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Fun while it lasted

21 September 2020

The airing of grievances is not limited to Fesivus in this country, but are seen as something worthy to be ndulged in every day here in la Capital.  For or against one or another government policy, or lack of action, or action, deed or misdeed, there’s at least one good sized demonstration a week.  One develops an eye for the commitment the demonstrators have to the cause by the style the demonstration takes.  A color coordinated mega-march is usually a made-for-TV, issue of the week, demo:  generally some generic “issue” that nobody is really for — like crime, although really just meant to advertise one or another political factions’ proposals to “do something”.

When the demonstrators’ aren’t color coordinated, how seriously the grievance is, or how ephemeral the issue, is not always determined by the number of demonstrators.  Staying power is a better gauge.  Not so much the “commemorative” demonstrations (like the one every 2 October, remembering the 1968 massacre in Tlatelolco, attracting not just the grand-children of the original dissidents and victims, but updated constantly with new and improved grievances), or not necessarily those that up their game (the feminist demonstrations that led to wide-spread vandalism and … although certainly getting the attention of the authorities… may have seriously cut into public support for the demonstrators’ issues) but those that show a willingness to stay the course.

Which FRENAAA (FRENte NAtional Anti-AMLO) has spectacularly failed to do. FRENAAA was the brainchild of Gustavo Lozano, the director of FEMSA, aka Coca-Cola, Oxxo, etc. In other words, a big, big, big, business guy, who is used to getting his own way with governments that are supposed to do things his way.  Not just satisfied with whining that the present adminstration is so unfair in expecting big businesses to actually pay their taxes, and public heath measures are likely to cut into his sales of “las aguas negras de los imperalista gringas”  but that AMLO is a “danger to Mexico” and a Hugo Chavez in the making.  Or Stalin… or Hitler… or… well, whatever bad guy you want.

Although FRENAAA is said to include 67 separate organizations it seems mostly to be a motley crew of racists, reactionaries and disgruntled old political hacks … or perhaps those who object to a crackdown on corruption (i.e., racists, reactionaries and disgruntled old political hacks).  Their previous demonstrations, mostly in cars (in a country of poor people) attracting nothing but giggles (dismissed as the “march of the Fifis”… the elites… and jokes about rich suburbanites getting their maids to make their protest signs), the next step was to occupy the Zocalo ad DEMAD (yes, DEMAND) the commie quit.  Denied access to the Zocalo, FRENAAA, tried to pull off the same tactic AMLO himself used back in 2006, setting up a tent city to block main streets.  AMLO’s tent city lasted a couple of weeks, and brought international attention to what is now generally recognized as a stolen election and was the nucleus of what is now the ruling Morena party.

FRENAAA’s tent city lasted… oh… a couple hours.  Maybe.  AMLO just said they had a right to protest and he didn’t think they’d be around all that long.  Seems he was right. After setting up tents at the corner of Reforma and Juarez, Lozana apparently got bored with the whole thing, claimed he wasn’t feeling well, and left in a taxi for parts unknown.  The “occupiers” spent most of the afternoon shopping or hanging out in local businesses.  And, this evening, the tents appeared to be empty… their occupants (er… committed occupiers) either having gone home, or staying in hotels.

One would like to think the COVID-displaced denizens of back street hotels (aka sex workers) and the homeless, are taking advantage of the temporary housing. To each according to his or her needs.

Sources:  Milenio, Proceso, SinEmbargo

 

Another fine American export… fake news

4 September 2020

In the United States, there has been all kinds of consternation over foreign agents (supposedly Russians, supposedly state actors) spreading “fake news” for political purposes.  It was to be expected that US sources are doing the same, maybe to the Russians, but certainly here.  Both Animal Politico and Sin Embargo posted yesterday on the story.

Both political site report that Facebook has deactivated 55 accounts, 42 pages, and 36 Instagram accounts traced back to CLS Strategies, (until 2014, known as Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, Inc.  The deactivated accounts were designed to spread “fake news” on various political and social topics in Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela.  In the case of Mexico, the accounts were used to attack the ruling party, MORENA.

The CLS Strategies pages had 509 thousand followers on Facebook and 43 thousand on Instagram, and had invested about 3.6 million dollars for advertising on social networks.

CLS Strategies Communications Specialist (real photo, allegedly)

Facebook reported that CLS Strategies used fake accounts to amplify its content, evade law enforcement, lead people to off-platform pages, mislead people as to the source of their , and manage pages masquerading as independent news sites, civic organizations and politically active individuals.   Some used  typographical errors to mislead users into believing they were authentic. This activity seemed to focus on civic events and elections in the countries they were targeting, according to the technical report.

On specific issues, they presented content supporting political opposition in Venezuela, the interim government in coBolivia, and criticism of Morena, the party in power in Mexico.

CLS Strategies is a political consultancy based in Washington, DC.  It claims a global reach and experience on six continents. “CLS Strategies helps clients win where it matters most: in the corridors of government, the market and the court of public opinion,” to quote its website.  What the rest of the world calls “trolls”, CLS Strategies calls “veteran politicians, former journalists and experts in corporate communications.”… trolls.

Apparently, the CLS “former journalists, etc.” (once again, trolls) have been at this for some time. Emilio Lozoya Austin, the former CEO of PEMEX, now spilling the beans on his own, and his cronies corrupt practices, told the Fiscal General that on 16 May 2012, he transferred $ 168,742 to the firm from the bribe money passed on to him by the Brazilian firm Odebrecht at the express command of Luis Videgaray, later to be Mexico’s Secretary of the Treasury and de facto liaison between Enrique Peña Nieto and Donald Trump. According to Lozoya, the payment to CLS Strategies was for “off the books” interference in the Mexican presidential campaign of that year, in favor of Peña Nieto.For

Render unto Caesar… or else.

3 September 2020

In the US, when politicians are asked their favorite books, they invariably mention the Bible. Even former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, asked to name three books he’d read (as if he ever read three books in his life!) mentioned it. And in the US, quoting the Bible, or some religious authority, is standard operating practice, both on the campaign trail, and in the halls of power. Not so here…

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s electoral authority ordered the president to remove a political ad that referred to Pope Francis and the Gospel.

In an Aug. 31 decision, the National Electoral Institute’s complaints commission said the ad, which promoted President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s annual state-of-the nation-address, violated rules regarding religious content.

In his ad, López Obrador said, “Pope Francis has said helping the poor is not communism, it is the center of the Gospel.”

He continued, “We have clean consciences and enormous joy of helping the poor, the neediest and the dispossessed.” (Catholic News Service)

While, of course, the strict separation of Church and State is absolute here (and there have been two civil wars… in the 1850s and the 1920s largely pitting the two forces against each other), this is also a country where rules are made to be… not broken, but bent.

As has been the practice in the last few years, Andres Manuel López Obrador, presented a series of advertisements for his administration in the days leading up to the “Informe”, the first of September constitutionally required presidential report to Congress. With what critics there are of the social benefits program reduced to ridiculous charges that things like stipends for students, old age relief, and assistance programs for underserved communities is “Communist”, AMLO quoted a well known Jesuit priest… Pope Francis. Which led to complaints from PAN… you know… the political party founded on, and claiming adherence to, Catholic social teachings. Specifically Jesuit ones (or, claiming to. Let’s skip their Fascist roots for now).

The first PAN president, Vicente Fox, raised eyebrows (and made the front pages of the lefty press) for more than quoting a pope… kissing John Paul II’s ring (and the subject of the very first Mex File, a compare-contrast between the simultaneous arrival of His Holiness and Brittany Spears) . Fox, incidentally, went to the trouble of obtaining a Papal annulment for his first marriage, in order to religiously marry his second wife, Marta Sahagún, who was close to, and a support of, the semi-secretive Falagist (Catholic Fascist) Yunque.

PAN raised no complaints when AMLO’s first run for the presidency, was a coalition of small left-wing parties (and the then third major party, PRD) running under the collective name of “The good of all, but first the poor”… a mouthful of a phrase… borrowed directly from Catholic theological texts.

Nor was there any hesitation on the part of PAN to “suggest” to Bishops that they favor the party in their public statements (though, to the credit, most Bishops were canny enough to avoid outright endorsements).

But then again, when it comes to politics, and your party is known more for having presided over the mass slaughter of the “drug war” and it’s best sales point is that it isn’t quite as corrupt as the other (former) major party (although between PRI and PAN, which is #1 in corruption is anyone’s guess). trying to claim AMLO — “guilty” of such crimes as letting corrupt politicians be arrested without any interference, promoting old age pensions and financial assistance to students, single parents and indigenous communities — is ipso facto a Communist, a foolish consistency would be… the hobgoblin of their little minds.  Maybe AMLO’s  programs sound something like something some Marxist somewhere might say… but it comes in a Jesusy package.  They again,  he’s a politician, not a choirboy.

But he was an alter boy back in rural Tabasco, and makes no secret of being a Bible reader.  Maybe PAN objects to him muscling in on their turf.  I might think, but would never say (if I were a politician in Mexico) that PAN might look at Matthew 7:5.  This too shall pass (or is that a taboo phrase, too?).

Identity, junk food, and trash

27 August 2020
tags:

Photo: Nayeli Cruz/El País

Are traditional values progressive? How the tiny Zapotec town of Yalálag, where the movement to ban junk food started not to control diabetes and improve diet, but to cut down on trash.  And divided a community.

Translated from Pablo Ferri, “Prohibir las patatas fritas: una decisión identitaria en las montañas del sur de México” (El País, 26 August 2020).

 

Three years ago, the Zapotec town of Yalálag Oaxaca banned the sale of commercial potato chips in stores, along with Cheetos, Doritos, packaged ramen and similar products.  The town’s health official at the time, Vidal Aquino, explains that at the time, the issue was garbage collection. “There was a lot of garbage on the streets, a lot of plastic,” he recalls. Without knowing it, this Zapotec community in the Sierra de Oaxaca paved the way for the State legislature to pass a bill two weeks ago banning the sale of junk food to children.  It is a pioneering law, perhaps having international impact, but in Yalálag it has gone almost unnoticed. The neighbors here have been arguing for years about food, recycling, and the environment.

Vidal Aquino is a quiet man. He hardly raises his voice, except when talking about commercial processed food. “Those companies are motherfuckers!,” he exclaims. In 2017, when he served as health councilor, he also tried to also ban soft drinks and other junk food: cookies, packaged pastries and candies. “But it couldn’t,” he says. Emiliano Aquino, his brother, murmurs that a year — in Yalálag, public office is only for a year — was not enough time to make the changes his brother was proposing.

As in much of Oaxaca, Yalálag is government by an “usos y costumbres” assembly.   There are no Western elections every few years, and no political parties. Every October, the members of the assembly – slightly more than 600 of the 2,500 inhabitants of the town – meet and elect authorities for the following year. The councilors, the municipal president and the trustee, among others.

Vidal started his year strong. He took office on January 1 and on the 20th he presented his initiative in the assembly to ban packaged potato chips and other snacks.  It was approved, although the initiative had more to do with dealing with trash and recycling than with public health.  Over time, however, from the news and internet research, Vidal came to realize the products were harmful on their own.   “People don’t know what they are eating,” he reflects.

Emiliano and Vidal still remember the face of the Pepsico dealer, the main distributor of processed snacks in Mexico, the first day he arrived in town after the 2017 assembly. “He was told that he could not enter,” says Vidal. Then they wanted to reach an agreement ”, he adds,“ but no, no ”.

In Yalálag, the health managers also take care of the garbage collection service and Vidal innovated what he could. “We put a gate to separate the garbage cart. We managed to rescue 100 kilos of nylon plastic, as well as PET plastic and tetrabrick ”, he says. Then he took it to the city of Oaxaca to recycle. In that year, 2017, Vidal and his team also introduced Yalálag’s first community compost heap. “We forced people to separate even the shells from the eggs,” he explains with amusement, allowing himself one of the first laughs of the afternoon.

Of Huaraches and lawsuits

The sun hides among the exuberant green of the Oaxacan mountains. The last rays of the sun slip through the windows of the Aquino brothers’ workshop. The workshop is in the upper part of the house, on one of the slopes from which the town hangs. Emiliano and Vidal are fourth, or fifth (the disagree on this) huarche-makers.

The brothers were interviewed as they worked,  amid knives, pieces of rubber, and the smell of curing leather and dissolved chemicals. Emiliano says that the health councilors who succeeded his brother have not followed up on his propsals.  “It’s that people are like this here,” he says, although he doesn’t develop his idea. Then Vidal remembers that in his year as councilor he bought 500 hard plastic glasses. “People could come and borrow them for their parties,” he adds proudly, “but they didn’t pay much attention.”

Vidal leaves the workshop and immediately retuns with carved, hollowed-out bull horns that serve as glasses. Then he takes out a bottle and fills the horns with “artisan” mezcal. Here, and when he goes to parties, he always carries his own horn. No disposable cups for him. At the second mezcal, Emiliano starts talking about the lawsuits. Yalálag is famous for lawsuits, he says. Not that there’s anything strange about that… which town has no problems? But what do community lawsuits have to do with plastic and nutrition? That, Emiliano, is at a loss to explain.

Yalálag has been through a series of crises dating back to the 1970s.   For years, the town was an important commercial coffee center,  not so much for the cultivation as for the sale. At the same time, a small local industry, making huarache was becoming economically important. Between the coffee crisis and later industrialization, life became increasingly difficult for the sandal artisans. And then, in the late 1990s, there was a political crisis.

Two community was split over the Aquino brothers vision of progress.  The dispute appears to be more emotional than having to do with any discussion of the merits of its promoters.

Anthropologist, and Yalálag native, Ana Alonso explains that what happened in the town “was the product of Yalálag’s opening to the world. One side is committed to communal life and the traditional internal organization system, and the other group sees in this a way of not developing and it doesn’t seem like it.” Alonso concludes: “There is a lot of resentment and the groups oppose each other out of emotion. And … of course, it just happens with the Sabritas (potato chips)  and everything else. The social fabric was broken and now it’s a fight just to fight the opposition.”

And along came COVID

The pandemic is the latest update to the conflict in Yalálag. In March, when the virus began to spread in Mexico, local authorities decided to close the town. For more than two months, no one, not transporters, merchants, travelers, or relatives could enter or leave Yalálag, with few exceptions. In practice, the ban on potato chips was extended to sugary soft drinks and a host of other products. Vidal liked that. “We consume the pure locally grown vegetables,” he says.

Many others saw the ban as a ruse by the group in power to maintain control. Some chose to smuggle soft drinks and pastries and others demanded a change in the assembly. The protesters demanded that Yalálag be reopened, that the soft drinks be returned to the store refrigerators, that the traffic be free again. But the assembly voted no. Still, the measurements have been relaxed and the shelves are full again. To avoid conflict, the authorities turn a blind eye. 

For Cuauhtémoc Aquino (no relation to Vidal and Emiliano) the village butcher, the pandemic has been an opportunity to improve the community’s diet.  “For several months we could not go out and we ate what there was, squash, quelites, beans,” he says. “Now many people wonder if this is not the best, the vegetables here. The pandemic has made us think about self-sufficiency ”, he argues.

The covid-19 crisis has made many in Yalálag aware of other problems that until now seemed inevitable, like diabetes. Cuauhtémoc, the butcher, explains that “in a few years the cases of diabetes and hypertension increased a lot” in the community. Where it wasn’t noted before, now the number of cases is in the dozens.  People are aware that diabetes is a risk factor for the virus. And that junk food doesn’t exactly help prevent the sugar disease.

The path seems clear, the problem is the lawsuits. In the June and July assemblies, the debates on whether or not to maintain isolation in Yalálag led to new clashes between the groups, accusations against the municipal president and even the dismissal of the community’s only paid position, the village secretary. The atmosphere is somewhat tense in the community and any topic now becomes weaponized. Even seemingly innocent discussions about junk food.

Anthopologist Lourdes Gutiérrez, who has studied migration from the community to the United States for 20 years says that “what matters is that the groups reach an agreement on the future of the town. That is what is at stake in this long crisis, the meaning of being a Yalalteco today, in this historical moment ”, she explains. There are more Yalaltecas in the United States than in Oaxaca. “The importance they give to language is at stake and their notions of progress and backwardness. What defines them as a people.” 

The end of the conflict seems far away, although perhaps it involves reaching agreements on minor issues. In these months of pandemic, the two groups have agreed that if the Yalálag stores are going to sell soft drinks, but only in recyclable cans. 

22 August 1940: The Mexican lifeline

22 August 2020

How to handle a refugee crisis, Mexican style

(translated and adapted from José M. Murià, “80 años de aquel acuerdo salvador” , Jornada, 22 August 2020)

The defeat in early 1939 of the legitimately constituted republican government in Spain resulted in almost half a million people crossing the French border in order to save their lives. The grand reception, as is known, was not always cordial, although it must be admitted that the French never expected so many refugees.

And, there were quite a few French who who sympathized with the Spanish fascists. “Nous somme de la part de Franco“, they often snapped at the peninsulares.

However, in France, there weren’t in immediate danger of losing their lives.

It is well known that the Mexican government had provided immeasurable help from the very beginning of the refugee crisis, but the volume of the unfortunate was enormous. Several ships had already sailed to Mexico stuffed with refugees and many others, who could afford to do so, had fled on their own. 

Some of the Spaniards had managed to make new lives in France, while others were being encouraged to return home.  In any case, there were still over 150,000 Spanish refugees in France by mid 1940, when the Germans invaded.

These refugees were in serious trouble. Francoist police were able to pursue them in France, and the Nazis began rounding them up for forced labor battalions.

With the instructions and blessing of President Lazaro Cardenas, the Mexican Ambassador,  Luis I. Rodríguez obtained from Vichy puppet president, Philippe Petain, a commitment to sign a document that any foreign refugee  — Spanish, Lebanese, Jews, even Germans and Italians seeking transit to Mexico would be under the protection of the neutral government of Mexico.

Luis I Rodriguez, about 1950

Negotiations between Rodríguez and the Vichy government lasted a month , being signed on 22, August 1940.  It saved about 150,000 from either certain death, or, at the very least, transportation to the Nazi or Spanish concentration camps. 

It is not a small thing! However, it was not smooth sailing. Many French authorities claimed to be ignorant of the  agreement, requiring copies and more copies of required documents, or… at least something that sounded plausible to the French authorities.  Over 80,000 certificates of transit were created one by one as the Mexican consulates had typists working around the clock.

It is worth noting that both the German and Italian governments endorsed the agreement… not out of kindness or out of fear of the Mexican military.  More likely they needed our oil, which had only recently (and fortunately) been nationalized.

Although the wholesale deportations to Germany ended and some refugees already sent off to Germany were able to leave, the project was not a total success.  However, there are few cases in human history of a rescue of this magnitude and quality.  It is a shame that in today’s Spain, with so much nostalgia for the fascist regime, there is no formal recognition or homage to Mexico and its greatest president.

Emilio Lozoya and the 40 (plus or minus) thieves

20 August 2020

This wasn’t a leak… this was a tsunami.

In what’s basically a plea bargain deal, the fugitive former CEO of PEMEX, extradited from Spain to answer for charges that he handled bribes for Odebrecht (the Brazilian construction firm whose bribery of public officials from Angola to Ecuador, including Mexico, in return for state contracts) has been busy writing up his “denunciacion”.  Although neither Lozoya nor the Federal Prosecutor will claim credit or blame for it, the 63 page document (nicely broken down into chapters) made its way to the media earlier this week, fingering three ex-presidents, five former cabinet secretaries, two sitting governors, another former PEMEX CEO, the former head of the government housing credit bureau (INFONOVIT), and at least one journalist for “acts possibly constituting a crime.”

Dated 11 August, the document details which public servants were paid off, and how much each received over the last 12 years.   Although Lozano never quite establishes any of the allegations amount to “treason” (the only criminal charge that can be brought against a sitting or former President) he makes the case that by allowing a foreign company to determine the nation’s energy policy he, and others, “subjugated [Mexico] to foreign individuals and groups”. 

In addition, during Felipe Calderón’s administration, Lozoya’s “denunciacion” details how Odebrect’s subsidary, Braskem, was given a sweetheart deal, allowing it to buy ethane at “an inexplicable discount” resulting millions of dollar losses for the federal treasury.   Former president  Carlos Salinas de Gortari figures in, having used his influence (and Odebrect money) to “block” investments in a state owned ammonia plant, which was then sold to a private corporation at a fraction of its real value at the insistence of President Peña Nietro and his Secretary of the Treasury. 

Lozoya also names Videgaray as a bag-man, handling distribution of bribes given to him directly by the Brazilian company’s CEO, Marcelo Odebrecht.

The names named are a “who’s who” of the PRI and PAN establishment, including 2018 presidential candidates Ricardo Anaya and José Antonio Meade.  The two sitting governors, both from PAN, Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca of Tamaulipas, and Francisco Domínguez Servién of Querétaro, stand out as, in Lozoya’s confessions, as “extortionists”… as Senators, conditioning their support of energy “reforms” on multi-million pesos bribes… to which, it appears, Odebrect paid.  Amusingly, a video was also leaked, showing Governor Dominguez’ personal secretary counting out bags of cash said to have been received by his boss.

In the document, Emilio Lozoya compares the coordinated (alleged) participation in corruption to organized crime, writing:

“… there was an agreement to implement an organized apparatus of power that, from the highest levels of the regime, implemented what was necessary, including the Legislative Power, to obtain benefits that affected the sovereignty of Mexico, subjecting it to national and foreign individuals and groups.”


In other words, “treason”.

The only one who seems to have been bought cheaply was journalist Lourdes Mendoza, who was paid to write flattering stories about Luis Videgaray.  Her price was about a thousand US dollars worth of Chanel beauty products and he kid’s tuition at a private school.   

Play Ball! (Post COVID)

1 August 2020

The municipal government of Texcoco has budgeted 70 million pesos (about 175.000 US$) for the first national baseball academy, though Probeis, a program that has the personal support of President (and second baseman) Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The facility has a capacity to house up to 60 people, with a kitchen, bedrooms and gym; in addition there are fully equipped profession and two semi-professional fields, as well as a children’s field.

Mayor Sandra Luz Falcón (MORENA) said classes for persons age six to 21 will begin as soon as sanitary conditions allow it, where they will also receive a comprehensive education endorsed by the Ministry of Public Education, in addition to training o the field.

The plan is aimed at developing high-performance athletes, who will try their luck in professional teams in Mexico and the United States, and making them eligible to try out for sports scholarships in the United States.

Although the first generation had young students who will only come from Texcoco and the Valley of Mexico, in the long term it is expected to draw talent from throughout the republic; this being only the first of a chain of regional baseball schools throughout Mexico.

(via Forbes Mexico)

Lies, damned lies, and COVID statistics

20 July 2020

As the number of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. has skyrocketed, the nation’s case-fatality rate has indeed gone down, to just 3.8 percent, but that number is still higher than in dozens of other countries. It is also essentially meaningless, since nations are testing at different rates and researchers warn that the case-fatality rate is unknowable until after a pandemic ends, when the full death toll is known. In the meantime, it is a misleading way of measuring the lethality of a disease unless an entire population has been tested for it.  (Robert Mackey, The Intercept)

The “top of the fold” headline in today’s La Jornada was “Trump: vean a México, en lugar de EU sobre el coronavirus” (Trump: look at Mexico instead of the US on the coronavirus). He apparently has reverted to his old campaign theme of “dirty Mexicans, bringing their diseases, etc.” when.. for all its ills and missteps, the story is that it’s much more probable that the pandemic reached Mexico via the United States, and that Mexico’s infection and mortality rate… alarming as they are… is lower than that in the United States.

An interviewer for the US network, Fox News, was incredulous about the President’s claims that the US was less affected by the virus than most of the world, causing Trump to call for a chart meant to “prove” what he was saying was somehow within the bounds of reason. What he showed was the “observed case-fatality” rate, which (I use the Johns Hopkins database) shows Mexico only behind Great Britain in fatalities per 1000 IDENTIFIED Covid patients, not the fatality rate in the population as a whole. As of this morning, the fatality rate per 100,000 in the US is 42.22 per 100,000, whereas it is 31.05 in Mexico.

The differences in the “observed case-fatality rate” have a lot to do with testing processes. Mexico has been criticized for its limited testing… only a percentage of those already showing symptoms… and only meant to provide public health officials with an estimate of the necessary facilities that would be needed. Whether it has been the best practice, or even effective in its modest purpose, is debatable, although Mexico has not seen the complete breakdown in its public health system we’ve seen in other parts of Latin America, nor is there (overall) any major shortage of intensive care units. On the other hand, it does mean that the likelihood of persons being treated are those who are already very ill, and have a higher likelihood of dying.

But, if you look at overall mortality rates, Only Chile and the United Kingdom are losing more of their people than the United States. The mortality rate per 100,000 in the US is 42.25 while in Mexico it is 31.05.

To echo Tolsti, every pandemic stricken country is stricken in its own way, and comparing the two countries is probably not all that instructive. I don’t know of any statistics comparing mortality among persons with the same economic and social levels (although, everywhere, it’s the poor who die the most): if it is the poor who are most likely to die, one would expect Mexico’s rate to be much higher than the US (at least, if we believe poverty in the US is not as endemic as we’re told).

The media, here and there, has been full of stories lamenting the inability of the Mexicans to “shelter in place” for financial reasons. But, if that is true, why is Mexico’s mortality rate still lower than the US? Age? Mexico has a younger population, but one with more risk factors, like diabetes and obesity? Masks? 85% of Mexicans are wearing masks in public, compared to 67% of people in the US… or so it’s claimed.

This isn’t to say the Mexican “butcher’s bill” won’t rise to the appalling figures seen north of the border, but only that when it comes to statistics and basic science, politicians are not the best source of information.

Johns’ Hopkins Mortality Index

A needed break from politics and viruses

18 July 2020

Orquesta Sinfonica Nacional in lockdown…

 

BTW, even the pricey seats at Bellas Artes for symphony concerts is only 160 pesos (80 for seniors, students, and the handicapped):  about 8 US$.

Matachines: body and soul

9 July 2020

Dax D. Thomas (Blacktop Photo Collective) published this photo at a protest demanding police reforms in El Paso, Texas. There is much more here to unpack than simply noting, as some have, that even in “costume”, the protesters are wearing the face masks we’ve all been expected to wear during the pandemic.

The protesters are “matachines“.  Rather than wearing a costume … suggesting a disguise… perhaps we should say they are in their vestments, religious regalia.  In a sense, this is no different than a priest in his or her ritual garb wearing a face mask when conducting a service, although… a religious service in the middle of a protest is something that tends to catch a photographer’s attention.

It’s not all that surprising that various cultural practices and beliefs were incorporated into Catholicism (beginning with the Romans, making it hard sometimes to say where the Roman ends and the Catholic begins… the priest’s vestments being echos of the Roman toga for a start) only surprising us when we witness non-European practices …  adapted into what most of assume is the “mainstream”.  But, with the matachines, we have not just an indigenous American custom (most indigenous American cultures included dance in religious rituals or the dance WAS the ritual) incorporated into a European religion, but an indigenous American ritual practice taking over a European arguably non-religious practice, and remaking it as a purely American and religious one.

The matachines grew out of a Spanish Carnival traditions .. the “blow out” held just before Ash Wednesday, when European Christians would parade in their finery and, yes… wear costumes or disguises… to celebrate the ways of all flesh before turning their thoughts to the things of the spirit and the more gloomy mysteries of the Lenten season.  In other words, the Spanish matachines were out to party.  Whatever misgivings various churchmen might have had about Carnival, it was always tolerated.

In New Spain, among several indigenous communities, dancing was never about just blowing off steam, but had ritual meaning.   To the Spanish, if “los indios” danced in front of the former temples rebuilt as churches, and at  “rebaptized” sacred sites (like Tepayac, former home of Tonantzin, mother of the gods, reborn as the Mother of God), it may have seen as simply a version of their own (Spanish) traditions… something tolerated, but not integral to the religion itself.

In Spain, a mattachine was just a complicated dance routine, a work-out, but something done for fun.  In Mexico, and other places in Spanish America, it was a worship service,  a spiritual as well as physical exercise.  While up into the 1960s the Catholic Church has always tried to stamp a pan-European style on their worship services, the indigenous Americans have resisted being absorbed completely, or have slyly subverted European customs to their own ends.  Combined with the emigration of Latin Americans into Ango-dominated regions, matachines, or their equivalent, have found acceptance in other North American indigenous congregations.

Not just a pretty picture, not just a colorful scene.   Dax Thomas isn’t showing us  some fancy dress dance troupe joining a protest…  rather, it is “real Americans”. in solidarity with other Black Lives Matter protesters calling on protectors much more powerful and much more benign than the cops, together in a time of social isolation.

Good Mexican Rifles

28 June 2020

“Antifa” postcard from 1936. Issued by the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) to commemorate the 2 million dollars (about 3 US billion dollars today) Mexico gave to the Spanish Republic to fight the fascist revolt. What Ernest Hemingway called “good Mexican rifles” weren’t necessarily made in Mexico, but were bought with Mexican financial and logistical assistance in evading British and French arms blockades.

They’re baaaaaack…

28 June 2020

One point of ire for the big business community is the AMLO administration’s efforts to force businesses to pay their current and back taxes, in order to provide much-needed government revenue.

The old Mexican fascist families (the Abascals), right-wing journalists, anti-Semites, Legionaries of Christ, the Washington Post (!!!– Carlos Loret de Mola), your handy dandy guide to the “Frente Anti-AMLO” … claiming 2 million members (which works out to about 1.66% of the Mexican populace). Unfortunately, it’s the one (point six) percenters who benefit the most from the old regime, and have most of the money.

Meet the far-right oligarchs working to topple Mexico’s progressive President AMLO

A Trump-like Mexican oligarch, Gilberto Lozano, is leading a coalition of corporate leaders and far-right fanatics called FRENA to try to overthrow President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
By José Guadalupe Argüello III and Ben Norton

Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s victory in Mexico’s 2018 presidential election marked a historic feat, promising a respite from a roughly 40-year period of continuous neoliberal rule over the country.

López Obrador, better known as AMLO, is taking Mexico down a new route toward greater national autonomy. Under a revolutionary process that he calls the Fourth Transformation, he is fighting systemic corruption and rampant theft of public resources, while boosting social benefits for the poor.

Read it and weep.