Thursday, April 30, 2015

Today's Mexico CIty Headlines: Never mind

One of those days when one headline after another surprises. Starting with this one, leading Excélsior’s front page: “DF reform will have to wait.” La Jornada’s version,  also its leader: “Chamber sinks DF reform.” Reforma’s top head: “DF reform slowed.”  Milenio: “PAN blocks DF reform.”
    It wasn’t just the conservative PAN that blocked final passage of the reform in the Chamber of Deputies a day after the Senate approved it. Morena, Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s nascent party that’s challenging the PRD for left-of-center stature, also refused to support it, as did several minor parties.    
    The derailing was unexpected, because the parties had pacted its passage in advance. The PRD was furious at the betrayal, while the ruling PRI’s attitude seemed to be “whatever.” It went along with the delay, which took the form of shipping the bill out to committees.
    The on-the-record justifications for the last-minute shelving of the reform was its magnitude. “It’s absurd to think that a bill that implies such a profound reform of the constitution should be voted on tomorrow,” a PAN spokesperson said.
    Political jockeying is a more likely explanation. The PRI wants the DF back, whatever it's called. Morena wants to move in on the PRD, which has dominated Mexico City politics since 1997. The PAN doesn’t want to be on the outside looking in.
    The specific sticking point is probably the make-up of the committee that will negotiate a local constitution for the new entity. Only 60% of its members will be chosen by Mexico City residents in a special election. The rest will be appointed by the Senate, the Chamber, the president and the current head of the DF government.
    The PRD surely figured it would get the bulk of the elected members as well as the DF head’s picks. The PRI, in turn, would get more than its share, by virtue of its control of Congress and the presidency. Which explains why the other parties killed the bill.
    “Killed” isn’t really the right word. There will be an overhaul of the Federal District. But it probably won’t happen until a new lower house of Congress is seated later this year.


El Universal is the only daily that doesn’t lead with the DF reform development. Instead it goes with “SFP: Revealing conflicts of interest optional.” That wording gets more interesting when you compare it with La Jornada’s No. 3 front-page head: “Declaring potential conflicts of interest obligatory: SFP.”  This is why it’s fun to have more than one daily newspaper in town.
    The two heads may not be as contradictory as they sound. The difference is in the words “declare” and “reveal.”
    La Jornada quotes Virgilio Andrade, head of the watchdog Public Function Secretariat (the one President Peña Nieto asked to be investigated by), as saying that all executive branch officials, from the president on down, must declare potential conflicts of interest along with their declaration of assets.
    But he also said in an interview with El Universal that the required declarations need not be made public. In fact, they won’t be revealed without permission from the submitting official. So public servants now have the opportunity to appear as though they’re hiding something even as they’re declaring it.

Then there’s this from La Jornada: “Trife takes away Ebrard’s candidacy: ‘It’s an outrage.’” Trife’s a nickname for the TEPJF, the electoral court. Marcelo Ebrard, you’ll remember, is the former Mexico City mayor of presidential timber who was denied a candidacy for a congressional seat by his party, the PRD. He got in at the last minute by snagging an at-large candidacy with the small Citizen Movement party.
    Now he doesn’t even have that. The Trife majority held that he had sought nominations from both party’s at once, a no-no. Ebrard, and one of the Trife judges, said he went for the MC candidacy only after he failed with the PRD.
    By the way, it was Ebrard who used the word “outrage” (atropello), not one of the Trife judges. He said the move was precipitated by the PRI through the Green Party, and promised to pursue legal avenues to reinstatement.

A three-day holiday weekend starts tomorrow, a fine time to indulge in more life-affirming pursuits than looking into news headlines. See you Monday.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: We never called it "Today's Federal District Headlines" anyway

Four of the five major dailies lead with the Senate passage of the long-anticipated (for like 194 years) Federal District overhaul, granting it greater autonomy and changing its name officially to Mexico City, which is what most people called it anyway.
    Excelsior’s lead head is all about the name change: “Good-bye DF, hello Mexico City.” La Jornada emphasizes the autonomy: “Senate endorses DF being an autonomous entity.” Milenio finds room for both: “Good-bye DF, Mexico City autonomous.”
    It’s really two ways of saying the same thing, since Mexico City will no longer be a Federal District (DF). It won’t quite be a state either — there will continue to be 31 of those, with Mexico City still being the 32nd “federal entity.”
    The chief executive will be a governor, but there will be no municipalities. Instead, the 16 delegaciones — often translated as “boroughs,” more out of convenience than accuracy —  will become mayoralties (alcaldías), each with a mayor (alcalde) and a purse-controlling council (consejo).
    Citywide, the Legislative Assembly of the Federal District (ALDF) will be converted into a local Congress, as in the states.
    The new set-up will create a lot more elected positions, which Reforma hopped on in its lead headline: “The DF will have  . . .  300 councilors.”
    That arithmetic includes some conjecture. The 16 councils will have 10 members, so Reforma’s lead paragraph adds the 16 mayors to the 160 councilors to warn us of “176 new elected officials whose salaries will be paid with the money of Mexicans.” That’s a little off, since the 16 mayors will be replacing the 16 delegación heads, who are already elected and paid for by “the money of Mexicans.”
    The number then jumps to 300 based on expectations that the council members will eventually total 15 and the number of mayoralties will increase to at least 20, with larger current delegaciones such as Izatapalapa, Álvaro Obregón and Gustavo A. Madero splitting up.
    The first order of business (assuming the lower house also passes the reform, which is expected) will be the formation of a constitutional assembly charged with forging Mexico City’s first constitution (all the states have one).
    There will be 100 of these diputados constituyentes. The way they’ll be chosen smacks of a complex series of compromises.
    Sixty will be elected by Mexico City residents in a special election in June of next year.
    The other 40 will be selected as follows: 14 by the Senate, 14 by the Chamber of Deputies, six by the president and six by the sitting head of the Mexico City government (as of now Miguel Ángel Mancera).
    The formula is a sore point with the PRD, since, given the PRI's control of both houses of Congress and the presidency, the ruling party is likely to have a 32% voice in the selection of the constitutional committee members for an entity (Mexico City) where it has only 20% of the political power.
     None of the papers' coverage of the political reorganization addresses a lurking fear of a balkanization that won't help at all with the real issues at stake — urban planning, transportation, energy consumption, air quality, livability. The reform we seem to need would create not a lot of little "mayoralties" but a regional government taking in at least the entire metropolitan area, with its 22 million people, 90 or so municipalities, and countless problems.