Mexico News and Analysis; June 8-14, 2009

1. Voters consider nullified ballots
2. More problems with Mexican health care system


1. Voters consider nullified ballots
As Mexico approaches the July mid-term elections, the biggest national debate is not around candidates or issues, but rather whether or not to submit blank ballots at the polls.  Mexico’s politicians have a long and ignoble history of corruption and most people have little confidence in the government, but with the nation-wide “voto nulo” campaign, the political class appears to have reached new lows in public esteem.  The movement is of particular interest to elites as Mexico approaches 2010, the centennial of the Mexican revolution and the independence bicentennial.  In a country with deep historical roots, many people expect “something” will happen in 2010 – perhaps another national uprising or revolution.  With this in mind, the voto nulo campaign – in large part spontaneous, but in part promoted by select actors from the two most powerful parties, the PAN and PRI – may have an impact well beyond the ten percent of the voters who are expected to turn in blank ballots.  Already under half of eligible voters participate in national elections.  With increasingly close races that are often determined by political horse-trading or outright fraud (the 2006 presidential elections, for example), an extensive voto nulo will only add to the problem of legitimacy faced by Mexico’s ruling class.


2. More problems with Mexican health care system

The Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) came under renewed attack this week for mistreating two children severely burned in a day care center.  At least 44 children died last week in the privately run ABC day care center in Hermosillo when a fire broke out and escape routes were padlocked.  Now families are facing a second tragedy.  Two severely burned patients died at an IMSS facility in Guadalajara when untrained medical personnel bathed the children in water, causing their lungs to collapse.  Families are demanding medical attention at a Shriner hospital in Sacramento that specializes in child burn cases, but IMSS authorities initially denied the request.  Alberto Barreda Robinson, representative of the Shriners in Mexico, accused the IMSS of “lazy, irresponsible and criminal – yes, I said criminal” actions.

Funding for the IMSS has been cut under successive PAN administrations, resulting in inadequate medical care for millions of Mexicans.  For example, it is increasingly clear that federal medical authorities were slow in recognizing the recent influenza epidemic, which resulted in over 80 deaths from an illness that was found to be treatable in most cases with available influenza medications.