Saturday, August 19, 2006

M31 Dos Anos Despues

I've now been in Mexico exactly two years and one more than planned! My Spanish has improved greatly, though is far from perfect.

It’s been a while since I wrote a mass-email, so I thought I’d send a quick update. From November through April, I led a major project for my company at a large bank. That consumed most of my time and I fell out of the habit of writing my regular emails.

I skipped Thanksgiving and then only made it to Boston in the nick of time for Christmas, though failed to write my usual holiday cards. The life of Brian as a work-aholic. I am now in recovery.

My blog, however, is up to date.

After my project, I took some time off and went to the Yucatan. Photos here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/brian.kemler

Then the excitement was the World Cup. Alas, each of my four teams lost, USA, Mexico and Brazil and then finally France fell to Italy. It was fun to be in a country where soccer is taken seriously and during the matches everything stops. My company purchased a TV and cable subscription solely for the purpose of watching the games.

As the cup wound down, the next competition heated up, the Mexican presidential elections pitting the center-right PAN candidate, Filippe Calderon against former Mexico City Mayor and the not –so-center-left PRD, Adreas Manuel Lopez Obredor (AMLO). There were three other candidates, but the race came down to these two with a .05% victory for Calderon of 241,000 votes of 43,000,000 cast.

AMLO immediately demanded a re-count and has staged increasingly large protests to complain of alleged fraud, robbing him of the election. Sound familiar? Only when it happened in the USA, to my knowledge, neither Bush nor Gore stood up and declared himself president stating he would disregard the ruling of the supreme court. For the past three weeks, there has been a PRD-subidized sit-in of sorts on Mexico City’s main avenue, Paseo de la Reforma. It spans 12 kilometers, including the one block on which my office sits.

Mexico City is not the most commuter-friendly city in the world to begin with and my non-cycle-commuting colleagues have seen their one-way commute times double to two hours.

I am all for protesting and I agreed with AMLO there should be a recount. Though de disregarded the Federal Election Institute's findings and in doing so undermined a critical and functioning democratic institution that was crucial in helping to usher-in the first democratically elected president in 79 years, Vicente Fox.

AMLO’s critics have likened him to Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez fearing he will stop at nothing shy of a government take-over. Some of his supporters openly call for revolution. I was skeptical of these claims, but his actions are proving this out.

Clearly he is tapping into a valid undercurrent in the population. There are many poor and disenfranchised people in Mexico who view the government as out of touch or in cahoots with the rich elite that has run Mexico throughout its history. I don’t question that sentiment. However, my concern for Mexico is that he may be pursuing semi-legitimate means (threats, confrontations) to achieve his goals thus undermining the democracy he claims he supports.

His supporters in front of my office every day are doing anything but protesting; they're playing football, chess, doing aerobics, being fed and housed in tents courtesy of the PRD campaign and the Mexico City government whose mayor is an AMLO ally. The local police, aligned with the mayor, won’t move them. Now we're on week three and counting.

It all makes for lively theatre, but we’ll see what happens on Independence Day in September. That is the day that Mexicans gather at the central square or Zocalo to celebrate their independence from Spain. This sets the stage for a possible confrontation with the military. Already, there have been minor injuries and it’s hard not to see how one side might provoke the other into an escalation of tensions leading to violence and political instability. AMLO's supporters have threatened to close the international airport as well as other targets. The military has been brought in to deflect prostesters from closing the airport and the other targets.

For the Calderon side:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/26/AR2006072601497.html

and for the AMLO side:
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=59&ItemID=10766


I just returned from trips to Chile, Argentina and Tulum. I am gearing up for another trip to Argentina as well as vacation in German and Portugal the first two weeks of September.

That’s about it to report for now!

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