Monday, February 9, 2015

Today's Headlines: You may wonder what borough chiefs, aka delegation heads, actually do. Maybe it's better not to ask.

Reforma got ahold of a formal complaint filed last fall by a former employee in the Mexico City borough of Coyoacán, which led to this top headline: “Toledo denounced, this time for tithing.” You don't see the word “tithing” in a lot of headlines,  do you? Here it's a translation of the Spanish word diezmo, and has nothing to do with Church practice. Mauricio Toledo, who was the Coyoacán borough head until he took a leave of absence a few weeks ago to seek higher office, is accused of demanding 10% of the former employee's salary each month, and of firing him when he balked at the attempt. Both “tithe” and diezmo are based on a root for “a tenth.”
    The words “this time” (more literally “now” for ahora) are there for a reason as well; Toledo had already been accused of corruption several times during his stint as borough chief. And the previous allegations weren’t petty. They included extortion, suborning bribes and threatening to kill people. He survived them all.
    Before 1997, borough heads were appointed functionaries, so corruption at the borough level was the specialty of faceless bureaucrats. Now it’s the prerogative of ambitious local politicians. This particular batch of outgoing delegados — 14 out of 16 being members of the PRD — seems to have taken malfeasance to new extremes. Virtually all have been touched by some degree of scandal.

El Universal and Milenio find room on their front page for reefers on the death of Mario Vázquez Raña, the business tycoon who led Mexico’s Olympic Games efforts for many years. Excelsior, on the other hand, relegates the news to deep inside, with a small photo of Don Mario in the bottom right corner of the first sports page and a perfunctory obit on page 10 of that section.
    The placement is interesting, because Mario Vázquez Raña and Excelsior publisher Olegario Vázquez Raña are brothers. Both are media moguls, and both are, or were, close to the highest echelons of power, including President Peña Nieto. But obviously not to each other.
    Mario’s Organización Editorial Mexicana publishes numerous newspapers, including the high-circulation La Prensa — a tabloid both in size and news judgment. Despite its popularity, La Prensa is too yellow to make our Today’s Headlines line-up, but its front page today is an almost solid black with one headline: “Adiós a Don Mario Vázquez Raña, 1932-2015.”
    Olegario’s media empire includes Grupo Imagen. In 2006 he acquired Excelsior, which was on life-support at the time, and soon converted it to a reliable  pro-government voice.

Milenio leads with “The law is above my boss: Virgilio.” Virgilio is Virgilio Andrade, whom President Peña Nieto appointed to head a revived Public Function Secretariat in order to investigate controversial house purchases by him (Peña Nieto), his wife and Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray. Many scoffed at the idea, questioning the value a subordinate investigating his boss. The story is an attempt by Andrade, and by Milenio, to diffuse the criticism.
    It’s based on a television interview with Andrade conducted by Milenio director general Carlos Marín. If the resulting print article is any indication, the interview muct have resembled a slo-pitch softball game. Andrade’s basic argument, in his own words: “The president names his secretaries, they’re members of his administration, but with one detail: the performance of the secretaries’ duties is subject to accountability before Congress, and to a series of regulations and a set of laws.” It goes on like that for a thousand words.

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