News & Analysis: June 11-24, 2012

88 CIDECI - UniTierra

1 - AGUA AZUL TOLL BOOTH UNDER ATTACK
2 - CIDECI IN DISPUTE WITH FEDERAL ELECTRICAL COMMISSION

3 - BREAD AND CIRCUS PASSES FOR POLITICS IN MEXICO CITY

4 - GREEN PARTY IS ANYTHING BUT

5 - NEW POLICY FOR YOUNG IMMIGRANTS

6 - MEXICO HOSTS G-20 MEETING

7 - GRAIN PRODUCTION FALLS, PRICES RISE

8 - SEX FOR VOTES?

9 - WALMART OF MEXICO CANCELS SOME EXPANSION PLANS

10 - VIOLENCE FORCES WORKER CENTER TO CLOSE

11 - MEXICO OFFERS $10 BILLION LOAN TO IMF

12 - MSN PROGRAMS: Contact msn [at] mexicosolidarity [dot] org or (773) 583 7728   

 

Ejido members from San Sebastian Bachajon recovered a toll booth leading to the Agua Azul waterfall on the morning of June 19, only to be attacked later in the day by twelve truckloads of police. The ejido members, part of a Zapatista support community, fled into the mountains and at least seven were reported missing. The toll booth provided funds for community development projects and has been the center of a series of disputes between Zapatista support bases and local power-brokers aligned with the PRI. As of this writing there was no further news on the dispute.

 

2 - CIDECI IN DISPUTE WITH FEDERAL ELECTRICAL COMMISSION

The Indigenous Center for Integral Training (Cideci), home of the Autonomous University of the Land (UniTierra), came under attack this week when officials from the Federal Electrical Commission (CFE) tried to forcefully enter the grounds to inspect the electrical system. Cideci includes more than a dozen buildings constructed largely with the assistance of religious and solidarity groups, including a self-contained electrical system that generates its own power. Cideci provides training programs for indigenous youth in more than two dozen disciplines, and has been the center of numerous cultural and political meetings, some including participation by leaders of the Zapatista movement.   Because of this, local authorities have been waging a nearly two-decade battle against Cideci.

 

3 - BREAD AND CIRCUS PASSES FOR POLITICS IN MEXICO CITY

More than 200,000 gathered in the Zocalo for Mexico City's latest exercise in "bread and circus" politics - a free concert by tween star Justin Bieber. Bieber's public persona is closely attuned to what passes for political discourse in the lead up to national elections on July 1: "Everybody, no matter being young or old, can always use a positive message. That's why I named my album 'Believe'."  In this case, Bieber is a PRDista, paid for by the political party that has controlled the capitol since 1997, but his upbeat and empty message could easily pass as a campaign slogan for the PAN or PRI. On the positive side, perhaps the concert served as a sort of mass English lesson as young "beliebers" sang along with all the songs, reportedly complete with improvised Canadian accents.

 

4 - GREEN PARTY IS ANYTHING BUT

Mexico's Green Party (PVEM) supports the death penalty, life sentences for kidnappers, vouchers for medicine (Green Party leaders own much of the pharmaceutical sector), and, by the way, regulations to make polluters pay reparations.  Sound like a "green" party? Not to European Greens who severed ties in 2009, declaring they would "no longer consider the PVEM a member of the green political family." One only wonders why it took so long. The party is a non-ideological family affair founded in 1986 by Jorge Gonzalez Torres and controlled today by Gonzalez's son, "Kid Green." Each election cycle the Gonzalez family markets its franchise to the three major parties - PAN, PRD and PRI - and has been aligned with each at different points, depending on who makes the best offer. The PVEM is currently aligned with the PRI, and reportedly can guarantee a million votes in presidential elections simply because of its name. "Kid Green" is a notoriously corrupt political operative, at one point caught on video negotiating a US$2 million bribe from Cancun hotel developers in exchange for approving the destruction of mangrove swamps, provoking speculation that "green" may refer to greenbacks. The Gonzalez family and a few close associates run the party as a business, receiving State subsidies paid to political parties in proportion to their representation at various levels of government. This year they pocketed US$11 million.

 

5 - NEW POLICY FOR YOUNG IMMIGRANTS

The Obama administration made political hay this week from the work of courageous undocumented youth who publicly proclaimed their immigration status in speeches, marches and visits to Congress. For at least the past three years, hundreds of undocumented youth have come out of the shadows, placing themselves at risk of deportation to argue that children brought to the US by undocumented parents should not be deported. The so-called DREAMers - supporters of the failed DREAM Act - often left their native countries as small children and grew up in the US, but they are unable to receive college grants or work permits, leaving some 800,000 in social limbo. In the face of certain Congressional rejection of the DREAM Act, they took their case to the public, and built overwhelming popular support. As a result of their path-breaking work, the Obama administration made a shrewd political calculation last week and announced a watered down version of the DREAM Act, implemented by presidential decree, that would temporarily end the deportation of undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 who arrived in the US before the age of 16, have been in the country for at least five consecutive years, have no criminal history, and graduated from a US high school, earned a GED or served in the military. As a direct result of the DREAMer's grassroots work, the new policy is supported by an overwhelming two-thirds of voters in recent polls. In perhaps the most politically cynical aspect of a clearly electoral initiative, the new policy is literally tied to the Obama administration by offering renewable two year deportation reprieves and possible work permits for qualifying immigrant youth that the next administration can rescind by decree. The new policy does not include a path to citizenship or permanent residency. 

 

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, who outed himself as undocumented last year, characterized the change as "a new political normal when it comes to talking about immigration. There is a notable shift in the way our country and our politicians are talking about it." We've come a long way from the 2005 Sensenbrenner bill that would have made undocumented immigration a felony. Credit for Obama's modest improvement should go to the DREAMers and the massive anti-Sensenbrenner demonstrations during the Spring and Summer of 2006, the largest demonstrations in the history of the US, and not to the political class. With 12 million undocumented workers still in limbo, there is much work that remains in the struggle for immigrant justice.

 

In related news, the Obama policy puts presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a tough spot, which is its intent. During the Republican primary campaign, Romney drew the ire of many Latinos, who account for 9% of voters and are by far the fastest growing segment of the electorate, when he said he wanted "illegal immigrants" to deport themselves, "meaning if we make it miserable enough for [them], they will leave." The Republican Party hoped to pave over this and similar statements by having Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a potential vice presidential choice, introduce a version of the DREAM Act this Summer. Rubio would have provided both a national game plan to attract Latino voters and a Florida plan to lock up the state's electoral college votes. Now it appears the Rubio strategy is worthless to Republicans, and Romney may look elsewhere for a vice president who can motivate his right wing religious supporters, who appear hesitant to vote for a Mormon.

 

6 - MEXICO HOSTS G-20 MEETING

Mexico hosted a G-20 meeting this week that produced little in concrete terms and left the Euro crisis virtually untouched. European leaders gamely tried to present unity, but the reality was a continent in crisis and without consensus. Some of the disagreements were downright petty. England offered residency to wealthy French who would suffer from a recent proposal by newly elected President Francois Hollande to increase their taxes, while Germany held fast to its austerity plans for Greece, Spain and Italy. European leaders announced a plan that could eventually lead to unification of banking and national budgets - and threaten national sovereignty - but the plan could take years to implement and there is currently no political support among voters. The European Union hopes to finalize a more limited plan addressing only banking union by December, though even that generous timeline appears unlikely. The final agreement was drafted next to the adults-only, clothing-optional Desire Resort and Spa. There were no reports of Secret Service agents posted at the resort, though they may have been busy guarding the windows. With the focus on Europe's financial system, there was virtually no discussion of poverty reduction or development alternatives for poorer countries.

 

In a last minute deal that sparked controversy, the Summit reached a unanimous, but largely meaningless, consensus to refrain from new trade protection measures through 2014. Europe and Japan wanted a longer extension, while Brazil, Argentina and South Africa opposed the extension. In any case, the World Bank issued a report on Sunday claiming G-20 countries are responsible for the vast majority of more than 1,000 new protectionist measures introduced since 2008. Strong protectionist sentiment is developing as national capitalist classes try to save their industries in the midst of a worldwide financial crisis. Europe and the US lead the pack with huge subsidies for agricultural products.

 

Just hours before the meeting, Mexican President Felipe Calderon tried to position himself as a world environmental leader, perhaps vaccinating Mexico from criticism at the simultaneous UN environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro, by canceling an enormous development project that would have threatened one of the world's most productive coral reefs at Cabo Cortes, only 60 miles from the G-20 site. The US$2 billion project would have created a sort of Cancun north, complete with airport, marina and over 30,000 hotel rooms. Proposed by the financially troubled Spanish firm Hansa Urbana and financed primarily by failing Spanish banks, the project would likely have been canceled without Calderon's intervention, perhaps explaining his sudden and unexpected about face. When all you have is lemons, why not make lemonade?

 

7 - GRAIN PRODUCTION FALLS, PRICES RISE

The price of tortillas, which account for nearly half the caloric intake of a typical campesino diet, increased by 14% during the first quarter of 2012, four times the rate of inflation. The dramatic increase was due, in part, to falling domestic production. Corn imports increased by 114% compared to the same period in 2011 while production fell by 23%, according to INEGI, the National Institute of Statistics and Geography. Production of beans, wheat and rice also fell, in part due to drought conditions across large parts of Mexico.

 

8 - SEX FOR VOTES?

Presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota of the National Action Party (PAN) called on women this week to withhold sex from their husbands if they don't vote in the July 1 election.  She recommended a month without "cuchi, cuchi" for husbands who don't exercise their civic duty, with the possibility of "double rations for those who do" vote ... "if the woman wants to."  Her right wing party is closely aligned with the ultra-conservative hierarchy of the Catholic Church. Can we expect Sunday sermons this week around the suddenly politicized issue of "cuchi,cuchi" and voting preferences? The comments gained her headlines for a day, but are unlikely to resuscitate a failing campaign mired in third place in most polls.

 

9 - WALMART OF MEXICO CANCELS SOME EXPANSION PLANS

WalMart of Mexico, under investigation for bribing government officials to speed building permits and ignore environmental restrictions, is cutting its expansion plans, leading to tumbling stock valuations. WalMart plans to open 23% less stores than planned this year in Mexico and Central America, and new openings will be delayed by 60 to 90 days, apparently in a novel effort to comply with local laws.

 

10 - VIOLENCE FORCES WORKER CENTER TO CLOSE

The Worker's Support Center (CAT) based in Puebla closed its doors this week after staff member Jose Morales Montano was kidnapped and tortured. Morales was released after twelve hours of captivity, much of it spent with a gun to his head. Blanca Velasquez, Director of CAT, has received numerous death threats, including two on the morning after the kidnapping. The kidnapping follows years of systematic harassment and violent threats levied against the CAT for its work defending labor rights. In December 2010, unknown persons robbed the CAT's offices and left written death threats scrawled on the wall. Since then, CAT members have been physically assaulted and received death threats by email. The harassment is believed to be in response to the CAT's work defending workers at transnational factories in Puebla, including Johnson Controls, Inc.  Other labor and human rights groups in the Puebla region are also under threat.  In response to the violence, theProject of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ProDESC) and the CAT filed four complaints with various government authorities, but there has been no substantive advance to date in any of the investigations.   

ProDESC and the CAT, with extensive national and international support, last year requested the National Commission of Human Rights and the Puebla State Commission of Human Rights grant immediate precautionary measures to protect CAT members. While these measures were implemented in 2011, the Puebla State Commission suspended protection in April 2012 without any advance in the threat investigations and without conducting a risk analysis. The attack on Morales took place one month later. For updates and action plans, go to the contact pages of CATand ProDESC to see how you can best support their dignified struggle!

 

11 - MEXICO OFFERS $10 BILLION LOAN TO IMF

Mexico, a country where half the population lives below the poverty line, offered the International Monetary Fund (IMF) a US$10 billion loan to bolster its reserves for a potential European rescue package. Mexico joins 36 other IMF members in establishing a total reserve of US$456 billion. 

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