Sunday, February 27, 2011

PRD internal battle update, in mercifully brief,bullet-point form

* After Alejandro Encinas made it clear he would follow AMLO on his "leave of absence," from the PRD, AMLO made it clear that "these are times of definitions, and the same applies to Encinas."

* AMLO said if Encinas will not join his "movement" lead a PT-Convergencia candidacy, another candidate will replace him.

* Encinas has declared that it would be up to the party organs to decide who the candidate will be. Will that also include respecting the outcome of the upcoming citizen poll on the alliances?

* Twenty-eight out 32 state branches of the PRD rallied around national party president Jesús Ortega, demanding respect for the decisions of its national council.

* Many state branches openly criticized AMLO's complete lack of respect for the decisions of said organs; the Oaxacan PRD went as far as to call AMLO a "traitor and a defamer" for his recent actions.

* The IDN faction, led by the infamous Bejarano-Padierna couple, said it would take the PRD to the TEPJF electoral tribunal for breaking the party statutes - quite ironic given that if there is any corriente within the PRD which does exactly as it pleases and ignores votes it loses, its the IDN.

* IDN, which like AMLO always seem to know what "the people" want, said it would not participate in the planned vote over the possible PAN-PRD alliance. Why bother actually asking the people?

* Jesús Ortega, PRD leader, asked, "Do you remember the famous Juanito of Iztapalapa? You can't treat Alejandro Encinas this way. Or anyone.... this is symptomatic of authoritarian behavior. You cannot say that, 'I am the State,' 'I am the party,' 'I am the truth' - it is not like that in politics. He should calm down."

* And finally, perhaps the most newsworthy item: Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas declared, during the presentation-promotion of his recent book (more on that later), that AMLO should "take charge of the party, of the designation of a candidate for the governorship of Mexico State, and of designating a presidential candidate for 2012," in order to avoid a party rupture. The proposal is so unrealistic it that for now I'll leave it without comments.

* Asked about 2012, Cárdenas responded, "I don't know what I will do in 2012."

PRI to move HQ to Michoacán: Push for wresting the state from the PRD

The president-elect of PRI, Humberto Moreira, announced that starting on July 4 (the day after the crucial election in Mexico State, and to a lesser degree Nayarit and Coahuila), the PRI's will move and take up camp in Morelia, Michoacán, ahead of that state's gubernatorial election the coming Nov. 13.

This represents quite a shift from that of outgoing PRI leader Beatriz Paredes, who was accused of neglecting the Michoacán PRI in favor of other states and regions. Clearly, Moreira now thinks the PRI has a chance of taking the state, whose elections will be the last in 2011, and the last before the presidential election in 2012. It's significance is obvious: Michoacán is not only the home state of President Felipe Calderón; it is also very much the "cradle" of the PRD, certainly of cardenismo and neocardenismo, and winning Michoacán would be a hugely significant boost for the PRI and a blow to the left.

Yet in spite of Moreira's hopes, I don't see that happening.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Convergencia infighting in Mexico State

The Mexico State branch of the party Convergencia is in deep trouble: Massive internal conflicts and infighting among its factions, though over issues that have little to do with ideology.

On the national level, Convergencia is nominally one of the staunchest defenders of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, chiefly due to the fact that the party was going electorally extinct but managed to save its party registry by attaching itself to AMLO's movement. Yet in Mexico State, the party has notably voted with the PRI and Enrique Peña Nieto on a range of occasions, perhaps most infamously when it even backed the vote in the state legislature over the Ley Peña that recently skewed the electoral playing field in favor of the Mexico State governor. One may only speculate in what the party got in return.

In any case, the national party appointed Alejandro Chanona a special delegate to intervene in the state branch, which adamantly opposes any alliance with the PAN, aligning it perfectly, yet again, with the interests of Enrique Peña Nieto.

Breakin' the law: Jalisco gov. Emilio González Márquez "illegal propaganda"

The general council of Mexico's Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) declared that Jalisco Governor Emilio González Márquez broke the country's electoral law by turning ads announcing his "state of the state" into personal political propaganda. González Márquez, infamous for a range of drunken appearances and showering public money on the most arch-conservative sectors of the Catholic church, is also on a quixotic quest to gain the presidential nomination of PAN.

Given the rules under which IFE operates, however, it cannot penalize the governor with a fine, as no legislation exists that stipulates the actual penalty for public servants breaking the law, but IFE did send the case over to the Auditoría Superior of Jalisco state to revise the case and possibly sanction the governor. Don't hold your breath that it will. 

Porfirio Muñoz Ledo: So be it if PRD disappears

Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, a political acrobat par excellance who has been a member of or campaigned for virtually every one of Mexico's parties, and returned from obscurity when he latched onto the post-2006 movement of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said of the PRD that the "time had come" for the party to fold:

"There is no risk; if the PRD disappears, nothing will happen to this country - I renounced in 1999; the country, that's another thing."

Yes, the "country" certainly survived Muñoz Ledo leaving the PRD in 1999. Indeed, let's recall what happened: He resigned when he lost out both nomination to be mayor of Mexico City as well as to be the PRD's presidential candidate, then lined up behind the candidacy of Vicente Fox and PAN, for which he was awarded a plum ambassadorial position in Europe, which of course makes a mockery of his current "radical" stances and opposition to a PAN electoral alliance.

Yes, parties come and go; PRD itself is only 22 years old, and maybe, though I doubt it, the current crisis of the party will be mortal. Yet the party remains nonetheless the largest party of the left in Mexico; it has played a key role in the Mexican political transition, and continues to be a serious governing party in municipalities and states throughout Mexico. A recent editorial in El Universal made a solid run-down of the importance of a "strong and united" PRD for Mexican democracy.

I also want to add that the PRD is the only real left party in Mexico: The Convergencia, and certainly the party to which Muñoz Ledo now belongs, the Partido del Trabajo, or "workers party" - a misnomer if there ever was one -  are not left parties, but highly opportunistic parties that turn their cape wholly to the wind wherever they can reap benefits from it. Without a serious leftwing political party in Mexico, I don't think it is an exaggeration to posit that much of Mexico's current social conflicts might explode and turn violent, unless channeled through the PRD.

As for Porfirio Muñoz Ledo, his political relevance has far since vanished, and also apparently his once-sharp political insights; he would be better advised to use his federal deputy seat for something constructive rather than calling for the destruction of Mexico's only democratic leftwing party.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Eduardo Galeano honored: Mexico, "victim of the hypocrisy of the narcosystem"

The great Eduardo Galeano received the 1808 Medal in Mexico City Wednesday. Expressing gratitude for Mexico's sheltering of thousands of refugees from the murderous dirty wars of the hemisphere, such as his native Uruguay, the writer of "Open Veins of Latin America" noted the following of Mexico's current narco "war"  (out of respect for Galeano, I won't even try to mangle the words of this poet):
“Y en estas horas duras, México está recibiendo veladas amenazas del gran hermano del norte que parece que quiere venir a salvar a este país de la violencia y del caos, y eso corresponde a la tradición mesiánica del hermano del norte que a lo largo de casi toda su vida independiente se ha consagrado a esa tarea, al parecer encomendada por Dios, de salvar a los países que necesitan su ayuda. Me parece muy peligroso, porque en la experiencia esa ayuda ha sembrado al mundo de dictaduras militares, ha convertido a Irak en un manicomio y está convirtiendo a Afganistán en un vasto cementerio"
 And, to be sure, from the also soccer fanatic:
“A mí me parecen peligrosos todos los mesianismos, tengan el color político que tengan y provengan de la religión de donde provengan. El único mesianismo que no parece peligroso es el mesianismo de Lionel Messi, el mejor jugador de futbol del mundo.” 

"Other figures may emerge"

With the risk of boring readers with yet another repetition of an oft-noted point: Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas will seek to be president in 2012, or to place his son as the candidate.

Interviewed in regards to PRD's most recent crisis, which is really just a reenactment of the perennial fault line that has divided the party for more than two decades - to be an institutionalized party, or a personalistic movement-party - Cuauhtémoc had the following to say, in his typical cardenasspeak:

"for 2012, other figures might surge that could become a unifying factor in the unity of the widest and most progressive force."

Gee, I wonder who Cuauhtémoc might have in mind.

TEPJF laments: Still no way to punish public servants for interference

The TEPJF, Mexico's highest electoral tribunal, and IFE, the electoral institute responsible for arranging Mexico's federal elections, are bound, to be sure, by the created for them by congress. The president of the court, María del Carmen Alanís, again lamented a serious shortcoming, ahead of the 2012 presidential elections:

Despite the 2007-08 electoral reform, still no rules are in place to punish a public official that breaches the electoral laws, enshrined in the constitution.  This includes the president. While it is not allowed for public servants to interfere in elections - last year, to recall, Calderón was chastised for what was deemed to be political propagandizing - there simply is no penalty stipulated, except if use of public money is detected. With Vicente Fox' blatantly illegal intermission in 2006 also alive and well in many's memory, this is indeed quite remarkable.

Del Carmen Alanís therefore calls for yet another electoral reform to alter this. Good luck getting that through before the very important 2011 elections; even for 2012 I remain pessimistic. Yet should the issue come up with regards to the state elections this summer - whether Peña Nieto, Calderón, or any other key functionary for that matter, do openly and blatantly interfere in the elections - political will may be conjured.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

He won't resign

AMLO declared he won't resign from the PRD, despite his theatrical "leave-of-absence" request.
Why not? Because "Salinas y Calderón would rub their hands."

And if he takes a "leave of absence" from the PRD, campaigning for PT and Convergencia and thereby splitting the left vote, they won't?

AMLO's logic can only be understood when one accepts that his political project is exclusively a personal one: No one else can lead the required transformation of Mexico but him - period.

Bleak 75-year birthday of Confederación de Trabajadores de México

The PRI-aligned Mexican confederation of labor, CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México), is turning 75 years today, yet it is hardly a happy celebration. The organization, though still the largest labor confederation in Mexico, has in terms of membership decline been on decline since the 1980s. Founded during the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas, CTM was for the longest a key source of PRI votes, though this corrupt and charro organization functioned more as a pillar of the regime than as an advocate for workers's rights.

Its membership is reportedly down to around 400,000 workers, down from a million workers. This is also reflected in its quota of federal deputies - down to 10 from a height of 40.

In the priísta tradition of "lifelong" leaders who literally lead these charro organizations until their last breath, its current leader, Joaquín Gamboa Pascoe, 83 years old, was just reelected last year as the CTM's general secretary.

Quite symbolical of its decline and loss of influence: There won't even be a a grand ceremony or assembly celebrating its three-quarter-of-a-hundred history.

Here is a recent collaborative academic investigation of CTM, edited by UNAM researcher Javier Aguilar García, entitled Historia de la CTM 1936-2006. El movimiento obrero y el estado mexicano.

Final recourse rejected: Francisco Olvera governor-elect in Hidalgo

As expected, the Mexican federal electoral tribunal, TEPJF, rejected the last complaints by the Hidalgo Nos Une coalition of PAN-PRD and its candidate Xóchitl Gálvez, who had demanded the annulation of the 2010 gubernatorial election in Hidalgo.

As magistrate Salvador Nava noted, the claims were "eloquent and heated, but without effective legal grounds."

Magistrate Pedro Esteban Penagos accepted that several of the complaints might have caused the annulment of the election, but that they were not well enough documented.

Gálvez said she would accept the tribunal's decision, as did the Hidalgo branch of the PRD.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

PRD reacts to AMLO's "leave of absence"; AMLO would "step aside" for Ebrard

PRD rejected AMLO's request from a "leave of absence" - so that he can again campaign for other parties to the detriment of PRD - and quite logically so, as this mechanism simply doesn't exist in the party statutes. The party openly lamented AMLO's decision and asked that he reconsider, as many leading members also criticized the decision. National deputy Jesús Zambrano put it most starkly:
"If he doesn't want to serve in the party, then say so clearly, and don't go around with ambiguities... It seems like the desire of Andrés Manuel is that the PRD is under his command, or otherwise he won't help the party. Either he has a party at his liking, or he won't be in the PRD... why don't he say it clearly." 
(In the PRD, notably, its national political commission also voted in favor, 9 to 3, of having the poll in Mexico State over the possible PAN-PRD alliance, which AMLO adamantly opposes).

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, PRD's founder and once-political godfather of AMLO, also opposed the move.
Notably, though, AMLO did not succeed in his plan to have Alejandro Encinas do the same thing; Encinas' respect for the party is supremely higher than that of AMLO. While I doubt that an imminent AMLO-Encinas break is imminent, this is nonetheless highly significant: Should Encinas leave as well, the party would receive a truly tremendous blow.

Finally, Marcelo Ebrard also lamented AMLO's move, as it clearly will damage the party, and emphasized the importance of a single 2012 presidential candidacy for the left. In an interview, AMLO did declare, though, that if Ebrard will become the PRD's candidate, he would not only accept it, but to campaign for him.

I find that very, very hard to believe.

On Calderón's proposed tax breaks for education

Last week, president Felipe Calderón issued a presidential decree where a family can deduct from their taxes the cost of tuition in private schools, from the pre-school up until the pre-college preparatory school level.

For those who can afford to send their children to private schools, it's clearly a gain, and this will be popular with many sectors of the middle class. Yet it will also cost around 1.1-1.3 billion pesos in lost tax revenue, and as such is clearly a subsidy for the the rich on the expense of the poor - as simple as that.

Marcel Ebrard soon responded that rather than this tax break, the government should create a national program of scholarships for students of low means in secondary and pre-college levels - essentially implementing on a national programs the highly popular programs of Mexico City. If the goal is to reduce income differences and give the poor a push to get out of poverty - rather than, say, winning the middle class for the 2012 election (PRD Senator Carlos Navarrete denounced it as electioneering, and rightly so) - Ebrard's proposal makes much more sense.

Now, UNAM rector José Narro Robles also came out against the decree, pointing out how much these 1.3 billion pesos could have helped out in terms of improving public access to education on the university level for Mexico's poor.

According to the Instituto Mexicano de Ejecutivos de Finanzas (IMEF), those likely to benefit are families with incomes around 50,000-100,000 pesos per month - hardly those with the most pressing needs in Mexico.

Yet given the outrageous comments from Ernesto Cordero yesterday, where he argued that one could well live on 6,000 pesos and still afford a house and a car in Mexico, one might seriously question how connected to reality some PAN policy makers really are.

PT in Mexico City signs and accord and breaks it days later; Ricardo Monreal approves

Recently, the PRD, the PT, and Convergencia agreed on a common candidate for mayor of Mexico City, rejecting both running with separate candidates, as well as an alliance with PAN.

How little it took for the "workers party" - a gross misnomer for this quintessentially opportunistic outfit once founded by Salinas in the early 90s - to break the deal. The PT a few days ago presented its own candidate for mayor, Ricardo Monreal Ávila. It lead to a bit of internal turmoil as well, as some petistas noted that the postulation of Monreal indeed broke their fresh promise.

Monreal, in any regard, said he appreciated the gesture. He is, notably, a former governor of Zacatecas, who was a PRI member until 1999, then joined the PRD, and then ditched the party for the PT.

Clearly there is precedent for this: Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, to be sure, was once governor of Michoacán, and then became Mexico City mayor in 1997. Yet to put it bluntly: Monreal, you are no Cárdenas.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Four-and-a-half billion pesos: PRI left massive debt in state of Sinaloa

Yet another PRI governor leaves his state with a crushing debt:

Jesús Aguilar Padilla was the PRI governor of Sinaloa from 2005-2010; indeed, until position coalition candidate Mario López Valdez (Malova) won the Sinaloa gubernatorial election last summer, the state  had never switched hands from PRI.

Malova's administration now reveals that Aguilar Padilla left the state with debts of more than 4.5 billion pesos, in addition to a budget deficit of half a billion pesos.

The debts puts the state's finance in danger of collapse, according to Armado Villarreal Ibarra, secretary of state finances.

Aguirre promises 60% of positions for PRD, and will join the party

Ángel Aguirre Rivero, governor-elect of Guerrero, appeared at the national council meeting of PRD this weekend, where he even declared he would join the party as a member - in contrast to outgoing Governor Zeferino Torreblanca, a businessman who ran as a PRD candidate yet neither joined the party or in the end governed according to its principles. 

As for Aguirre, his statements seemed to go against those who merely dismissed his victory as one for the PRI and not the PRD, given Aguirre´s admittedly very recent membership in the party. Like scores of politicians before him, he ditched the party when it failed to nominate him for its gubernatorial candidate. 
Yet Aguirre declared that 60 percent of the government positions would go to the PRD, including the crucial portfolios of Attorney General; secretary of health; and secretary of social development. 

More important still, he made it emphatically clear that he will back the PRD in 2012 (despite his earlier friendship with Enrique Peña Nieto), whoever will win the party´s nomination. 

Martha Dalia Gastélum : Marcelo Ebrard's candidate for the PRD presidency

Martha Dalia Gastélum declared her interest in the presidency of the PRD this weekend. This would not be a bad for the party, and would be quite logical in several ways: She is identified today with the relatively new faction Izquierda Renovadora en Movimiento, which responds to Marcelo Ebrard, and as such is not tied directly to either the AMLO camp or the Ortega camp.

Gastélum was earlier part of the social-democratic faction Foro Nuevo Sol, but left/was expelled from FNS when she did not support the candidacy of Alejandro Encinas to be president of the PRD, back in March 2008. On a personal note, I also had the chance to have a long interview with her around that time for a couple of hours, and she struck me as a most reasonable person, highly analytical, and very balanced.

 Expect AMLO's people to oppose her strongly, though - while not belonging to Ortega's group, she did run with him in 2008 as candidate for secretary general. And more important: If Ebrard can have her elected PRD president, it will be a big boost for his quest to be the PRD's 2012 candidate.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

AMLO leaves the PRD

After years of threats and campaigning for other parties, finally AMLO took the logical step of leaving the PRD. The reason? The fact that his supporters lost the vote in the PRD's national council this weekend, when the party voted in favor of holding a referendum to ask its members whether to go in alliance with the PAN in Mexico State, or not.

Nor this time is the rupture - or rapture - complete, however. AMLO had long threatened to pedir licencia, or ask for a "leave of absence," disregarding, to be sure, that no such mechanism exist within the PRD or any other party: Either you are a member of the party, or you are not.

Be that as it may: The reason for AMLO's departure speaks volumes. You lose the vote, and you leave. And not only this: You lose a vote on whether to hold a vote among party members and solicit their opinions - AMLO had opposed holding such a referendum.

Mas claro que el agua no puede ser.

AMLO made the announcement in a meeting in Texcoco, where he was campaigning for Alejandro Encinas. Yet the decision appears to have caught the latter somewhat unawares, as Encinas seemed unsure of how to respond:
"A resolution such as the one that is raised before me goes far beyond the realm of personal decisions, as it involves a decision to break with the PRD and move toward a scenario of two candidates and two different projects in 2012."
Indeed it does. For the sake of PRD and the left, one can only hope that Encinas, upon this realization, will choose not to help this worst-case scenario come true.

The "citizen candidacy" debate

Senator José González Morfín, who is the head of PAN's group in the Senate, came out strongly in favor of "citizen candidacies," that is, candidates not emanating from parties, for elected office, and claimed PAN's 40-strong group of senators would back this.

González Morfín touch upon the conventional arguments: Yes, Mexicans have a constitutional right to be candidates, but are blocked from being so unless they go through a party; this is anti-democratic, etc.

The senator said PAN would back non-party, "citizen" candidates on all levels - mayors, deputies, senators, even the president. He criticized a proposal from PRI that went in the other direction, requiring 18 months of party membership before being allowed to run for office.

In a time of (or perennial?) discontent with political parties, such proposals do strike a chord and certainly warrant a hearing. But for all the talk of the glories of a "citizen," non-party candidate for the presidency, no mention is made of the potential negative implications of this.

For one, in Mexico, one can imagine a situation where a "citizen" candidate, riding a wave of anti-party sentiments, can simply, through means legal or not, "buy" him or herself the presidency. What if the narcos decide to postulate a candidate? El Chapo throwing his billions behind a person promising to put an end to the drug war and withdraw the army? It may sound and be far fetched, but let's keep in mind that parties, for all their flaws, do function as some kind of filter here.

But let us also look to Latin America: What have been the consequences of these "citizen" candidates? The cases of Alberto Fujimori and Fernando Collor de Mello, non-party presidents of Peru and Brazil, leap to mind. Even if the candidate would be a competent democrat, they would face likely problems of not having legislative backing from a reliable party. And what if they are outright criminals like Fujimori and Collor de Mello, elected on what they claimed to be a mandate to rule as they pleased? The results were not pretty.

By all means: There are arguments to be made for allowing citizen candidates. But so far there has been virtually no mention of the potential pitfalls of "anti-party" candidates, which need to be brought into the debate.

Toward a defining moment for PRD: Party national council votes YES to vote on alliance

129-72. That is the result of the vote held this weekend in PRD's national council, where a majority favors  having a vote among party members to settle the question of whether or not to go into alliance with the PAN in upcoming gubernatorial elections.

By extension, it is also a measure of strength between the moderate social democratic camp in the PRD, and the anti-institutional movement advocates of AMLO's supporters. These are not wholly coterminous - there are, of course, very valid ideological arguments to oppose an alliance with PAN - but given the polarization and larger division within the party over whether to be a more institutionalized European-style social democratic party, or whether to be a much more personalistic movement-party around AMLO, the vote essentially reflects the strength of these two groups.

It also reflects the inherent contradictions of the "populist" and "radical" sectors around AMLO, which so often claim to represent the "people" and party base against a purported hijacked party leadership, yet which in the end opposed actually leaving this decision to the party members. The logic may be summarized as follows: why bother to ask when one already "knows" the will of the people? It also exposes them as rather than representing the people, to have actually fear of their opinions.

The "G-8" group, consisting of factions loyal to AMLO, already announced they would not participate in the vote over the alliance. This begs the question: Why did they even engage in the vote in PRD's national council, when they had already decided to not participate? Because these group, whose largest component is the IDN led by Dolores Padierna, does not respect the majority decisions, e.g democracy, of the party. If it loses a vote, rather than to accept the outcome, it simply decides to ignore it. In the long run, as the PRD seeks to establish itself as a modern, democratic, liberal party of the center-left, would the PRD simply be better off without them?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Quintana Roo: The case of Basilia Ucán Nah

The case of Basilia Ucan Nah stinks. The Mayan woman, who understands no Spanish and does not read or write in her own language, was arrested in 2007 for pimping, and received 12 years. Yet there seems to be absolutely no evidence tying her to any crime, and every witness has come forward to reject their earlier testimonies, which they claim were forced after heavy intimidation by the state police. Rather, Ucan Nah might have been fingered and locked up for not paying a bribe to the judge of Felipe Carrillo Puerto, Ramón Jesús Aldaz Bencomo.

Now, finally, the governor of the state, Félix González Canto (whose own children are magically lucky), have requested more details from the case from the state attorney general, Francisco Alor Quezada. In the meantime, Ucan Nah is in her fourth year in prison.

Here is a press kit in English from the human rights center PRODH Miguel Agustín PRO Juárez.

AMLO and democracy, follow-up

AMLO's increasingly shrill rhetoric against the planned consultation among PRD and PAN members whether to accept an electoral alliance or not, is a clear sign that he is far from sure the alliance will be rejected.
It also exposes AMLO as a man who despite his protestations of listening to "the people," has very little regard for the opinions for the popular will when they contradict his own:
We will not participate (in the consultation) because it is a farce. I have information that Calderón himself is organizing it. Yes, the same who stole the Presidency of the Republic!
He also accused one of the organizations behind the poll (PRD asked impartial external NGOs to arrange so as to avoid any accusations of a fixed vote), Alianza Cìvica, of being tied to PAN, offering no evidence. Also:
"We are not going to participate Why? To make it easy for them? No way. We don't want anymore pretense."
Why participate? Well, AMLO could prove that he really is true to his word in terms of listening to "the people": If the PRD and PAN primary voters want an alliance, or if they don't, he could simply state, "I'll respect whatever the outcome is."

Yet this is not AMLO's modus operandi. Rather, he simply discredits the poll beforehand, to be on the safe side, in case the outcome wouldn't favor him. If it does favor him, it is simply a win-win situation.

There are very legitimate reasons to oppose the alliances, as there are legitimate reasons to back them. One may laud AMLO for his steadfast opposition to them (after 2006, that is), or castigate him. Yet deserving of the label "democrat," he certainly is not.

Forty members of SME attack a single CFE worker

In the Cuauhtémoc borough in Mexico City, a worker for the CFE, the state-owned company supplying most of Mexico with electricity , was attacked by around 40 members of the SME, the Mexican electrician union. The offense of the CFE worker? Being a CFE worker.

The SME contingent first hurled objects at his truck, then beat the poor man as he sought to flee, until he found refuge at a fire station, where he firemen protected him.

Forty men on one fellow state worker. I don't know what annoys me the most: Reading all the stories about how these SME thugs constantly attack people and property, or how the "radical" left keep praising them as if they were the heroes of the working class.

And the irony of ironies: Despite having been courted in particular by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the SME now seem ready to cast their lot with Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico State; AMLO even had to exhort them "not to get confused" by Peña Nieto's apparent offer to back the creation of a new company for them.

Lesson from the teacher? Kick him while he's down

From Milenio, the following photo of a teacher in action:
That's Sigfrido Olmedo,  subdirector of the Technical Secondary School No. 1 in the capital of Oaxaca. He is seen here kicking the Oaxaca secretary of public security, Marco Tulio López Escamilla, while he's already down. López Escamilla had walked over to Olmedo and other demonstrators to try to have a dialogue with them, clearly with little success. Olmedo, the teacher, was recognized by his own students.on Facebook.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Why not just steal it outright? Magic luck in Quintana Roo lottery

This is truly some inconsequential news, but it is too hard to resist commenting on it. In Chetumal, capital of the state of Quintana Roo, the state DIF (a social assistance association of sorts) held a raffle, where the prizes included a car and a house. Quintana Roo is headed by Governor Félix González Canto (PRI); Chetumal is headed by Mayor Andrés Ruiz Morcillo.

You'd never guess who won the lottery... the car and the house go to.... the children of governor González Canto and Mayor Ruiz Morcillo! Now isn't that just extraordinary; what are the odds of this?!

Pretty damn high it turns out, especially if the notary in charge of the raffle is the sister-in-law of the government secretary.

Pinche ladrones sinvergüenzas, que chinguen a su madre - why do you even bother - steal it outright and spare us the trouble.

Chinese government-orchestrated repression in Mexico City?

Quite an unusual piece of news: Senator René Arce accused employees of the Cuauhtémoc borough in Mexico City of harassing practitioners of Falun Gong, following a request by the Chinese embassy.

It seems the embassy had sought to pay some local political boss to harass the religious group; Most Mexicans have very likely never heard of the Falun Gong; this brutal and stupid attack, seemingly ordered by the embassy, will not only create more awareness of the group, but further expose the authoritarianism of the Chinese.

Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas honored by Notre Dame University

Three-time presidential candidate and PRD founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas was honored by Notre Dame University Wednesday, for his leadership in democracy promotion. Cárdenas received the Prize for Distinguished Public Service from the university, which lauded him as a "statesman and defender of democracy." Hard to argue against that.

Cárdenas used the occasion to call for the replacement of neoliberlism with an economic project that emphasises growth with equity. He also called for replacement of the army in law enforcement by an elite police corps especially designed to fight organized crime.

TEPJF verdict rejects Xóchitl Gálvez' complaint: Hidalgo election to be valid

Finally, the TEPJF, Mexico's highest electoral tribunal, presented a verdict regarding Xóchitl Gálvez' major complaint against the Hidalgo gubernatorial election of July 2010: The tribunal rejected it as unfounded.

While TEPJF has yet to rule on another complaint lodged by Gálvez against winning candidate José Francisco Olvera, this pretty much settles the issue, as it is highly unlikely now that the Hidalgo election will not end in the outcome of Olvera belatedly assuming the governorship.

Specifically, Olvera was accused of a false start - of illegally jump starting his campaign for governor by holding a mass rally in a bullring. Yet the judges ruled that as this was technically only for PRI supporters, it did not amount to actually campaigning. The judges also rejected two more complaints on use of government resources to promote the candidate, and "black propaganda," thought the "false start" complaint was Gálvez' most important card.

Note that Gálvez' political trajectory has hardly come to an end or even slowed down; she will likely be a mayoral candidate in the upcoming Hidalgo state elections. Then, many see her even in Los Pinos.

More on Oaxaca disturbances: Who's the aggressor, Cué or SNTE section 22?

In Oaxaca, the "dissident" Sección 22 of the SNTE teachers union, which was engaged in violent clashes with the police, arranged a march through the streets of Oaxaca city that according to its own reports drew 70,000 (according to police 20,000), and demanded an apology from governor Gabino Cué, and the resignation of three members of his cabinet.

The demands were ostensibly due to the violent attack on Section 22 during President Felipe Calderón's visit here two days ago, where 20 people were injured, including 15 police.

Repeat: Out of 20 injured, three quarters were police, which were violently attacked by the "teachers.

I put this in quotation marks as it is well known, as Carlos Marín also notes today, a big chunk of them have never set foot in a classroom yet remain on the payrolls of the state of Oaxaca - a state that, to be sure, ranks near the bottom in terms of educational achievement. Yesterday's march certainly didn't help in this regard: Given that their teachers were busy marching, school was canceled yesterday for Oaxaca's 1.2 million students.

Be that as it may: I also noted another story on the violent clashes demonstrators-police, from Milenio. In a rough translation, here is a section of it that I found particularly telling:
The event that was scheduled with President Calderón at the Government Palace lasted barely half an hour. At that time, the head of state public security, Marco Tulio Lopez, tried to mediate, but was attacked. He carried a shield and tried to get close to have a dialogue, but he was disarmed and beaten. Protesters covered with scarves seized and held him. His bodyguards tried to rescue him, which started a second clash that left more injured, including the former member of APPO, Marcelino Coache. During the clash the teachers took three policewomen hostage, who were moved to one of their union headquarters. Later they were rescued by police. Some police cars were destroyed, and a bus was burned. 
Azael Santiago Chepi, head of Section 22, argued that their demonstration on Tuesday was pacific, but that  they were attacked by the police. With three police hurt to every wounded teacher, for being school teachers, they sure knew how to defend themselves.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New Oaxaca disturbances: The smell of a rat

Something doesn't add up in Oaxaca.

Yesterday, teachers of the dissident Section 22 of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (SNTE), clashed with federal and state police in Oaxaca city, site of a visit by President Felipe Calderón. Notably, the teachers (if that is what they are) loudly attacked the government of Gabino Cué for its "aggression," and declared it would launch a strike, blockades, "take" and occupy the government house, and so forth.

This just doesn't make sense. This rush to denounce Gabino Cué smells of a rat. For one, most of the police were federal, and were there due to Calderón's visit. To pin the tag of "depressor" on Cué seems really out of place.

Second, yesterday I watched Milenio TV, a very decent canal of live Mexican television news (if you can stand the usual sexism of Mexican TV: Weather ladies dressed like prostitutes). From these images, rather than a group of peaceful demonstrators being attacked by cruel police, the picture actually looked quite the opposite: The police were cowering behind shields, while very aggressive demonstrators were attacking them, hurling objects, and setting police and other cars on fire, and including a huge bus.

I don't mean in any way to downplay the very serious and recurrent issue of police brutality, especially from the Federal police and the EMP, the presidential guard, which has been on display far too often. In this case, the demonstrators might, for instance, well have been angered by previous police actions. But from what I saw in the televised images from Milenio, SNTE Sección 22 simply looked ready for a fight.

While their anger against Calderón would seem to stem from the recent decree that allows tax deduction for tuition for private schools - in effect, a subsidy of the middle and upper class - it seems to me the teacher union was simply too eager to take on the state government, which, as it were, only weeks ago declared it would eliminate the so-called aviadores from the state's pay rolls, or "teachers" who are teachers in name only yet still draw a salary from the state.

In Oaxaca, then, I think I smell a rat.

Mexico and the negation of reality

Early chroniclers of Mexico often noted that they had never been in a country where so often people spoke of the virtues and importance of following the law, yet that to such a remarkable degree went on to completely disregard it.

I find one parallel to this in the various interviews the past days with the PRI front runners to replace Enrique Peña Nieto as governor of Mexico: All deny the personal ambitions, as they are desperately jocking for positions behind the scenes, while they at the same time outwardly emphasize it really only is a case of what is best for the party and the state - no personal ambitions here!

Latest in the line of denial: Ricardo Aguilar, head of the PRI in the state:
Q: "Would you like to be a candidate?
A: "It is not a personal issue, as I have said before. At this point it will be whomever best suits the party, and best suits Mexico State."

Polls favor PRD-PAN alliance in Mexico state; vote to be held in a month

Luis Sánchez Jiménez, the very able leader of PRD in Mexico State, announced that the citizen poll to decide on a possible PRD-PAN alliance will be held in a month, between March 6-16.

The vote will be organized by Alianza Cívica and the NGO Propuesta Cívica. Sánchez Jiménez noted that a Feb. 1 IPSOS poll revealed that the mexiquenses back an alliance 45-31, with 24 undecided.

Note, though, that the vote will only be open to registered PAN and PRD members, not the society-at-large.
Sánchez Jiménez has declared the PRD in Mexico State, which supports a PRD-PAN alliance, will respect a loss in the poll. Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not made any similar promise, but on the contrary openly declared he will oppose an alliance in any case, despite all his rhetoric of listening to the "people."

Infighting among Mexican miners: Dissident miners union turns one year

A week ago, the national metal miners union, Sindicato Nacional Minero Metalúrgico "Napoleón Gómez Sada" turned one year. The union, led by Carlos Pavón, was formed by miners opposed to the leadership of Napoleón Gómez Urrutia (the son of Gómez Sada), who lives in self-imposed exile in Canada accused of embezzlement and is the nominal head of  Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Mineros, Metalurgicos y Similares de la Republica Mexicana (yes, that is the full name!), or SNTMMSRM for short. 

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia has been hailed as a hero standing up for miners right by his backers, which include Andrés Manuel López Obrador, though the reason for his exile is an arrest order for having misappropriated about 55 million dollars from a trust fund for the miners, following the privatization of the historic Cananea mine in 1989. Carlos Pavón as recently as Sunday accused him of fomenting destabilization and violence in Mexico through shock groups, and held  Gómez Urrutia responsible for the Pasta de Conchos mine disaster of February 2006.

Gómez Urrutia, unlike his father (whom the new dissident union is named after), has notably never worked a day as a miner but has lived his entire life in extraordinary luxury, to the chagrin of dissident workers. Yet he is also reviled by the infamous Grupo México, which also owns the Pasta de Conchos mine, where 65 workers died in a 2006 explosion. Grupo México has yet to find it worthwhile to retrieve their bodies, most of them still buried there, although they are the largest mining company in Mexico and the third largest in the world.

Carlos Pavón, formerly the union's secretary for political affairs, therefore set up a dissident union last year, and argues that the new union, now with 6,500 members, is to reach 10,000 shortly.

However, another dissident miner group, Alianza Minera Nacional (AMN), was already in existence, claiming 14,000 members, and AMN has in turn accused Carlos Pavón of betrayal and dividing the opposition to Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, whom the Mexican government has sought for years to be extradited to face charges.

As for Napito, or "Napo the Second" as Gómez Urrutia is often referred to, his days as leader of the Mexican miners may be coming to an end. The union leader certainly won't go quietly; nor should one expect the infighting among his dissidents to end anytime soon.

Aristegui's back at MVS

Well, not quite, though soon: In a joint communique, MVS Radio and Carmen Aristegui announced that the journalist will be back at the radio station the coming Jan. 21.

The joint statement, which can be read here, referred to demands from its listeners for her reinstatement, and moreover to its code of ethics, noting that an ombudsman would be appointed who will evaluate the station's content based on this code of ethics, which MVS radio had accused Aristegui of breaking. No apology was offered to Aristegui, which she had previously demanded.

I wonder if we'll ever know more about what led to her dismissal: Was any pressure coming from the presidential office of Felipe Calderón, or was this simply an independent decision by the company?

In any event: This is wonderful news.

Monday, February 14, 2011

It had to come: PRD leaders in cahoots with.... Salinas!

Sure enough: After having accused the current PRD leadership of every sin under the sun, AMLO managed to come up with the following invention, ahead the next reunion of PRD's national council:

"one should be afraid, because  as the leaders of the PRD have made alliances with Salinas, and Calderón, who knows what they will  decide [at the national council].

So the PRD leadership is now in cahoots with Carlos Salinas. Now we know. 

Samuel Ruiz

Courtesy of, here's a marvelous commentary by Emma Volonté on the great Samuel Ruiz. To paraphrase an old quip by Trotsky: If there were more men like Ruiz in the catholic church, I'd be a catholic too:
In January 2004, Samuel Ruiz wrote a pastoral letter in which he said: “The question that God puts to us at the end of our existence will be: What side were we on? Whom did we defend? Who did we choose? Questions that nobody, not even the powerful, can escape at the end of their life”.

Lázaro Cardenás Batel declines becoming PRD's new leader -why?

Lázaro Cárdenas Batel, son of Cuauhtémoc, grandson of El Tata, finally declared he will not be a candidate for the PRD presidency. In the cardenasspeak typical of his father, it is far from clear exactly why he will not do so. He mentioned his commitment to his current visiting position in the U.S., though that is hardly a new factor that came up. Moreover, he does, in an interview with El Universal, state that he will back Encinas in Mexico State, so presumably he will return well in time for the July 4 election there.

Two theses that have been put forth:
1) Batel had demanded at least a majority of positions on the PRD executive committee, and didn't get it (can't find the link right now for this one)
2)  According to the Transcendió off-the-record column in Milenio, he did not get a clear commitment from the supporters of  Andrés Manuel López Obrador that they would respect the institutional rules of the game in the party - above all, of course, with regards to the future presidential candidacy.

Note that these two unofficial reasons are, to be sure, not mutually exclusive.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

French diplomacy not what it was: Diplomatic spat reflects poorly on France

Everything about the "Cassez Case," that of French citizen Florence Cassez, arrested and sentenced to 60 years in prison for being a member of a gang of kidnappers, has been out of the ordinary.

Cassez, to recall, was captured in 2005 in an operation seemingly shown live on TV - seemingly, as it was later discovered that the operation was merely reenacted and that Cassez and the kidnapping gang had been apprehended two days earlier! It was quite possibly one of the stupidest acts carried out by Genaro García Luna's SSP or secretariat of public security, as it put the whole case into question: Was Cassez merely the stupidly naive girlfriend of the head of the kidnapping gang, or was she an active part of the gang's activities?

Mexican authorities argued the second version, and Cassez got 60 years. On Friday, Mexican judges rejected her lawyer's argument that her conviction was tainted by the authorities.

Without knowing anything of her guilt or lack thereof, France's reaction seems, to put it mildly, quite a stunning overreaction: Michèle Alliot-Marie, the French foreign minister strongly criticized the court's decision, calling it "deplorable," and threatened, as did other senior French officials, to boycott or cancel all cultural events involving Mexico in France, which was, irony of ironies, to be celebrating the "Year of Mexico." It seems, to put it mildly, an overreaction, a remarkably strong political offensive against the decision of another country's judiciary.

In Mexico, notably, prominent anti-kidnapping NGOs such as Isabel Miranda de Wallace''s Alto al Secuestro, Alejandro Martí's México SOS and María Elena Morera's Causa en Común, are convinced of Cassez' culpability and call on the French President, the mercurial Nicolas Sarkozy, to stay out of the case.

René Bejarano shows his movement's muscles.

Bejarano's back for sure - indeed, I am not entirely sure one can even argue he was really "gone."
While René Bejarano received a heavy blow following the video scandals of 2004, where a tape of Bejarano was shown on national TV where AMLO's personal secretary stuffed bags full of cash in illegal contributions, he simply relegated nominal control over his faction in the PRD, known now as Izquierda Democrática Nacional (IDN), to his wife Dolores Padierna, one of PRD's most controversial politicians (even AMLO vetoed her cnadidacy for a senator seat in 2006), who like her husband has been embroiled in a long list of scandals the past two decades or so.

Regardless, Bejarano kept somewhat quiet and keeping a relatively low profile, until the formation of a "new" "social movement, " Movimiento Nacional por la Esperanza (MNE) or the national movement of hope.

This weekend, MNE held a rally at the Monument to the Revolution in Mexico City, even drawing in high-profile AMLO loyalists such as national deputies of the PT,  Porfirio Muñoz Ledo and  Gerardo Fernández Noroña, and senator Ricardo Monreal. The latter two are currently fighting over AMLO's blessing for a Mexico City mayoral candidacy.

Note, though, that also high-profile backers of Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard shared the platform with the disgraced Bejarano, such as José Ángel Ávila, secretary of government, and Alejandra Barrales, head of the city legislature. Both of them as well want to be Mexico City mayor, and as such are seeking to woo Bejarano and his MNE, a clientelist, top-down "social movement" simulacrum. So, to be sure, do AMLO and Ebrard: Both seek the 2012 presidency, and Bejarano will sell his support to the highest bidder.

Family International, Christian pedophile sect, hiding in Nuevo León. Will authorities act?

La Jornada has a story in today's newspaper that is almost to the point of defying belief, had one not been so hardened, for lack of better word, by previous pedophile scandals predominantly in the catholic church:

Santiago, Nuevo León, is the sanctuary of Sara Kelley, real name Prisca Kelley, the author of what goes under the name of the "bible of pedophilia," a 762-page manual for pederasts. Kelley, a U.S. citizen, is a founder of "Children of God," known today as "Family International," a religious sect that apparently combines its version of christianity with the advocacy of pedophilia. Neighbors in Santiago are now warning that this sect is not only harboring Kelley, wanted for pederasty in several countries, but is continuing is "preaching" in the area, trying to ensnare more children for abuse. 

The obvious question: Why aren't Nuevo León authorities immediately arresting Kelley and the perverted psychopaths of the "Children of God?  The La Jornada article is not for the faint of heart; one can only hope it will draw more attention to this deranged cult and warn those in the area.

(Here's a Rolling Stones article on the Family International, from 2005)

PRD in Mexico City rejects 2012 PAN-PRD alliance for city mayor

Hardly a surprise, yet now it's official: The PRD's council in the federal district rejected a possible PAN-PRD alliance in Mexico City for the 2012 mayoral election. The PRD's council in Mexico City/Federal District is dominated by AMLO loyalists, but seems quite united nonetheless that the only possible alliance behind a candidate Mexico City, the main bastion of the PRD, is with the PT and Convergencia.

The PRD-DF also presented a 10-point strategic plan for 2011 to promote the party vote and build the organization ahead of 2012, notably also including the point "Support the actions of the Legitimate Government and the Movimiento de Renovación Nacional (Morena)," the latest name for AMLO's movement. Reports are circulating that Valencia Guzmán, the PRD's secretary general in Mexico City and regarded as close to Ebrard, is complaining that PRD-DF is openly backing AMLO's movement, presumably also materially - and, by extension, AMLO's 2012 presidential bid, to the detriment of Ebrard.

In my eyes, however, the rupture between Ebrard and AMLO has already happened.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Ronald Reagan and Mexico

In line with Counterpunch's corrective, via MexFiles, to the nauseatingly hagiographic portrayals of Ronald Reagan these days - the excellent recent pieces in The Real News (search "Reagan") another exception - here's one oft-forgotten fun fact on Reagan and Mexico:

Who was the first to congratulate Carlos Salinas after the highly fraudulent presidential election of 1988, calling personally to recognize the outcome?

Reagan was.

Yes, despite highly substantiated claims of fraud, including the embarrassingly blatant "collapse" of the new and vaunted computerized voting system, as well as the brutal murder of opponents of the regime on the eve of the election, Reagan didn't even bother to hear the opposition out - and, lest we forget, that included both the left and right, including the conservative PAN - yet immediately gave aid and comfort, as it were, to what was when all is said and done an increasingly brutal and dictatorial regime that did all it could to cover up that it had either lost the election, or certainly won it by less than 50 percent (that's what Manuel Camacho told me, at least, but fact remains we'll never know).

I won't jump too far into the pitfalls of counter factual history here, but when it comes to Mexico's democratization process, it seems fair to me to posit that Reagan by congratulating Salinas that very night, did his part to kick the feet under Mexico's democracy promoters.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Ortega calls out Cárdenas and López Obrador for hypocrisy on electoral alliances

In a lengthy interview with El Universal, which makes for highly interesting reading, PRD national president Jesús Ortega has this to say regarding the electoral alliances the PRD under his leadership made with the PAN:
Here is where they think that one may lose one's principles making alliances of this nature. But el ingeniero (Cuauhtémoc) Cárdenas didn't lose his principles when we made an early alliance with the PAN in San Luis Potosi. Andrés Manuel (López Obrador) didn't lose his when we made early alliances with sectors of the PRI. I did not initiate the alliances with PAN; the first were in San Luis, Durango, Coahuila, Nayarit, Oaxaca, Chiapas. Since when did the PAN became a right-wing party  -since I became president of the PRD? That is ridiculous. Andrés says that  the PAN was formed to fight general (Lázaro) Cárdenas, yes, but why can't he remember when we made an alliance with Salvador Nava, who was from the PAN, and why doesn't he remember when he celebrated the triumph of Pablo Salazar or Toño Echevarria? [PAN-PRD alliance candidates in Chiapas and Nayarit]
Because that would completely contradict his discourse.

Coahuila opinion polls: Massive lead for PRI

The gubernatorial election in Coahuila (as in Nayarit and Mexico State) are almost five months away, so take these polls for what they're worth:

Of note, obviously, the enormous advantage of Rubén Moreira, the brother of Humberto, who just took a leave of absence to become the PRI's national party president-elect. Yet also, the very small support for PRD and the PT vis-a-vis PAN, which strongly suggests that should an alliance be made, it seems far more logical that it would be headed by a panista. Jesús González Schmall, who is promoted by AMLO, barely registers with less than a percentage point; PAN Senator Guillermo Anaya Llamas pulls at this point nearly 16 percent.

L'affaire Aristegui draws international attention

While I'm happy that BBC would cover something else than Mexico's narco killings, I'd wish it to be on something more positive than the possible persecution of a journalist.

As the venerable British network reports in a very balanced piece,
"some columnists saying her sacking raises questions about the freedom of the media in Mexico.But others have said that the allegations about Mr Calderon are malicious lies."
There are indeed two very different issues meshed together here, as Héctor Aguilar Camín also noted in his column yesterday:

1) The company fires a worker for having broken their own ethics code, "reporting a rumour as fact"
2) The presidency of Felipe Calderón forced her company to fire her.

The firing of Arisegui was really stupid, and in my eyes a far too harsh of a reaction in any case. But that is something utterly different than whether the station fired her because of pressure from the Mexican federal authorities. Clearly, if Calderón's men put pressure on MVS radio to do so, it would be an outrageous scandal, which should result in serious consequences for the administration.

Yet does any evidence exist that MVS received orders from Calderón to fire Aristegui?

Too quickly, too many have immediately sought to jump on this very serious allegation, not needing a drop of evidence other than their own suspicions. I personally find it unlikely that he would take such a drastic step that, if uncovered, would likely drastically damage his public standing, not to speak of his legacy. Maybe I am too naive, but maybe those who regard this as a deliberate attack on the freedom of the media are also a bit too conspiratorial.

Fox can't keep his mouth shut: "Venezuela facilitates narco trafficking"

Calderón doesn't exactly have swell relations with Venezuela - as the Wikileaks have demonstrated, he maniacally sought to convince the United States that AMLO was funded by Hugo Chávez, which was of course utter nonsense - but statements like these by ex-President Vicente Fox certainly don't help either: On visit in the Dominican Republic, he claimed, without as far as I can see offering a shred of evidence, that the government of Venezuela is facilitating (facilitar, even "helping" or "promoting") drug trafficking.

If you have evidence, Chente, cough it up. If not, ¡Cállate Chachalaca¡

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Baja California Sur, final results

OK, technically not final - they have not been certified yet - but it seems very fair to assume that these will be the official electoral results of the Baja California Sur gubernatorial elections, given that the PRD will not impugn the results. From Milenio:

To his credit, PRD candidate Luis Armando Díaz has accepted his loss, though to his discredit, he foolishly declared victory on election night, against the will of PRD leader Jesús Ortega, but was pushed by, no shocker here, Dolores Padierna of the IDN current, who was one of the main responsible for the PRD's electoral structure in Baja California Sur. As expected, Padierna would come up with something nutty to explain away her paltry performance and to take a stab at the PRD leadership: PAN and PRD actually made a pact so that the PRD candidate would lose. This is, of course, nonsense.

In terms of the results, it is clear that as deputies are elected on a district basis, PAN-PRS (the local party it went in coalition with) will get 9 out of 21 deputies, PRI-PVEM 6, PRT-PT 4, and Nueva Alianza and Convergencia one each. A far more fragmented legislature than before, when PRD-PT had a majority of 12 together. Note, though, that many of the new PAN legislators were until recently perredistas.

Also of note: PRI made quite a comeback by also winning the capital La Paz and the Loreto district. PAN won Comondú, hometown of governor-to-be and former PRD member Marcos Covarrubias, while PRD hung on to the important tourist town of Los Cabos, where the outgoing governor's brother Antonio Agúndez will be the mayor. It must be of some consolation to the PRD that Leonel Cota, the former governor and national party leader who ditched the party, scraped in at barely 11.63 percent and fourth place. No lost love for a man who has gone through half a dozen party the last decade, only to in the end call for a vote for the PRI.

A quick review, of sorts: James Cockcroft's 2010 "Mexico's Revolution Then and Now" Book

John Cockcroft is a veteran activist and academic, who has a long and highly laudable trajectory in defense of workers and human rights within Mexico and the United States. His "Intellectual Precursors of the Mexican Revolution, 1900-1913," originally published in 1968 and now just reissued, is a classic study of the Flores Magón and their crucial contribution to the Revolution.

I just finished reading  Cockcroft's  "Mexico's Revolution Then and Now," which came out just last year, and wanted to add a few observations and criticisms of the book. 

Cockcroft is certainly a radical writer, in the sense that most would place him on the far left. I have certainly no problems with strongly ideological writers - we all have, if we define ideology in the looser sense as logically connected ideas of how we want the world to be, our own ideological predispositions, and Cockcroft is merely quite forthright about then. Yet I find his radicalism disturbing, from reasons I want to detail below. 

The book is concise and a quick read. It is essentially Cockcroft's interpretation of the past hundred years of Mexico's political trajectory, and in some ways a condensed presentation of his earlier works.
He ardently and honorable draws attention to many abuses of the social and human rights of Mexicans, both within Mexico and also outside, in the process delivering well-deserved critiques of U.S. policies on immigration and drug policies. One particularly poignant sentence: "Mexican immigrants are not terrorists - they have never destroyed a bridge, a building or a house; on the contrary, they have built them" (p. 109).

Yet the book also has, in my opinion, a range of very serious flaws, which lead me to wholly reject the medium and the message. I admit I diverge from many of Cockcroft's descriptions and analyses: The book is almost an open  festschrift for Andrés Manuel López Obrador and organizations and unions associated with his movement - but he is of course perfectly in his right to offer this interpretation. 

Where I think he is far overstepping his boundaries, is the passing off as facts a range of, to put it mildly, extremely disputed claims, for which absolutely no evidence exist.  I will try to briefly present a few cases in point: 

* On the one hand, Cockcroft claims Calderón's use of the military against the drug gangs is simply an excuse to militarize the country. A contentious claim in its own right; he then goes on to claim that Calderón is backing or favoring, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, or el Chapo. He is not alone in doing so. Yet what evidence exists for this? This highly contentious claim to me was at its peak around two years ago, but ever since we have seen many, many of El Chapo's associates captured or killed. By 2010, presenting such a claim with no evidence doesn't have much force to it. And an additional point with regards to the cartels: He attacks Calderón's "self-declared" war, which at best is imprecise: Calderón, in fact, actively avoids using the term, and berates the media for its use of it. Disagree with his actions or not: He never declared a war. (UPDATE: Though see comment below)

* On the topic of the military: "There is always the chance of a military coup in Mexico, and judging from the reception of the coup in Honduras the empire might welcome it" (p. 42).
No, I really don't think the U.S. would welcome a coup in Mexico, and that claim strikes me as really absurd. And empirically, does any evidence exist at all that coup in Mexico by the military is likely?

* There is a claim that in Mexico, "0.07 percent" of Mexicans owns 40 percent (!) of Mexico's wealth, and another that only Haiti has a higher gap between the rich and poor in Latin America. Both are clearly wrong, and should appear as patently absurd at face value - or simply by just by looking up  such data at the ECLAC Web Site, in the ECLAC Statistical Yearbook.

* President Felipe Calderón is referred to continually as the "de facto president." Why? Because AMLO won the election in 2006 with "half a million to two million more votes than Felipe Calderón." Yet how can a serious academic simply present this as a "fact," and be expected to be taken seriously? There is absolutely no evidence that AMLO received more votes than Calderón. Moreover, there is absolutely no evidence that a fraud took place in 2006. In all seriousness: Four years have passed, and how long do we have to waste time on this charade? Are all academics, not to mention electoral observers, all rightwing members of the mafia and simply part of a giant conspiracy to cover up AMLO's win? Why, after four years, has absolutely no evidence surfaced?

(Cockcroft at one point refers to the book by José Antonio Crespo,  2006: hablan las actas hablan, which, as Crespo himself accepts, does not prove that a fraud took place, or that AMLO actually got more votes (the book does offer a theoretical probability of a scenario where AMLO could have won, yet doesn't prove in the slightest that AMLO won or that a fraud took place).

* More on AMLO. I find the parallels the author draws between AMLO and Ricardo Flores Magón to be weak, to put it mildly. Yes, the author is one of the greatest living authorities on Flores Magón, who was indeed a visionary, an internationalist who only saw Mexico's struggle as part of a world context, and actively sought ties with organizations in the United States and elsewhere as part of this international struggle. AMLO could not care two bits about what happens outside of Mexico: He has absolutely no interest in foreign affairs, and is moreover a highly personalistic, top-down plebiscitarian - "the movement is me," as he once told Senator Carlos Navarrete - a far cry from the democratic party Flores Magón sought to build. Yes, AMLO's magazine has taken the name of that famous publication of the El Partido Liberal Mexicano, but AMLO is no Flores Magón. In his dealings with his own party, he has consistently been authoritarian minded, with no respect for the PRD's decisions.

* There is a presentation of the SME, the Mexican electricians union, as an ardent and just defender of workers right." Yet there is no mention of the fact that another state-owned company took over the SME's operation of the Luz y Fuerza company, whose level of service was absolutely abysmal, or that SME cadres have been engaging in outright violence and thuggery against their fellow workers. This also goes for the miners union of Napoleón Gómez Urrutia,

* He calls for a "new nationalization" of PEMEX, the Mexican state oil company. I don't even know what that really means, but will note this: PEMEX is in desperate need today of foreign technology and expertise. Look to Norway, and look to Brazil: Their Statoil and Petrobras companies are among the most dynamic in the world, majority-owned by their states, yet thanks to private investment and know-how have become extremely dynamic companies whose revenue has been crucial in the funding of social programs in the respective countries.

* When it comes to PEMEX, I find AMLO's posture setentista, echeverrista, and thus ultimately conservative and even reactionary, but that is not my main point here: Cockcroft claims that AMLO's Adelitas, or a loose organization of women loyal to his movement, stopped a privatization drive by the PRI and PAN. This is just ludicrous. At the time of this debate, in early to late 2008, a vast majority of both congressional houses, including the PRD, voted for a reform of PEMEX that did not seek to privatize it. Indeed, all but a handful of the most ultra-loyal AMLO senators voted in favor. AMLO, however, though he has no seat in either house, wanted to force in - with emphasis on force in - some additional 20 or so words in the final legislation, and warned that unless this took place, the mafia would privatize PEMEX. In a pathetic exercise of plebescitariamism, he "asked" his followers, all gathered for the "defense" of petroleum, if they still wanted to take action against the legislators, even though the final text obviously had nothing to do with privatization. His followers "voted" yes, and subsequently tried to storm the Senate, trying with brute physical force and violence to short-circuit the democratic legislative process. The PEMEX reform passed, without AMLO's additional sentence inserted. And now, more than two years later, was PEMEX privatized? Did AMLO "save" it from privatization? Of course he did not. PEMEX remained 100% monopolized by the state, both in upstream and downstream operations. Not, as I've argued elsewhere, that this is a good thing.

There is more, but out of fear of boring the reader I will limit myself to these comments. In sum: Too many times, Cockcroft's radical - for they are radical - claims are thrown out with no supporting evidence; often his interpretations equally fly in the face of empirical reality. Yet its deepest flaw comes in its final page, which I believe will serve to reject many readers otherwise sympathetic to Cockcroft's message. He tells us that the young ask him, '''Isn't an armed popular struggle needed?" to which he answers:
"I always tell these young activists that in my opinion this does not appear to be the appropriate moment to promote an armed rebellion in the way the Magonistas did in 1909-1911, the circumstances are different, above all the inequality of military power between the citizenry and the armed forces of Mexico and the United States" (p. 139).
If all that is keeping you from endorsing an armed rebellion against Mexico's young, hard-fought and fragile democracy today, is simply that the opponent is too physically strong, as opposed to a principled rejection of the violent overthrowal of democratic regimes, you have utterly lost me.

New rival teachers union established: Sindicato Independiente de Trabajadores de la Educación en México (SITEM)

The Sindicato Independiente de Trabajadores de la Educación en México (SITEM), or the new Independent  Education Workers Union in Mexico, finally received the toma de nota from the federal labor secretariat, and is thus officially registered as a new union rival to the SNTE of Elba Esther Gordillo.

For the sake of the quality of education in Mexico, which on many levels is abysmal due to the reign of Gordillo and her charro union, this is signficiant news. SITEM, according to its own figures, already has 8000 workers registered, and will in the coming weeks launch a massive campaign of affiliation to draw in more members, primarily in Guanajuato, Querétaro, Hidalgo, Puebla, Veracruz, Quintana Roo, and Mexico City, according to the new secretary general, Juan Carlos Villanueva.

That is, though, a drop in the ocean compared to the more than 1.5 million members of Gordillo's SNTE, the largest union in Latin America. Yet it may be, as it goes, the start of something beautiful.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Is Mexico's defense minister a crack head?

Ciro Gómez Leyva dedicates his column in today's Milenio to the affaire Calderón ivrogne (OK, I liked the rhyming bit), and notes,
"If tomorrow someone invents that the Secretary of Defense is addicted to crack and rat poison, would it be his duty to go out and reject this lie because he has a hundred thousand soldiers under his command? What are we talking about here?"
For the record, I don't think Mexico's defense minister is a crack head and rat poison addict.

But he hasn't confirmed that he isn't.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Carmen Aristegui fired from MVS radio, likely for Calderón alcoholism rumours

Yesterday, MVS radio abruptly announced that Carmen Aristegui, a star of the network and one of the leading journalists in Mexico, was fired from her job. There was not even any "resignation-for-personal-reasons" dressing; MVS gave as reason that she "had broken the ethics code of the company."

It is very likely due to this statement, said after radical PT  and PRD deputies hung up a banner alluding to Felipe Calderón's rumored - with emphasis on rumored - alcoholism
"Really, the Presidency of the Republic itself should give clear, crisp, formal answer in this regard. There is nothing offensive  - it seems to me - when someone, if this is the case, is going through a problem of this kind... Does Felipe Calderón have a alcohol problem? Again, this deserves a serious response, formal and official from the Presidency of the Republic itself."
Without knowing much of this case or these rumors, as a matter of principle I tend to disagree with the logic of such statements. Why is the president forced to prove a negative - to prove something that he isn't? To put it this way: Following this logic, does he also have to prove he is not the flying spaghetti monster?

That said: Did Aristegui really deserve to be fired from saying what she did? I think not.

Marcos Covarrubias wins in Baja California Sur

With 97 percent of the PREP completed, Marcos Covarrubias has a 6.5-percent lead over the runner-up, PRI's Ricardo Barroso Agramont, and 40.22 of the vote total. Given that the PRD had run the state since 1999, the third place for its candidate Luis Armando Díaz is a tough defeat. Yet also from the PRI, which has now lost the first two state elections of 2011.

Both PAN and PRD have declared themselves the winner in Baja California Sur gubernatorial election

Both PAN and PRD have declared themselves the winner in Baja California Sur gubernatorial election.

Note that in this state election, exit polls were not allowed - so where they get their data from, only they must know. In the meantime, be sure to check out the PREP, which provides the preliminary results as they come in.

For the record: BCS is the least populated state in Mexico. It has been run by the PRD since 1999.

El Jefe Diego: Alliances are "political transvestism"

Now we know what "El Jefe Diego," or Diego Fernández de Cevallos, thinks about the PAN-PRD alliances: He recently described them as "political transvestism." In this, in perfect agreement with Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

When you know that the two arch-enemies Diego and AMLO are both against something... I'd say it is yet another signal that you might be doing the right thing.

PRD's aspiring candidates for mayor of Mexico City come out of the closet

It may regarded the official start of the campaign to be the PRD's mayoral candidate for Mexico City: Six prominent PRD members in Mexico City held their first public debate this Saturday. They were:

* Laura Velázquez, secretary of economic development
* Benito Mirón, secretary of work
* Armando Quintero, transport secretary
* Martí Batres, secretary of social development (and said to be AMLO's favorite)
* Mario Delgado, education (and said to be Ebrard's favorite)
* Alejandra Barrales, local deputy and head of the ALDF city legislature.

One dark-horse candidate mentioned increasingly the past weeks  as a back-up candidate by Ebrard did not participate: Manuel Mondragón y Kalb, head of public security.

With the possible exception of Mondragón, it seems fair to say that all of PRD's main hopefuls are now officially out of the electoral closet.

SME to Peña Nieto: Are you in or are you not?

SME, the Mexican Electricians Syndicate, has for a while openly flirted with the PRI and governor of Mexico State, Enrique Peña Nieto - this, despite the fact that mayor of Mexico City Marcelo Ebrard has been extremely tolerant - many will say too much so - with the union, which has shut down traffic in Mexico City and caused disturbances on countless occasions the past year or so.

Clearly, Martín Esparza has been trying to sell the SME to the highest bidder, and has no qualms about going to the PRI. However, after a march to Toluca, capital of Mexico State, by more than 10,000 esmeistas,  Esparza also declared that it is time for Peña Nieto to decide whether he is in on the bargain or not: The votes of SME, in return for his support for the creation of a new company the SME would control. Unless he received a favorable reply from Nieta, Esparza warned, "every one will vote according to one's own interests."

SME is, to be sure, free to advance its interests in any legal manner and seek support from whatever source it desires, yet it should by now be clear that Esparza is certainly not motivated by any ideological convictions, yet will sell himself to anyone if it will further his own interests and power.

I hope SME's ardent outside defenders take note.

Workers against worker: SME thugs attack CFE workers

I was about to write a post criticizing the SME when I saw that Ciro Gómez Leyva beat me to it, though using considerably harsher language than I would have utilized: The Milenio commentator refers to the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME) and its leader Martín Esparza as "Blackshirts" and "Mussolini" respectively.

Gómez Leyva's point, for all its crude language and false comparisons, was nonetheless this: The SME are increasingly acting as pure thugs, utilizing violence against their detractors.

And the point I want to make: Their detractors are none else than... their fellow workers! Specifically, SME members, in a demonstration in the Reforma avenue in Mexico City,  spotted a group of workers from the CFE, a company that has taken over some of the duties from the now-extinct Luz y Fuerza company, whose workers SME had unionized. Several CFE workers had the living daylights beaten out of them, and some had to go to the hospital. The CFE, to recall, is a state company that was founded by President Lázaro Cárdenas back in the 1930s. CFE workers are affiliated with the Sindicato Único de Trabajadores Electricistas de la República Mexicana (SUTERM).

If Esparza has condemned the violence committed by his men, it certainly has passed below my radar screen. The actions of the SME and their proclivity for violence has long been condemned by a range of actors; their utter hypocrisy in claiming to fight for workers rights while violently beating up other workingmen whose only crime is to have sought a job with the CFE, should equally be denounced.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Alejandro Encinas backtracks: Will not be candidate in alliance with PAN

It is hardly a shocker, and is clearly the result of arm twisting by his political boss Andrés Manuel López Obrador: Even though Alejandro Encinas had earlier explicitly stated he would respect the result of a poll among party members that would decide whether PRD should ally with PAN for the upcoming Mexico State gubernatorial elections, he now announced that under no circumstances will he be a candidate for a PRD-PAN alliance.

This is quite remarkable: Having earlier hailed such a vote, Encinas now openly discredits and badmouths it.

The headline for my previous post on this matter was, "For real this time? Encinas would accept PAN alliance in Mexico State." Not, it was not for real.

Why is it so hard to resist whatever order comes from AMLO, even for a heavyweight like Encinas? 

PRI's dirty war in Mexico State has started: Antorchistas provide bus loads of potosinos

Police in Mexico State, to their credit, intercepted at least three bus loads of people from the state of San Luis Potosí, when they arrived in Mexico State to change, en masse, their residency from SLP to the colonias of Tultitlán, Villa Nicolás Romero and Atizapán de Zaragoza - areas where the PRI-affiliated "social movement" Antorchistas are strong. Ricardo Medina, in charge of a IFE branch where the potosinos wanted to change their address, said it was "very unusual" to see people doing so in this manner - quite an understatement!

It seems fairly obvious that this is just one more shot in PRI's dirty war to retain control of Mexico State. Through the Antorchistas, PRI is busing in loads of outsiders, changing their registry so that they can later vote in the state for the upcoming election. Already, more than 90 changes of residency were registered the past days in this particular IFE branch alone.

Indeed, María Eva García Hernández, an Antorchista leader, was traveling in one of the buses, but when approached by media denied any links to the group, and quickly disappeared from the scene.

Five months ahead of the election, the PRI's dirty war is well on its way.

AMLO reproaches chamber of deputies banner episode: Wrong message

To his credit, AMLO spoke out against the idiotic charade by Gerardo Fernández Noroña and friends in the Chamber of Deputies. The national legislator, with help from a couple of other PT and PRD legislators close to AMLO,  unveiled a huge banner with the text, "Would you let a drunkard drive your car? No, right? Why then would you let one run the country."

AMLO, in a meeting yesterday, said whether he is a drunk or not is a "personal question" and that one should be "respectful." Rather than displaying such a banner, AMLO said, "what they should have put is that "Calderón is a usurper."

The episode, which led to shouting and insults and threats of fistfights, eventually shut down congress.

How about not interrupting legislative sessions in congress with any banners at all?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mexican air force in need of update, take II

As noted earlier, the Mexican air force is in bad need of an update, specifically of its fighter jets.

Now, the secretary of defense has requested the purchase of five (used) Hercules transport planes, while the Navy wants a similar number of planes and also helicopters, in order to move troops around more quickly.

What is really disturbing, given the increasing tasks of the armed forces, is the current abysmal level:
- Out of an original 12, only 2 - two - of SEDENA current Hercules are in a flying condition
- The Navy has a total of six Antonov transport planes, all in constant service, but not enough to cover demand.
- Out of the navy's 23 helicopters, only nine are operational; SEMAR is asking for six more helicopters.

Despite a combined price tag  of nearly a billion pesos these demands seem hardly excessive.
Graphic from El Universal:

Clara Brugada, after one year in power

Clara Brugada has now been one year in power as a jefa delegacional, or borough chief, of Iztapalapa. To recall: AMLO mounted the infamous Juanito charade in 2009, postulating a former  street vendor/bozer/stripper/rabble rouser/etc as a stand-in candidate for Brugada, who had lost the official PRD nomination. Things backfired when Juanito then decided he wanted to be a borough chief after all and refused to step down, as promised, in favor of Brugada, though he eventually complied.

However, one year after having assumed power as delegation chief, things are hardly looking better in Iztapalapa: According to PRD's Horacio Martínez, a Mexico City legislator, the borough is confronting the same problems of water shortage, flooding, and crime as before. To recall: These were the main three issues the Brugada/Juanito campaign had promised to immediately address.

In addition, the delegation is suffering from deep fissures or geological cracks, where thousands of families have been identified as in immediate need of relocation, and where many buildings have collapsed, including schools.

Brugada defended her administration, noting that only 10 schools (!) had collapsed on her watch.

Perhaps Iztapalapa would have been better off with Juanito after all.

El Jefe Diego is back in politics - in Baja California Sur

After weeks of confusing, crypitical, and contradictory statements regarding his captivity, Diego Fernández de Cevallos is now back to politicking: In Baja California Sur, ads were launched on the radio where Fernández calls upon voters to cast their lot with Marcos Covarrubias, the PRD federal deputy-turned-PAN-candidate. 

I wonder what the Misteriosos Desaparecedores will think about this.

Jesús Ortega responds to Leonel Cota, "grotesque and crude." Will AMLO?

PRD leader Jesús Ortega responded to the news that former party president and AMLO ultra-loyalist Leonel Cota has returned to backing the PRI:
"I can't really tell whether PRI will benefit or be harmed by the statement of Leonel Cota, mostly because of the inconsistencies in his militancy."
He's being too measured. Even the label "political prostitute" would hardly cover Cota's trajectory.