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How many zombies are in Honduras, anyway?

1 May 2021

Via the Wilmington, Delaware office of the Customs and Border Patrol comes word that 40 rounds of “Zombie Terminator .38 ammunition” was confiscated by the US Coast Guard in a shipment bound for Honduras. As any aficiando of zombie films knows, you need a double tap to kill a zombie,so the 40 rounds seized would only kill 20 zombies. However, accourding to the press release:

“CBP remains committed to working with our law enforcement partners like the U.S. Coast Guard to detect, deter and disrupt illegal activities and dangerous products at our ports of entry.”

40 rounds… i.e. one box of bullets (“Tombie Terminator” is just a band name… a clever one, to be sure, but nothing special) justifying a press release is pathetic. While the US, and various political faction in the United States whine that narcotics passing through Central America and Mexico manage to find their way north DESPITE the best efforts of various law enforcement agencies both in those nations and in the United States and small seizures are not anything worth mentioning, firearms and ammunition from the United States apparently passes with such regularity and lax enforcement of export regulations, that a tiny, rather insignifcant seizure is worth a press release.

Paper Silhouette Artworks : David Reeves

Bringin’ in a couple of Keys…?

16 April 2021

The issue isn’t with the shit being grown, but WHO will be harvest it. Export crops (and there’s really not that much of a national market) end up under the control of big (foreign) agrobiz corporations, not really benefitting small farmers like this marijuana grower.

Vaccination campaign

16 April 2021


Casta paintings.

3 March 2021

I’ve been meaning to write something longer about the Casta paintings, but my thesis is they we give them more significance than they merit. Oil paintings are a luxury item, and the only buyers were the “one percenters” (the casta paintings in existence were mostly located in Spain, not the Americas… indicating they were high end souveners, not common with local elites) produced by one workshop in Puebla. And, for that matter the whole casta system itself may not have been as important to the people themselves as we might think. We forget the 18th century was an era with a mania for classifying nature (good) and the concept of “race” as an immutable factor was something new. In a way, the casta paintings might be compared to a bird-watching guide (one imagines a bored Spanish bureaucrat checking off his “life list” for running across a zambo or coyote) when the people themselves (and the poor parish priests who had to keep birth records for the 99% of people who didn’t know, or care much, which of the 16 to 32 categories their grandparents might have fallen into) and stuck to the rough categories of Penisulares, criollos (who may or may not have been of “pure” European ancestry), mulato, mestizo, negro and indio.

Why Assange, Why Mexico?

5 January 2021

“… by offering Assange asylum López Obrador adds political clout to the growing international outrage at the detention and psychological torture of Assange. AMLO has also put Mexico on the world stage and has conferred legitimacy on the actions of Assange and Wikileaks, that revealed to the world numerous illegal activities perpetrated by the U.S., including war crimes, clandestine operations and meddling in the internal political affairs of dozens of countries, foes and allies alike. Offering asylum to Assange shows respect, from the heart of the Americas, for human rights, international law, sovereign equality of nations, political independence, and multilateralism.”

Frederick B. Mills, Alina Duarte, Patricio Zamorano, in “Mexico Offers Asylum to Assange: A Step Forward for Government Accountability and Press Freedom” (Council on Hemispheric Affairs”

I’ll be back…

5 December 2020

WordPress completely changed the editing system for posting … which I can’t understand. They’ve “improved” it to where I just don’t like using it. If I do post, I’m afraid it will jut be pages of plain, old, boring text.

Show me the money

10 October 2020

Via National Law Review []:

On Monday, October 5, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented a package of 39 infrastructure projects that he intends to move forward in conjunction with the Mexican private sector. These projects would invest approximately 300 billion pesos in the communications, energy, tourism and water sectors. This announcement represents the reactivation of the previous plan that was presented in November 2019, but postponed by the 2020 global health pandemic. It is estimated that this investment package will represent 1% of Mexico’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and will generate 185,000 jobs, according to Jorge Nuño, spokesman of the Unit of Investments of the Ministry of Finance.

Nuño explained that the plan seeks to continuously grow the investment and the percent of GDP using the competitive advantages of the country and activating additional projects beyond those already underway. He added that the plan also seeks to strengthen Mexico’s participation in the trade agreement with the US and Canada, with the idea of ​​reinforcing the strategic importance of productive supply chains, alliances and investments, along with improving border crossings and working with companies of all sizes. Currently, seven of the projects are being executed, while 32 more will start in the coming months and will continue in 2021 with an investment of 259 billion pesos, of which 158 billion pesos will be allocated to communications, 98 billion pesos for energy and two billon pesos for water management.

Mexico continues to increase its foreign investment. Currently, four out of 10 investment initiatives that industrial parks have received in Mexico come from China. Thirty-seven percent of foreign investment comes from China, 16% from the US, followed by Japan and Mexico at 12%, 9% from South Korea and 5% from Germany. Additionally, the US, Mexico and Canada “USMCA” is generating foreign investment opportunities for Mexico, along with the so-called “Trade War” between the US and China.

According to Bnamericas, the following is a complete list of investment projects announced by President Obrador.

Fun while it lasted

21 September 2020

The airing of grievances is not limited to Fesivus in this country, but are seen as something worthy to be ndulged in every day here in la Capital.  For or against one or another government policy, or lack of action, or action, deed or misdeed, there’s at least one good sized demonstration a week.  One develops an eye for the commitment the demonstrators have to the cause by the style the demonstration takes.  A color coordinated mega-march is usually a made-for-TV, issue of the week, demo:  generally some generic “issue” that nobody is really for — like crime, although really just meant to advertise one or another political factions’ proposals to “do something”.

When the demonstrators’ aren’t color coordinated, how seriously the grievance is, or how ephemeral the issue, is not always determined by the number of demonstrators.  Staying power is a better gauge.  Not so much the “commemorative” demonstrations (like the one every 2 October, remembering the 1968 massacre in Tlatelolco, attracting not just the grand-children of the original dissidents and victims, but updated constantly with new and improved grievances), or not necessarily those that up their game (the feminist demonstrations that led to wide-spread vandalism and … although certainly getting the attention of the authorities… may have seriously cut into public support for the demonstrators’ issues) but those that show a willingness to stay the course.

Which FRENAAA (FRENte NAtional Anti-AMLO) has spectacularly failed to do. FRENAAA was the brainchild of Gustavo Lozano, the director of FEMSA, aka Coca-Cola, Oxxo, etc. In other words, a big, big, big, business guy, who is used to getting his own way with governments that are supposed to do things his way.  Not just satisfied with whining that the present adminstration is so unfair in expecting big businesses to actually pay their taxes, and public heath measures are likely to cut into his sales of “las aguas negras de los imperalista gringas”  but that AMLO is a “danger to Mexico” and a Hugo Chavez in the making.  Or Stalin… or Hitler… or… well, whatever bad guy you want.

Although FRENAAA is said to include 67 separate organizations it seems mostly to be a motley crew of racists, reactionaries and disgruntled old political hacks … or perhaps those who object to a crackdown on corruption (i.e., racists, reactionaries and disgruntled old political hacks).  Their previous demonstrations, mostly in cars (in a country of poor people) attracting nothing but giggles (dismissed as the “march of the Fifis”… the elites… and jokes about rich suburbanites getting their maids to make their protest signs), the next step was to occupy the Zocalo ad DEMAD (yes, DEMAND) the commie quit.  Denied access to the Zocalo, FRENAAA, tried to pull off the same tactic AMLO himself used back in 2006, setting up a tent city to block main streets.  AMLO’s tent city lasted a couple of weeks, and brought international attention to what is now generally recognized as a stolen election and was the nucleus of what is now the ruling Morena party.

FRENAAA’s tent city lasted… oh… a couple hours.  Maybe.  AMLO just said they had a right to protest and he didn’t think they’d be around all that long.  Seems he was right. After setting up tents at the corner of Reforma and Juarez, Lozana apparently got bored with the whole thing, claimed he wasn’t feeling well, and left in a taxi for parts unknown.  The “occupiers” spent most of the afternoon shopping or hanging out in local businesses.  And, this evening, the tents appeared to be empty… their occupants (er… committed occupiers) either having gone home, or staying in hotels.

One would like to think the COVID-displaced denizens of back street hotels (aka sex workers) and the homeless, are taking advantage of the temporary housing. To each according to his or her needs.

Sources:  Milenio, Proceso, SinEmbargo


Another fine American export… fake news

4 September 2020

In the United States, there has been all kinds of consternation over foreign agents (supposedly Russians, supposedly state actors) spreading “fake news” for political purposes.  It was to be expected that US sources are doing the same, maybe to the Russians, but certainly here.  Both Animal Politico and Sin Embargo posted yesterday on the story.

Both political site report that Facebook has deactivated 55 accounts, 42 pages, and 36 Instagram accounts traced back to CLS Strategies, (until 2014, known as Chlopak, Leonard, Schechter & Associates, Inc.  The deactivated accounts were designed to spread “fake news” on various political and social topics in Mexico, Bolivia and Venezuela.  In the case of Mexico, the accounts were used to attack the ruling party, MORENA.

The CLS Strategies pages had 509 thousand followers on Facebook and 43 thousand on Instagram, and had invested about 3.6 million dollars for advertising on social networks.

CLS Strategies Communications Specialist (real photo, allegedly)

Facebook reported that CLS Strategies used fake accounts to amplify its content, evade law enforcement, lead people to off-platform pages, mislead people as to the source of their , and manage pages masquerading as independent news sites, civic organizations and politically active individuals.   Some used  typographical errors to mislead users into believing they were authentic. This activity seemed to focus on civic events and elections in the countries they were targeting, according to the technical report.

On specific issues, they presented content supporting political opposition in Venezuela, the interim government in coBolivia, and criticism of Morena, the party in power in Mexico.

CLS Strategies is a political consultancy based in Washington, DC.  It claims a global reach and experience on six continents. “CLS Strategies helps clients win where it matters most: in the corridors of government, the market and the court of public opinion,” to quote its website.  What the rest of the world calls “trolls”, CLS Strategies calls “veteran politicians, former journalists and experts in corporate communications.”… trolls.

Apparently, the CLS “former journalists, etc.” (once again, trolls) have been at this for some time. Emilio Lozoya Austin, the former CEO of PEMEX, now spilling the beans on his own, and his cronies corrupt practices, told the Fiscal General that on 16 May 2012, he transferred $ 168,742 to the firm from the bribe money passed on to him by the Brazilian firm Odebrecht at the express command of Luis Videgaray, later to be Mexico’s Secretary of the Treasury and de facto liaison between Enrique Peña Nieto and Donald Trump. According to Lozoya, the payment to CLS Strategies was for “off the books” interference in the Mexican presidential campaign of that year, in favor of Peña Nieto.For

Render unto Caesar… or else.

3 September 2020

In the US, when politicians are asked their favorite books, they invariably mention the Bible. Even former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, asked to name three books he’d read (as if he ever read three books in his life!) mentioned it. And in the US, quoting the Bible, or some religious authority, is standard operating practice, both on the campaign trail, and in the halls of power. Not so here…

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s electoral authority ordered the president to remove a political ad that referred to Pope Francis and the Gospel.

In an Aug. 31 decision, the National Electoral Institute’s complaints commission said the ad, which promoted President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s annual state-of-the nation-address, violated rules regarding religious content.

In his ad, López Obrador said, “Pope Francis has said helping the poor is not communism, it is the center of the Gospel.”

He continued, “We have clean consciences and enormous joy of helping the poor, the neediest and the dispossessed.” (Catholic News Service)

While, of course, the strict separation of Church and State is absolute here (and there have been two civil wars… in the 1850s and the 1920s largely pitting the two forces against each other), this is also a country where rules are made to be… not broken, but bent.

As has been the practice in the last few years, Andres Manuel López Obrador, presented a series of advertisements for his administration in the days leading up to the “Informe”, the first of September constitutionally required presidential report to Congress. With what critics there are of the social benefits program reduced to ridiculous charges that things like stipends for students, old age relief, and assistance programs for underserved communities is “Communist”, AMLO quoted a well known Jesuit priest… Pope Francis. Which led to complaints from PAN… you know… the political party founded on, and claiming adherence to, Catholic social teachings. Specifically Jesuit ones (or, claiming to. Let’s skip their Fascist roots for now).

The first PAN president, Vicente Fox, raised eyebrows (and made the front pages of the lefty press) for more than quoting a pope… kissing John Paul II’s ring (and the subject of the very first Mex File, a compare-contrast between the simultaneous arrival of His Holiness and Brittany Spears) . Fox, incidentally, went to the trouble of obtaining a Papal annulment for his first marriage, in order to religiously marry his second wife, Marta Sahagún, who was close to, and a support of, the semi-secretive Falagist (Catholic Fascist) Yunque.

PAN raised no complaints when AMLO’s first run for the presidency, was a coalition of small left-wing parties (and the then third major party, PRD) running under the collective name of “The good of all, but first the poor”… a mouthful of a phrase… borrowed directly from Catholic theological texts.

Nor was there any hesitation on the part of PAN to “suggest” to Bishops that they favor the party in their public statements (though, to the credit, most Bishops were canny enough to avoid outright endorsements).

But then again, when it comes to politics, and your party is known more for having presided over the mass slaughter of the “drug war” and it’s best sales point is that it isn’t quite as corrupt as the other (former) major party (although between PRI and PAN, which is #1 in corruption is anyone’s guess). trying to claim AMLO — “guilty” of such crimes as letting corrupt politicians be arrested without any interference, promoting old age pensions and financial assistance to students, single parents and indigenous communities — is ipso facto a Communist, a foolish consistency would be… the hobgoblin of their little minds.  Maybe AMLO’s  programs sound something like something some Marxist somewhere might say… but it comes in a Jesusy package.  They again,  he’s a politician, not a choirboy.

But he was an alter boy back in rural Tabasco, and makes no secret of being a Bible reader.  Maybe PAN objects to him muscling in on their turf.  I might think, but would never say (if I were a politician in Mexico) that PAN might look at Matthew 7:5.  This too shall pass (or is that a taboo phrase, too?).

Identity, junk food, and trash

27 August 2020

Photo: Nayeli Cruz/El País

Are traditional values progressive? How the tiny Zapotec town of Yalálag, where the movement to ban junk food started not to control diabetes and improve diet, but to cut down on trash.  And divided a community.

Translated from Pablo Ferri, “Prohibir las patatas fritas: una decisión identitaria en las montañas del sur de México” (El País, 26 August 2020).


Three years ago, the Zapotec town of Yalálag Oaxaca banned the sale of commercial potato chips in stores, along with Cheetos, Doritos, packaged ramen and similar products.  The town’s health official at the time, Vidal Aquino, explains that at the time, the issue was garbage collection. “There was a lot of garbage on the streets, a lot of plastic,” he recalls. Without knowing it, this Zapotec community in the Sierra de Oaxaca paved the way for the State legislature to pass a bill two weeks ago banning the sale of junk food to children.  It is a pioneering law, perhaps having international impact, but in Yalálag it has gone almost unnoticed. The neighbors here have been arguing for years about food, recycling, and the environment.

Vidal Aquino is a quiet man. He hardly raises his voice, except when talking about commercial processed food. “Those companies are motherfuckers!,” he exclaims. In 2017, when he served as health councilor, he also tried to also ban soft drinks and other junk food: cookies, packaged pastries and candies. “But it couldn’t,” he says. Emiliano Aquino, his brother, murmurs that a year — in Yalálag, public office is only for a year — was not enough time to make the changes his brother was proposing.

As in much of Oaxaca, Yalálag is government by an “usos y costumbres” assembly.   There are no Western elections every few years, and no political parties. Every October, the members of the assembly – slightly more than 600 of the 2,500 inhabitants of the town – meet and elect authorities for the following year. The councilors, the municipal president and the trustee, among others.

Vidal started his year strong. He took office on January 1 and on the 20th he presented his initiative in the assembly to ban packaged potato chips and other snacks.  It was approved, although the initiative had more to do with dealing with trash and recycling than with public health.  Over time, however, from the news and internet research, Vidal came to realize the products were harmful on their own.   “People don’t know what they are eating,” he reflects.

Emiliano and Vidal still remember the face of the Pepsico dealer, the main distributor of processed snacks in Mexico, the first day he arrived in town after the 2017 assembly. “He was told that he could not enter,” says Vidal. Then they wanted to reach an agreement ”, he adds,“ but no, no ”.

In Yalálag, the health managers also take care of the garbage collection service and Vidal innovated what he could. “We put a gate to separate the garbage cart. We managed to rescue 100 kilos of nylon plastic, as well as PET plastic and tetrabrick ”, he says. Then he took it to the city of Oaxaca to recycle. In that year, 2017, Vidal and his team also introduced Yalálag’s first community compost heap. “We forced people to separate even the shells from the eggs,” he explains with amusement, allowing himself one of the first laughs of the afternoon.

Of Huaraches and lawsuits

The sun hides among the exuberant green of the Oaxacan mountains. The last rays of the sun slip through the windows of the Aquino brothers’ workshop. The workshop is in the upper part of the house, on one of the slopes from which the town hangs. Emiliano and Vidal are fourth, or fifth (the disagree on this) huarche-makers.

The brothers were interviewed as they worked,  amid knives, pieces of rubber, and the smell of curing leather and dissolved chemicals. Emiliano says that the health councilors who succeeded his brother have not followed up on his propsals.  “It’s that people are like this here,” he says, although he doesn’t develop his idea. Then Vidal remembers that in his year as councilor he bought 500 hard plastic glasses. “People could come and borrow them for their parties,” he adds proudly, “but they didn’t pay much attention.”

Vidal leaves the workshop and immediately retuns with carved, hollowed-out bull horns that serve as glasses. Then he takes out a bottle and fills the horns with “artisan” mezcal. Here, and when he goes to parties, he always carries his own horn. No disposable cups for him. At the second mezcal, Emiliano starts talking about the lawsuits. Yalálag is famous for lawsuits, he says. Not that there’s anything strange about that… which town has no problems? But what do community lawsuits have to do with plastic and nutrition? That, Emiliano, is at a loss to explain.

Yalálag has been through a series of crises dating back to the 1970s.   For years, the town was an important commercial coffee center,  not so much for the cultivation as for the sale. At the same time, a small local industry, making huarache was becoming economically important. Between the coffee crisis and later industrialization, life became increasingly difficult for the sandal artisans. And then, in the late 1990s, there was a political crisis.

Two community was split over the Aquino brothers vision of progress.  The dispute appears to be more emotional than having to do with any discussion of the merits of its promoters.

Anthropologist, and Yalálag native, Ana Alonso explains that what happened in the town “was the product of Yalálag’s opening to the world. One side is committed to communal life and the traditional internal organization system, and the other group sees in this a way of not developing and it doesn’t seem like it.” Alonso concludes: “There is a lot of resentment and the groups oppose each other out of emotion. And … of course, it just happens with the Sabritas (potato chips)  and everything else. The social fabric was broken and now it’s a fight just to fight the opposition.”

And along came COVID

The pandemic is the latest update to the conflict in Yalálag. In March, when the virus began to spread in Mexico, local authorities decided to close the town. For more than two months, no one, not transporters, merchants, travelers, or relatives could enter or leave Yalálag, with few exceptions. In practice, the ban on potato chips was extended to sugary soft drinks and a host of other products. Vidal liked that. “We consume the pure locally grown vegetables,” he says.

Many others saw the ban as a ruse by the group in power to maintain control. Some chose to smuggle soft drinks and pastries and others demanded a change in the assembly. The protesters demanded that Yalálag be reopened, that the soft drinks be returned to the store refrigerators, that the traffic be free again. But the assembly voted no. Still, the measurements have been relaxed and the shelves are full again. To avoid conflict, the authorities turn a blind eye. 

For Cuauhtémoc Aquino (no relation to Vidal and Emiliano) the village butcher, the pandemic has been an opportunity to improve the community’s diet.  “For several months we could not go out and we ate what there was, squash, quelites, beans,” he says. “Now many people wonder if this is not the best, the vegetables here. The pandemic has made us think about self-sufficiency ”, he argues.

The covid-19 crisis has made many in Yalálag aware of other problems that until now seemed inevitable, like diabetes. Cuauhtémoc, the butcher, explains that “in a few years the cases of diabetes and hypertension increased a lot” in the community. Where it wasn’t noted before, now the number of cases is in the dozens.  People are aware that diabetes is a risk factor for the virus. And that junk food doesn’t exactly help prevent the sugar disease.

The path seems clear, the problem is the lawsuits. In the June and July assemblies, the debates on whether or not to maintain isolation in Yalálag led to new clashes between the groups, accusations against the municipal president and even the dismissal of the community’s only paid position, the village secretary. The atmosphere is somewhat tense in the community and any topic now becomes weaponized. Even seemingly innocent discussions about junk food.

Anthopologist Lourdes Gutiérrez, who has studied migration from the community to the United States for 20 years says that “what matters is that the groups reach an agreement on the future of the town. That is what is at stake in this long crisis, the meaning of being a Yalalteco today, in this historical moment ”, she explains. There are more Yalaltecas in the United States than in Oaxaca. “The importance they give to language is at stake and their notions of progress and backwardness. What defines them as a people.” 

The end of the conflict seems far away, although perhaps it involves reaching agreements on minor issues. In these months of pandemic, the two groups have agreed that if the Yalálag stores are going to sell soft drinks, but only in recyclable cans. 

22 August 1940: The Mexican lifeline

22 August 2020

How to handle a refugee crisis, Mexican style

(translated and adapted from José M. Murià, “80 años de aquel acuerdo salvador” , Jornada, 22 August 2020)

The defeat in early 1939 of the legitimately constituted republican government in Spain resulted in almost half a million people crossing the French border in order to save their lives. The grand reception, as is known, was not always cordial, although it must be admitted that the French never expected so many refugees.

And, there were quite a few French who who sympathized with the Spanish fascists. “Nous somme de la part de Franco“, they often snapped at the peninsulares.

However, in France, there weren’t in immediate danger of losing their lives.

It is well known that the Mexican government had provided immeasurable help from the very beginning of the refugee crisis, but the volume of the unfortunate was enormous. Several ships had already sailed to Mexico stuffed with refugees and many others, who could afford to do so, had fled on their own. 

Some of the Spaniards had managed to make new lives in France, while others were being encouraged to return home.  In any case, there were still over 150,000 Spanish refugees in France by mid 1940, when the Germans invaded.

These refugees were in serious trouble. Francoist police were able to pursue them in France, and the Nazis began rounding them up for forced labor battalions.

With the instructions and blessing of President Lazaro Cardenas, the Mexican Ambassador,  Luis I. Rodríguez obtained from Vichy puppet president, Philippe Petain, a commitment to sign a document that any foreign refugee  — Spanish, Lebanese, Jews, even Germans and Italians seeking transit to Mexico would be under the protection of the neutral government of Mexico.

Luis I Rodriguez, about 1950

Negotiations between Rodríguez and the Vichy government lasted a month , being signed on 22, August 1940.  It saved about 150,000 from either certain death, or, at the very least, transportation to the Nazi or Spanish concentration camps. 

It is not a small thing! However, it was not smooth sailing. Many French authorities claimed to be ignorant of the  agreement, requiring copies and more copies of required documents, or… at least something that sounded plausible to the French authorities.  Over 80,000 certificates of transit were created one by one as the Mexican consulates had typists working around the clock.

It is worth noting that both the German and Italian governments endorsed the agreement… not out of kindness or out of fear of the Mexican military.  More likely they needed our oil, which had only recently (and fortunately) been nationalized.

Although the wholesale deportations to Germany ended and some refugees already sent off to Germany were able to leave, the project was not a total success.  However, there are few cases in human history of a rescue of this magnitude and quality.  It is a shame that in today’s Spain, with so much nostalgia for the fascist regime, there is no formal recognition or homage to Mexico and its greatest president.