Thursday, April 30, 2009
The 76-page report, "Uniform Impunity: Mexico's Misuse of Military Justice to Prosecute Abuses in Counternarcotics and Public Security Operations," details 17 cases involving military abuses against more than 70 victims, including several cases from 2007 and 2008. The abuses include killings, torture, rapes, and arbitrary detentions. Not one of the military investigations into these crimes has led to a conviction for even a single soldier on human rights violations. The only civilian investigation into any of these cases led to the conviction of four soldiers.And this doesn't even include the ongoing Juárez operation.
"The need to improve public security in Mexico is clear," said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. "But, to be effective, any strategy to address security must also deal with the rampant impunity for military abuses committed during public security operations."
Sauceda Gamboa helped the Gulf cartel move an average of 10 tons of cocaine and 30 tons of marijuana across the border each month, and briefly headed the gang, police said, although they acknowledged his personal involvement in the operation had declined in recent years.Update: Both the AP and the El Universal articles say that authorities attributed the passage of 10 tons of cocaine every month from Mexico to the US. That would be, of course, 120 tons a year. The American cocaine consumption is estimated to total about 250 tons a year. So they are trying to argue that the semi-retired Sauceda, despite controlling only one second-tier border town (Reynosa) was responsible for half of the US cocaine supply? That defies reason, and is a perfect example of why no one trusts anti-drug agencies. I hate to call someone a liar, but if that's really what was said, what else can you call it?
[Keeping nations out of Iran's orbit is] certainly a worthy goal -- and we have no objection to Mr. Obama's handshake with Mr. Chávez. The administration's strategy -- to open up a constructive dialogue with Venezuela and avoid being cast as Mr. Chávez's Yanqui foil -- is reasonable; it is also the same strategy as was tried, unsuccessfully, by the previous two administrations. What doesn't make sense is to deliberately ignore steps by Mr. Chávez to consolidate an autocracy. In so doing, the administration encourages Latin American governments that have shrunk from confronting the Venezuelan strongman to continue in their own silence. It sends pro-Chávez governments in countries such as Bolivia and Nicaragua the message that they can persecute their own domestic opponents with impunity. And it makes it more rather than less likely that Venezuela, with the help of Iran and Russia, will become a threat to the United States.
Peru's democratic government is to be congratulated for its decision to offer Mr. Rosales asylum. It is shameful that the Obama administration won't say so.
Today, also, it became known the WHO, the leading organization in the world on the these problems and with which we have been acting in a very coordinated fashion and following their recommendations and instructions to the letter, has elevated the alert level for the entire world to which is called Phase 5.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
The Mexican government's initial reaction to the outbreak of swine flu does not inspire confidence. Practically speaking, its slow response has allowed the disease to spin out of control, leading to up to 100 deaths in Mexico and 20 cases of infection in the United States. From a political standpoint, Mexican President Felipe Calderón appears to be using the outbreak to consolidate his power.[Break]In addition, Calderón has used the health crisis to concentrate political power in his hands. On Saturday, he issued a decree that places the entire country under a state of emergency. He has authorized his health secretary to inspect and seize any person or possessions, set up check points, enter any building or house, ignore procurement rules, break up public gatherings, and close down entertainment venues. The decree states that this situation will continue "for as long as the emergency lasts."
This action violates the Mexican Constitution, which normally requires the government to obtain a formal judicial order before violating citizens' civil liberties. Even when combating a "grave threat" to society, the president is constitutionally required to get congressional approval for any suspension of basic rights. There are no exceptions to this requirement.
The decline in the peso one day after the official recognition of the epidemic flushed away the more than $22 billion invested by authorities since last October to support the peso. This demonstrates how futile it is to use external debt to avoid the market adjusting the peso according to its own perceptions. Trying to influence these perceptions with vast sums of borrowed money always turns out bad.Absolutely, in the short term it's possible and even probable that with the big credits, from the American Federal Reserve (Fed) as well as the IMF for $30 billion and $47 billion, respectively, the peso could temporarily --for example, before the elections in July-- locate itself between 12 and 13 per dollar. But it would be a dollar subsidized with public debt.Now when the government is dedicated to defending the exchange rate, it can't do many other things, especially spend on public works. This is because said spending provokes questions from ratings agencies over the possible fiscal deficit, well aware that tax collection is dropping because of the drop in [economic] activity. This would contradict the purpose of a strong peso.
So, despite having offered to exercise budgeted spending in an accelerated manner so as to stimulate the weakened economy, the fact is that it is not doing so. Not only have large projects been canceled, like Punta Colonet, because of the lack of private financing. In addition, the proposed Pacific highway network was also declared void.[Break]If [the government] wants to support the economy it should apply other measures. One would be letting the market set the exchange rate and not misusing reserves trying to support it artificially. Second, supporting indebted businesses in dollars because they employ a lot of people, but the support must be transparent, without subsidies and guaranteed by the businesses' stock. Third, to truly support businesses, eliminating the IETU which now turns out to be an onerous burden both economically and and administratively. Fourth, to support economic activity, reduce the value-added tax to 10 percent.
In the midst of an inevitable crisis that has produced the expansion of the swine flu epidemic, the conspiracy theories couldn't be absent: it turns out that, as was published, that there is an international conspiracy regarding the topic or the information is being hidden in Mexico, without comprehending that before a situation of this magnitude the information of what is happening in our country is being monitored by international organizations and by epidemiological institutions from other nations and there's no way to hide it. The authorities have been criticized for not acting with swiftness, when in reality the same day that it was known that the virus that was affecting the population and causing atypical cases of influenza was new and unpredictable, which is to say, only on Thursday, that same night emergency measures were taken. It's true that some international laboratories began to analyze the situation days earlier and warned the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta and the World Health Organization, that something was happening in Mexico and the South of the United States, but it was until last Thursday that there was a confirmation that the virus was new and unknown. It has been said that, as a show of that government irresponsibility, there was a stock of a million vaccines against the flu in a country of one hundred million inhabitants. The problem is that this is an atypical illness and the vaccine doesn't block it from infecting because it is concocted to attack other viruses and the traditional period of vaccination against the flu is between October and November. In other words, even if there were one hundred million doses of the vaccine, they wouldn't help address the illness. What is important is that there exist medicines that actually can cure swine flu (antiviral drugs) and there is an adequate supply of these. It has even been said that in reality everything is a media construction to distract us from the economic problems and the consequences of the fight against drug trafficking, as if the national and international media could be part of a conspiracy of this type.One hesitates to mount a response to such insane theories, which are emerging with increasing frequency here. Fernández point about the media is a good one, but the problem is the people who espouse conspiracy theories have no faith in the media, reserving their confidence for the crackpot email chains that have been piling up in my mailbox. Another point, which also is surely insufficient for conspiracy theorists, is that this distraction hasn't helped the government in the least. Quite the opposite: as Fernández points out, the estimated loss in commerce in Mexico City alone this weekend was roughly $200 million, and lingering fears will limit international tourists for months, if not years. This will make the economic recovery, which is vital to Calderón's agenda over his last three years, much harder. If this is all a fabricated distraction, who is coming out ahead?
Other countries are surprised by the Mexican response. Brazil and France have complained about the national slowness in informing about the epidemic. Along those lines, foreign correspondents have asked the Secretary of Health José Ángel Córdova: why is it that in Mexico people keep dying of a curable illness while in the rest of the world they are merely sick? His response was: "Because here they continue arriving late." If this is true, we would have to ask ourselves if the Mexican hospital infrastructure in and of itself isn't a factor that explains this mortality or perhaps also the previous health condition of the deceased.Down the line, it'll be interesting to see if the foreign complaints have any foundation, as well as why Mexicans are so much more susceptible to swine flu. So far the WHO has been supportive, but I don't think they'd be complaining now unless the Mexican effort was woefully incompetent. But even if this editorial turns out to be a bit harsh in its assessment of Mexico's health infrastructure, the last paragraph is hard to argue with.
Yesterday we wondered in this space if the national health system would be capable of attending tens of thousands of patients. There is reason to doubt it. What is certain is that without the help of foreign specialists, it would be of little benefit to have beds, face masks, and doctors for millions. We would depend on American and European experts to study our diseases, develop a vaccine and mass produce it.
We are incapable of confronting this crisis alone, not for lack of leadership or tenacity, but because we have neglected to invest for decades in universities, labs, and scientists. Let's learn the lesson.
Each knock on the door brings a surprise to the Hernándezes: fumigators who sprayed her home but did not tell her for what; scientists who asked to take a swab of Édgar’s throat; even the governor of Veracruz, who arrived by helicopter on Monday with an entourage in tow and left Édgar with a soccer ball and a baseball cap.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Mexico City is one of the greatest urban agglomerations in the world, a dense and teeming mountain valley with a population of more than 20 million. Wealthy enclaves have the sleekness of Manhattan or Beverly Hills, but much of the metropolitan area is gritty and anonymous. It must be an easy place in which to disappear.
Yet somehow, amid all the chaos and bustle, Mexican health authorities noticed an unusual cluster of deaths -- first just a handful, then a few dozen. That observation led to the identification of a new, potentially dangerous strain of influenza, and now governments worldwide are issuing travel advisories, readying stockpiles of medicine, canvassing hospitals for possible cases of "swine flu" and, of course, telling citizens not to panic.
The initial response to the flu outbreak, which may have the potential to become a pandemic, illustrates first of all how sensitive and responsive the global health-monitoring system has become. If the world is going to be ravaged by an infectious disease, chances are that we'll see it coming.
The unusual deaths in Mexico City that caused officials to sound the alarm were not, after all, so unusual. It's expected that people will die of flu during flu season. But it's not normal for relatively young, healthy adults to die of flu, as was happening. It was a real achievement for authorities to notice a few anomalous deaths and connect the dots.
There's a metaphor in the road: just as the two characters run across rickety busses, abandoned houses, streets without a soul, citizens today walk in silence, have lost their powers of speech and pass the time in empty suburbs where people avoid each other or cram themselves into their car as though it were a bunker. It evokes On the Road, by Keroac. But it's a counterpart [to On the Road]: it's written in a world without remedy, where solidarity has disappeared and people fight for sustenance, over air.
On the road nothing is handed over lightly, we must recognized that it coexists in the abyss where violence dictates and establishes normalcy. It's a sketch of the cancelation of humanism and it alludes to the regime of violence under which the West has decided to place itself; it signals that the destruction of civilization is the same as the scandalous disdain for the authenticity of sensitive ties, of proximity and recognition, outside of the productivism that has us eating ourselves.
This “it doesn’t work, but don’t change it” incongruity is not just a quirk of the U.S. public. It is a manifestation of how the prohibition on drugs has led to a prohibition on rational thought. “Most of my colleagues know that the war on drugs is bankrupt,” a U.S. senator told me, “but for many of us, supporting any form of decriminalization of drugs has long been politically suicidal.”
The addiction to a failed policy has long been fueled by the self-interest of a relatively small prohibitionist community—and enabled by the distraction of the American public. But as the costs of the drug war spread from remote countries and U.S. inner cities to the rest of society, spending more to cure and prevent than to eradicate and incarcerate will become a much more obvious idea. Smarter thinking on drugs? That should be the real no-brainer.
[The spread of the virus to other nations] has led some to call the government’s initial response inadequate and, at the very least, too slow. In a press conference earlier today, health officials stated they had discovered the first case was a 4-year-old boy in the southeastern state of Veracruz, who was initially tested for a different flu strain on April 2. (He survived.) By the time officials realized they were dealing with the H1N1 virus days later, containment was impossible. And it wasn't until two weeks later that the government finally told people what was going on.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Various believers in conspiracy theories assured that it was the government of Felipe Calderón Hinojosa --with its infinite political calculations-- that infected us was this bacteria to distract us while the elections pass, the economic crisis is resolved or the military catches El Chapo Guzmán.
Toñitito: "The swine flu arose from Mexicans being so exposed to the electoral spots from the IFE."Christos: "If Andrés Manuel López Obrador was president of Mexico, he would surely have freed us from this epidemic."El Juan: "If the government doesn't cure you of swine flu, they should pay you."
...Obama gazes upon a globe that he regards as largely carnivore-free and believes that remaining threats can be defused by semantic warfare; just stop saying "War on Terror" and give talks in Turkey and on al-Arabiyah television, for example.The fact that he discounts Obama's promise not to interrogate CIA prosecutors from the get-go is a pretty good indication of bias, and other examples of it flow throughout. The idea that Obama thinks that holding hands, singing kumbaya, and using nicer words alone will defeat Islamic terrorists is a ridiculous, tired caricature. As is the suggestion that pleasing European pacifists weighs heavily on Obama's mind. As is the suggestion that Obama thinks that nuclear destruction of American cities would be a small price to pay for making foreign people like us more. Honestly, such a mischaracterization of Obama's point of view, hyperbolic though it may be, borders on insulting his readers' intelligence. Obama, of course, doesn't think reaching out to the Islamic world comes at the expense of American security, but rather helps ensure it. Scheuer's point would seem to be that Obama falsely conflates the two goals, and needs to forgo the former in favor of the latter. I'd be a lot more disposed to giving his argument serious consideration if his rhetoric wasn't grossly misleading.
Obama and his team will "reluctantly" agree to a congressional investigation of former Bush officials and serving CIA officers, politically targeted indictments from Holder's minions and perhaps even a truth commission to prove that even the United States can aspire to be a half-baked Third World country.
Americans and their country's security will be the losers. The Republicans do not have the votes to stop Obama, and the world will not be safer for America because the president abandons interrogations to please his party's left wing and the European pacifists it so admires. Both are incorrigibly anti-American, oppose the use of force in America's defense and -- like Obama -- naively believe that the West's Islamist foes can be sweet-talked into a future alive with the sound of kumbaya.
So if the above worst-case scenario ever comes to pass, Americans will have at least two things from which to take solace, even after the loss of major cities and tens of thousands of countrymen. First, they will know that their president believes that those losses are a small price to pay for stopping interrogations and making foreign peoples like us more. And second, they will see Osama bin Laden's shy smile turn into a calm and beautiful God-is-Great grin.
Just because the President misrepresents our enemies does not mean we do not have them. The terrorists are at war with us. The threat is from violent extremists who are a small minority of the world's 1.3 billion Muslims, but the threat is real. They distort Islam. They kill man, woman and child; Christian and Hindu, Jew and Muslim. They seek to create a repressive caliphate. To defeat this enemy, we must understand who we are fighting against, and what we are fighting for.
There must be no safe-haven for terrorists who threaten America. We cannot fail to act because action is hard.
As President, I would make the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military aid to Pakistan conditional, and I would make our conditions clear: Pakistan must make substantial progress in closing down the training camps, evicting foreign fighters, and preventing the Taliban from using Pakistan as a staging area for attacks in Afghanistan.
I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges. But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al Qaeda leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.
Beyond Pakistan, there is a core of terrorists -- probably in the tens of thousands -- who have made their choice to attack America. So the second step in my strategy will be to build our capacity and our partnerships to track down, capture or kill terrorists around the world, and to deny them the world's most dangerous weapons.
I will not hesitate to use military force to take out terrorists who pose a direct threat to America. This requires a broader set of capabilities, as outlined in the Army and Marine Corps's new counter-insurgency manual. I will ensure that our military becomes more stealth, agile, and lethal in its ability to capture or kill terrorists. We need to recruit, train, and equip our armed forces to better target terrorists, and to help foreign militaries to do the same. This must include a program to bolster our ability to speak different languages, understand different cultures, and coordinate complex missions with our civilian agencies.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
The problem, a grave one, with the declaration of the prelate González is that, first of all, he claimed to know where El Chapo lived and, second, he did it in a public forum, as a demand to the authorities that hadn't detained him despite knowing where he was. That explains the violent reaction of organized crime, which ended up costing the lives of two soldiers that really were working on locating Guzmán Loera. There hasn't been neither from the archbishop nor from the institutions of the Church even one declaration lamenting the event, as though it had no relation to the commentary.[Break]The strategy of washing hands, from many men in the Church, is not, cannot be, legitimate. Of course there are those who fulfill their responsibilities in many regions of the country and persecuted by the criminals. It came out this week that at least 300 priests were away from their respective parishes for that reason, and they, according the commitment made by the Secretariat of the Interior, should be protected. But the number of honest civilians, police, and soldiers (we are not talking about those who have died for being a part of one of the groups fighting and as a consequence of that activity) that have been murdered is much greater and this isn't often considered publicly by the Church.
Felipe Calderón took an extraordinary decision to confront an extraordinary situation. He found territories and institutions kidnapped by organized crime and he didn't hesitate to call the army out onto the streets He explained that he didn't have an option before the weakness of the civil apparatus, particular the police. Now we are being informed that the army will stay on the streets and many have applauded the courage of what the perceive as a decision that was late in coming. Maybe they are correct, but the CNDH is presenting accusations of events that perhaps represent isolated cases, but are perhaps a demonstrations of a growing phenomenon of deviance among the military. In the strictest sense, we don't know the size of the problem.
And we don't know because there are no effective mechanisms of civilian scrutiny of military operations. For all practical purposes, the civil authority, even if it wanted to, doesn't have the resources or the capacity to mobilize sufficient mechanisms of accountability regarding the operation of the armed forces.In any case, only a commitment with acts promoted from the interior and exterior of the armed forces could make the internal and external control of military conduct effective, and the application of consequences, according to the nature of the case. The recent creation of an area of Human Rights in Sedena was justified precisely as a show of the military willingness to guarantee its respect. The signal was welcomed.Now it's time for new decisions, such that the president and the high military command take control, before the eyes of the citizens, of addressing what was said by the CNDH with complete transparency. The society cannot have doubts about the political compromise at the highest levels, be they are military or civilian, to investigating and if need be punishing the violation of human rights and the law by soldiers. We have lost a good part of the strength civilian institutions before organized crime. Protect the authority of the armed forces and do so under through the only possible means in a democratic state with the rule of law, which is to say, subjecting them to [external] control. What is at stake is the moral authority of the state.
Friday, April 24, 2009
Now, the million and a half daily barrels that we consume in Mexico also generate oil profits, and that's how it will stay. The government income will depend, in this case, only the international price of crude and the exchange rate. At a greater price, more profits, and a more devalued peso, more resources in pesos for the government.This is more optimistic than most of Schettino's recent (and not so recent) commentary on Pemex, which is perhaps a bit surprising given the consistency of the bad news. Then again, as Schettino alludes to and as he has written explicitly in the past, removing Mexico's dependency on oil, while sure to be painful, is a key step in modernizing the economy and the public accounts.
But, however we look at the books, we should be clear that the goose that lays golden eggs has died, and although a very nice business remains, we can no longer get out of bed at 12. Mexico has the immense fortune to have guaranteed coverage for the internal demand of energy, but it no longer has the miracle of abundance. It can no longer waste.
What this means is not a terrible energy crisis in Mexico, but only that a strong adjustment will be necessary in public finance, in addition to a correction, just as strong, in the international trade balance sheet. What oil can no longer do is substitute for tax payment and competitiveness. If we don't cover the needs of the state, there won't be oil to use. And if we don't manage to generate the resources to cover our demand, there won't be oil to give us dollars.
At bottom, this means that we will have to work more and better, and pay more taxes. The truth is that given how we have managed the country, it continues being a miracle that it's not exhausted, and that we still have opportunities. It's true that having to work sounds horrible, but so it goes. There's still a way to fix things.
On the HBO card, Juan Manuel López faces the cagiest boxer of his career in Gerry Penalosa. I love López's skills, but it worries me that I've not seen him get hit a whole lot, and that he's won so many recent fights without a whole lot of effort. I don't think Penalosa, a 36-year-old with 60 fights who's moving up in weight, is going to be the guy to touch him for the first time, but if Penalosa can get the fight into the middle rounds, I think this could be more of a challenge than most López fans expect. Ultimately, however, I see the Puerto Rican winning by a late stoppage. In the opening bout, I'll take Lamont Peterson over Willy Blaine in a snoozer.
In tonight's fights, Deandre Latimore looks to make his mark as a 154-pound force (as if there weren't enough of them already) in a hometown bout with Cory Spinks. Latimore looked great in blasting out Sechew Powell last year, but he has no other name of note on his ledger. In his twenty bouts, Latimore has faced all of four men with winning records, and one of them was just 5-3, while another knocked him out in the third. I acknowledge that Spinks is a soft-punching part-time fighter who is on the down side of his career, and his legs might not be there for him, but Latimore has nothing approaching Spinks' experience. I think the veteran takes a decision.
In the other fights of note this weekend, I like Antonio Escalante over Gary Stark, Devon Alexander over Chuy Rodriguez, and Daniel Jacobs over José Varela, all by knockout.
It surprised me that few Mexican officials seem to take into account the relevance of the recent experience of Colombia (with the notable exception of Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora). In both countries drug trafficking exists in symbiosis with the weakness of the rule of law. In Colombia, a historically weak state, combined with a difficult geography, allowed for the growth of irregular armies of guerillas and paramilitaries, some time ago turned into bands of drug traffickers. Happily, Mexico doesn't suffer these evils.I wonder if Reid doesn't understate what Mexico is doing to address those ills. Last year's judicial reforms and the drug judges I write about here every so often are a good step toward a more efficient, independent judiciary, although it will take years for the reforms to really take hold. Reforms to the federal police have been ongoing (including more developments just yesterday). Of course, none have succeeded in creating a professional, respected Federal Police, but clearly it is a goal for Calderón's team.
But Colombia also has what Mexico lacks: an independent and relatively efficient judicial branch, a national police that enjoys the respect and collaboration of the public, and specialized bodies well trained in the techniques of criminal investigation. The security forces are beneath a single --and civil-- authority. In Álvaro Uribe, for all his defects, they have a president who has shown urgency and force in overcoming any bureaucratic sloth. Furthermore, Colombia has almost a decade of experience combining the support of the United States with its own efforts (as in the Mexican case, the aid is a small fraction of its own security expenditure).
It's true that all these efforts have not impeded the recent growth of cocaine production in Colombia. But they have achieved a significant improvement in public security, which is more important. Of course there are many differences between Colombia, a politically unique country, with a long democratic tradition, and Mexico. But the size of the challenge that Mexico confronts in the realm of security mean that it can't give it itself the luxury of ignoring similarities and extracting corresponding lessons.
I'm also not sure Colombia in particular is the best example. First of all, an independent judiciary and a competent police force are both universal goods, not something Mexico needs to learn to appreciate by looking at other nations. Furthermore, of course Mexico should take what it can learn from any other country's experience, from Sri Lanka to Italy, but Colombia's challenges are fundamentally different from Mexico's. And despite all the advances the country has made, as well as the recent decline in Mexican security, Colombia remains far more dangerous than Mexico.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Evidently, the bar for success has been lowered to mere existence.
[M]y posture is that, based on the behavior of all of the parties in recent years, you can conclude that there isn't a substantial difference between them.I like Crespo's writing, but this suffers from serious logical defects. First, although they all have their flaws and lamentable characters, there most certainly is a difference in the parties. Consider the following questions: Once in power, which party would be most likely to invite private enterprise into the operation of Pemex? Which party would be most likely to resort to anti-democratic protest should its initiatives be defeated? Which party would be most likely to usher in a new era of church-state collusion? Which party has shown the greatest degree of corruption in executive office? There are definite answers to these questions.
[I]n the present circumstances, voting could strengthen the particratic and oligarcic arrangement that many of us perceive and about which we complain. In contrast, the "non vote", if it is sufficiently large, could grab the partidocracy's attention so that it realizes the next step in opening and political inclusion, not, in this case, of the opposition, but precisely of the citizens.
I don't suggest that we proscribe the parties ("throw all the bums out"), but rather improve the representation. In any case, the probability of this happening is greater with a large "non vote" than with an abundant turnout, which wouldn't generate in and of itself any incentive for correction or reform.
Additionally, it strikes me as incredibly naive to think that politicians will pay more attention to citizens the less they vote. The currency for democratic politicians is, first and foremost, votes. Withholding that currency removes any incentive for the politician to pay attention to you. He (or she) is not going to be more solicitous in the hope that you come back to him (or her); he's going to move on to the voters who he knows are locks to vote. Look at the US: there's a reason social security is a sacred cow, yet the national system of college loans routinely screws millions of students out of thousands of dollars. That reason? Seniors vote, young people do not. Politicians pay attention to seniors, and they largely ignore the young.
I also think that tossing all of the ills of Mexico's democracy under the epithet "partidocracy" or "political oligarchy" tells us nothing. In any representative democracy, representation is inherently imperfect, but talking about a Mexican "partidocracy" suggests that Mexico's democracy is fundamentally different from others. It may be more distant from the voters than in the US, but all democracies suffer from a too-large gap between voters' will and politicians' behavior. And the best way to bridge that gap is, of course, to vote! If Mexicans set up a MoveOn.org, or some version of the Christian coalition, which is to say grass-roots groups that could deliver votes en masse to one Mexican candidate instead of another, they would find a much greater degree of responsiveness from their representatives. But if they disapprovingly isolate themselves on a mountaintop, it seems painfully obvious to me that the incentive for the politicians to conflate their own interests with those of their constituents is reduced, not increased.
César Cansino made arguments similar to Crespo's last week:
A sudden decline in said participation or a considerable increase in abstention can't be explained by reasons of a scarcely democratic political culture that drives the citizens away from the voting booths, but the opposite: the existence of a citizenry sufficiently mature and informed as to discern that the political offer being presented is poor and therefore doesn't deserve endorsement at the voting booths.For basically the same reasons I mentioned above, I find any justification of non-voting as a legitimate form of engaging the political class rather unconvincing. Additionally, classifying Mexicans voters as extraordinarily wise specifically because of their low turnout makes me worry that in his next column, Cansino is going to try to sell me a bridge in New York.
They want Josefina Vázquez Mota to attempt to torpedo what until now figures to be [the PRI's] shining armor: they want her to run for governor of the state of Mexico in 2011, because if Peña Nieto loses the succession he can forget about his presidential aspirations, which in the PRI won't be allowed to occur. If Josefina can dent that armor, [other PRI presidential hopefuls Manlio Fabio] Beltrones and [Beatriz] Paredes will have a lot to thank her for.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
"He thought he could keep my $500,000 and nobody would have the resources to go after him," Dada says. "But in this case, I am going after him. General surgeons are not intimidated by professional athletes.
"Like I told him, if I can cut somebody from the neck all the way down to the pubis with a scalpel, then I cannot be intimidated."
When race car driver Danica Patrick appears on a TV commercial, he pipes up, "I made her, man. Put her on the cover [of The Players Club] and made her."And:
In a second-floor hallway leading to what used to be Gretzky and wife Janet Jones Gretzky's bedroom, Dykstra spots a bat -- the flying variety -- balled up in a corner where the high ceiling meets the wall. He ducks beneath it with his hands clasped on his head, playfully screeching.And:
Inside the office elevator, Dykstra lifts his right leg like a dog relieving itself -- he retains a degree of the old flexibility -- and farts.My oh my. Jim Cramer appears repeatedly as well.
Moving on, Ezra Shabot provides a succinct rejection of the anti-negativity electoral regime presently in place in Mexico:
And if it worked in 2006 as much for the PAN with "López Obrador is a danger for Mexico", as with the PRD with the "Hildebrando case", in 2009 it's unimaginable that the parties will renounce this recourse regardless of the legal consequences. It continues being advantageous to pay the fines that the IFE imposes for defaming the opposition, in exchange for increasing the power of the parliamentary group in the lower house.Well said. Shabot nails both the philosophical and practical absurdity of the ban on negative campaigning.
Negative campaigns aren't everything, but without them it is impossible to consider an integral electoral strategy, capable of delivering victory. Attempting to censure these expressions is as absurd as turning politicians into contestants in a contest of oratory. The struggle for power in a democracy is a war with certain rules that don't eliminate low blows, much less the use of effective and trustworthy weapons.
It was also, frankly, an error by his team. They should have avoided this. I worked for three presidents. I don't think this would have happened with Reagan or with the two Bushes. They shouldn't have put President Obama in that shameful situation, because this is a very anti-American and also anti-European book," he commented in an interview with Newsmax TV.This is the translation of the translation, so there may be some slight errors. I'm most curious about "unknown", which was written as "desconocido" in the article. Maybe he actually said "unrecognized", because Galeano certainly isn't unknown.
And he added: It's an almost 30-year-old book, written by an ultra-left Latin American, a very unknown author. And now (with his gift), Chávez has put this book, I'm told, at the top of the list of sales at Amazon.
Here's Fred Kaplan, with an articulate rejection of the argument that the Obama-Chávez handshake endangers the US national security:
Reich's words in particular are a perfect reflection of the flaws to this response generally. If you think the book is wrong-headed, by all means, attack it. Show us why it is silly. Underline the stupid passages that have been proven wrong by history. But don't just say it's written by an unknown ultra-leftist and, as such, it shouldn't be read, nor should it appear within a ten-foot radius of the president. That's just silly. Obama wasn't endorsing it. He was receiving a gift. Haven't any of these people ever disliked a gift they've received?
One result of the summit, he continued, is that it's now easier for friends, like Mexico or Colombia, to work with the United States "because their neighbors and their populations see us as a force for good or at least not a force for ill."
As for less-friendly countries like Venezuela, though Obama did not say so, an unthreatening picture of America at the very least takes the wind out of Chávez, who has built power, at home and in some quarters abroad, by waving his fist at America and likening George Bush to "el diablo." And, who knows, it might maneuver Chávez more into our lane, too. "Even within this imaginative crowd," Obama said to the press corps, "I think you would be hard-pressed to paint a scenario in which U.S. interests would be damaged as a consequence of … having a more constructive relationship with Venezuela."And so, Obama's talk of building alliances and listening to others is not a celebration of multilateralism for its own sake. It's a hard-headed formula for advancing U.S. interests in a world where we have less leverage than we did during Cold War times to impose our will on a whim.
I've not read the book, so I'm hesitant to make a judgment, although I find the arguments against it and dependency theory in general rather convincing. Nonetheless, there's a huge difference between objecting to the book's conclusions and advocating a diplomatic row in response to its being given. Wouldn't it be a lot more sensible (and original!) for Obama to read it, and then publish an honest critique of the book in Paris Review?
Honestly, I don't think so. An authorly disdain for the medium doesn't make the product any worse. Or maybe I just don't like the idea of being mocked by a dead man.
[The Mexican] economy would be in an unsustainable situation, but the government will have already spent all of its reserves and taken out loans to sustain the peso artificially. The crisis in the productive sector and in the population would be much deeper and the official gamble will have been incorrect.And all hell will break loose.
2) Revenue from oil exports dropped by 60 percent, thanks to declining production and cratering oil prices.
Obama has moved the stage and proposed to leave behind the old ideologies and what they produced. He wants to empty out the historical polarization and seek "pragmatic and responsible" solutions, because it now makes no sense to exhaust yourself in knowing if the right and the paramilitary groups are responsible or the insurgents on the left; nor does it make sense for Obama to push a capitalism without brakes or central planning of the economy. Deflating the ideology means leaving behind old wounds and allowing for the propulsion of prosperity and security on the continent. In both the link with Mexico plays an important role.Repeating an observation from a couple of days ago, he makes only the scarcest allusion to Calderón's proposed energy market, which, truth be told, is more attention than most have granted it.
One important part of the thermometer of this new context is what could happen with Cuba. Raúl Castro's government knows that there is a good opportunity to become part of a new era, but at the same time it will have to understand that the Cuban transition belongs to a new generation. The offer of dialogue has been proposed and now the ball is in the island's court. Obama dismantled that which Antonio Caño called the alibi of anti-Americanism: "The peoples of the region, with good reason, fear everything. But, at least, something very important surges immediately from Puerto España: the leaders of this continent are incorrectly going to be able to take shelter now in the alibi of anti-Americanism" (El País, 4/19/09). Despite the speeches about unity and the augurs of good times, there are observers who noted two blocs that predominate in Latin America in regard to the role of the United States. The axis isn't between right and left, but rather between public policies of regulation of the market and respect for democracy.
According to Moisés Naím, on one side are Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, and Costa Rica, and on the other, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Honduras (El País, 4/19/09). This division manifested itself in the final document of the Summit: consensus was achieved, but not unanimity. Which means that the countries of the Bolivarian Alternative didn't subscribe to the text because there wasn't a condemnation against the Cuban embargo. Nevertheless, there were commitments in security, the environment, energy, and the fight against poverty. Obama sparked the reconciliation, we'll see what the response is to the new context...
Gómez Mont's survey reveals how ungrateful we Mexicans are, because the parties are an inexhaustible source of happiness and good cheer.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
But when Obama shook the man's hand, he should have telegraphed clearly, through posture, expression and language, that he was not amused. Chávez's gift of the book was meant to affront, not to enlighten, and I would have advised Obama to reciprocate in kind.The question about whether he deserves it is really beside the point; I just don't see what would have been gained by an unfriendly moment with Chávez. Obama wouldn't maintain and therefore couldn't win a weeks-long shouting match with Chávez, and it would just drag the binational discourse into the gutter. And it would make a normalization of relations with Venezuela (and other like minded governments) harder to achieve; unless you think the freeze in diplomatic relations between the US and the Latin American thorns in its side is a good thing, I don't see how this would have been a constructive move.
Obama was right to show respect for the leaders of neighboring countries big and small at the Summit of the Americas. Those who were not gracious enough to show respect for him deserved to be given -- metaphorically, of course, and in the spirit of hemispheric cooperation -- the back of the presidential hand.
Even beyond the absence of benefit for the US, such a moment would have likely been a godsend for Chávez himself. Now he is the uncomfortable position of having to reconcile a decade of Bush-fueled anti-Americanism with the arrival of a vastly more popular American leader. For Obama to show him up would spark a war of words, which places the US in the ideal role for Chávez: that of arrogant hegemon.
As long as we're on the topic, here's Chris Beam with more on Ortega's performance in the Summit of the Americas.
The article also mentions the panel of anonymous judges tasked with processing criminals arrested for drug crimes, which has always struck me as one of the more interesting recent innovations in Mexico's criminal justice system.
To celebrate, Ricardo Alemán takes a trip down memory lane, examining how attitudes toward Fox have changed, although his blustering has remained constant:
It seems that one of the favorite sports of politicians, parties, and citizens is taunting Fox, a politician who captivated many between 1997 and 2000, who unleashed passions and hopes with the birth of a new century, and whom today they would like to burn at the stake.Update: Aguilar must like the attention he receives for being humorous: today he offered to pay for the therapy sessions for Germán Martínez, so that the PAN leader could get stuff off his chest in private, rather before the eyes of the nation.
More from Vargas Llosa here.
Felipe Calderón remains popular, with 68 percent of those polled expressing approval of his term. This is the seventh consecutive increase in the Mitofsky survey, and contradicts other polls that have shown a slight decline in approval in recent months.
Recently the fate of the first great protagonist of the video scandals that have occurred in Mexico in recent years became known. I refer to Gustavo Ponce, the ex-secretary of finance of the government Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was sentenced to eight years in prison for money laundering.
Ponce was filmed playing in the VIP rooms of the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas, gambling with the money of the businessman Carlos Ahumada, intellectual and material author of the video scandals who has revealed that those trips formed part of the web of corruption between the government of El Peje and the construction magantes of the Distrito Federal.
Today, while Gustavo Ponce is in jail, López Obrador continues on his campaign across the country, calling on the downfall of the federal government, wishing to impose his will on the parties that support him and run for the second occasion for the presidency of the republic.
And up to now, López Obrador continues being untouchable. All of the parties have denounced the dubious origin of the resources with which he has financed his movements and the electoral authorities don't do anything.