Monday, January 5, 2015

Today's headlines: Can we talk?

The  attention of the nation — or at least of the minority that cares —  is on President Enrique Peña Nieto’s face-to-facer tomorrow with U.S. President Barack Obama. Peña Nieto flies out this afternoon for what will be his first official visit with Obama in Washington (the November 2012 meeting was as president-elect). But only El Universal leads with a preview of the summit, and three of the five major dailies leave it off the front page entirely. Under the headline “Human rights on the EPN-Obama agenda,” El Universal names security, migration and human rights as the major issues to be discussed, although bilateral economic issues and education exchange will also be on the table. More specifically, the wholesale massacres perpetrated by local police in Iguala, Guerrero, and by soldiers in Tlatlaya, State of Mexico, will  come up. U.S. agents from the FBI have played a minor role in the investigation.

Using a third-place front-page reefer head — “With his policies in dispute, Peña arrives today in Washington” — La Jornada’s preview coverage goes directly to the heart of the matter, which is that this meeting feels nothing like it might have felt had it taken place earlier. It was less than a year ago, you remember, that Peña Nieto was soaking up praise (mostly from abroad) for the passage of his economic reforms. That was when Time magazine embarrassed itself with a hagiographic front cover featuring two fateful words — “Saving Mexico” — superimposed on the Mexican president’s photo. The sub-title told us that Peña Nieto’s leadership had “changed the narrative” in Mexico, as though it were a mark of competent statesmanship to set aside the nation’s true pressing problem. Said problem, if you need to be reminded, consists of unpunished lawlessness, official corruption and criminal hegemony so rampant that the dreaded phrase “failed state” has started slipping from the mouths of even friendly foreign heads of state (such as Uruguay’s outgoing President José Mujica).
    There was, actually, a change of narrative at the time. The ridiculous Time cover loosed a stampede of sardonic jokes and creative Internet spoofs that lightened the national mood for weeks. Even on its own terms Time’s Peña-worship was laughably off-base; the Mexican economy plummeted beginning with Peña Nieto’s term and shows no sign of recovery, outside the now familiar and credibility-challenged predictions of the Economy Secretariat and Central Bank.
    Of course Obama himself is hardly in the same position he was 12 months ago, after six years of intransigence paid off for Republicans at the polls in November. His stature throughout Latin America got a lift from his recent moves on immigration and Cuba, but there’s little any American president can do to offset the region’s hardened mistrust. In the eyes of most of the Mexican punditry, left and right, there’s no difference between Obama and Bush, or Obama and Polk, or Obama and Julius Caesar. 

The Mexican editors and columnists also like to remind readers that the United States has its own problems with official violence, pointing to the Ferguson and Staten Island killings and the resulting unrest. Two papers front photos of New York cops turning their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio, accompanied with the headlines “New snub by police of New York’s mayor” (La Jornada) and “NY: They turn their backs on the mayor” (Excelsior). The men and women in blue are upset at De Blasio's sympathy for those protesting the police actions as race-based.

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