Pesos in Politics: Mexico’s Election Season

In: corruption|Latin America|Mexican|politics|Uncategorized

29 May 2012
I recently visited the city of Iguala in the southern state of Guerrero, Mexico, a place that is affectionately referred to as the cradle of the flag. The city is probably the size of Naperville, IL and perhaps smaller than Irvine, CA. Like most medium-sized Mexican towns, it has great food, warm weather, and is fairly quiet. It’s far enough from the national borders that the violence that Americans are accustomed to seeing in the news media is nowhere to be found. But I wouldn’t describe Iguala as quiet.
There are numerous shops, discotheques, and even a popular bar called Barack Kawama (pronounced cah-wah-ma and translated roughly as a 40 oz. bottle of beer). Where the real action is—at least for now—is in the downtown area—a typical colonial downtown centered around a 300 year old church, St. Francis. Just outside the church are throngs of people with green, white, or yellow shirts that represent different political parties. There are trucks parked with sound systems blaring from their truck beds. The songs playing are versions of Spanish chart-toppers representing every kind of artist from Gloria Estefan and Pit Bull to La Sonora Dinamita. If you listen carefully enough, you’ll notice that the lyrics have been changed to political propaganda. The Institutional Revolutionary Party or PRI has clearly spent the most money on everything. They have beautiful, full-color signage and the singers they hired for their propaganda songs sound exactly like the original artists. The folks from the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) and the Green Party, clearly don’t have the kind of cash that the PRI does.
The PRI was the party that ruled Mexico for decades until the PAN (National Action Party) made international headlines when Vicente Fox won the presidency in 2000, just after the previous President Carlos Salinas de Gortari fled Mexico when he and his brother were accused of funneling a fortune into swiss bank accounts. Since then, the PRI declined significantly but in recent years has been restructuring and rebuilding on the local level. Iguala is one of the towns that the PRI was able to recapture. But if you ask the locals here, the PRI has managed to alienate just about everyone. One taxi driver told me that the current town president has been “shamelessly robbing us in broad daylight.” He added’ “ there’s no way the PRI is taking Iguala again—well, that’s if there’s a fair election.”
And that’s the kicker. The faith in government here is even worse than it is in the United States. People know that despite blatant corruption, the PRI still has a fighting chance because the kind of money they spend on elections is incredible. Some of the money may go to actual fraud. The rest will go to flooding the airwaves with ad after ad.
Still, just spending an hour or so in the Zocalo, it’s easy to see why one might vote for these guys. The music is great; the propaganda is eye-catching; the people are fun. Even I, a jaded American political junkie, have a hard time not wanting to hang out with the PRI crew. They behave like winners. Their expensive display is intoxicating. Even if there is a fair election here, some people are going to vote for the image. Worse still, less educated voters might vote for the handsome guy–Erik Catalán–whose face is everywhere (shown above with Peña Nieto, the PRI’s candidate for President of Mexico). Thanks to all the expensive signage, he may be the only guy they remember. At the end of the day, money could still decide this election.
Like the old saying goes: Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States. Though, after Citizens United, perhaps it’s the other way around.

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1 Response to Pesos in Politics: Mexico’s Election Season

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Pesos in Politics 2: Return of the PRI - Cockroach People

July 2nd, 2012 at 7:41 am

[...] you read my other post, Pesos in Politics, you may be thinking I was totally right about the Mexican elections.  The PRI has retaken Mexico [...]

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While some people look at cockroaches as disgusting pests, We view them as resilient organisms that predate humans and will likely outlive us as well. People of color, the poor, the downtrodden, and the oppressed, much like cockroaches, are often despised, feared and in some cases have been the objects of extermination.

We started this blog as an attempt to understand the complicated world we live in. Things have changed since the old days of conquest, colonization, and slavery. Anonymous living, consumerism, and mass media have made it difficult to identify the forces that make modern-day oppression possible. Thus, posts here tend to focus on corruption, media, bureaucracy, ethics, economics, law, human rights, etc...in short, We try to take a second-order inquiry into assumptions and systems that some of us take for granted. We also take time to challenge stereotypes that function to place us in a box. Occasionally, We just rant.

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