Sunday, May 21, 2006

D.F.'s Mota War Y Mas .... (listening to Englishman in New York)

Ondale ... here's a pinche update on La Ciudad ... Mexico ... from The Economist ...

Riots and tears

San Salvador Atenco, a town on the outskirts of Mexico City, saw an outbreak of riots in early May. The conflict began after police tried to prevent unlicensed flower vendors from setting up shop in the street, and violence quickly escalated. Angry residents kidnapped and beat six policemen (who have since been released). In response, thousands of police stormed the town, arresting more than 200 people. A teenager was killed, dozens on both sides were injured, and more than two-dozen women have filed complaints of sexual assault by the police with Mexico’s human-rights watchdog.

Order has been restored, but on May 11th hundreds of demonstrators blocked roads into Mexico City to rally against police brutality and demand the release of the arrested protesters. The riots—and the images of police beating residents on the nightly news—have stained the image of Mexico’s outgoing president, Vicente Fox, who had pledged that his administration would part with Mexico’s authoritarian past. Various agencies have promised to launch investigations of human-rights violations, but it will probably be some time before such abuses are fully explained.

Pass the joint, oh, and the bill

Another recent rally in Mexico City was more relaxed: 500 protesters gathered on May 6th for a marijuana “smoke-in” to criticise an about-face by Mr Fox on a drugs bill. The president had promised to pass (and had helped design) a bill to decriminalise possession of small amounts of most drugs, a measure that the bill’s supporters say would free up police to pursue dealers and traffickers instead of small-time users. Both houses of congress had passed the bill, but Mr Fox, under pressure from America, abruptly reversed course on May 4th. Some Mexican legislators say they may override the president’s veto.

The protesters at the smoke-in were joined by Patricia Mercado, the presidential candidate of the Alternative Social Democratic party, whose strong showing in a recent presidential debate bumped her up in the polls—though her support base is still paltry, at 3-4%. Ms Mercado declined to light up, but said she supported the decriminalisation of marijuana.

See article: Just (don't) legalise it, May 4th 2006.


As the fight over immigration rages on in America’s cities and Congress, politicians and activists in Mexico are struggling to define their role in the debate. Mexican protesters tried to support immigration rallies in America on May 1st by boycotting American goods, but few abided by this plan. That same day locals marching in an annual labour day parade in Mexico City declared solidarity with immigrants across the border, even as Mr Fox insisted that his government neither supported nor opposed the boycotts.

Mr Fox has had trouble promoting a solution to the immigration quandary. Two weeks later he phoned George Bush, America’s president, to protest against Mr Bush's proposal to put National Guard troops along the border, only to back down when Mr Bush assured him that he was not going to militarise the border.

For background see: More marches, a growing backlash, May 4th 2006.

Taking back the streets

Yet another protest, this one more genteel, took place in late April on the streets of the upscale Condesa neighbourhood. At issue was a basic right of the upper-middle class: parking. About 80 residents blocked streets to protest against over-zealous valet attendants who park cars in their driveways. The density of restaurants in Condesa and the lack of parking garages mean that even the local Starbucks has valet service. In response to the demonstration, the local restaurateurs’ association promised to hire security guards to police the valet attendants and make sure that they park only in legal spots.

Kicked back

Blanca Lourdes Álvarez Ortega, the head of administration of the borough of Tláhuac, on Mexico City’s eastern edge, has been suspended by Alejandro Encinas, the city’s mayor, over corruption charges. According to allegations by Pablo Trejo, a local legislator, Ms Ortega had been receiving whopping 8.7% kickbacks on local logistical and construction contracts. Mr Trejo claims that the total amount lost to fraud may be as much as 50m pesos ($4.5m). Mr Trejo, who also serves as the head of a local auditing committee, launched his investigation after receiving an anonymous tip. Whether there will be wider political fallout remains unclear.

Getting out the lad vote

The two most prominent women in the centre-left Party of the Democratic Revolution’s delegation to the city’s legislature raised eyebrows when they posed in H Para Hombres, a men’s magazine. Lorena Villavicencio, the party’s legislative co-ordinator, was photographed lounging suggestively in a business suit, while Alejandra Barrales, the delegation’s spokeswoman, outdid her colleague by appearing in a slip. The two were joined by Brenda Arenas, the secretary for social development of the smallish Alternative Social Democratic party. Ms Barrales told Mexican newspapers that the photo shoot was a way of reaching out to a demographic that often doesn’t vote. The new left indeed.

Balancing the Ball
May 23rd-31st 2006

Mexico’s national cinema archive has devised the perfect film series to get warmed up for this year's football World Cup. As the games will be held in Germany, it is fitting that most of the films are German. The programme includes “The Eleven Devils”, a 1927 classic, has long shots of real games mixed in with close-ups of the actors in a climactic, fictitious match; “Free Zone”, from 2002, tells how a black immigrant player breaks down racial barriers in the former East Germany; and “Adelante Muchachas” depicts the story of two teams of teenage girls—one rich, the other slum-dwelling—who play against each other in Honduras. Taken together, the films offer a persuasive précis of why football matters.

Cineteca Nacional, Avenida Mexico Coyoacan No 389, Colonia Xoc. Tel: +52 (0)55 1255-9300. Tickets: 60 pesos (25 pesos on Tues & Wed). See the archive's website.

More from the Mexico City cultural calendar


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