Things That Matter

As Massive Protests Sweep Latin America, Here’s Why Mexico Has Been Able To Avoid Them So Far

2019 will be remembered as the year in which Latin America was swept by a wave of protests, mostly led by young people who are fed up with the status quo and right-wing governments.

Chile has been taken over by a massive wave of protests that has encompassed not only the capital of Santiago, but also places such as Valparaiso. These protests are not only attended by young activists, but also by unions, lay people and basically anyone who wants to speak out against neoliberal economic policies and conservative politics that have turned the police force known as carabineros into a repressive entity.

In Colombia, social unrest reached unprecedented levels in the capital of Bogota and even became deadly when a young activist was killed, which led to further protests against police brutality. Ecuador has also experienced mass protests and the most vulnerable, particularly indigenous groups, have unjustly suffered the consequences. 

Just like when Middle Eastern countries protested in what was collectively known as the Arab Spring in the early 2010s, Latin America seems to be at a turning point in which change seems inevitable and the polarization in society when it comes to cultural, political and social issues is at its highest.  

But Mexico has escaped this wave of protests even if it has been historically a highly politicized society… perhaps the ghost of 1968 is still lingering.

On October 2 1968, a few weeks before Mexico City was due to hold the Olympic Games, a crowd of students was massacred by the army in the infamous Masacre de Tlatelolco. This event, in which police and military forces acted with brutality and impunity, has defined political life in Mexico for decades. Even though protests are numerous, they are smaller in size and generally a one-off occurrence rather than a long and sustained effort. This might be due, in part, to the internalized fear of State repression. 

Contemporary Mexico suffers from a gross divide between rich and poor, and also corruption that is endemic to politicians and public servants. So are people not fed up? 

As the Mexicanist points out, poverty rates in Mexico surpass 40% and are only second to Honduras in the region. At the same time, the rich in Mexico are super rich, perhaps only comparable to the elites in countries such as Singapore, the United States and Britain. Corruption runs rampant in every level of government and the private sector basically does anything it wants if its pockets are deep enough. The government led my AMLO has made the fight against corruption its main policy, which in a way is a preemptive attack against dissent.  

So why has Mexico escaped mass protests? A weak opposition and a new semi-leftist government.

Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador addresses supporters after receiving the staff of command from indigenous people during the AMLO Fest at Zocalo square in Mexico City, Mexico December 1, 2018. Picture taken December 1, 2018. REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

There are several reasons why the wave of protests that has caught fire throughout the region. The first and perhaps foremost reason is that the AMLO led government is barely a year old and so far it has been rather centrist in its political approach. The decades-long fear that an AMLO-led government would lead Mexico into a situation akin to Chavez’s and Maduro’s Venezuela.

Added to that, the opposition, mainly embodied by the conservative PAN, is in total disarray. The presidential campaign of Ricardo Anaya divided PAN-members and caused the balkanization of the party, whereby different factions emerged. Added to that, this party and the legacy of its last president, Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, has been scrutinized for the past few months and critiques reached a boiling point when Genaro Garcia Luna, who led Calderon’s war against the drug cartels, was arrested in the United States for allegedly receiving bribes from the Sinaloa cartel.

So centrist AMLO government + weakened opposition: a lid on social unrest. A very, very provisional lid, however. 

AMLO’s discourse resembled the demands of protesters in South America… and he has a 60% approval rate.

If we were to place the Mexican president in the political spectrum compared to his counterparts in Colombia and Chile, he would be to the left… the extreme left. The anti neoliberal flag that protesters wave in South America is one that AMLO has been waving for decades. Now, this is on a discursive level so far: it might be to early to tell, but early indications from the AMLO presidency lead many to believe that he is not as leftist as he seems. But the discourse is working when it comes to appeasing social unrest similar to that experienced in South America, as Mexicanist explains: “The Mexican president’s criticisms of the neoliberal model, its harmful effects on popular welfare and his “perverse vocation for corruption” are in tune with the narrative of the movements of indignant Latin Americans. Also, the harangues against public-private corruption and the system of privileges that has been forged in Latin American-style capitalism.”

Added to this, Lopez Obrador enjoys a comfortable 60% approval rate even though he lost 10-15% in the past year due to pressing matters such as the violence that the country has experienced in 2019, the most savage year on record, among other challenges and mistakes that have defined the new administration. 

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Mexican President Criticizes DEA For Role In Former Army Chief’s Arrest

Things That Matter

Mexican President Criticizes DEA For Role In Former Army Chief’s Arrest

Hector Vivas / Getty Images

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador criticized the historic role of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Mexico after a former Mexican army chief was arrested Thursday in Los Angeles on drug charges at the request of the DEA.

The former Mexican Defense Minister was arrested by the DEA on drug charges.

Salvador Cienfuegos Zepedas was the secretary of National Defense in the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto from 2012 to 2018. President Lopez Obrador claims that the arrest is proof of corruption from past governments.

President Lopez Obrador used the arrest to criticize the U.S. government and the DEA.

President Lopez Obrador, speaking at a press conference in Oaxaca, claimed that there is a double standard. While Cienfuegos Zepedas has been arrested by the DEA, the president claims U.S. officials have not been held accountable for trafficking arms into Mexico to track them to the cartels. According to the president, Mexican officials are being held at a higher and harsher standard than U.S. officials.

“Why is it that it’s just the people in Mexico who took part in these acts being accused or implicated, and (the DEA) aren’t criticizing themselves, reflecting on the meddling by all these agencies in Mexico,” Lopez Obrador said at the press conference. “They came into the country with complete freedom, they did whatever they wanted.”

The former defense minister’s arrest sent shockwaves through Mexico.

Cienfuegos Zepedas was the first high-ranking Mexican military official to be arrested in the U.S. with drug-related corruption. He was arrested at the Los Angeles International Airport and will be facing drug and money-laundering charges. It’s been less than a year since Genaro Garcia Luna was charged with taking bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

President Lopez Obrador wants to protect the military’s reputation.

Lopez Obrador also said he hopes that the armed forces aren’t blamed for this scandal and that Mexico must take care of institutions as important as the Secretary of National Defense. Mexico does not currently have an ongoing investigation of the retired general and will await the result of the U.S. investigation, according to the president of Mexico. 

Cienfuegos Zepedas is due to make a court appearance related to four charges in California on Friday, Oct. 23, 2020.

READ: This Is What Mexico’s AMLO Wants From The Pope For The Churches Crimes Against Indigenous Mexicans

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Showtime’s ‘Bad Hombres’ Is A Documentary Highlighting The World’s Only Binational Baseball Team

Entertainment

Showtime’s ‘Bad Hombres’ Is A Documentary Highlighting The World’s Only Binational Baseball Team

tecolotes_2_laredos / Instagram

Sports have a way of bringing people together. The experience of rooting for your team is a unifying feeling that transcends borders and culture. Showtime is exploring the importance of sports through the lens of the Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos.

“Bad Hombres” is a documentary highlighting immigration under President Trump through baseball.

Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos are the only binational professional baseball team in the world. The team splits their home games between stadiums in Laredo, Texas and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Director Andrew Glazer wanted to highlight the immigration issue through a sports lens to offer a different layer to the narrative.

“Most of the people trying to come into the U.S. are families and children trying to escape horrible violence in Central America,” Glazer told CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “That story has been told, so what I wanted to do was show people in a way that I thought would be relatable to what life is like on the border. What life is like on those two sides and how interconnected they are. The thing that struck me to be honest is that initially in Laredo, Texas was how pervasive Spanish is spoken.”

The documentary shows the struggles of the baseball team trying to make sense of the volatile U.S.-Mexico border relations.

The Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos split time playing their home games between two stadiums in the U.S. and Mexico. The Trump administration’s constant battle with Mexico and threats to close the border put the team’s season in jeopardy. A first look teaser shows team managers trying to coordinate the release of game tickets in time with the ever-changing immigration announcements from the Trump administration.

“Bad Hombres” speaks politics without directly addressing politics.

“Even though my film has an overarching political message, the players are not covertly or overtly political in any way,” Glazer told CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith. “They are baseball players and they are living their lives and a lot of them are trying to make it to the majors and some of them were in the majors and are now finishing their careers. There wasn’t a whole lot of political discussions.”

Glazer made sure to highlight the depths and complexities of the team members dealing with the political climate without politics.

“Inherently, what made the team fascinating is you had players from the U.S. who were Anglo-American players and Mexican American players who had a different perspective,” Glazer told DJ Sixsmith. “Then you had Mexican players and some Dominican players and Cuban and people from everywhere else. There were different languages and different perspectives. Seeing how that developed over time was pretty fascinating.”

“Bad Hombres” is streaming on Showtime.

READ: Veronica Alvarez Is The Coach For The Oakland A’s And Her Presence Is Giving Girls A Chance To Pursue Baseball

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