Things That Matter

From Gang Member To Politician, Here’s A Brief Look At Mexican Congressman El Mijis Who Is Now Fighting For Vulnerable Communities

July 2, 2018, was a watershed moment in Mexican political history. Of course, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was elected as president after two failed attempts, and his new party MORENA became the main political force in the country. They won state governorships, the presidency and federal and state spots in senates and congresses. Perhaps one of the most controversial stories to come out of the election was that of “El Mijis”, a reformed former gang member who won a set in his state congress running on a progressive platform. Conservative commentators and politicians soon started to attack him, while others just fell in love with the second-chances narrative of “El Mijis” and his political ascent. He is very active on Twitter and you can follow his handle @mijisoficial, where he talks about Mexican political life and continues his activism. He also engages in a frank and friendly manner with his adversaries. Only time will tell if he will live up to the expectations and how far his ideals will take him. 

This is what you need to know about one of the most interesting and polarizing figures in Mexican politics. 

His full name is Pedro César Carrizales Becerra.

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He was born in San Luis Potosi, a state in Northern Mexico, in 1979.

He grew up in a broken home.

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His family experienced domestic violence and, like many young urban men, Pedro Carrizales sought refuge in a street family. This led to gang altercations and problemas con la ley.He was once addicted to drugs and alcohol like many disenfranchised youth.

He was in jail for two months.

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He acknowledges that he made some very bad decisions early in life. This led to a two-month stint in prison, which has been a controversial fact since he became a public figure. Being an ex-convict has been his Achilles heel on social media, where conservatives have used him as evidence of a corrupt political system. Don’t they believe in second chances, a key element of a healthy democracy?

He survived an attempt on his life after being elected.

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Earlier this year, on February 4, the vehicle in which “El Mijis” was traveling was shot five times. The attack was perpetrated by two men on a motorcycle. A few days later he Tweeted a photograph of himself wearing a bulletproof vest. He wrote: “I can experience fear, but not cowardice; I have never left a struggle halfway through. I will continue doing my job and following my ideals”. 

He is not new to activism, as he has been involved in community work since 2003.

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He is the leader of the Movimiento Popular Juvenil. These ideals include community work, which started soon after his mother passed away. He recalls how he chose to hang around with his gang instead of seeing his sick mother, and how the guilt and shame hung over him. He sought to end violence in his community and reached out to the San Luis Potosi state government. He wasn’t heard. He chose Morena as his party and faced stigmatization and discrimination during the campaign. He was even kidnapped, a threat that attempted to convince him to stop his candidature. At the time he said he didn’t want to become a martyr. He discussed quitting politics with his family and decided to stay put.

When he was sworn in he wore jeans and a t-shirt.

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He has made a name for himself for standing up for who he is, and for owning his past mistakes. He refused to wear a suit when he was sworn in as a legislator. He claims that he wore jeans and a t-shirt to show solidarity with those who have been excluded by the political status quo, those who remain invisible.

He is an ally of the LGBTQ community.

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As a former gang member, he knows what it means to be stigmatized and face discrimination while trying to be a member of society with the same rights as anyone else. He has shown his support for the LGBTQ community. He also supports initiatives in favor of animal rights, particularly around the criminalization of bullfighting. 

He wears his tattoos proudly.

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While many politicians and everyday men and women hide their tattoos because they are seen by some as a sign of criminality (particularly in countries like Mexico), “El Mijis” wears them proudly and shows them off whenever he can. 

He survived a machete attack.

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Since he became an overnight celebrity, “El Mijis” has told unbelievable stories of his days as a gang member. He told Nacion 321 that he once survived a machete strike on the head and that he kept fighting “like a samurai”, getting wounded on the hand as well.

His origins are as humble as they come.

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Even if he has the president’s ear today, there was a time when, as a 12 year old, he became a gang member after having begged for money juggling at traffic lights and singing in buses. How things change. 

He travelled the country with the project Un grito de existencia.

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Before being elected, he had already shown his skills for community organizing. He traveled more than 1800 kms speaking against the discrimination of people with tattoos and former gang members, advocating for social inclusion and job opportunities. 

He survived five suicide attempts.

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After his mother’s death Pedro Carrizales became depressed and almost died by suicide. He told Nacion 321that he would throw himself at moving cars and that he once tried to hang himself but the branch broke off. 

He has 12 tattoos in total.

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Among these tattoos, one represents a dream he once had: a koi fish and storming clouds surrounding it. He also has a tattoo that reads “Becerra”, his mother’s last name. Perhaps the most significant is a mythical Phoenix, a sign of rebirth.

He has experienced real struggle, and he plans to legislate accordingly.

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He argues that the beginning of change is full respect of human rights. We know he is right, but we hope that he can change the hearts and minds of so many politicians that think otherwise.

He has said he wants to be president one day, and he has been mocked for it.

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Pundits such as Ricardo Aleman have belittled Carrizales’ dream of leading the country. He has replied like a true gentleman. Here, he tells a journalist: “I am not sure what your motives are, but while you are attacking me I am defending you with a call to improve protection for journalists.” Touche! 

He plans to bike to Central America.

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Even if he is a legislator now, he has continued with his activism in favor of former gang members. He plans to expand his advocacy to Central America, a region ravaged by civil unrest and violence produced by gangs such as MS-13. This is both a smart political move given the current migratory crisis and a coherent episode of his improbable life story.

READ: From Gang Member To Emmy-Nominated Actor: Here Is The Incredible Life Story Of Richard Cabral

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One Town’s Residents Made A Citizen’s Arrest Of Their Mayor For Alleged Corruption And Shoddy Construction

Things That Matter

One Town’s Residents Made A Citizen’s Arrest Of Their Mayor For Alleged Corruption And Shoddy Construction

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Residents of a village in Chiapas, Mexico have become so fed up with their mayor that they decided to do something about it. Eschewing long, bureaucratic legal processes to hold him accountable, residents of a southern Chiapas town decided to hold their mayor accountable for what they said was a public works project so poorly done that it was useless.

A mayor in Chiapas was tied to a tree by his own residents for a job done badly.

Residents from eleven neighborhoods of the Chiapas town Comalapa held their mayor accountable for his inaction on a public works project. According to reports, the residents arrested Mayor Óscar Ramírez Aguilar to a tree in a public area to expose him to the rest of the town. They told the newspaper Diario de Chiapas, that they wanted to expose him for the “bad public servant” that he is and that he shouldn’t be reelected.

The townspeople say the municipal water storage cistern — whose installation they say was a campaign promise — is in such poor condition that it does not comply with water safety requirements. It currently has no water, they said, due to leaks, and the residents accuse the government of merely patching the tank — badly — to stop them.

In a video on social media, residents showed how the concrete patch job is already chipping away and easily crumbles.

“He promised us that this would be a public works project worthy of Comalapa residents, but [this tank is] a farce; the water system doesn’t work well. It’s an old problem that he should have attended to properly and should have been a priority during his administration because he came to see us in our homes with this promise, and now he doesn’t want to live up to it,” a resident told the newspaper.

But the mayor is denying what happened in a social media post.

The mayor though has a totally different version of events. After he was released, Ramírez posted a video on his official social media account to counter the residents’ version of the story.

“They did not tie me up,” he claimed. “The meeting was with 11 representatives of Comalapa neighborhoods in order to agree upon details regarding a major public project, the introduction of potable water.”

However, photographs clearly showed the mayor standing before a tree with his hands behind his back.

Three years ago, another local official suffered a similar fate after allegedly failing to deliver promised funds. He was bound to a post in the the central plaza of Comalapa.

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Biden Says He Will Introduce An Immigration Bill “Immediately” But What Will Be In It?

Things That Matter

Biden Says He Will Introduce An Immigration Bill “Immediately” But What Will Be In It?

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During the 2020 election, Latinos were a massive electoral voting bloc. In fact, for the first time ever, the Latino vote outnumbered the Black vote. According to the Pew Research Center, there are now 32 million eligible Latino voters and that accounts for 13 percent of all eligible voters. 

And, Latinos helped deliver the presidency to Joe Biden. So it can be expected that the community has high expectations for Joe Biden to deliver on his campaign promises of immigration reform.

During a recent speech about his first 100 days in office, Joe Biden outlined his priorities once he’s sworn in on January 20th, and said he would “immediately” send an immigration bill to congress.

Joe Biden promises swift action on immigration reform as soon as he takes office.

Over the weekend, President-Elect Joe Biden promised he would take swift action when it comes to immigration reform and rolling back many of the cruel and dangerous policies put into place by the Trump administration.

“I will introduce an immigration bill immediately,” he said in a news conference on Friday.

Although he didn’t go into detail regarding the proposed legislation, he’s previously committed to ending Trump’s ban on immigration from predominantly Muslim nations, and that he wants a path to citizenship for Dreamers, and an increase in guest worker permits to help bring undocumented agricultural workers – many of whom are now considered “essential workers” – out of the shadows.

Biden had already promised an immigration overhaul within the first 100 days of his presidency but this commitment definitely increases the pressure on him and congress to get things done.

Biden also said his justice department will investigate the policy of child separation.

During the same press conference, Biden said that his Justice Department will determine responsibility for the family separation program, which led to more than 2,600 children being taken from caregivers after crossing the U.S. southern border, and whether it was criminal.

“There will be a thorough, thorough investigation of who is responsible, and whether or not the responsibility is criminal,” Biden said. That determination will be made by his attorney general-designate, Merrick Garland, he added.

During the campaign, Biden finally took responsibility for many of his administration’s immigration failures.

Nicknamed the “Deporter in Chief,” Obama deported more immigrants than any other president in U.S. history with over 3 million deportations during his time in office. 

But as part of that administration, Joe Biden is also complicit. That’s why during the campaign he seemed to acknowledge at least some of the pain the duo caused.

“Joe Biden understands the pain felt by every family across the U.S. that has had a loved one removed from the country, including under the Obama-Biden Administration, and he believes we must do better to uphold our laws humanely and preserve the dignity of immigrant families, refugees, and asylum-seekers,” Biden’s immigration plan reads. 

While Obama’s methods pale in comparison to the cruel tactics like family separation, inhumane conditions, and targeted raids, the impact the deportations have had on families is cannot be quantified.

Biden, like any Vice President, is put in the position of having to defend his president, but also himself as the future president. This isn’t a bad thing, Biden must distinguish himself from his predecessor but if the shadow of Obama’s legacy is buying him goodwill, it might be difficult to undermine that administration’s stances.

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