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I have a little list….

26 May 2019

A war on the media, or on corruption?  The notorious list of payments to journalists (and the companies they control) — somewhat ironically, first published in the editorially anti-administration Reforma — has ratcheted up claims that AMLO is conducting a defamation campaign against unfriendly media coverage and even of endangering reporters.  While it’s been common knowledge that the previous administration spent lavishly on self-promotion and the state has long used advertising revenue (and bribes, disguised in various forms) to individual “influencers”…basically forever… it’s a shock to see the list heavily slanted towards anti-AMLO journalists… many of whom have claimed their opposition to “populism” is based on a tradition of free speech and liberal values, making it appear the “free” speech wasn’t exactly free, and their values had a price.

For a bit of objectivity, I’m once again turning to the Spanish press coverage;  Luis Pablo Beauregard, in yesterday’s El País:

Julio Scherer García, the godfather of modern Mexican journalism, had a maxim: “a journalist is never news”. That was turned on its head Thursday, when a list of communicators who received public money during the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) was leaked to the media. The 41 names, including some of the most influential reporters in Mexico, has caused an uproar and has ignited the debate about the perverse relationship between journalism and power, where government money has served to bind media to the administration.

Listed are journalists who received 1,080 million pesos, 56 million dollars, for “social communication and other services” between 2013 and 2018. Topping the list is Joaquín López Dóriga, who was for 16 years fronted the evening news program on Televisa, the country’s main television network. According to the document, the news program was paid more than 250 million pesos (13 million dollars) through four content companies, one of them its digital platform. López Dóriga denied this, saying said he never received a peso from the Government. “The information from the President’s office is defamation,” said the former anchorman, who last April was awarded the Rey de España prize in recognition of his journalistic career.


The controversy has also touched historian Enrique Krauze, one of the most influential intellectuals in the country. The leaked document shows that Krauze, and the two publishing companies he runs, Vuelta and Clío, received 144 million pesos. 28 million of which was for advertising. The rest was for documentaries on the centenary of Octavio Paz, José Revueltas and the poet Efraín Huerta, among others, produced for the Ministry of Culture. Krauze considered the information “tendentious” and “unfounded” and explained that the money was received by his publishing companies and not by him. “Letras Libres [his flagship magazine] does not modify its editorial line due to pressures,” he told Reforma, the first newpaper to publish the list, and where Krauze is a regular columnist.


The reaction of other journalists who appear in the list has been similar. “Why did they only disclose media owned by journalists? Why not others, such as Milenio, who took more than billion pesos? Why not what was received by the big television stations, the newspapers, …? “asked Federico Arreola, who confirmed that SDP, the on-line news media he owns, received 153 million pesos (eight million dollars) from the PRI Administration.


The list also includes journalists such as Adela Micha, former Televisa manager (24 million, 1.2 million dollars); Raymundo Riva Palacio (31 million, 1.6 million dollars); Óscar Mario Beteta (74 million, 3.8 million dollars) and influencers like Callo De Hacha, who through his company Strategic Communications Newlink pocketed 47 million pesos (2.4 million dollars) for his services to the Peña Nieto government. Riva Palacio texted a challenge to the president, claiming that “old data” had been repackaged for a “a permanent campaign of defamation” against journalists critical of Morena’s president.


Some of the listed communicators and companies argue that while meant to be embarrassing, in reality their paymenrs are only a fraction of what the Peña Nieto administration injected to the media. Over six years, the PRI president invested 60 trillion pesos, about three billion dollars in official advertising. It is not clear if the one trillion, eight-one billion pesos in payments on the list are part of that same budget item or where listed separately. Filtration hinders transparency.


On May 8, the National Institute of Access to Information (INAI) ordered the presidency to reveal the names of journalists and media that received official publicity resources during the Peña Nieto period. This Thursday, López Obrador admitted that the information had been delivered on Wednesday 22. Hours later it became public setting off the public controversy. The INAI denied responsibilty for the leak in a Friday statement.

The list began to circulate Thursday night among the journalists who cover President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s normal morning press briefing. On Friday morning, however, the president categorically denied his office’s responsibility for the leak. “Under the word of truth, we did not disclose the names of those who received these supports for [journalism],” said López Obrador. “That had to do with other government agencies.”


The journalists mentioned have raised several questions. What was the reason for leaking it? Why does only Animal Politico, an independent medium, appear on the list, when other media outets, which received far more money were left out? These and other questions remain unanswered today in a whirlwind of controversies between power and the press that seems to be gaining strength.

President vs. pundits

23 May 2019

Donald Trump and AMLO have this in common…both have to deal with hostile media commentary.  AMLO though, as he has since he was merely the “mayor” of the Federal District, has found a simple way to neutralize his critics… make them irrelevant to the conversation.  Where Trump, apparently, fires off “tweets” at night in response to whatever the media said about him the previous day, and his minions are made available to friendly talking heads later in the day to parse whatever those tweets might say (and offer corrections), and previous Mexican presidents almost never spoke directly to the media (except for their favored insiders) or made decisions behind closed doors, then sent their intermediaries out to justify the mysterious actions of the leader, at seven AM, Monday through Friday — livestreamed and usually broadcast as well — the Mexican President steps to a podium in front of a red backdrop for an hour or so free-wheeling press briefing, address to the public, and general information session.  And, a few jabs at what we call here, the “comentocracia”.

Jorge Zepeda Patterson in El País:

Columnists used to be the interpreters of public affairs, those who shaped public opinion.  Nowadays, they aren’t able to influence the opinions of their relatives, convince their wives, children, parents, siblings… or so President Andres Manuel López Obrador said in effect earlier this week.   As it pointed out, practically all the columnists are against him, while practically all the people support him.

Perhaps the phenomenon is not as categorical as the president describes it, that is only known by the relatives of all those scribes, but it does address a fact:  the president’s approval rating is overwhelmingly high, despite most media messages, and especially the opinion pieces, overwhelmingly adverse. The most read columnists , the elite radio and television pundits,  talk ABOUT government and in particular the president every day. There is no lack of material, thanks to AMLO’s picturesque style and his 7 to 8 AM Monday through Friday impromtu press talk, and his inclinatin to confront his adversaries.  The tension between the president and theso-called comentocracy is unprecedented in the country. Usually the government is used to some critical pens, but the publicity and communications channels with a few exceptions, ended up giving favorable or at least coprehensive coverage to the “sovereign.  Most of the  star journalists, those with hundreds of thousands or millions of followers on social networks, tend to support the president.

We will have to closely follow the outcome of this confrontation because there are no safe bets. So far López Obrador is winning the game, but many warn that this is the honeymoon often enjoyed by incoming presidents. Then, the wear and tear of governance and the impossibility of fulfilling the expectations will end up giving the advantage to the pundits.

And certainly the pundits are doing everything possible to exhaust the honeymoon as soon as possible. The microphones and the columns dissect every day what in their opinion are absurdities, contradictions, errors, and what the find ridiculous in the president and his administration. After presenting the various mistakes, the pundits  usually conclude, for the umpteenth time in the week, what they had prophesied since the campaign: the inexorable failure of López Obrador, his inability to govern.

The president waged his struggle by resorting to the strategy he intends to follow in terms of public spending: eliminate intermediaries. The administration’s welfare programs want to dispense with providing benefits through NGO’s and the bureaucracy to deliver resources through direct deposits into the beneficiary’s bank account. Something similar to what he’s doing in the matter of communication.

His decision to submit one hour a day to open questions from reporters, broadcast freely on the Web and on social networks, has the purpose of establishing a direct bridge with citizens, bypassing the mediator. AMLO scoops the press, clarifies doubts, offers explanations.  In the past, the commentators and political columnists were indispensable because of the enormous opacity of the uses and customs of power. The president was enigmatic, indecipherable, always with cards up his sleeve. The system required Initiates capable of decoding intentions and motives hidden behind the curtains of power.

Today the president is trying to make those pundits and experts obsolete by the simple expedient of exposing himself directly to the public. Before we have the opportunity to read the reactions of all these writers to the surprise resignation of the director of the Institute of Social Security (IMSS),,  the president offers his reactions at 7:20 in the morning , informs who will be his substitute and how the criticism of the former director will be corrected.

 

What’s left for the pundits to say isn’t much.

 

We have nothing to lose but our hotel chains…

22 May 2019

Mexico has nationalized key sectors of the economy before, notably the petroleum business back when the country was one of the top five oil producers in the world.  Now, with tourism accounting for nine percent of the GNP, and being one of the top “producers” of tourism in the world, it’s inevitable that this has crossed more than a few people’s minds.  (In translating this manifesto (posted on Rebelión, 22 May 2019), I had to take some liberties with the text.  Manifestos tend to wander all over the place, and… besides… I didn’t want to have to footnote some material that would be obvious to the intended audience,, or mentioned some of the “usual suspects” …  and not of much relevance to Mexfiles readers).

Neo-liberal tourism in Mexico

Sun, sea and sand, jungles and wetlands, mountains and “pueblos magicos”. Mexico is the sixth most visited country in the world, almost 40 million international tourists vist our country and tourism generates nine out of 100 pesos of GNP.

The present government, like previous ones, is aware of the wealth generated by the tourism sector and recognizes it as a pole of national development and stability. For good reason, one of the star projects of this administration is the “Tren Maya”, a “modern, tourism and cultural” train.

However, who really benefits from tourism? Who gets those millions of pesos generated every day in our country?

We have some answers: 10 million Mexicans live on tourism, four million on direct activities and six million on indirect activities. Of these, eight million are informal workers. The average wage for the two million formally employed workers, the average wage is six thousand pesos a month. It is also the sector of the formal economy that receives the most complaints about sex discrimination: practicaly all female workers are constantly monitored for pregnancy, and pregant workers are dismissed.

In addition, in Jalisco, 195,000, and in Cancún about 35,000 children are informally and illegally employed. […] Something to keep in mind, considering that this country is the #2 destination in the world for se tourism, and most of those exploited are minors.

The five most important hotel chains in Mexico are foreign: InterContinental Hotels, Group Marriott International, Hyatt Group, Hilton Hotel & Resorts, NH Hotels. Next in importance are the Mexican firms Grupo Posadas, created by Gastón Azcárraga, brother of Emilio Azcárraga, founder of Televisa, with whom in 2005 he bought Mexicana de Aviación; Hoteles Mision, whose founder, Roberto Zapata, was general director of Nacional Hotelera until his nationalization, and City Express – the latter the fastest growing hotel chain in Mexico […].


With this it is clear that tourism money has a very clear destination: the pockets of the bourgeoisie. The people do not benefit. On the contrary, not only does tourism not improve their conditions, but it worsens them, increasing the possibilities of labor and sexual exploitation of minors. In addition, tourism industry depends on extremely flexible labor contracts and practically non-existent environmental regulations […]

Although Mexico has been a bulwark of world tourism for decades, it was during the neoliberal era [post 1988] and, more specifically, in the last two administrations [2006-2018], when there was a “hotel boom”, that Mexico consolidated itself as one of the ten most important tourist destinations in the world. To a large extent, this was a result of modifications to Article 27 in the Constitution, which allowed for the privatization of shores, beaches, and waterways. During the 1990s and the beginning of this century, many public beaches were blocked with cyclone mesh fences, and”No Trespassing” signs were posted. By the second decade of this century, the beaches were hidden behind large luxury hotels where the inhabitants could only access them if they worked in the hotel, or were able to spend a night there.

Right now Mexico is living a “golden age” of the hotel industry; since 2014 the three large national companies mentioned above seek to reach 300 new properties, each opening between 13 and 20 hotels per year, supported by the favors of the neoliberal governments, who have granted millions of pesos to the National Tourist Business Council (CNET) , directed by Pablo Azcárraga, of Grupo Posadas, for “tourism promotion”, by the now-extinct Mexican Tourism Promotion Council.

In the case of international companies many found in Baja California an unbeatable real estate niche after Hurricane Catrina, which literally wiped out everything in its path, leaving the land free for investment, of course all “in favor” of the economic recovery.

Returning to the Mayan Train, just to give a concrete example, the project has already started direct bids and grants to foreign companies, even though it had been said that the project would not count on “strategic” foreign investments.

For us, as an Organization for the Fight for Popular Emancipation, all tourism, industrial, and national development projects must be designed for the poor, for the historically oppressed classes.

They should be developed as state projects that secure the profits for the nation, generate well-paid jobs with a base salary and with all labor rights, and eliminate child labor completely. At the same time, large companies must return what they have stolen, what they bought illegally or legally thanks to the privatization of our natural resources and the dispossession of the people. At the same time, we can not allow projects that privilege profit over the environment to continue.

Nationalization of the tourist industry is urgently needed. The nine out of every 100 pesos generated by tourism should not fall into the hands of foreign businesses, but into the pockets of the people. . It is time that what is produced in Mexico remains in the hands of those who produce it.

Against dispossession, repression and exploitation; resistance, organization and struggle for socialism!

Gimme a break…NAH!

21 May 2019
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Apparently, you can’t just ask the Prez of Mexico that any more.  Until yesterday, anybody (at least if you were a major corporation, a movie star or a mogul) could get their tax bill reduced by presidential order.  In the last two administrations, it’s estimated that 153,000 taxpayers were allowed to underpay their taxes by 400 billion pesos (about US$21,000,000).

Andres Manuel López Obrador had made a campaign promise not to raise taxes, but he never said anything about not collecting taxes, so yesterday, by decree, the president has limited his own ability to grant reprieves to “beleaguered” taxpayers (i.e, at least 100 of the largest taxpayers in the country, including Carlos Slim and Televisa, who were permitted to underpay the taxman by something like 11 billion dollars over the last 12 years) to two cases:  when the taxes would damage an economic field (say, the tourism industry as a whole, or electrical power production) or as disaster relief.

The taxman, by the way, is a woman… and a poet by profession.  So, with poetic justice, Margarita Ríos Farjat is  threatening to release the names of those 153,000 “special” people (and corporations), several thousands of whom (or which) are running to the courts to get an injunction against the information being made public.

(Source: Luis Pablo Beauregard, “México pretende poner fin a la evasión fiscal de grandes contribuyentes” El País, 20 May 2019)

La Turca…

20 May 2019
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Herbierto Frias (1870 – 1925) was the best kind of journalist… a fuck-up who could write with sympathy and understanding.  Best known for his anonymous novel, Tomóchic, published serially in El Democrata in 1893, a novelized version of a  military atrocity — the raid on dissident Tarahuma villagers in 1891 in which he participated as a young officer — he wrote extensively, both straight reporting, and history (La guerra contra los gringos) during his “exile” to the backwater seaport of Mazatlan.  Where, when he was sober, he mentored another scapegrace, cub reporter, Rafael Buelna.

Buelna’s wealthy Cuilican family had packed young Rafael off to Mazatlan after he managed to get expelled from his Jesuit prep school for organizing student protests against the state governor.  Rafael and Frias met not just to discuss journalism, but the need for systemic change in Mexico, and — in various cantinas around the port — Frias advised Buelna on strategies for quietly organizing pro-Madero rallies which they both could then cover.  Buelna would eventually return to finish his education… after a stint as a colonel in the Constitutionalist Army and political chief of the then territory of Nayarit, rising to become the youngest general in the Mexican Army, in between finishing his studies for a law degree.

Frias would become the dean of Mexican journalists, and a diplomat.  Not bad for a near-sighted clumsy kid who unfortunately had hit on the bright idea of supporting his family after his father died when he was 15 though burglary.  On his maiden voyage as a second-story man, he dropped his glasses, resulting in a stay in prison (adults and minors were not separated in those days) which is where, as the only educated person in the cell block, he learned his trade… writing everything from love letters to pleas for clemency for his fellow inmates.  People he never forgot.

 

La Turca (my translation)

This feminine nickname was that of a man, an old man, but what a man, what an old man! Among the incalculable crowd, already stirred up and amid the hustle and bustle, although without the without the least acknowledgement of the uncouth prisoners doing hard time, in the courtyard called Talleres, La Turca came and went, rhythmically moving his body, joined by the joyful Cubans or Spaniards  from the Calle de Rebeldes or La Concepción, wiggling with disgusting coquettish hair long curly head with Chinese artifacts, long gray hair smeared with ointment (gray hair).

La Turca went from one workshop to another with her horrible face of a perverse indigenous man crossed by knife scars, dressed in a calico shirt, very white, with embroidered collar and cuffs and with little pickets, a woman’s shirt; very white trousers and fitted to the foot to a perfect point high heeled shoes.  Marching, yes… almost with dance rhythm, jumping, stopping before the groups of prisoners to greet them if they where chatting, or observe them at their labor.

– Oh, Jesus, Don Mercedes, why the long face! Your skanky girlfriend must have forgotten about you; How long has it been since you got a crap basket anyway?1

– The bad guy, Turquita, he already made me …

When you stopped La Turca he talked with his eyes, languid eyes, trembling with their little hairs of gray, bristly and sparse hair. He was a man of fifty.

These effeminate men abound in Belem in the Patio de Talleres where, despite being despised, they live with feminine customs. They speak in melodic tones, and  give to their phrases the intonation of a picky or scary woman; They affect nervous tics  – oh, many have them by nature! – dress as close as possible to women’s suits; they have the aliases of prostitutes, calling themselves La Diabla, La China, La Pancha, etc., and they are dedicated to ironing, washing, knitting, embroidering and cooking. Among themselves there is great affection, perhaps a bond of common disgrace:  they help each other with rare companionship. Before, during the day, they stay in the patio or workshops, and at night they locked with each other in their cells.

Perverse and depraved beings, sunk in the depths of irritating ignorance, they are ferocious and perpetrate terrible revenge against those who insult or despise them.Their manly faces belies their mellifluous gestures and voices.

One of those unfortunates was Juan Gonzáles, alia La Turca. He was from Guadalajara, where he had a small inn; He came to Mexico, fleeing from the authority that was persecuting him for killing a prostitute one night of drunkenness and jealousy. Here, in a pulquería de Santa Ana, he found an old enemy, to whom he proposed a reconciliation sealed in a tub of pulque. The other accepted gladly; They asked for a real’s worth of that liquid, and La Turca lifted the wooden receptacle into her mouth, drinking loudly, her head thrown back, draining it over her chest. He drank until half emptying the tub; then, his new friend, who looked at him with astonishment, decided to undertake it, with the second part, raised it and began to drink …, drank, drank … Suddenly González took out a small knife sank it into his side, and took off running…   “I killed him!”

When the murderer was apprehended, he was condemned to death; but it was his sentence commuted to twenty years in prison.

In Belem her feminine customs became more and more like a kind of disgusting invasion, all the more disgusting when her age whitened her Chinese hair and wrinkled her face like a highwayman. He was extra clean and wore women’s shirts embroidered by himself. He earned daily royal crap and cenco* washing the clothes of good-natured employees and those prisoners who had no wife to make them candy, some of which La Turca also made and sold, along with stews.

Jealous and angry, when the other prisoners found his affectations boring, he got ferociously drunk on rotgut brandy smuggled inside, and attacked everyone.  More than one unfortunate who crossed his path had his face slashed with La Turca’s fearsome razor.  But, on May 5, dressed in a china poblana gown, with a red beaver hat, slippers with golden sequins, a velvet reboza and silver-plated earrings, he danced the tapatio on a platform that his fans placed him.

The general enthusiasm of those sentenced in the Patio de Tallers erupted in laughter, applause and whistling. It was a great triumph for La Turca.

But as he continued in his drunkenness slashing faces, until the warden transferred Juan Gonzalez, alias La Turca, to the prison of San Juan de Ulúa, where he probably died.

* Crap and cenco.  Mexican convicts then and now generally received at least some of their food and other necessities from the outside, and are permitted to engage in commercial activities while in prison.  “Crap” was the slang term for food baskets brought in, generally by the convict’s wife or mother.  “Royal crap” was the small food basket provided by the prison to convicts.  “Cenco” is slang for the money or other goods exchanged for convict to convict sales.

The 4th Transformation: Four Transformations

13 May 2019

This government has given itself the moniker of the “Fourth Transformation”… the first three since Independence being the Juarez Reforms, the Revolution, and the “New Deal” 1930s administration of Lazaro Cardenas.  While one can’t say whether this 4th “transformation” will change the country in some new and radical way, here are four new ideas being raised that … if even partially implemented… might very well change the way Mexicans live.

NO MORE PLASTIC.

This is an oil-producing country, and plastics are a major industry.  Directly or indirectly, 45,000 Mexicans depend on plastic for their livelihood.  The states of Oaxaca and Mexico City both have passed legislation outlawing single use plastics, and other states are expected to follow.  Given Mexico City’s population, and the concentration of business in the Capital, the effect is going to be that manufactures will have to switch to alternative products here, it not being particularly cost effective to sell one set of products outside the capital and another in the rest of the county (minus those states … like Oaxaca… which follow Mexico City’s lead).

However, as Oaxacan artist and environmental activist Alejando Toledo notes, this is not necessarily a one sided environmental victory.  Glass-making is energy intensive, paper-making has its own environmental problems (and over-harvesting trees is a whole other environmental problem in Mexico)  and, besides the problem of finding new employment for those losing their jobs (which includes people who sell plastic bags, but can sell paper or cloth ones, presumably). what to do with all that plastic waste likely to be exported from the United States as it de-plasticizes (if that’s a word) that is likely to be dumped here are effects not yet considered.

MEXICAN GASOLINE FOR MEXICAN CARS

With the exponential growth in the number of automobiles in Mexico, gasoline prices, and access to gasoline has been a political issue for years.  WIth no new refineries having been built in the last 30+ years, PEMEX has been in the odd position of exporting oil and importing gasoline.  One of AMLO’s more concrete campaign promises was to build refineries in Mexico, and use Mexico oil to produce Mexican gasoline.  Mexico oil is high in sulpher, which makes it more difficult to refine into gasoline (or, at least, less environmentally damaging gasoline).  There is also the problem that there hasn0t been a reflinery built in Mexico in over 30 years, and it was said that PEMEX just didn’t have the expertise to build one.  Several foreign contractors were considered, but the decision has come down to PEMEX doing this on their own, without outside contractors.  I imagine they will be hiring consultants, there will be cost overruns, and probably not as much refined gasoline as anticipated.  Even so, less imported gasoline, and more oil consumed domestically could either worsen the growing dependence on private transportion and internal combustion engines here, or just means less dependence on foreign oil prices for state revenue.

INTERNET FOR ALL

While they are the less inhabited regions of the country, about 80% of Mexico has no internet service.  Providers have argued that it’s not cost effective to provide service in these regions and, in some, rural electrification programs dating back to the early 1960s (Mexico’s last great socialist investment was buying out the foreign-owned electric companies) has never reached some areas.  At a speech in Nayar, Nayarit (one of the most isolated communities in the country), AMLO announced that the state would set up its own internet provider for the entire country.  I don’t know that that’s 100% achievable and wonder if a small tax on phone and internet services to subsidize service in rural communities (as is done in the United States) wouldn’t be more feasible… but even so, expanded service would be welcome, and would have some secondary effects like making it possible to provide more educational and business opportunities in isolated regions which have been depopulating for years.

NO MORE SUBWAYS IN THE SUBWAY

A rather surprising environmental issue is pizza parlors and fast food restaurants in the metro stations.  It seems they use electric ovens (God help us using gas in those crowded, underground caverns).  Ovens heat up, raising the already high temperatures a few million human bodies add to the system, and draining the electrical system meant to power fans and … well… trains.  So… if you want a snack, I guess you’ll have to come up to the street.  On the other hand, the Metro has stated moving the ticket turnstiles so that people can use the stations to cross from one side of the street to the other without having to buy a ticket.

Eva Peron at 100

8 May 2019

Yesterday (7 May) was Eva Perón’s 100th birthday. One of the most important Latin American leaders of the last century, her reputation in English-speaking countries (“thanks” to a musical extravaganza written by an Englishman), is as a gold-digging fashion plate, not as a feminist, social reformer, and anti-imperialist.

Consider this… the two other women of political note in her time were also “first ladies”… Eleanor Roosevelt and Amalia Solórzano de Cardenas… the other two from wealthy, “connected” families, whereas Eva Duarte — a bastard child from the a backwater town — was, at the age of 26 the most powerful woman in the Americas, and in a country where women still could not vote. In her short career, while never holding elective office herself, she not only brought women’s suffrage to Argentina, but was instrumental in undoing the British control of the Argentine economy (no wonder “Evita” is so bent on making her, despite her evident charm, a monster and greed-head), introducing a national health care system, and created a network of women’s self-help organizations. All within the short period of seven years, the two as she was dying of cancer, but refused to slow down.

Yes, she was married to a admirer of Benito Mussolini and yes, Nazis emigrated to Argentina during the Peronist era… but then again… Mussolini admirers before the war (which was not Argentina’s war) weren’t that uncommon, especially among those who saw the British as their enemy. And… with its large German and Italian speaking immigrant community… mostly working class… as opposed to its smaller (and mostly oligarchal) British and english speaking community, which side would a daughter of the masses be on? As to the Nazis, given that the US, the USSR, and the British had already gotten their pick of the best minds among Hitler’s willing accomplices, there wasn’t much left when it came to importing (even if surreptitiously) the sloppy-seconds of those with usable skills (and a few monsters). As it was, and unusual for Argentina, the Perons were notably anti-anti-Semitic, any anti-Jewish activities during their administration being carried out by the same dissidents who would stage a conservative coup in 1955.

And yes, she loved to wear fashionable clothing and jewelry. Oh well, diamonds are a girl’s best friend. She was born dirt-poor, and — some say — wearing the haute couture of the day was something of a “fuck you” to the oligarchs, as well as a savvy political statement, saying to the masses (her people) that they too, deserved the better. On the other hand, an Italian prelate who had advised her on her charitable activities ( Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII) said she loved jewelry a bit too much to be a good saint.

The real tragecy of that coup was its attempt to erase the best parts of Eva’s legacy. WHile the could hardly turn the clock back on women’s rights, and only curb those of organized labor, they could go after those whose lives had been made immensely better by her foundation. Yeah, I know… in the musical, the line is “the money came rolling in”. It did… from the unions mostly. The auditors charged with liquidating the Fundacíon Eva Peron under the military dictatorship discoved, much to their chagrin, that the foundation had almost no overhead with only a small, modestly paid administrative staff, although they objected to the money spent on what were considered “luxuries”… which Eva saw as necessities. Orphanages run by the foundation did away with uniforms and gruel for dinner, spending freely to buy childen decent clothes and good food. Housing for displaced families included “luxuries” like comfortable furniture, and there was nice curtains and decent chairs in the “welfare offices” where the poor, the elderly, and single mothers were given direct assistance. She had the funny idea that public housing should be, as she said, “more than adequate”… it should be comfortable and dignified.

It’s noted that not only was the foundation closed, the military brass stole the furniture and wall hangings out of those offices and orphanges (and closed the battered women’s shelters and the retirement villages run by the foundation), but that they destroyed iron lungs bought for polio victims and blood banks, simply to erase the very name of Eva Peron.

Instead of leaving a beautiful corpse (the travels of Eva’s embalmed body from the back room of a union hall, to the basement of a secret policeman to graves under assumed names in Uruguay and Italy, to Spain, and back to Argentina for burial under her birth name, Eva Duarte, is another story), what should have been her greatest legacy was not completely wiped out by the generals in 1955. Throughout Latin America, Eva Peron’s legacy has been movements that worry less about whether political policies are left or right (and to this day, people argue about whether Peronism is left-wing or right-wing, or both, simultaneously), but on whether they give dignity to the people themselves. Including, it seems, some Argentinians of note.