Monday, 8 June 2015

Mexican Elections 3: early morning after

My earlier blog entries given the label 'Elections' are here.

This was what we found when we went to see how a polling place was conducted in Guanajuato, Guanajuato.

I have not see numbers for voter turn-out yesterday, but they are lower for these mid-term elections.

I am suddenly reminded noting how close the numbers are between the USA and Mexico of my worst-ever job, drafting replies for the Australian Foreign Minister to angry letters about the Viet Nam war. They found another job for me in six weeks. Meanwhile in defending the way South Viet Nam had conducted a national election, I had included in a draft letter reference to the fact that there had been a higher turnout in Viet Nam than in the US. This caused various degrees of perturbation among more senior persons, from gosh you can't say that to but the ones in the US are real. 

These are, let me hasten to add, real elections in Mexico, though the process has been coloured, shaped, built around patterns of patronage and benefit expectation by seventy years of returning one party to government until 2000 and return of that party to office in 2012. Voters and the party machines are involved in reward systems that are not airy-fairy.

The newish US-based sortaforusmodernguys news service Vice ran a column the other day which ms Google translated into English thus:

Every six years, Mexico orate with campaigns for president gets. All conversations are directed to the subject like flies flying over a steak. Families fight, couples split (or born new partners, as appropriate), the livers are destroyed and pets lose some attention from their owners. In that vote, comes the person you have to see his face every day for seventy-two months or two thousand one hundred and ninety days (not counting leap years), until we can not anymore.Right in the middle of this journey happen midterm elections, which are like the younger sister of the presidential election. Perhaps you've noticed that next Sunday will happen one of these. If you do not, I envy you to death.......If you are one of those who say that politics are bored, I do not blame you. Even the cockroaches are bored with politicians.But there's a reason why they should be interested at all cost us a shitload of money, including you. According to various estimates , the little joke of the election of 2015 cost more than thirty billion pesos. More or less the same budget that has the UNAMI do not know, but considering that we put all that money, I think we could, if only for curiosity, to see what happens with the whole issue around the vote. So here are the main points that all (or) Mexican (or) should know about it, but I did not.  [read on here]
The government web site is not helping me (perhaps my poor navigation in Spanish) with results information, though last night the elections chief said he expected results by 10.30pm.

El Pais is giving the elections to the government (PRI and allies). The margin is narrow. This is the BBC with similar angle but showing the numbers could fall either way over the line.

There is much media focus on troubles in the States of Guerrero in the west and Oaxaca in the south.

In Guerrero for some years the intervention in gang control of local affairs by the central government has lead to major misery and disorder, lawlessness, vigilantes... and sad lives. Focused around The 43, the sad cry of brave parents is essentially "we don't want your damn elections, we want our children back." This is interpreted in much international media just as violence.

In Oaxaca there is long-term dissidence around minority ethnic issues with the question of education reform, with months of sit-ins in the city square (Zocalo) and now disruption and burnings around the election. Here's some background from a US union associated newspaper. Here's a current story from Vice.

Meanwhile media are playing in worrying terms for the national government that the state of Nuevo Leon, second strongest state in the country, 7.5% of GDP, capital Monterrey, tucked up under Texas, has elected as Governor an independent, a strong-man Jaime Rodriguez 'El Bronco' who left his long-term position with the nationally governing PRI for this campaign.

Nuevo Leon has seen some of the worst violence of the internal ruckus from the opening offensive in Mexico in the war on drugs. An account from the progressive US weekly The Nation here.

However I note that the conservative party PAN, which elected the only non-PRI national presidents 2000-2012 has had a powerbase in Nuevo Leon, securing the governorship 1997-2013. And I have seen a report, which can't now find to reference here, that the former PAN governor of Nuevo Leon pitched his support behind El Bronco. So the manoeuvring is not simple, the dealings will now not be simple for anyone.

There is a gender issue too. On the one hand there is a pattern of domination of power in Nuevo Leon by networks of men. On the other hand there is recent national law requiring that a proportion of candidates be women. The unsuccessful PRI candidate for Governor of Nuevo Leon was a woman. El Bronco is admired for tough action against the drug barons and survival of two attempted gang assassinations in a town where he was mayor (gang is really not the word, read wikipedia on the Mexican drug war and see links in right column.) The PRI candidate Ivonne Alvarez survived violence as mayor of the front line border town of Nuevo Laredo but criticised by some for abandoning the local scene for national comfort in the Senate. But there is a glass ceiling... and much more. The powerful film Backyard (El Traspatiowhich has had several airings on Australia's SBS is set a little further to the west, but gives some flavour to the exploitation of women in the border world. It's not easy to watch, as it was not easy to make, but it's well made and gripping and the female lead formidable muy brava Blanca Bravo and other women and men provide excellent performances, while Jimmy Smits and the complex slick person he portrays is terrifying (film trailer link).

I note also that Backyard was the official Mexican nomination for Best Foreign Film at the 2009 Academy Awards.

I note that to underscore the complexity of this country, its refinements, its huge diversity. Many countries are misunderstood perhaps. There is so much the case for Mexico, with so much to be misunderstood, from the machismo in the north to the corners of Oaxaca in the south where women have big roles [link] [link] through all the strong modernism between.

I quoted in an earlier entry a label in an exhibition on the Museo Estanquillo in D.F., which read, my translation:
The identity of the Mexican people is a deep river that flows from the south.From there radiate the waters of our remote past, and the flowering of the high mountains of our lasting culture: multiethnicity, multilingualism, mixing of races and modernity.
There is a vast physical and mental distance between the north and the south. Even in the period of disorder after the coup by the right and the US against the post-Revolution Madero Goverment in 1913, the north and the south in revolt were led by different legends: Emiliano Zapata in the north and Pancho Villa in the north. As is the case when you live close to the fire, their histories in imaginations were shaped by Hollywood, even here, I expect. Sergio Leone's revival of the western with Clint Eastwood and Ennio Morricone (youtube link) was great entertainment but did nothing for international images of Mexico.

Basil Liddell Hart, greatest strategic mind in Britain in the twentieth century, listened to more by Guderian and other masterminds of the German Blitzkrieg in 1940 that would have captured the British army at Dunkirk if Hitler had not lost his nerve, wrote in a book on strategy, published posthumously by his widow about how it's not what you say, it's what you do that counts. How the viciousness of Napoleon's Peninsula War contributed to the extreme horrors of the Spanish Civil War 130 years later. And of how Lawrence of Arabia contributed to terorism in the Middle East as was emerging again in 1970 when Liddell Hart died. This is of course relevant to the madness of western strategic thinking in recent times.

For here the point is this. With a history of ferocity among indigenous civilisations at war and with vicious systems of government, with those indigenous governments overthrown by vicious Spanish Conquistadores who smashed everything in front of them and brought the Inquisition and hacienda class system behind them (as also to other places including The Philippines were I worked in the 1960s), in a country which can single itself out in world history by an independence date of 1810 and a revolution date of 1910, a country where the United States cut its teeth in foreign intervention, ripping so much off Mexico (independent Mexico, not Spanish colonial Mexico) such that Mexico is half as big as once was... Well I think Mexico is doing amazingly well, its people deserve a better hearing and a better life, the US needs to address its drug issues effectively internally and get the blowtorch where it belongs... and we need to get cool, be a bit amazed about how Mexico conducts elections at all.

For this country of 120 million, could we have some balanced media reporting: oh, I forget, the media is in the same trenches as B Liddell Hart described war, doing what it does, captivated by mind-trenches, compounded by commercial interests that only report the bad stuff, too often only pay honchos to go report bad stuff.

Oh by the way, there were no incidents at polling places in Mexico City.

I put this mention of no incidents in the capital city at the end to conform with all the other commentators.

Except I also put here again the photo of our local polling place that's up the top.

not a single "guao!" to report

A rooster just crowed! Here in the city! Time to go.

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