Monday, December 29, 2014

Today's headlines: What can the military tell us about Iguala?

One of the entities investigating the police/narco massacre of 49 young people in Iguala— seven confirmed murdered, 42 unaccounted for and presumed dead — is the National Human Rights Commission. Its new head, Raúl González Pérez, has a thankless task; half the population accuses the commission (CNDH) of toeing the government line, the other half says it coddles criminals. At any rate, González Pérez was in Guerrero over the weekend, meeting with the parents of the disappeared students at their rural teachers college in Ayotzinapa. The news hook is expressed in El Universal’s lead headline: “CNDH has asked the army for information about the Iguala case.”
    What’s interesting isn’t the request — why wouldn’t the commission ask for all pertinent information? — but the reason for it. “The participation of the army on the day of the events will be included in the record,” El Universal quotes González Pérez as saying. That participation could be by “commission or omission,” he told the parents. “Omission” means being present but doing nothing to stop the slaughter. That has been alleged often. “Commission” would mean joining in the action. That’s not talked about as much, though the parents insist it happened. The CNDH is preparing its report, known as a recommendation. It’s non-binding but carries a lot of weight.

Prize for the most disturbing story of the day goes to La Jornada, whose top headline informs us that “28 city halls in Guerrero have been taken in support of the disappeared.” By “taken” is meant the physical occupation of the government offices since October by activist groups consolidated in what they call the Guerrero Popular Movement (MPG). In 10 of those towns, according to spokespersons for the activists, "(government) activities are paralyzed.” Among those 10 are major cities such as Acapulco, Chilpancingo and Iguala. In Acapulco, the activists boast, the mayor has been relegated to “an alternative office space.”
    Jornada reports all this in a curious matter-of-fact tone, as though the usurpation of city government and the expulsion of elected officials were routine. (In fact, they’re far from unprecedented; in neighboring Morelos, the municipal offices of Tepoztlán and Tlalnepantla were occupied for long stretches a few years ago by aggrieved residents.) Jornada sources only the activists. There is no confirmation or denial from the supposedly ousted officials, no comment from the state or federal governments, no attempt to verify the claim, no asking around to see how “paralyzed” the municipal governments really are.

Milenio gives its ample top space (the tabloid leads the league in banner headline point size) to another segment of the population impatient for a solution to spiraling corruption and violence — the private sector. “Private sector demands an integrated anti-corruption system” sounds bureaucratic, even dull. But it’s a reminder that the business community, which began the year in an ecstatic dance as the  energy and telecommunications reforms inched toward implementation, is not going to just watch as their dreams of lucre are crushed under the collapse of rotting government institutions. The message came via an end-of-year YouTube video from Gerardo Gutiérrez Candiani, president of the Business Coordinating Council (CCE), the very powerful umbrella organization for most major national business groups. By “integrated” he means a top-to-bottom, wide-net anti-corruption effort that’s formal rather than piecemeal. Unlike the grassroots groups, the CCE supports rather than blames President Peña Nieto. It's Congress they're upset with. Gutiérrez Candiani criticized legislators for recessing without creating the proposed National Anti-Corruption System that would include a theoretically independent special prosecutor. He also said the CCE will soon release a new code of ethics that would presumably apply to the business sector, not always squeaky clean itself.


Speaking of unclean businesses, Reforma leads with the news that among the fraud victims of the shuttered Ficrea financial services firm was none other than the top court at the Mexico City level, the Superior Court of Justice for the Federal District, or TSJDF. Reforma’s head: “TSJDF loses 120 million pesos with Ficrea.” That’s about 8.5 million dollars in taxpayers’ money.

Mexican dailies aren’t always clear about where legislation stands in Congress, or even what it is. But if one senator or deputy insults another, we’ll hear all about it. And if there’s any suspected funny money, it makes the front page. Hence Excelsior’s main headline this morning: “Senate raises its opaque expenditure to 320 million pesos.” This refers to the amount of budgeted funds received over the first three quarters of 2014 by federal legislators to use at their discretion, without transparency rules. This  “opaque” allotment raises suspicion and generates headlines every year. But there’s not much movement to end the practice, since its elimination would have to come from the same folks who are getting the money.

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