Monday, January 12, 2015

Today's headlines: What France could teach Mexico

All five Mexico City dailies give prominent front-page space to yesterday’s moving anti-terrorism march in Paris. There are no front-page articles, but large photographs with teaser heads and captions refer readers to the actual coverage in the international section inside. There the heads are bigger, such as Milenio’s “Thousands express their anger.” There were actually millions (3.7 million according to the French Interior Ministry, 1.7 million according to the New York Times), and the expression seemed to be more of unity and resolve than anger.
    With French President Francois Hollande front and center in most of the photos, standing together with an array of invited world leaders, the contrast between the Paris images and the approach of the Mexican leadership after this country's own senseless tragedy in Iguala months earlier couldn’t have been more stark. It was surely not lost on Mexican readers.
    With the nation reeling from the local government-ordered assassination of four dozen young people, President Peña Nieto, you’ll remember, was mum on the topic for weeks and didn’t meet with the victims’ families for more than a month. Far from participating, a la Hollande, in the two major Mexico City marches that followed, the president cast them in a negative light, warning that violence would not be tolerated. Authorities went so far as to arrest 11 people at one of the peaceful marches, on evidence so flimsy they had to be released a few days later.
    The lack of leadership, or even involvement, from the administration — who, one would believe, perhaps naively, should be as horrified by the Iguala violence and what it reveals as any other sector of society — created a self-fulfilling prophecy. The movement, such as it is, that grew out of the Iguala tragedy has degenerated into almost daily vandalism and assault, mostly by bands of teachers and teacher trainees who apparently haven’t seen the inside of a classroom since last spring.
    Everybody else is fuming on the sidelines, impotent, frustrated, divided. Again, the contrast with the multi-ethnic show of solidarity in Paris couldn’t be more glaring.

All papers also include a smaller front-page (back-cover for La Jornada) photo-reefer on the results of Sunday’s Golden Globes awards out of Los Angeles. When it comes to international competition, Mexican journalism can be counted on to resort to nationalism if the opportunity is there, so more attention is given to Alejandro González Iñárritu not winning the best director award, or his “Birdman” best picture in its category, than to the actual winners. To wit, the Milenio teaser head:  “Birdman flies, but not enough.”
    The brilliant Mexican director (“Amores Perros,” “Biutiful,”) did win for best screenplay, hence the photos of him and his victorious smile, sharing the stage with his three co-writers. For the record, “Boyhood” (drama) and “Grand Budapest Hotel” (comedy) were named best pictures, and Richard Linklater best director.

There were no front-page follow-ups on yet another strange-but-true episode that all but La Jornada fronted Sunday. On Saturday, members of the local Section 22 of the SNTE, the national teachers union, and (according to Reforma) of the more radical education workers union CNTE, broke into the Oaxaca International Airport and took over the runways for hours. Flights had to be diverted.
    El Universal reported that a similar invasion took place at the international airport in Huatulco, a resort on the Oaxaca coast. Airport authorities couldn’t run off the intruders, but angry tourism service workers, armed with sticks and stones, managed to do it. The teachers also stopped bus service in and out of the city of Oaxaca and blocked the highways.
    The brazen criminal activity, unpunished as always, raises some disturbing questions about airport security (a subject untouched in all the print coverage). One also wonders, nervously, where all this “protest” action is heading. As for motive, El Universal’s head Sunday explains, “Teachers' protest escalates over payroll payments.” Understand, now, that it’s not about a lack of payment — they’re getting their money — but rather about the payment now coming via the state government rather than directly from the federal treasury.
    The procedural shift is a step toward implementing in the state of Oaxaca the recent federal educational reforms, which is the deeper source of the conflict. The teachers' unions have opposed the reforms from the beginning, and the Oaxaca chapters have been able to prevent the state congress from adopting legislation to implement the federal mandates.

No comments:

Post a Comment