims he was hospitalized and close to death when his grandmother approched the priest in Mexico City. According to Fernando, the priest, his grandmother and “Guille” prayed together:

“The father told her[the grandmother] to think about her grandson. There was the clairvoyant (Guille) with him and he said yes, they did have [Fernando] wrapped in a spider web, and with three demons, poking him. “

Under instruction by the priest, Fernando’s family prayed under an altar dominated by angels (presumably statues of angels) and he began his exorcism: “ … the prayer of liberation”.

According to Fernando’s grandmother, the priest asked Guille what she saw, the response beomg tjat “the demons did not let go… until she saw our Lord Jesus Christ with a hand on someone …” At that point, Father Francisco Javier assured the grandmother that “ tyes, it is our Lord Jesus Christ with your grandson who is already healed, he is already liberated.”

“From that time he has been healthy, as if nothing had happened to him,” said the grandmother, a native of the capital.

Gerardo Guzmán told Proceso he credit Padre Bautista and “Guille” with overcoming his 10 year struggle with alcohol and drugs, which had led to several hospitalizations. The Coyoacán resident agreed to visit the priest with his father in 2011. A neighbor of Guzmán’s said that “We went to see the father. He gladly assisted us. He told [Gerardo] that he was going to do an exorcism if he agreed. He said yes, he made a good confession and after the exorcism I took him home. He asked his parents for forgiveness and he has been clean and sober for 8 or 9 years, with the grace of God that Father Francisco Javier could help him.

Teresa Cortés Islas, from Puebla, relates her story this way:

15 years ago I was suffering from attacks by the enemy, done by my coworkers. I worked in Federal Roads and Bridges (Capufe). My age right now is 60 years. I am retired. ”

When I started to get sick I did not know what was wrong … it was a work of evil. They took out a stretcher.

Then Father Francisco Javier was the one who made me live. I went with him. I told him what happened to me. He generously cured me, helped me, and that is why I am alive.

And nowwhen I get sick, I go to him by phone or by email. I say to him: ‘Father, please pray for me, because I am sick.

He, on three occasions that I was able to go to Mexico, cured me and always gave me his encouragement.

Teresa said that unlike Father Francisco Javier, at the ISSSTE in Puebla [Civil Service health care clinc] they never found anything, and despite her discomfort, and they did not give him any medicine.

She concluded by saying “May God help you. He deserves all the help possible. He is not capable of what they say (Leonardo’s murder).”

On “no reception” days, the 7 AM Mass begins with an anointing of the sick, which attracts not only the local congregation, but, it is said, a sprinkling of celebrites, all seeking cures for their ailments.
“It makes you enter a state of spirituality so strong,” says a parishioner who attended a Mass because of a painful knee problem that made walking difficult. She said, that “while Francisco Javier prayed and anointed her, she saw ‘multicolored lights in her brain´’. Since then, she claims her ailment has disappeared.

On Thursday the 20th there was no “reception” in the parish of Christ the Savior, but there were Catholics, and many. Since the previous night, dozens congregated in the temple with one sole purpose: to pray for Father Francisco Javier, arrested on Wednesday for his alleged involvement in the Leonardo Avendaño, his acolyte and assistant’s, death.

By 9:00 pm, “It seemed like Sunday noon,” said a parishioner of the service, where more than 500 adults and children gathered inside and outside the church to pray for their priest.

Inside and outside the church, believers some kneeling, others tearful, and some more on the edge of anger, raised their pleas that the city police officers did their job right, and let the veteran pastor go.

The news that the Attorney General’s Office of Justice had reported the arrest of Bautista, found after four days of an intense search for the missing cleric.

The parish where the faithful had gone in hopes of remedying their physical and spiritual ills was now in mourning and without their priest. The last they had seen of him was officiating at Leonardo’s funeral mass, the day after he was found stranguled and wrapped in a blanket. The ministry investigation added that the crime was of a “personal nature”.

On Thursday the thirteenth, the believers mourned the 29 year old seminarian. Six days later, they were no longer prayed for Leo, but for the priest who offered the funeral Mass.

Avendaño is remembered as very close to the priest, as well as to a young church organist. Several people have said that Leonardo spoke on behalf of the priest in a financial matter. It was an open secret that Bautista was in poor health, having been hospitalized for bronchopneumonia twice in recent months, and in need of money to pay medical bills.

In addition, Father Bautistas two brothers both died recently, further distracting him from his parish work. While there were substitute priests, none were healers.

Thursday’s Mass was led by Bautista’s friend. Padre Benjamín, on loan from another parish. His sermon was the first indication the faithful had that their parish priest was in custody. The thirty clerics and religious in attendance, and the approximately 200 parishioners were told “We have to support him, we have to be united … with prayer. We are going to ask God for him.”

In the Cristo Salvador parish chursh, where for the last 15 years Francisco Javier celebrated the Eucharist and attended to all, the roles were reversed. Now, the prayers for for him, not the fiathful.

Almost at the same time of the mass, around 50 demonstrators from the neighborhood, placards in hand, demanded Bautista’s release. A second group demonstrated outside the Public Prosecutor’s offices.

The Arquidiocese of Mexico City reiterated it’s complete willingness to provide information required by investigators, while at the same time expressing its concern for those affected by violence and lack of security in our country.

Last rites: the art of execution, the execution of art

22 June 2019

Ah, to die a hero’s death… even in a stupid cause!

Wednesday was the 152nd anniversary of Maximilano’s execution. Tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of the end of the Cristero War. Both events signaled a nationalist victory over overt foreign interference in domestic affairs, although… of course… foreign interests continue to influence and affect daily life here. But, the execution of the Hapsburg, and the agreement worked out between the Mexican bishops and the state, left for some the sense of a romantic gesture rather than the blood-letting tragedy that the “phantom crown” and ¡Cristo Rey! in reality were.

Eduard Manet’s “Execution of Maximilian” is the better known of the two works shown above. Manet, like many another 19th century Frenchman, was a true believer in the “civilizing mission” of the French, and viewed the French pull.out from Mexico as a betrayal by Napoleon III of the Hapsburg puppet. For the conservative Manet, the death of Mazimilian… who the artist saw as an anointed king … not by Mexican Republicans, but though the manipulation and betrayal of the usurping Emperor of the French, was a subject for heroic art. Interestingly enough, the soldiers executing Maximilaino in Manet’s painting wear French, not Mexican, uniforms. After all, the painting is hardly meant to reflect the reality of the event, but rather his emotional and aesthetic reaction. And, be real: he knew it was a subject that would sell. The romantic vision of a “white savior” for Mexico (saved from what isn’t said) still resonates with many, although we can admire the Execution of Maximilian simply for its aesthetic composition without thinking too much about its political or historical contest.

Not so with the lesser known composition by Mexican photographer and artist, Manuel Ramos Sánchez. LIke Manet (from whom Sanchez seems to have liberally borrowed), there was no attempt to construct an historically accurate image. But what is interesting is that, being presented as a photograph, it has been presented as “proof” of government atrocities during the Cristero War. The photo used above comes, not from Mexico, but a Spanish postcard of the mid 1930s, meant to discredit the anti-clerical Republic.

Sanchez was an active Cristero during the 1926-29 insurgency, and militantly pro-clerical, but never intended his “photo-montages” to be literal. As an artist, what reputation he enjoys today is based on his sense of composition, and manipulation to tell a story… although, using a camera rather than oil paint… there are those who believe that a firing squad could stand a meter or so from their victim, and that somehow Sanchez was given the “privilege” to what is presented as an ad hoc execution. By the way, this photo found it’s way into the US film, “No Greater Glory”, the priest played by the aging Peter O’Toole (not one of his more memorable roles).

Working as he did in the days long before “Photoshop” (he died in 1945), and his work having been presented (apparently with his knowledge) as propaganda, we’re tempted to call him a cheater, a fake. But, wasn’t he, like Manet, conveying his “higher truth”… for Manet, the deception of Napoleon and the last of the heroic kings, and for Sanchez, the elimination of the sacred role of the priest by the anti-clerical state?

It would be nearly impossible now to find anyone who “believed” in the sacred calling of a monarch, and would see a monarch’s (or wannabe monarch’s) execution as a great tragedy. Granted, you will find Manet’s painting reproduced in books extolling Maximilian as a 19th century “Liberal” or the white savior, but never as “real”. Sanchez’ photomontage has been, and still is. Never mind that there are no records of priests being summarily executed, let along wearing beretta and alb (public display of clerical garb was illegal in those days anyway), although priests were indeed executed for various (and sometimes bogus) crimes. Or, is Sanchez’ work “real” because people want it to be real… that his “higher truth” is still their truth?

German media on Central American migration

18 June 2019

I think the Germans might know a thing or two about unreasonable national leaders with a hangup about minorities and migrants.  And aren’t shy about saying what they think.  Sorry about any translation errors… I’m working from Spanish translations by Emilia Rojas Sasse for Deutsche Welle’s on-line Spanish language edition.

“The most dangerous gangs in Central America are in the government palaces, and Trump’s policy helps them.”


So the Swiss newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments on the massive flight of Central Americans to the north, adding: “When the US president is outraged because the Central American governments have done nothing for the United States, he means they have done nothing to stop the exodus of migrants. But Trump ignores that over the last two years, his own government has done little to make the Central American oligarchs feel forced to give an account. (…) The corrupt rulers benefit even more from the … Trump government shift of focus from good government behavior towards security issues and combating drug smuggling. It is no coincidence that the governments of Guatemala and Honduras have felt encouraged over the last two years to sabotage anti-corruption initiatives. ”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (Munich) says: “Hondurans, Salvadorans and Guatemalans may be intimidated in the short term, but in the medium term they will head north again; people flee because they have no other option. threatened at best, poverty, but in many cases by torture, death and persecution by criminal gangs.  Mexico and other countries want to solve this problem with a multi-million development plan for Central America. The best explanation is that Trump wants to run for re-election in 2020, and he is by served by threats and troop movements than by long-term investments, which can only be described as sad … and miserable. ”

Regarding the threat of punitive tariffs leveled against Mexico, the Zurich Tages-Anzeiger comments: “The economic blackmail staged by the US government, the derision of diplomacy and the undervaluation of good neighborly relations had a blunt effect (…) Instead of financing the much-advertised wall, Mexico itself becomes a kind of wall,  the result of a determined policy of power and possibly a great step on the road to Trump’s re-election But whoever condemns the US president should be aware that Europe’s agreement with Turkey, like the agreement of the Italian Government with those in power in Libya, are exactly the same: the problems related to the migration is outsourced, leaving others to do the work, however dirty it may be. ”

The Düsseldorf economics paper, Handelsblatt, editorializes that for eTrump everything seems negotiable: “It is typical: in any dispute, Trump’s model of negotiation is to settle for much less than what at the beginning was a exorbitant demand,  earning points In some areas (…) But Trump’s success lies in the fact that with each struggle, he imposes on his counterpart his way of thinking, in the sense that irrelevant matters  are negotiated in a package. , migration and tariff levels and purchase of US agricultural products in the case of Mexico. “