Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Today's Headlines: Ending corruption will be a long journey. Would anybody perhaps be interested in taking the first step? Maybe?

We might imagine the solution to the current scourge of violence-enabling corruption as incarnating in an untouchable hero sweeping onto the scene and driving out the impure, like the just Aristides annihilating the Persian invaders at their garrison.
    Or, perhaps a titch less fantastical, the change would come about via a velvet revolution, a mass uprising, non-violent and legal, compelling the needed cleansing.
    What’s more likely to happen, though, is an uneven series of small improvements, frustratingly slow in their implementation. A reform here, a campaign there.  Maybe a high profile arrest or two. Humble, almost imperceptible progress. Snail-paced but cumulative.
    Until one day, maybe a decade or two from now, somebody releases figures showing corruption has dropped to 30 percent of its 2015 levels. And we feel like we recovered from a headache; we know it’s gone, but we can’t pinpoint when it went away.
    But that long journey won’t happen until somebody takes the first step. So far we’ve only seen false ones. El Universal’s lead headline this morning highlights the problem: “Deputies put the brakes on anti-corruption law.”
    Legislation to create a National Anti-Corruption System has been languishing in the Chamber of Deputies, and now it looks like committee and plenary votes scheduled for this week aren’t going to happen.
    Holding things up are three main sticking points, all revealing. The PRI is refusing to allow language that will require Senate ratification of the president’s pick to head the Public Function Secretariat (SFP),  an important investigative body in the proposed anti-corruption system. 
    Senate advice and consent on this appointment makes sense. Remember, just a few weeks ago President Peña Nieto invited the SFP to investigate accusations against him, and minutes later appointed a close friend and subordinate to head the agency. Presumably, a ratifying Senate would have some problems with such blatant self-protection.
    The PRI is also balking at giving the ASF, the top federal auditing agency, oversight power regarding state and municipal fund movements. The ASF is the body that reported last week on a dizzying array of misused federal funds, including millions of social program pesos diverted to other uses.
    Then there’s the IFAI, the Federal Access to Information Institute. One of its roles is to secure access to information held by public officials, who regularly ignore IFAI requests. The new legislation will allow the IFAI to sanction public officials who don’t comply. Deputies are balking at the idea of an IFAI with teeth.
If you want to get the attention of a Mexican administration (and your name in a Mexican newspaper) all you have to do is give the impression that you’re dissing the fatherland. That goes for everybody, including the pope.
    Francis had sent a note to an Argentine NGO leader supporting efforts to inhibit drug-trafficking. “I hope we’re on time to avoid Mexicanization,” the pope commented. “I was talking with some Mexican bishops, and the thing is terrifying.”
    It’s hard to see any libel in those words. Maybe it was the coinage “Mexicanization” that got the foreign relation secretary’s goat. At any rate, the reaction came quickly, and resulted in this No. 2 headline in Excelsior: “Mexico complains to Vatican about pope’s remark.” And this No. 3 in El Universal: “Chancellery urges pope not to stigmatize Mexico.”
    Foreign Relations Secretary José Antonio Meade’s objection seems to be the apparent depiction of drug-trafficking violence as some kind of  homegrown creation, a sui generis Mexican phenomenon. Said Meade: “The drug-trafficking challenge is a shared one, a challenge in which Mexico has made enormous efforts and has shown great commitment.”

All the papers found a reason to get Alejandro González Iñárritu’s smiling, Oscar-winning face on the front-page again. But El Universal found a different angle: “Anger in the U.S.”
    Actually, all they found was a different headline to run with the director’s photo. There was no anger in the United States, at least not in the El U story. The only person quoted was a certifiable nut job named Donald Trump. And Donal Trump is not "the U.S.,” I'm pleased to report.
    The Donald's rant was clearly anti-Mexican — Trump on Fox News? What else could it be? — but that’s the only clear thing about it. Neither he nor the article made much sense. A non-story. See for yourself here in a "translated" version at EL Universal's web site.

Excelsior photo-reefers a rather disturbing story. Agents from the Environmental Protection Attorney Generals’s Office, or Profepa, raided a private zoo in the Puebla city of Tehuacán and confiscated 101 animals in varying states of mistreatment.
    We’re not talking hamsters and rabbits here, as Excelsior’s headline reveals: "Profepa confiscates tigers, lions and bears in Puebla. The rescued animals included 15 Bengal tigers, nine jaguars, five pumas, seven leopards, five African lions, two grizzly bears, three antelopes and three bison.
    And here’s the kicker. The zoo, perhaps in this case better described as an animal prison, belongs to a state lawmaker named Sergio Gómez Olivier, a member of the National Action Party.

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