Friday, June 5, 2015

Today's Mexico City Headlines: Demon alcohol

Striking teachers promised to continue their protests through Sunday to disrupt voting (“Teachers’ election boycott spread to five states” is La Jornada’s No. 2 front-page headline this morning.)
    The head of INE, the nation’s top electoral body, is warning that a concerted effort is needed to keep Sundays’s election free of violence; his euphemistic way of putting that appears in El Universal’s No. 3 front-pager: “Without party support, the elections could go off track.”
    Five candidates for local offices have been murdered this year, probably by small-scale organized crime, the kind that will likely make its presence felt in out-of-the-way precincts on Sunday.
    Fortunately for Mexico, about a third of its states and the Federal District (Mexico City) have a solution to the threat — banning alcohol sales on election day. And the day before, for good measure.
    Yep, that oughta do it. No self-respecting narco is going to cause any trouble if he can’t have his nip first.
    And CNTE teachers — the ones with no qualms about ransacking party headquarters and burning government buildings —will surely refrain from mischief at the voting stations if they can’t meet at Sanborns for mimosas before and for Chardonnay with cocktail wieners after.
    The folks hurt the most by these antiquated blue laws are everyday Mexicans who do their voting duty and then want to enjoy their weekend. Also, of course, the retailers who would sell them booze if they could.
    Both get around the ban by planning ahead. What you can’t buy on Saturday and Sunday you buy earlier in the week. Reforma’s front page gives an example “Beer sales up 25% because of Dry Law.”
    Where it’s in force, the Dry Law, or Ley Seca, is so unpopular that authorities argue about whose idea it was. Mexico City officials indicated Thursday that their alcohol ban was requested by INE, which members of that body’s electoral council promptly denied.
    “We never asked any government to implement any such law,” said one of them. “It’s not one of our duties and its not in our interest.”
    Another councilor went further, speaking for most of the nation: “It’s a legal archaism and a violation of human rights.”
    So why are so many state leaders shackling their constituents with an outdated, unfair, ineffective and consummately ridiculous prohibition? Partly because they always have, although there’s no longer a federal law requiring Ley Seca on election day; it’s up to the states or municipalities. And partly to pretend that they’re doing their share to ensure a peaceful and decorous elective process.
    You can accuse DF authorities of delusion but not of consistency. Ordinary people have no say in the matter, but the National Chamber of the Restaurant and Condimented Foods Industry does. So does the Mexico City Hotel Association. They got exemptions. If you’re in a DF hotel or restaurant, you can order a drink, as long as you’re eating. (“I’ll have an English muffin and a liter of Hornitos, please.”)
    In most of the Ley Seca entities, prohibition starts at midnight between Friday and Saturday and ends at midnight between Sunday and Monday. So maybe all that’s really being imposed is an inconvenient drinking schedule.

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