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Posts Tagged ‘Ayotzinapa’

Café Dose, rue Mouffetard, Paris

May 2015

Censorship comes in different forms. You’ve indulged in free political speech for most of your life—but then grown more and more concerned about security agencies like NSA taking notes on what you say. Perhaps for later use. And so you arrive at the point where you ask yourself, “Should I come right out and say this?”

Maybe that’s the point: to make you think twice or thrice before you let your fellow citizens know what you think about, say, censorship in all its forms. After all, as throughout history, first they eavesdrop, then they make lists, then they come for your neighbor—and then for you.

Here in this country below the border, you withdraw a one-act play from the Internet, first the Spanish translation, then the original English, because it may or may not be dangerous to suggest, even indirectly through art, that the country’s government may be complicit in high crimes against its own people. In the process, you get the idea of what it was like to write in France during the German Occupation, in the Soviet Union then and now. And, presently, in Saudi Arabia, China and much of Africa.

How did you arrive at this point? You took a screen writing workshop at this year’s San Miguel Writers Conference. Up to that point, you had applied yourself to writing short stories and novels. You had never written a play before. Thinking you might be asked to write something right then and there, you chose a subject that was on everyone’s mind, the disappearance of forty-three students in the south of your country of residence, all of them from one school, all of them surely murdered—this in the context of some 92,000 other people who are also missing here.You didn’t have to write a five-minute play, but you decided to proceed with your idea. You wrote a one-act play. And then you had your translator translate it into Spanish.

Hoping to continue skirting the line of what was safe, you mentioned your play on Facebook. You wrote, “Thanks to the gifted translation by the Guanajuato writer and poet X, you can now read ‘The Colonel and the Pig’ in Spanish, a short one act play possibly in the epic style of Bertolt Brecht, where the latter sought to distance his audience from the anecdotal quality of reality. That is not my phrasing, but I can’t think of a better way of putting it—in the matter of forced disappearances in a country south of wherever you find yourself in the world.”

And then you gave your blog address, so people could read the play.

You mentioned the posting to a few young Mexican friends. One such friend told a friend of hers. The latter, a young woman with an BA theater, read the Spanish version, said she liked it very much but added it would be difficult to stage because it was so politically loaded.

At that point, you begin to come out of your self-congratulatory haze and realize that a watching censor would likely come to the same conclusion. Your best friend warns that the government, Army and Federal Police would not understand myth, metaphor, irony, epic theater or Bertolt Brecht. And that the government—on many levels—was becoming increasingly intolerant of critics. Plus, your are not a citizen, and they could deport you for breaking one of the rules on being a resident: You may not demonstrate politically against the government.

And so you decided to take the little play down, both the Spanish and the English. You give a few people electronic copies, but tell them not to distribute them further. You also write a friend who has been living in the country for more than sixty years and whose opinion and judgment you trust. You mentioned the great risks taken by articulate and brave women like Lydia Cacho, Denise Dresser, Carmen Aristegui and Raquel Padilla Ramos, who do not hesitate to take on the government. You mention you do not feel good about yourself, giving in to the fear of censorship and retaliation.

You friend replies, “Being a non-citizen of Mexico can also be a great cloak to wrap around yourself. The most comprehensive stories of graft and corruption, the best investigative inquiries into massacres and suspicious suicides like Linda Diebel’s book Betrayed: the Assassination of Digna Ochoa are written by non-citizens. Given the choice of an article in Proceso or an in-depth article about the same incident in The New Yorker, I will almost always prefer the dispassionate but fact-checked writing of the American journalist. But what you wrote, in my opinion, is not investigative journalism. You wrote a lovely lyrical almost poetical play that is more art than rant or cant. Aristegui, Dresser, Cacho are IMMINENTLY public figures with huge followings, hence the threat as well as the political clout that they bring to their battle. I think the performance of your play (in Spanish) or even just reading of it at some cafe or little theater at least in Michoacán would have been thoroughly appreciated for what it is. My getting involved in the disgusting political machinations of the mayoral campaign here in town is seriously dangerous…I still take notes and jot down the farcical (albeit with deadly serious implications) nature of this campaign.  You should not self-censor. Keep writing in your (excuse me) Brechtian fashion, and collect your writings. Posting or publishing is not that important right now. Capturing your impressions of the political climate is what is important. ”

You write this as you sit in a third country (France), which prides itself on unrestricted expression that, if exercised without some situational restraints, can have disastrous consequences. And then there is Texas, where free expression is used as provocation—again with disastrous results.

There is a danger line in the country where you live,  except that you don’t know exactly where it is. There are other questions. Were you overestimating the importance of your words, or were you underestimating their possible impact? On the one hand, a writer wants the widest possible audience—but not so wide that the government’s enforcers react. The Internet offers the illusion that you comment from neutral ground and that you are therefore safe, but we all know that that is not true.

And so you arrive at the final question—perhaps a false one—and that has to do with which group you belong to: the brave risk-takers? Or to the self-censoring, the silenced, to those who have knuckled under? We have some guidelines that help here. There are a great many dead risk-takers in this country and, no doubt, a few living expelled ones, too, like the Italian women who got involved in Chiapas during the Zapatista uprising. Clearly, you also have to control the writer’s ego, which might otherwise be over-estimating its importance and foolishly willing to risk disaster for a piece of writing, badly timed and, in the long run, quixotic. And so, in the end, you turn to the meta-story, the one presented here, which you hope will bore the censors speechless, while giving the writer some relief.

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Please forgive me, Proceso, for distributing this extremely important and hopeful article by Sara Pantoja:

Directed by citizen groups like The Loudest Scream, #Yamecansé, the Sopitas.com platform and Amnesty International, “Ya me cansé por eso propongo” [Enough, I’m Tired, For This, I Propose] is an initiative that, via the website www.poresopropongo.mx, adds to the marches and public demonstrations against the situation of “violence, justice and impunity” which Mexicans are living through.In a press conference, academics, filmmakers, writers, actors, graphic designers, activists and representatives of these groups reported that the campaign began in November last year after the disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa normal school students and the now familiar phrase [Ya, me cansé] that the Attorney General Republic, Jesús Murillo Karam, said at a press conference on the case.

The campaign consists of entering the website, going to the “Send your postcard” link, uploading a picture and writing your proposal about what the country needs, accompanied by the hashtags #YaMeCansé and #PorEsoPropongo, and sending the postcard.

In the Museum of Memory and Tolerance, Sophie Alexander and Daniel Giménez Cacho, members of the group The Loudest Scream, presented a video that accompanies the initiative and read a statement inviting Mexicans to participate in the campaign.

“The solution to this deep crisis will not come from the government institutions or drop down from the authorities, but will result from the organized strength we achieve to confront the owners and administrators of our country,” they said.

They criticized the decades of PRI culture, which

“have caused ignorance regarding citizen participation, and the popular organization that exists is not enough. The government institutions are closed to us; we cannot even hold popular referendums and the political parties represent only themselves. Democracy for us happens only when the National Electoral Institute asks us for whom we are going to vote.”

MV Note: The Supreme Court denied petitions by the PRD and Morena parties for a popular referendum on the energy reform. Its decision was based on the wording of the constitutional amendment that enables such referendums, which specifically excludes any issue that directly affects government revenues. This clause was designed to exempt the energy reform, which affects the government’s revenues from oil. 

They proposed promoting a cultural change because

“it is necessary not only to be against things, but to end the PRI in all of us so that we become active, informed citizens with our own opinions. We must know that no leader will get us out of this crisis.

“The PRI has gotten inside of us. It is a culture against which we have not yet triumphed. It is a way of living and doing politics to which both parties of the left and right have succumbed. It is a culture that has defeated the unions and employers, judges and the military. It is a culture that is dying but hinders us from advancing. It is a culture of subservience and depression, simulation and demagogy, self-censorship and media manipulation, of the purchase of ideals. It is an enemy of democracy and social development.”

Francisco Alanis, of Sopitas.com said that his participation is to “channel the anger as people. We all build the political and we must create a caring community.”

Perseo Rendón Quiroz, executive director of Amnesty International of Mexico, said the organization will contribute its experience in dialoguing with the government and states so that the proposals related to the human rights crisis “get to the right place and resonate.”

He added: “We have been fighting for human rights for 50 years; we can hold on for another 200. We will continue to mobilize until they listen to us, however long it takes, however long it requires.”

The organizers called on Mexicans to participate in the initiative and invite more people through social networks to do the same.

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I am stealing this because it is too important not to:

Reforma: Eduardo R. Huchim*
Translated by Thomas Mosley

The recent survey by Reforma (12/13/14) on the dramatic decline in citizens’ trust in key institutions, including the president and the military, confirms that Mexico is in a national crisis because of what it is experiencing.

Unfortunately, the institutions have not responded effectively or soon enough, but this is due to their leaders’ inability and/or lack of ethics and commitment. Our institutions, though they can be improved upon, have strengths in their design and the necessary legal powers, but their proper operation requires their leaders to have effort, dedication, and strict adherence to ethics and law: virtues which rarely occur in Mexico.

Although responsibility for the crisis weighs most heavily on the Executive branch, the truth is that it does not exclude the other powers. As a preview, keep in mind three facts that were released just yesterday: the judge that exonerated Raúl Salinas de Gortari [brother of former president Carlos Salinas] of illicit gain, the PRI deputies who refused to allow the Superior Audit Office to audit them in real time, and the PRI and PAN Senators who forced the Senate session to be adjourned and close the [autumn] period due to a lack of quorum. This last left the appointments of electoral and anti-corruption prosecutors, the political reform of Mexico City, and the response to the parents of the disappeared Ayotzinapa teachers college students up in the air, among other issues.

No, the Executive branch is not solely responsible for the current crisis. However, it is they who should head up rescuing the institutions, a bailout which will only be possible if the three branches and autonomous bodies work vigorously. There are essential actions that the Head of State can undertake with a patriotic spirit, far from unhealthy appetites such as wealth and extravagance. The first would be to admit the mistakes and go forward with the public apology suggested by Enrique Krauze in The New York Times [What Mexico’s President Must Do].

The apology would be a good first step toward a horizon of bold actions (yes, those!) that would definitely move Mexico in the right direction, with a premise that the vice president of Bolivia, Álvaro García Linera, aptly put recently in an interview with Carmen Aristegui (CNN, 12/15/14):

“The government must tell the truth at any cost and sacrifice anyone necessary… if a lie about something important is left planted, in the future that lie will become a stamp on anything that the government says.”

Without claiming to be exhaustive, some such actions might include the following:

a) Clarifying what actually happened in the painful Ayotzinapa case, without consideration for the federal workers who took part in its genesis and development. Does the “official story” of incineration hold up against the objections that scientifically oppose this hypothesis? Did soldiers and federal police take part in the disappearance of the 43 students? These are questions that must be answered promptly with supporting evidence.

b) Based on current law, immediately fighting against any act of corruption at all levels, and the consequent prosecution when necessary.

c) Accepting the conflicts of implicit interest in the houses of the Lomas de Chapultepec [house of  Angélica Riverapresident’s wife] and Malinalco [house of Secretary of the Treasury, Luis Videgaray], followed by selling the property and donating the proceeds to projects which unquestionably benefit society. [MV Note: Angélica Rivera has announced that she will sell her “share” of ownership in the house being financed by the Higa construction company.]

d) Cancelling the contracts awarded to the Higa Group, of John Armando Hinojosa Cantú, in particular the Monterrey VI project [an aqueduct], which would cost at least 47 billion pesos [US$3.2 billion] and whose usefulness has been rightly questioned.

e) Cancelling the purchase of the luxurious presidential jet, or replacing it planes that are useful to society.

f) Implementing a public infomation policy that excludes all paid government propaganda in the electronic media. [MV Note: The government spends large amounts on paid advertising of its programs and accomplishments. This is seen as producing favorable coverage by the media.]

g) Substantially modifying the failed policy against drug trafficking by regulating the sale of drugs that are currently banned, coupled with prevention campaigns.

h) Reversing all the content of the energy reform that lacks public consent.

i) Correcting the erroneous tax policy [which raised taxes in the context of a stagnant economy] and granting real stimuli to companies. A rich government, an impoverished population, and a discouraged business sector do nothing for the nation.

These are times of crisis, and to deal with them, we must counter with a time of boldness. Will there be one?

Reforma only allows subscribers to access articles on its website.

*Eduardo R. Huchim is a journalist, writer and, from 1999 to 2006, member of the General Council of the Electoral Institute of Mexico City, where he presided over the Audit Commission. His books include The System Crashes (Grijalbo, 1996), The Plots (novel, Grijalbo, 1997), New Elections (Plaza y Janés, 1997), Media (Santillana, 2002) and What’s Up With the Vote (Terracotta, 2006).
 @EduardoRHuchim

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