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Missed Informe

1 September 2008

1 September is a quasi-holiday in Mexico.  At least the banks are closed.  It was the only time the President had to show up before Congress and used to be quite a show… the TV coverage of the Senators and Deputies arriving (in buses… it’s a modest country in some ways) was covered like the pre-Oscar openings.  Then the motorcade as the President made his way from Los Pinos to the Legislative Palace (almost, but not quite in Colonia Penitentaria… which would be sort of appropriate) … the honor guards and red carpets (I really think the show was modeled on the Oscars) and then…

In the “bad old days” the legislators clapped at the appropriate times.  Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, the president in the 60s who was the epitome of the PRI system, put in his time as a Deputy back in the 1940s.  The guy was competent and hardworking, but seen as kind of a policy wonk but proved his worth as an SOB during informes by jamming a pistol into the ribs of opposition lawmakers who were reluctant to clap at the proper spot in the Presidential address. Once the pre-show was over, it was predictably boring.

Vicente Fox, in some ways, is responsible for bringing some excitement to th procedings.  Following the fraudulant (or seemingly fraudulant) victory of Carlos Salinas in 1988, the price extracted by the opposition for letting Salinas take office was to allow the opposition legislators who were elected to take office without challenge.    Sitting President Miguel de la Madrid’s final informe was a free for all… Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, who had been PRI party president, and was one of the founders of the PRD led a walkout.  More than a few punches were thrown … none of which was shown by the media.

Vicente Fox, then a Deputy, deserves the credit for creative protests in the Chamber.  A few days after the disasterous de la Madrid informe,  during a debate over accepting Salinas’ alleged victory — doing a Carlos Salinas impersonation, ballots stuck to his ears in imitation of Salinas’ own big ears.

Salinas was mostly able to keep the media from focusing on the shenanigans during his own informes.  TV still didn’t show the opposition senators in pig masks, but you could hear the “oinking” in the background.  In the interest of decorum (and making democracy boring) oinking in the Chamber was disallowed.  And grunting and yelling.  The Congress could still boo… and did so regulary.  And held up signs… and got on camera.  My favorite moment was during one of Fox’s own informes when he was blathering on about better social benefits for the indigenous communities, and a Deputy (young, female, stylishly dressed and from the far left) representing those communities, walked up to the podium and plunked down an oversized funeral wreath in memorium of the people who died because of Fox’s policies.  PAN deputies started shouting “TUBO!  TUBO!” which is what you normally yell at a pole-dancer when you want her to remove her clothing.  That probably cost PAN more than a few women’s votes in the next election.

After Calderon’s (possibly fraudulent) election in 2006 people went to the barricades, and the informe was was a mess.  Walkouts, banners, boos… but no pig masks.  Calderon, remember, wasn’t even sworn in that December in the normal ceremony, but hustled into Los Pinos at midnight, sworn in.  There was every likelihood that he won’t be welcome by the Deputies, even with the boost he’s getting for turning the alarming expontential increase in violent crime during his tenure into a political plus.  No way he’s even going to show for this year’s show now.

Calderon won’t even show up. Even with being able to make a poltical show of unity by milking the exponential surge in crime during his tenure, he faces real opposition to his PEMEX, education, business, agricultural and social policies.  Maybe it’s the influence of the Beijing Olympics, choreographed to carefully avoid the hint of dissent, rather than the Oscars that are the model this year.  Congress will conduct opening ceremonies, but this will make the Informe as boring as they were in the “good old days.”  What’s wrong with selling democracy with pizzazz?

(Update:  Gobierno Federal has the Informe out on the web ( in a series of “informercials” (“un nuevo formato” as Don Felipe tells us at the start of each one… you have to read down the page to find the “un mesaje para ti” section, where the various highlights are broken out into 8 to 10 minute videos) and in PDF for the truely wonkish.  The PDF files are are more detailed, especially on possibly very important initiatives like a federal property registy and new copyright laws for electronic media, as well as court changes, environmental regulations, etc.)

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