Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tuning in to Mexican politics

Just before leaving for lunch a few minutes ago, Félix received a phone call from his wife Isela who had some big news: A truck had dropped off a brand-new 23-inch flat-screen television set at their house, with no other explanation except it came courtesy of Mexico's photogenic president Enrique Peña Nieto.

This cornucopia apparently extended to all households in Sosnavar, Félix' town with a population of 800 or so, and other impoverished hamlets nearby such as La Biznaga, Corralejo, Doña Juana, Providencia and La Campana. A rough guesstimate would be that a couple of thousand TVs dropped out of the sky on the towns around the ranch.

And that's just the latest in a gusher of government services to swamp this part of the world in the last year. Fifteen kilometers of a highway going near our ranch were paved recently, though not very well, and the road now has striping and cat's eyes, reflective signage and other mid-twentieth century amenities to keep people from driving into the ditch at night.

An oversize billboard advises drivers it all came from to the Federal Government of Mexico.

In addition, the main street in Félix' town, going from the highway to the church, roughly about one kilometer, was paved with concrete a few months ago and received new sidewalks with curbs nattily painted yellow, and speed bumps.

Likewise, the main road to La Biznaga, a small town visible from our bedroom window, has been neatly asphalted over.

Mind you, neither one of these towns had ever seen one inch of paved streets during the one or two hundred years they've been on the map.

And then there were lights. Maybe hundreds of street lamps have been installed to make the dark countryside sparkle at night like a Christmas tree.

But a more telling sign of the political tug-of-war around here is a billboard, located by the garbage dump on the way to San Miguel, that has been painted and repainted at least three times during the past two weeks.

For many months the billboard had trumpeted the accomplishments of the state government of Guanajuato, whose governor belongs to the National Action Party or PAN, a right-wing, Republican-type apparatus. Coincidentally, the color scheme of the billboard was blue and white, the colors of the PAN's emblem.

Two weeks ago the same billboard was painted over to proclaim that San Miguel was a "municipio priísta" or a bastion of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.

Indeed, the current mayor of San Miguel, Mauricio Trejo, as well as the president of Mexico belong to the PRI, a leftish party that holds the largest number of seats among all the parties in the national legislature.

Appropriately, the color scheme on the billboard changed to white, red and green, the colors of both the Mexican flag and the PRI's logo.

Four days or so later the billboard was painted over by the state government and so we went back to white and blue.

Two days ago, the last time we drove by, a crew was painting over the PAN billboard once again, to restore the "municipio priísta" message. We'll see how long this dueling billboards battle goes on.

Félix, one of the most cynical political creatures I've ever met, one who professes not to trust any politician or policemen of any stripe or party, laughingly told Stew that everyone one in Sosnavar now is ready to vote for the PRI.

As well they should, I say.

Unlike a 1928 Republican flyer in the U.S. that only promised a "chicken for every pot," when the PRI in Mexico promises a 23-inch, flat-screen TV set in every home, they deliver—right to your front door.

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9 comments:

  1. Félix gets a television. Peña Nieto gets a 7 million dollar house. And Mexico gets 43 murdered and burned political protesters. Why should anyone be cynical about that?

    (I do feel another essay coming on.)

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    1. Even in a country where corruption runs rampant the combination of 43 students getting murdered while the prez gets a 7 million dollar house is really too much to swallow. Thanks for bringing that up. A good summary of the situation appears in the New Yorker magazine website, including photos of the rather palatial presidential pad: http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/crisis-mexico-disappearance-forty-three

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  2. If this were coming from any source except Rancho Santa Clara I would not believe it. I wonder how many of the homes the TVs went to have either walls and / or the electricity to utilize them? And which politically connected contractors got to put in the roads, street lights and other amenities? Reminds me of the huge bright yellow overpasses, that are more dangerous and difficult to use than running across the highways. Somebody made muchos pesos building THEM!

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    1. Thank you for your confidence. Felix told me this morning that he plugged in his new TV last night and it works just fine.

      He also warned me to look for an avalanche of used TVs to hit the next Tuesday Market as the lucky recipients trade in their old sets.

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  3. Interesting, and that is the way PRI has always worked. And the poor people get all happy come election time because they get all kinds of gifts, while the priístas steal right and left again. They love to give bags of pantry specially. Rateros, todos son unos rateros.

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    1. Don't get your blood pressure up, Tomas. But you're right, that's exactly what is likely to happen.

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  4. I have seen women lugging cardboard boxes home with Mexico printed along with a few other words in big bold type. I've been seeing them all this week. I wondered what everyone was getting and who was giving it to them! Amazing. I can't even think of anything else to say.......roads paved, YEAH. God knows I wish the "road" next to my house IN San Miguel has never been paved in 14 years that I've been here. It IS a mystery.

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  5. Let's hope that all the residents of Sosnavar and the surrounding towns tune into the news to see what a firestorm of controversy EPN's presidency has become. There's a big protest in DF scheduled for 6:00 PM tomorrow, just in time for the evening news.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we're really quite sad for Mexico at this point.

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  6. Ah yes, PRI continues it's age-old tactic of buying votes... not that the other parties are squeaky clean either.
    On Nov. 20 (2 days after I leave Mexico City) the students have called for a "paro" - a work stoppage. It will be interesting to see what happens.
    It's also beginning to seem more likely that the isolated acts of violence by demonstrators (like trying to burn down the door of the National Palace) are the actions of goons planted by the government to discredit the demonstrators. Another old PRI trick.

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