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We don’t need no stinkin’ Patriot Act

21 January 2004

I moved to Mexico just after the Bush “selection”. I’ve been back once (2 years ago, at Christmas) and was appalled. From what I’ve been reading on the internet and watching on cable TV, I’m reluctant to go back again. I’ve been updating my residency permit here, and have started thinking…

MEXICO:

  • When the left-leaning presidental candidate appeared to be winning, there were vote-counting problems, and irregularities in one of the states along the Gulf. After considerable political back-and-forth, and some mysterious – and never-explained – computer problems, the candidate who was behind emerged as the front runner. Although Carlos Salinas de Goutari, not Cuauhtémoc Cardenas, became President of Mexico in 1988, his legitimacy was always dubious. In response, Mexico changed its entire electoral system.In a country where some voter districts lack electricity (and are inaccessable to cellular phones), and at a time when computers were less sophisticated, AND where voter fraud is a long and hallowed tradition, Mexico built a sophisticated, nearly fraud-proof hardware/software system. Digital fingerprint and photo id checking is done in real-time; the voters’ thumbs are specially inked – every polling station includes special black lights; ballots are printed on hard to counterfeit security paper; ballot boxes are transparent to preclude box-stuffing; special pencils are used… but it all comes down to “X” on a piece of paper.While I was editing this piece (August, 2004), Mexican elections officials were huddled with Iraqis somewhere here in Mexico City, working out the plans for the Iraqi elections. Mexico is not a wealthy country, but it provides a limited amount of foreign aid, through the United Nations. Its contribution? Setting up electoral systems – in 32 countries to date.

GRINGOLANDIA:

  • Following a shady election and more than a few irregularities in Florida, we’re likely to “re-elect” an illegitimate president – using software developed by the same folks who are suspected of throwing the last election – and eliminating any paper trail.

MEXICO:

  • When you live in Mexico, you’re expected to buy “native handicrafts” for Christmas gifts. I picked up this year’s haul of beads, trinkets and cute little toy burros in front of the Palacio Nacional. There’s been a tent there selling native handicrafts, along with propaganda for the “Partido Communista de Mexico (Marxista-Leninista)” for several months now. Not that anyone minds. Why should they? The square in front of the Palacio (el Zocalo) has been Mexico City’s premiere “free-speech zone” since, oh… the Aztecs first showed up in 1325. Spurred on by the dozen plus mainstream papers – socialist, anti-socialist, anarcho-syndicalist, clerical, anti-clerical, pro business and anti-capitalist – somebody’s usually protesting… something. Oh, people sometimes get annoyed (especially during rush hour on Friday evening, during rainy season, when it’s hard to catch a bus with a few thousand naked campesinos blocking traffic), but the only real limitations on protests is that you can’t ride your horses into the Chamber of Deputies anymore. After a farmers’ organization did just that last year, Congress finally got around to authorizing the funds for a security fence.

GRINGOLANDIA:

  • Our corporate-controlled press and corporate-controlled political parties ignore any suggestion that other world-views or visions are anything but “evil”. They forget what Abraham Lincoln said:I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country… Corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.The Secret Service has forced even the mildest dissident to stay out of ear (and camera) shot of the illegitimate President, at times attacking – or prosecuting – those who refuse to acquiese (http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2004/01/04/INGPQ40MB81.DTL)

MEXICO:

  • State Secrets don’t exist any more. Under the new “Ley de transparencia”, everything the government does is public record. Federal budget cuts may delay getting some of this information on the web, and there is some reluctance in some states to provide this information (and some of the more creative bureaucrats have come up with new and improved ways of hiding budget line items) but here in Mexico City, a dozen new offices are opening just to provide information.By the way, the cuts hit the President’s salary along with everything else, including the military budget (and the Mexican military budget has been cut every year since 1942 – this is the only country in the world that reduced military spending during wartime, and whose army turns a profit – the soldiers and sailors bank turns a tidy profit in the home loan business, and there are those avocado sales: one of the army’s missions is to guard water resources, and planting avocados is a military objective). Education and social services – as ever – accounts for most of the federal budget.

GRINGOLANDIA:

  • Public information just isn’t available any more. The “Freedom of Information Act” is all but forgotten – some obscure factoid, like the number of people killed by tire blowouts, might possibly, somehow, in some way benefit “terrorists”. Or consumers. And, you can’t have that in a corporate capitalist society, now can you? Worse yet, you might find out what the military budget is. How much is being spent just in Iraq – 87,000,000,000,000 dollars for starts?

MEXICO:

  • Pushed by the religious right and conservatives, there will probably be an important consitutional change this year – outlawing the death penalty. The Socialist-controlled Mexico City Legislature goes back and forth about recognizing gay partnerships, though equality before the law regardless of sexual orientation is recognized in the Federal Consititution. The Civil Rights Commission (a judicial body) may finally get its own prosecutors this year.

GRINGOLANDIA:

  • The religious right is pushing a constitutional amendment – designed to cut off any possiblity of gays and lesbians ever enjoying equal rights under the law. I haven’t heard a peep out of our Civil Rights Commission. Does it still function? I don’t hear – or read – anything about it now.

MEXICO:

  • People worry arout crime (though statistically, the crime rate is dropping), but they worry almost as much about police abuse. What they don’t worry about are foreigners – and terrorists. There are concerns about SOME illegal aliens: mostly Guatemalans working at shamefully low wages for some agricultural concerns here or likely to be abused by gangsters (most of whom are ex-soldiers from El Salvador). Belizians and Columbians sometimes find themselves accused of drug dealing (and sometimes ARE drug dealing), but that’s about it. Undocumented aliens from just about everywhere – including the United States – are all over the Republic, causing… not a stir. As long as people pay their taxes, stay out of trouble and don’t take jobs from unemployed citizens (like the Guatamalan workers), Mexicans just don’t see much terrorist potential in gringo schoolteachers, Russian cooks, Ecuadorian vendors or Argentinian models. While no foreigner can take part in political activities, even “illegal aliens” are guaranteed civil rights under the Mexican Constitution.

GRINGOLANDIA:

  • Police abuse is encouraged. When it comes to dissent, the more the merrier. The Attorney General wants more executions, not less. We even execute foreigners, in violation of several international treaties. At least the executions we know about — who knows what goes on in Guantanamo?. Foreigners (and citizens too, it seems) can be arrested and convicted without trial or judicial oversite. Every foreigner – even French tourists, it appears – is a potential “terrorist”.Mexican and other foreign workers are paid below minimum wage throughout the United States. They receive no benefits and face deportation if they require medical or other assistance. Bush says maybe, possibly there will be “immigration reform”. He’s reneged on so many promises in the past, I don’t see any reason to believe this will come to pass

MEXICO:

  • The country is not at war with anyone… and hasn’t been since 1945. There are foreign relations problems – mostly economic – with the United States and China. There is one unresolved foreign relations issue from the past — no, not Texas, California, New Mexico, Arizona, etc… — who pays the Montezuma family’s pension? The Mexicans took over the payments at independence, but dumped them on Francisco Franco back in the 30s.

GRINGOLANDIA:

  • We started an unjustified – and unjustifiable – war against Iraq, a semi-justifiable one against Afghanistan, and are on bad terms with … everyone. What is it with the Bush family – are they genetic anti-Catholics? Bush I managed to violate Vatican neutrality during the Panamanian invasion. Bush II has been openly contemptuous of the Pope, his diplomats and the ethical values of a few 100 million believers. And we haven’t even started talking about the Muslims, the Buddists, the Protestants, the Hindus, the atheists, etc., etc., etc.And that war – those wars – are only the beginning of our problems. Our corporations (or those Bahamians claiming to be U.S. corporations) are driving the rest of the world into worse and worse economic condition. Our subsidized agricuture is driving 600 Mexican farmers off the land every day (creating more and more “illegal aliens” for the Bushistas to abuse).We ignore our debts. And our obligations. What are a 1000 heirs to Montezuma compared to the millions of dead African and Brazilian children promised U.S. funding of AIDS programs (never delivered, or even submitted to Congress)? Why should the debts run up by the Iraqui dictatorship (with United States government support) be forgiven, but those run up by Brazilian and Argentine dictatorships (with the same support) not? Is it because Brazilians and Argentinians overthrew their own dictators, and made themselves democratic nations without any consultants from Halliburton?

C’mon, folks – I’m a Texas resident, and I expect any vote I cast against these dolts will be stolen anyway. Give me a few good reasons to come home again!

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