Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Today's Headlines: Who says there's no accountability in Mexico? Only a few months after the discovery of conflicts of interest by administration officials in real estate transactions, firm action has been taken. The journalists who exposed the deals have been fired.

Fresh off a three-day holiday weekend and Milenio is right where we left it — leading with election scare stories and going after the PRD bastion of Acapulco.  From the lead head — “Federal protection for seven candidates: PRD”— it’s hard to tell who’s asking what to protect whom, but it comes down to this. After one of its mayoral candidates was recently murdered, the PRD leadership met with the Interior (Gobernación) Secretariat and an agreement was reached in which federal agents will protect the seven gubernatorial candidates in the state of Guerrero.
    The protection is clearly necessary, but you can’t help wondering what the mayoral candidates think of it. They’re the ones getting shot at and they’re the ones who can't afford their own bodyguards. Who’s going to protect them?

As for Acapulco, Milenio informs us under the headline “Acapulco: Behind by more than 30 years in tourism” that the port resort is undergoing  “destruction of its tourism environment, a lack of planning, social problems, insecurity and a drop in international visitors.”
    This information comes from a Tourism Secretariat evaluation that Milenio got its hands on. They could have come up with the same conclusions by just walking around the tourism zone for an hour or so.
    The report does shed some light on how it go that way, unsurprising as it is: “Investment in infrastructure has been stagnant for more than 30 years.”
    All that’s needed to fix things is $6.2 billion pesos, or $428 million dollars. Most of that would go to water treatment facilities and drainage improvements, as well as, according to Milenio, “paving of beach access.”
    That’s clearly Acapulco’s problem. Not enough concrete by the ocean.
    It’s also worth pointing out that more than 800,000 people live in Acapulco, and most of them have nothing to do with the tourist industry, at least not directly. It’s also a major Mexican port, and has been for almost 500 years. Perhaps investing in the entire city would benefit the most people in the long run?

It should go without saying that the five dailies we use here as taking-off points for our brief discussions of goings-on in Mexico are far from the whole story. Much of what matters you’re more likely to hear about from the kinds of outlets that didn’t exist just a few years ago — the digital daily Animal Político, the Internet collective Más de 131, the online newspaper Sinembargo, run by the superb veteran journalist Jorge Zepeda Patterson, and plenty of others.
    That’s been especially clear lately as most of the established dailies have been playing down what’s by far the biggest story on the minds of Mexicans today — the firing of star journalist Carmen Aristegui by the telecom giant MVS. Aristegui had carved out her own niche in Mexican broadcast journalism, and it mostly had to do with being very good at what she does. Not especially ideological, she operated on pure energy, encyclopedic knowledge and an interviewing style that didn’t come off as exactly aggressive but could make dissemblers uncomfortable.
    We shouldn't be putting that description in the past tense. Aristegui is not going away. But she’s finished at MVS. The ostensible reason is her use of the MVS logo as she announced that she and her investigative team would be participating in the newly hatched MexicoLeaks, a whistle-blowing portal.
    Few buy that. What almost everybody buys is that the dismissal of Aristegui and her two collaborators, Daniel Lizárraga and Irving Huerta, was direct if delayed retaliation for their uncovering several months ago of the “casa blanca” conflict of interest scandal, in which the first couple had a mansion built and financed by a major government contractor. Two other contractor-financed homes involving Peña Nieto and his Finance Secretary Luis Videgaray were also uncovered.
    And that’s the buzz around the country if not in the dailies. One seminal tweet, by Univision’s Jorge Ramos, summed it up: “Mexican logic: We discover conflicts of interest in the purchase of three houses. Who gets fired in Mexico? The ones who discovered them.”
    MVS and the administration deny the connection, of course. But even if we generously accept them at their word, they knew damn well it would be taken as retaliation They thought it worth it anyway. Why? Why wouldn’t MVS be proud to have its logo and star reporter involved in a noble and much needed effort to root out corruption?
    Okay. Naive question. Most of the major dailies— part of major media conglomerations themselves — are treating the story as an employer-employee squabble, going easy on  the freedom of expression overtones. They’ll quote Aristegui because she’s too big to ignore. But for the most part it’s a business story
    An exception is La Jornada, perhaps partly because it’s unabashedly anti-Peña Nieto, but also because it’s not affiliated with a major media conglomerate. It’s No. 2 head today: “Aristegui: My dismissal was planned well in advance.”

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