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Un soldado en cada hijo te dio?

2 January 2018

María García Pérez, a PAN deputy for Queretaro, has introduced a bill that would end the draft.  Well, that seems fair…though what she would like to replace it with would be universal military service for all 18 year olds.  Being well past draft age,  and not having kids, I suppose it’s not all that bad an idea. It would make the military a more democratic force … funny that most kids who get drafted are the poor kids and very seldom the middle or upper class ones (though I did have a friend from a family of academics and Communist Party leaders who was drafted,  though his military assignment was finishing his doctoral dissertation research on sex and gender studies).

I don’t know much about the bill, and it may be one of those bills fated to die a quiet death in committee, but it appears to be much less radical that one might suppose. Mexicans are already supposed to do a public service job, and the overwhelming majority of the 18 year olds would be reservists, merely trained for disaster relief and emergency assistance.  Then again, do I want to give guns to a bunch of teenagers?


El  Financiero, 1 January 2018


I hate to ask…

31 December 2017

THANKS, ALL.  I won’t be able to get banks straightened out until later this week, and hadn’t noticed that my site would have otherwise gone off line on Tuesday.  Was able to renew, and problem resolved (for the next 12 months, anyway).


… but having spent the last six months recovering from a serious accident (DO NOT USE YOUR RIGHT LEG AS A BICYCLE BRAKE!), I haven’t always been as up on keeping track of recurring expenses that were automatically paid as I should have.  And, obviously, being in a wheelchair the last six months… besides the medical bills  (which we were able to cover), but minor expenses that add up… having to take a taxi instead of the subway to my rehabilitation therapist, paying an out-of-work Bulgarian actor (long story) to fetch and carry for a  few days when there was no one at home to help out and even heading to the bathroom required some assistance, a few delivered meals, etc.   Dumb, but not having made a bank deposit in several months (and the neighborhood branch with a handicapped entry having been closed by the September earthquake), my paypal account is down to about ten US dollars, split between pesos and dollars.

I don’t need much… but the yearly charges for this domain and website maintenance are due this week.  The “paypal” donate button is at the right.

The general in his labyrinth … at Christmas

26 December 2017

With our politicians suddenly aghast at the mere mention of using a general amnesty as a means out of a violent, and increasingly pointless “war on drugs”… a bit of Mexican history on how amnesty … while not ending violence… has been used to reduce violence and allow for political and social reform.  

His forced decimated in the Bajío during the spring and summer of 1915, Pancho Villa had retreated north. Driven out of Sonora that fall, he returned to his native Chihuahua in December. Between the cold and a wave of executions along the trail, he lost still more of his forces before arriving home to address a crowd … described about equally as apprehensive and enthusiastic … ten days before Christmas.

Still powerful enough to impose forced loans and order retail stores to open, he also commissioned his chief civilian adviser, Silvestre Terrazas and general Cruz Domínguez to negotiate with the Carrancistas for the peaceful surrender of the city.

The Constitutionalist had 10 thousand soldiers of the Army of the Northeast under the command of Jacinto B. Treviño advancing from Torreón in Camargo, waiting for orders to attack. Villa saw off the families of his top generals, along with his official wife, Luz Corral and his children on the train to El Paso (and eventual, and as it turned out, temporary, Cuban exile) on the 18th.

On the 19th, General Cruz Domínguez entered Chihuahua with a force of 500 mounted soldiers. Villa’s generals, along with what remained of his civil administration met at his home. Villa ordered the evacuation of the city of Chihuahua, ordering his remaining forces to gather in Bustillos, to discuss to approve plans for continuing his campaign. He warned them that no matter what his subordinates decided, he would continue to oppose Carranza, and, if necessary, die in the attempt.

It began to snow when Villa appeared on the balcony of his municipal palace. Through tears, in the bitter cold, he harangued the crowd with invective against Constitutionalist leader Venustiano Carranza for selling out the revolution to the gringos (despite Villa’s own overt attempts to curry U.S. support) and assured that he would continue the fight in the mountains. Then left for Bustillos. Carranza decreed an amnesty for those who would lay down their weapons.

Villa conferred in Bustillos with 27 generals; 23 of them made it clear that they did not want to continue a struggle that had no hope or future and that they were thinking of accepting Carranza’s amnesty or taking refuge in the United States. On Christmas Day 21 generals and 7000 men surrendered. In the following weeks, another another 20 would surrender, along with over 5000 officers and civil servants, and 11,000 soldiers.

What was left of the once powerful Division of the North, and the Villista government, was reduced to a guerilla force, of little strategic importance, his raid on Columbus, New Mexico the following year being the “last hurrah” of the legendary commander, both feared and favored by the Wilson Administration, and once seen as the most important of the Revolutionary war-lords.

Although the violence would continue on a smaller scale, and small scale rebellions would continue up into the 1930s, the Revolution effectively ended with a Christmas amnesty.  But, with Villa no longer a threat, the Constitutionalists were able to consolidate their hold on the country, call a constitutional convention the following year, and begin the process of reform.

(source: Pedro Salmerón Sanginés, Navidades y amnistías: fin de la División del Norte, Jornada, 26 December 2017)

Left, right, left, right

15 December 2017

It’s probably dangerous to slap labels… especially those labels coming from European and other global northerners… on the political movements here. Still, for simplicity (and for foreign media consumption), the formula has been PRD = “leftist”; PRI = “centerist”; and PAN = “conservative”. The other seven national parties are usually forgotten, or mentioned only as an afterthought, but this year, with one of the “others” possibly crushing the big three, and ideologically incongruent coalitions between parties in the race for the Presidency, the simplistic formulas beloved by the media are going by the wayside.

PRD claims to be a Democratic Socialist party, so calling it a “leftist” party makes sense. Until one realizes that PRI… which follows a neo-liberal economic policy, as well as the PRD, are both member parties of Socialist International.

But, I suppose a lot of “Socialist” parties have more or less acquiesced to neo-liberalism and the “Washington consensus” over the last 25 years or so. And, Mexico having always been seen as further “left” than the United States, I suppose a party Socialist in theory, but not much in practice, is “centerist”.

And PAN? Although its roots were in both Fascism and in conservative Catholic movements, the Partido Acción Nacional” considers itself neutral on economic policies. In reality, it is a neo-liberal party, a bit further to the right (especially in cultural and social policy) than PRI. So, I suppose it is the right party to call the “right”.


Several new parties, with different ideological positions have sprung up in the last three years, complicating the neat divisions between the parties, and no doubt ruining the simplified political shorthand of “left, center, right”.

Morena (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), led by With Andres Manuel López Obrador –“AMLO”, the PRD’s presidential candidate in 2006 and 2012 — knocked his old political home from its position as the third largest party. Unable to hold its own against the two larger parties (between them, PRI and PAN can count on about 60 to 65% of all voters in any election) and having driven López Obrador out of the party (and, consequently, a good portion of PRD voters defecting to Morena), it has been desperately trying to maintain its relevance by providing an alternative to PRI.

However, an alternative has always existed (or at least a viable one since the 1990s) in PAN. So… the socialist PRD started running in coalition with the neo-liberal PAN for state offices a few years back… and, finding that it was usually left out of power… seems to be of the theory that if it hasn’t worked out yet, maybe it will if we do it again. In short, they’ve formed a coalition, with one of the new parties, Citizen’s Movement (which, outside the State of Jalisco, has almost no presence) to form a anti-PRI, anti-López Obrador coalition.

For the ideologically pure PRD members, this leaves Morena or Citizen’s Movement. The latter was a re-boot of the mortibund “Convergence” Party, which was briefly López Obrador’s political home after leaving the PRD. At the time, its appeal was mostly to middle-class leftists, barely holding on to its registration (which requires winning at least two percent of the national vote). López Obrador brought new blood into the party, “frenimies” like Marcelo Ebrard –his sucessor as “mayor” of Mexico City, and a rival for leadership of the Mexican left. Although López Obrador, with his support mostly from the working class, has moved on to the new Morena Party, as a home for the “liberal” left (with their commitment more to social reforms than economic ones), the Citizens’ Movement has established itself in a few places, notably in the State of Jalisco. There, where PAN was identified with the more reactionary elements in the Catholic hierachy, and PRI’s unsavory reputation for corruption was always a factor, and PRD infighting was tearing the leftist alternative apart, the Citizens’ Movement made substantial gains, even capturing Guadalajara’s municipal government its first time out.

Perhaps sensibly, the Citizens’ Movement … at least hoping to preserve its position in Jalisco, joined the PAN-PRD coalition, moderately demanding the two major parties support its own candidates in that state, in return for their support for the PAN selected Presidential candidate. Meaning, socialists supporting a neo-liberal nationally, in return for neo-liberals supporting socialists locally.

The Mexican Green Party… often sneered at as the “Show me the green” Party… has survived as an appendage of the PRI since leaving the coalition that elected Vicente Fox, who denied the Greens control of the Secretariat for the Environment. That was back when the “Ecological Green Party of Mexico” was actually interested in ecological issues. Since then, while it pushes a “green” bill in the legislature every now and again, it’s become just the PRI for “juniors”…If anything, the best analogy is the Greens are to the PRI as the U.S. Libertarian Party is to the Republicans. In other words, a party for those who generally agree with the power elite, but consider themselves too sophisticated to consort with the rabble.

For all that, the PRI — saddled with corruption scandal after corruption scandal, and desperate to show a new face — has chosen as its candidate a PAN politician! Unable to find an acceptable candidate among the party leadership (one with a chance of winning, anyway), they changed the party rules to allow for an “external candidate”, and turned to Calderon and Peña Nieto cabinet minister, José Antonio Meade. While a rather bland figure, he doesn’t upset anyone, but doesn’t seem to excite them either. Economic issues have never played a major role in Mexican presidential elections (except for gaining or losing the tacit support of the United States) but as Secretary of the Treasury, he may be able to gain the support of important business leaders, especially those made nervous by AMLO’s leftist discourse, and worried about the future of NAFTA.

Who knows what the Alliance will do? Founded by long time teachers’ union boss Ester Elba Gordillo when she was thrown out of PRI for her cozying up with the Fox Administration, the Alliance has been a stalking horse for the two biggest parties, sometimes in coalition with PRI or PAN, and in others, fielding its own candidates for the purpose of draining off votes from other parties. Notably, in 2006, the Alliance mounted a serious campaign in Oaxaca, not to win, but to pull votes from the PRD, which would have won the presidency had there not been a (suspiciously high number of) votes for the Alliance candidate.

That PRD candidate, by the way, was Andres Manuel López Obrador, whose near capture of the Presidency, and the fallout from that election, led to the break-up of the neat divisions on the political playing field.

Morena, having grown overnight into one of the big three, is the “new” left. With PRD having turned against it’s former leader, it has to find its coalition partners where it can. That the Workers’ Party (PT), the rump of the old Communist Party, is joining with Morena, makes perfect sense. What makes no sense is the announcement that the Social Encounter is also joining in.

Social Encounter claims “Christian Humanism” as its ideology, though it appears more “Christian” in the sense that right-wing U.S. Fundamentalists are “Christian” than in the usual sense of applying the principals of Catholic social teachings and the philosophical tradition based on the writings of Thomas Aquinas to politics and ethics. Founded in Baja California, where it used the “fish logo” as its own logo (something a little too obvious to use nationally), Social Encounter’s platform… outlawing abortion and same-sex marriage prominently mentioned… have roiled Morena, which included the country’s most prominent feminists among its more loyal members, and … in unveiling its intended presidential cabinet included eight highly qualified women among the 16 prospective posts… including a woman as Secretary of Goverance, the de facto Vice-President and “Home Secretary”.

With intellectuals able to make or break a candidate (at least on the left), when people like Elena Poniatowska kick up a public fuss (she was photographed holding a sign saying “NO Social Encounter” at the same press conference where the proposed cabinet members were announced) and the actress/feminist/political organizer Jesusa Rodriguez walked out, there could be real trouble for a candidate who seemed unbeatable going into the election.

López Obrador, for all his populism, is socially conservative, so I’m not surprised he would consider taking in the small Social Encounter party. Same-sex marriage and liberalized abortion laws only came to Mexico City after his tenure as head of the government ended. Its widely acknowledged there was the political will and support to pass both measures, but during his tenure, they weren’t brought forward for fear of a backlash by conservatives that would interfere with his own presidential ambitions (and those of the then powerful PRD) as well as AMLO’s own personal reluctance to support the measures.

This is a strange election. With the left joining the right to fight the centerists (who turned to the right to find a centerist who will stay in the center) on one hand, while fending off the left on the other, and the left is courting the far right, perhaps we need to stop talking about where anyone is in the outfield, and start asking “who’s on first? And what’s on second?”

Will Canada have to subsidize the cartels?

13 December 2017

So, Canada is gonna sell it’s own marijuana next year, at what they say are below-market prices.  Although the rationale is undercutting the black market, and ending smuggling,  Canadian consumption far outstrips production … only about 30% of domestic consumption is domestically grown.  So where is the other 70% to come from?

I don’t really care what Canadians do, but wonder if the country can provide enough for its domestic market, or whether it will be forced to exploit our Mexican one. Yeah, I understand the Canadians produce quite a bit, but they have a short growing season, and … correct me if I’m wrong… they grow a lot in energy-hogging grow houses. We have two growing seasons here, effectively all of it for export (illegally). However, the areas where marijuana is grown are also areas short of water, and marijuana uses a lot more water than our traditional food crop, corn (240 gallons per pound, v 120 gallons per pound of corn).

California? Canadians are going to have to deal with the higher labor costs there, as well as the water problem.

Add to the legal issues in Mexico (solvable only in theory… unfair agricultural export/import policies under NAFTA are a hot button issue now, and only going to get more so as we go into our presidential campaign this coming year).

How they’re going to work out legal exports is something to ponder. I don’t know if any more Canadian companies would even be welcome here . . . Hate to tell those nice people way up north, but throughout Latin America, Canadian firms are considered the pits when it comes to human rights abuses and unfair labor practices.   And, given the history of foreign exploitation in the agricultural export business in Latin America over the centuries (sugar,coffee,bananas, etc.), I am a little fearful of what will happen when “big ag” moves into the marijuana market.

I’m sure the plan was thought through on the consumer end, but on the producer end, I have my doubts.


Eppur se mueve… or the Primate directive

7 December 2017

It’s official.  Norberto Rivera, Primate of Mexico  is finally going.  He is, to no one’s surprise, being replaced by Carlos Aguilar Retes, Bishop of Tlalnepantla , who only received his red hat 14 months ago.  Aguilar’s surprise elevation was widely seen as a sign of Pope Francis’ dissatisfaction with Rivera’s elitist style and his too-chummy relationship with Carlos Salinas and the political class… what the political left here refers to as the “mafia of power”.

While the new Primate is said to be personally close to Enrique Peña Nieto (he assisted Peña Nieto in untangling the impediments to his second marriage), he doesn’t carry the baggage that Rivera brought in with him when he first came to the Metropolitan Cathedral in 1995.  As Elena Reina reported for El País [Madrid] on Aguilar’s elevation to the Cardinalate:

Aguilar has been an important religious actor in the country. He was president of both the Mexican and Latin American Episcopate. “When he was president of the episcopate his relations with Rivera were very bad. Rivera comes from a crudely triumphalist Church , which wants to aggressively influence public debate, resorting to strong statements and even blackmail. [Aguilar] Retes is more sophisticated in political terms, is not [he and Rivera] are so different ideologically, but that he is more audacious in the use of politics, “says Bernardo Barranco, the Mexican sociologist specializing in religious matters.

It’s impossible not to see the Primate as a political player, especially with a watershed election coming up. While Rivera and the “old guard” churchmen were bending the laws on clerical participation in politics to back conservative and neo-liberal candidates, and it can be expected tha Aguilar’s own politics veers towards the rights, he is known as a consensus builder, which would be to the Church’s advantage in a time of social and political transformation. As de facto head of the Mexican Church, his elevation to the Metropolitan Archdiocese signals Rome’s support for a more pluralistic and flexible Church, responsive to the people and not the elites… but one more willing to engage in the political and social arena.

Plato, Bertrand Russell, Pablo Escobar, Jesus, and AMLO

5 December 2017

Mexican political commentators just love to splash around their erudition. Defending AMLO’s remarks about possibly considering an amnesty for those involved in the narcotics export trade, Federico Arreola

How did I get dragged into all this?

( manages to drag in Plato, Karl Popper, and Bertrand Russell to build his defense of the Morena candidate. You can read the whole thing here, but what it comes down to is guys like Plato (as explained by Popper and Russell) are raising issues not so much because they see their suggestion as the one and only means to an end, but because they are opening a dialog.

And, given the responses from the usual suspects to that “dialog opening” suggestion on who to proceed with the “drug and violence” issue, it doesn’t sound like too many political figures outside AMLO’s camp want to even consider alternatives.  PAN chair Ricardo Anaya dismissed AMLO’s talk of amnesty as “loco”.  He expanded just a bit, referring to Colombia’s “amnesty” for Pablo Escobar as proof that it wouldn’t work… although one badly considered plan, under other circumstances, hardly counts as proof no plan would work.  Lord Russell would dismiss that bit of illogic with a sneer.

OK, so prison wasn’t so bad for me…

Margarita Zavala (Mrs. Felipe “indicted by the world court for genocide” Calderón) said she preferred criminals to go to jail.  Okey dokie.  I suppose building prisons to house the estimated 400,000 Mexicans directly tied to the narcotics industry in one way or another is a public works initiative.  Points for thinking outside the box, an finally coming up with some kind of policy initiative in her lackluster campaign for the Presidency.

Mexico City’s mayor (and possible Citizens’ Front candidate for President), Miguel Angel Mancera, frets that an amnesty means that one has sanctioned the whole business, and would effectively legalize organized crime:

Amnesty means a law of oblivion, a law of forgiveness, and the truth is that this would sanction behavior related to drug trafficking… it would stop being a crime.

I donno. Mancera states the obvious, that amnesty means a law of oblivion (at least as far as the state is concerned), but I don’t see that it sanctions the actions by any means. José López Portillo was in no way sanctioning guerilla uprisings when he sent an amnesty bill to Congress in 1978, nor was Carlos Salinas justifying the Zapatistas in his January 1994 amnesty decree.

And, naturally, the heads of the various military branches all poo-pooed the idea… even when pointed out that some of them might be eligible for amnesty.

I’m no Benito Juarez, but so what?

But, my favorite objection came from PRD’s Ángel Ávila Romero. Ávila Romero rejects the idea, not because it might not be legal (although it apparently would, and apparently does have precedent) but because it is … for lack of a better term… too Jesusy.

…forgiveness comes from a religious concept that is applied to the state. Mexico is a secular state. Juarez separated religion from politics because mixing the two can cause social polarization.

Not a bad argument really, though I recall Juarez (a former seminarian) forgiving and forgetting a lot of French soldiers and imperial hangers-on after Maximiliano was taken care of. Did he slip and think of Jesus? Or maybe Maimonides (“Better 99 guilty go free, than an innocent man wrongly suffer)? Or Carlos Salinas?