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Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part II)

By Étienne von Bertrab, on 10 February 2015

Just one week on

To understand the depth of the socio-political crisis in Mexico it might be illustrative to go through events that occurred since Part I was posted a week ago: a mayor in the State of Mexico authorised police to shoot those who protest against the dispossession of their communal water system; a newspaper editor in Matamoros was abducted, beaten and left with a death threat: “no more reporting on violence along the border”; and as if it was a horror film, 61 bodies were found in an abandoned crematory in the outskirts of Acapulco, a famous tourist destination in the State of Guerrero (where the disappearance of the 43 teacher training students took place four months ago).

No caption needed. Image: Colectivo Lapiztola

Much to the disappointment of those in power, what happens in Mexico can no longer be kept within the country’s borders. The prestigious Hay Festival, which would take place later this year in Xalapa, was cancelled after hundreds of Mexican writers and journalists signed a petition in protest. “We recognise that the killing of Moisés Sánchez, the 15th journalist to have been murdered or disappeared in Veracruz since 2010, has caused unbearable pain and rage” – reads the organisers’ official statement.

In Geneva – in the same week – the UN Committee of Enforced Disappearances (CED) identified ‘prominent discrepancy between words and deeds’ while for Amnesty International the hearings evidenced the failure of the Mexican State in its international responsibilities. Furthermore, The New York Times revealed over the weekend that amongst the secret buyers using shell companies to grab the most expensive real estate in New York is an ex-governor of Oaxaca and father of the current director of INFONAVIT – Mexico’s social housing agency.

Elections: opportunity or distraction?

While it is almost a consensus that the party system is rotten beyond repair, what to do during the elections is always a divisive issue: to back the least worst party or candidates, or to boycott the elections altogether? As a result of a recent political reform it will now be possible – for the first time in Mexican history – for citizens to be elected without affiliation to a political party. For many this is a double-edged sword, but there are glimpses of hope: Wikipolítica, a group of young student-activists, could give Jalisco its first independent legislator – without using any public resources but rather dozens of creative and enthusiastic volunteers.

Intentions of a long journey Image: Colectivo Lapiztola

Beyond these more localised opportunities there is an increasing recognition that our social contract has been broken: the Mexican Constitution of 1917 (often referred to as the most progressive of the early 20th century) has been subject to almost 500 reforms, mostly to facilitate capital accumulation in detriment of rights and communal and public ownership of natural resources.

A call for the formation of a constitutional assembly with the aim of refunding the State is gaining traction, reinvigorated by the very circumstances and by the vocal support of progressive and highly respectable public figures such as bishop Raúl Vera, the last prominent priest of the Theology of Liberation in Mexico, who since the Zapatista uprising has made his cause the voices of the poor. His mission: “to listen to everyone’s feelings and aspirations, particularly those of the poor and marginalised”. However, it is undoubtedly a long-term social and democratic endeavour that no living Mexican has ever experienced. For many, including myself, it might be the only way to avoid a violent revolution.

In this emotive video, Omar García, survivor of the attack, expresses how the case of Ayotzinapa has awaken millions throughout the country.

 

Part III on the role of journalism and new media, and on why it’s important to focus on the (non-urban) territory and those who defend it, will be published next week.

All images are courtesy of Colectivo Lapiztola, a street art collective that emerged in the suppressed social movement in Oaxaca in 2006. Part of their work is exhibited in Rich Mix, London, until 28 February.

Opening the wings. Image: Colectivo Lapiztola

Étienne von Bertrab is a Teaching Fellow at the DPU and a guest lecturer in universities in Mexico. He also works as a consultant in the UK and in Mexico, where he has been a social activist for ten years. Twitter: @etiennista

18 Responses to “Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part II)”

  • 1
    dpu_ucl wrote on 10 February 2015:

    “There is an increasing recognition that our social contract has been broken” says @etiennista -Part 2 of Mexico blog http://t.co/dknDal2cQk

  • 2
    Heaven wrote on 17 December 2016:

    Hello there! We seriously preferred your current remarks into this issue. Undeniably significantly more people need to speak about it. Preferably this accelerates the notice a little bit. All over again, terrific article. I talked to my partner with regards to that and he fully is of the same opinion. Nohelhetess,tne last position you formulated ended up being not really clear to us. Surely you might create articles a different post about that.

  • 3
    etiennista wrote on 10 February 2015:

    México: Where does hope reside? Part II http://t.co/GW22bjm1Hf #UKMX2015 #AyotzinapaSomosTodos #YaSeQueNoAplauden #EselEstado

  • 4
    rodrigo romo wrote on 10 February 2015:

    Great piece Etienne.
    As for the problem with Mexico, there is no doubt that it is an extremely complex problem with its roots dating back to the days of the conquest in which the upper classes maintained control of the lower classes by keeping them oppressed and uneducated.
    One of the biggest problems, as everyone knows, is the ingrained corruption that affects the country from the highest posts (as seen with EPN’s “White House”) to the lowest echelons of public servants (the cop on the street that harasses you for a “mordida”). The worst thing about that, is the perpetuation of such corruption. What I’ve seen, is that is tends to be the upper classes the ones that contribute the most to this problem. You have construction companies bribing government officials for contracts, others building developments that are outside of building codes and regulations and just build into their budget the fine associated (just witnessed this in Guadalajara last week where high rise buildings are popping out like mushrooms after a storm. Was told that most of them break the local ordinance but the builders just pay a fine and carry on). You have the entitlement mentality of the upper class (“don’t you know who I am!?” or “don’t you know who my father is!?”) who believes that laws are not meant for them. On top of that, the extremely miserable wages paid in the country (one gallon of gas is roughly $3.50 US, but the daily minimum wage is $5 US/day). Those low wages make getting involved with the cartels an extremely attractive proposition when the future that the lower classes face is so miserable.
    Then there’s the typical mexican deniability culture. Last week I was surprised at several reunions (friends and family) where the topic in conversation was criticizing muslim traditions of making women wear veils, or how France and the Netherlands were fighting against non conforming muslims, or the atrocities of ISIS. None were discussing the atrocities taking place in their own back yard (political, drug related or corruption).
    You see that “importamadrismo” (don’t give a sh*t) attitude in where people seem to look after themselves only, such as in the cases where political parties buy votes by handing out groceries. People would rather have a free bag of beans for their vote rather than vote their minds, even though the vote is private and no one would be able to tell who that person voted for…..
    And the list just goes on and on……

  • 5
    Étienne von Bertrab wrote on 12 February 2015:

    Many thanks Rodrigo por your comment, and particularly you insights that depart from the very personal experience.I fully agree, as Mexican society is so fragmented and segregated, social groups live very different realities. I will try to tackle – with my own biases and limitations – the urban/rural divide, and why we must pay a closer attention to instances of solidarity with mobilised indigenous groups and rural populations, who are suffering degradation and often violent dispossession of their land and natural resources. And how this is liked with the socio-political crisis as well. Please let’s keep the conversation in Part III coming next week.

  • 6
    Desmesurar wrote on 10 February 2015:

    “To understand the depth of the socio-political crisis in Mexico” @etiennista “Mexico: Where does hope reside? pII” http://t.co/oWIOzye0ZC

  • 7
    CarlosPaezGDL wrote on 10 February 2015:

    RT @Desmesurar: “To understand the depth of the socio-political crisis in Mexico” @etiennista “Mexico: Where does hope reside? pII” http://…

  • 8
    Izzily wrote on 10 February 2015:

    RT @Desmesurar: “To understand the depth of the socio-political crisis in Mexico” @etiennista “Mexico: Where does hope reside? pII” http://…

  • 9
    Desmesurar wrote on 10 February 2015:

    Compartimos de @etiennista #Mexico: Where does hope reside? Parte II: http://t.co/oWIOzye0ZC en @uclnews

  • 10
    dpu_ucl wrote on 10 February 2015:

    Latest blog post – ‘Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part 2)’ by @etiennista http://t.co/dknDal2cQk

  • 11
    xapsan wrote on 10 February 2015:

    RT @etiennista: México: Where does hope reside? Part II http://t.co/GW22bjm1Hf #UKMX2015 #AyotzinapaSomosTodos #YaSeQueNoAplauden #EselEsta…

  • 12
    Laurajhi wrote on 11 February 2015:

    Latest @dpu_ucl blog post – ‘Mexico: Where does hope reside? (Part 2)’ by @etiennista http://t.co/dknDal2cQk

  • 13
    mattwh1 wrote on 11 February 2015:

    Part 2 of @etiennista’s Mexico blog – it’s unbelievable that this stuff is still going on http://t.co/DP8UWqJCib Who is to blame?

  • 14
    Étienne von Bertrab wrote on 12 February 2015:

    Very good question, Matt! In an abstract sense we’re all to blame – though in a concrete way some way more than others. What’s clear is that change depends on every Mexican who’s willing to do something about it. The willingness, and thus the possibilities of change, clearly reside in civil society and not in the political class. I do believe, however, that things will get worse before they get any better – I hope I’m wrong.

  • 15
    UCLAmericas wrote on 11 February 2015:

    Mexico: Where does hope reside? Part II, by Etienne von Bertrab, UCL DPU:… http://t.co/t0XNWffEK2

  • 16
    etiennista wrote on 12 February 2015:

    @Dsatterthwaite Mexico: Where does hope reside? Part II The depth of the crisis and the question of elections http://t.co/Ndo7RsLL1z

  • 17
    etiennista wrote on 12 February 2015:

    @DanRavenEllison Here goes part II – towards hope, on the crisis in Mexico: http://t.co/Ndo7RsLL1z

  • 18
    DanRavenEllison wrote on 12 February 2015:

    RT @etiennista: @DanRavenEllison Here goes part II – towards hope, on the crisis in Mexico: http://t.co/Ndo7RsLL1z

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