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PAN: ick! attack

21 January 2009

Not  the International Herald Tribune, but an unrelated English-language Caracas paper, the Latin American Herald Tribune reports:

MEXICO CITY — Kissing in public [or, rather “inappropriate kissing” — whatever that might be] will be punished with fines and even jail time in the central Mexican city of Guanajuato under a new municipal ordinance that also bans begging, using rude words and street peddling.

The measure emerged Tuesday from a municipal government controlled by the rightist National Action Party, or PAN, which has been in power at the national level since 2000.

The ordinance also punishes tourism promoters who approach motorists, people who cross streets without using pedestrian bridges, those offering windshield-cleaning services and those who engage in street demonstrations.

For example, the law bans “obscene words and attitudes in public places that offend third parties, as well as touching obscenely in public spaces.”

Those who fail to abide by the ordinance can be punished with 36 hours in jail and fines up to 1,500 pesos ($108).

PAN’s “piety wing”, like the “Christian Conservative” wing of the U.S. Republican Party, has a thing for protecting “traditional values.”  They seem to forget that traditional values in Mexico include making out in the street (with homes crowded with aunts, grand-fathers, third cousins and whomever happens to be in town, where else are horny teenagers to go.

And, traditional values includes swearing at crappy drivers as you blithely jaywalk.

AND… demonstrations (like the mega-demonstrations organized by then defeated gubenatorial candidate Vicente Fox in 1991, which led to the appointment of an interim PAN governor, and the beginning of the party’s emergence as a serious opposition to then-ruling PRI) are more than just a traditional value… they’re a national art form.

Obviously, I don’t think this municipal ordinance is aimed at “traditional values”, but — again, like Christian Conservatives in the U.S. — is an attempt to pass off intolerance under the guise of civic order.

The most serious problem with the new ordinance is the attempt to suppress “unofficial” demonstrations. It’s likely to misfire very badly, increasing the likelihood of violence during what is otherwise a somewhat annoying, but necessary part of the democratic process.

The rest is just the perverse attempts by the stick-in-the-mud piety types to suppress whatever it is they find “icky”.

This isn’t all that different from the Christian Conservatives who took office as Republican officials throughout the United States in 1980 on Ronald Reagan’s coattails.  In Mexico, it was Vicente Fox’s 2000 election coattails that brought “piety wing” PANistas into office in municipalities throughout the country.  In Aguascalientes, the new administration had  signs posted in the city parks reading “No dogs or homosexuals”  — the dogs unlikely to organize a protest, but the homosexuals certain to, though they were beaten up by gangs organized by the Legionaries of Christ (as were Mormons, Protestants and indigenous people).

Even within PAN, this was thought to be a little extreme, and eventually, the signs came down, and — though there are still reports of official abuse against minorities, Aguascalientes is not much on Mexican political or cultural radar.  It’s not really a tourist stop, and its local political actions aren’t much reported nationally — think of it as the Nebraska or Iowa of Mexico.

Guanajuanto IS a major tourist center, both for foreigners and Mexicans.  It is an internationally known artistic and cultural center.  The annual Festival Internacional Cervantino  every October  in recent years  has become an unofficial Mardi Gras for the hoardes of young, well-educated, “artsy” visitors who come not just for the “official” artistic performances, but for the street and coffee-house  entertainment — music, theater, visual arts, poetry slams, dance.  And where there are the arts there are… uh… as the euphimism had it, “artistic types.”

City police are likely to look the other way at “artistic” visitors (especially those speaking a foreign language and spending money freely), but there could be an incident which would seriously impact Mexico’s growing reputation for tolerance.

Thankfully, every party in the country — including the pragmatic PANistas — recognizes this is nutty, and unlikely to pass Constitutional muster.

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