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No country for old men (and women)?

29 February 2012

Still on this computer’s desktop is a copy of an article from Jornada about Portuguese scholar Boaventura de Sousa Santos, that I intend to translate because of his provocative remarks on the “war on drugs”, democracy and new forms of political participation.  I’ll get to it, but one thing I noticed was that in giving an example of how the entrenched defenders of the status quo discredit any attempt at radical change, de Sousa noted the latest “meme” in the “we aren’t campaigning” campaign that’s a build-up to the Presidential campaign that kicks off on April Fool’s Day.

Andres Manual Lopez Obradór has been gathering some mainstream support (or at least tamping down immediate rejection of his candidacy by the “powers-that-be”) by naming his prospective cabinet officers.  While the shadow nominees are, of course, from the left, they are “mainstream” type figures, mostly “elder statemen and women” of impeccable reputation as technocrats, academics or masters in their respective fields.  Some are, indeed, elders:  Elena Poniatowska (proposed as head of a new position, Secretary of Culture) will be 80 in May.

PAN candidate Josefina Vasquez Mota, not campaigning mind you, and not naming her own team, snipes that the proposed Lopez Obrador cabinet would be 1500 years old.  To which AMLO responded,

With all due respect to the lady, I’d say 1500 years of experience and honesty.   The best cabinet this country every had was under Benito Juarez.  Those men were giants.  Now we’re putting together a cabinet of honest men and women.  That’s all I have to say to the lady.

This is why I think AMLO is such a good politician.  Besides the put-down of his opponent, couched in the most gentlemanly of language, he snuck in what in U.S. politics is called a “dog whistle” that not only will appeal to his own supporters, but some of Vasquez’ as well.  Benito Juarez  is the Holy Ghost of secular Mexico, of course, and everyone knows two things about him:  he separated Church and State and he solidified Mexican nationalism.  Comparing his own proposed administration to that of the little Zapotec is a subtle reminder not only that Vasquez Mota (and, unmentioned Enrique Peña Nieto) are seeking clerical approval, but also implying that neither of his two rivals are quite the nationalist that he is.  And, while it’s not the first thing to pop into the mind of the Mexican electorate,  most people know Juarez served as president into his 7os.

Nicely done, old man*!

* He is, one admits, the oldest guy in the race, being 60.  Vasquez Mota is 51, Peña Nieto is 45.   PANAL candidate, Gabriel Quadri de la Torre is 58.   He’s a virtually unknown environmental bureaucrat and civil engineer.   apparently  in his 50s, although there doesn’t seem to be much biographical information about him anywhere.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Allen Graham permalink
    29 February 2012 9:48 am

    Wisdom comes with age, vitality comes with youth.

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