Thursday, February 26, 2015

Today's Headlines: The run-up to the June 7 election is not going smoothly. And the body that's supposed to fix things is in crisis.

You were perhaps expecting a humdrum mid-term election with candidates campaigning, a handful of people voting, the ballots counted and winners declared? Not gonna happen. This is a troubled election.
    For one thing, it’s unfolding in an atmosphere of general discontent, with an electorate so ticked off that the very act of choosing some lawmakers and governors on June 7 seems more like an endorsement of corruption and incompetence than a chance to do something about it.
    The process so far has been marked by calls for abstention, boycotts, intentionally annulled ballots and even cancellation. What’s more, threats of violence are credible enough in at least three states (Guerrero, Michoacán and Tamaulipas) that statements by election officials alternate between promises to protect voters and refusals to put poll workers at risk.
    Now the discord has moved into the heart of the electoral authority itself, known as the National Electoral Institute, or INE. It boiled over at last week’s meeting when seven of the 10 party represented on the INE’s council stormed out. They stayed out for yesterday’s session. El Universal and La Jornada both lead with the story. El U’s head: “Crisis grows in INE; lack of leadership alleged.”
    The protesting parties, from across the ideological spectrum, allege favorable treatment for the PRI, President Peña Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party. The PRI was one of the three parties that participated in the INE session, along with the grossly misnamed Green Party, which serves as an appendage to the PRI in both campaign and office. (The third was the Panal, another minor party that hires itself out as a coalition partner.)
    The protest, assuming it's more substantive than manipulative, is an uncomfortable flashback to the PRI’s seven-decade hegemony, when election results were determined in advance. “We won’t accept or tolerate attempts to return to the times when the government and the PRI violated the popular will through fraud and simulation,” the absent parties said in a statement.

Business organizations have been pressuring the Peña Nieto administration to crack down on violent protests. One of them, Mexicanos Primeros, recently called the militant teachers groups CNTE and CETEG “criminal organizations.” The Federal Police (PF) have responded accordingly, and on Tuesday they rousted CETEG protesters occupying public space in Acapulco.
    The eviction came after some of them rammed a bus into the police line, injuring seven officers, according to a federal government spokesperson. Then, escaping in reverse, the bus injured several demonstrators. More than 100 were arrested, but soon released.
    At the end of the day, a retired teacher was dead. The circumstances are in dispute, though, and that’s the subject of four front-page headlines this morning. La Jornada states the situation: “Conflicting accounts of the death of a teacher.” El Universal gives two of those accounts: “PF blamed for death; it wasn’t during the eviction: Rubido.” 
    Reforma focuses on the release rather than the arrests: “CETEG teachers freed.” And Excelsior played up criticism by some CETEG members that their leaders invited the eviction by over-extending the occupation: “Teacher’s death divides CETEG.”
    Monte Alejandro Rubido heads the National Security Commission. He says evidence shows that the retired teacher died from trauma unrelated to the police action. A CETEG spokesperson said the cops beat him to death. If you don’t know whom to believe, you’re not alone.

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