Apologies for not posting regularly over the last week and a half. I was busy with some personal business (my own wedding among other things), but hope to have an opportunity to comment (if only briefly) on some of the items in the news that … while not always “top of the fold” in the news cycle (dominated by the upcoming elections, and the latest massacre the government claims is not a massacre*)… are glimpses into the many Mexicos of today.
In the generally conservative to middle-of-the-road Milenio, Álvaro Cuevo asked in the Sunday edition (17 May 2015) “What the Hell is wrong with this country that we condemn teachers and praise gangsters“? Cuevo questions whether the attacks on “corruption” in the teachers’ union isn’t being used to justify vilifying what was an honorable profession here. Certainly there was and is corruption and feather-bedding within the union, but one asks who is responsible for that, if not the PRI, when they imposed leaders and tried to make the union an arm of the party? That the union leadership eventually moved closer to PAN, and bought into bad ideas imported from the north like teaching to the tests, and education for work, rather than education for the sake of an informed citizenry, are as responsible as anyone else.
There was a two or three day dust-up when tapes of a telephone conversation in which the president of the Elections Commission (INE), Lorenzo Córdova Vianello, used less than respectful language towards indigenous community representatives (“Me big chief Sitting Bull”). As politicians are wont to do, Córdova offered a non-apology apology (“If anyone was offended, I’m sorry”). While there’s some speculation that the thing was a set-up (the indigenous group apparently was a front for one political party, or, rather, a faction within a party), and discrediting Córdova — or forcing him to resign — would complicate the elections and/or open up one more vote for disqualifying the Green Party (as demanded by all but the Greens and the PRI, which dominate the elections commission), it’s one more reminder that Mexico still has a long way to go in coming to terms with its own indigenous community.
In Saltillo, a rehab center run by the Cristo Vive church was fined 250 salarios mínimos for discrimination against gays and lesbians. Coahuila always seems to be the odd man out in northern Mexico… despite our perceptions of el norte as conservative (the leftist parties barely exist in the states bordering the U.S.), it was the first state to have “civil unions” and now one of three jurisdictions (along with Quintana Roo and the Federal District) where there is no impediment to same-gender marriages. Even more head-turning, the discrimination suit was brought by the communidad San Aelred, a Roman Catholic Church organization.
A report on word-wide banking trends published in The Guardian caught my eye, mostly because Mexico was a different color on one chart than any other country. While 51% of all adults in the U.S., Canada, AND Mexico took out loans last year (a bit higher than most of the world, though about the same percentage as Scandinavians), while Canadians and USAnians borrow mostly for mortgages (32% of all loans in both countries), Mexicans borrow for healthcare and education expenses. While I haven’t seen the figures being discussed here… yet… it would seem to indicate we need to spend more public funds in those areas, which are already the largest portions of federal spending.
And, not to wax “Friedmanesque”, but having taken more taxis over the last two weeks than I normally do, I dipped into Thomas Friedman’s patented bag of one trick, and asked a taxista his opinion about the protests (and Tuesday’s taxi strike) against Über’s infiltration of Mexico City’s public transit . My driver was more concerned with “piratas” than Über itself … the legitimate taxis having not only to paint their cars a ridiculous color (pink and white) but to pay for medallions, insurance, inspection, replacement cars and… above all… special plates, the piratas (whether pink and white or not) are giving the legitimate drivers a bad name. Über, as he sees it, is mostly handling the airport corridor and the wealthier neighborhoods normally serviced by tourist taxis and limousine services, and probably just needs regulated the same way those higher priced private transport systems are. I’ve been fascinated though, by the foreign response… the “expat community” (i.e., the mostly white, north American and northern Europeans with money and living in the wealthier enclaves of Polanco and Condesa) are quick to condemn the taxis, often for carrying “those” people, while those of us (even if we are in Roma Sur) who are “those” people and depend on taxis and the Metro and the buses to get around aren’t likely to get hung up on a car having better seats than another or bottled water, and just want to get from point A to point B.
Politically, I think this is a no-brainer for the municipal government. There are a lot more poor voters, and a lot more voters with friends or relatives who drive taxis than there are people who use (or can afford to use Über, and which requires having a smart-phone and a credit card). And… stupidly, during the strike, Über doubled its rates.
* Both of which I’ll post about tomorrow