What’s Going On In This Country?

February 22, 2016 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

Turtles turning turtle. 322 dead marine turtles found on the Pacific coast of Mexico has forced the environmental agency Profepa to deploy an investigative team to the state of Guerrero. Most of the unlucky turtles were found on a 12 mile stretch of beach in the Costa Grande cities of Tecpan and Petatlán and are male. The sinking of a shrimp trawler nearby has been discarded as the cause of death as inspectors have determined that the vessel’s fuel tanks remain sealed.

The interdisciplinary team tasked with collecting samples of the turtles has been joined by federal officials from the National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp), state Civil Protection staff and academic and research institutions.

Most of the specimens were found in a two week period and most belong to two species: the Olive Ridley sea turtle, and the Galápagos green turtle, also known as prieta. The corpses of the turtles showed no apparent lesions, or the marks of fishing nets or parasites. Several state agencies will be monitoring sea water temperatures and ocean currents, and performing tests on samples taken from the dead animals. Profepa and the Secretariat of the Navy (Semar) will conduct surveillance of coastal waters to detect any unauthorized fishing boats.

Profepa and Conanp have asked that citizens report any sightings of dead or sick turtles immediately, and to avoid handling or having any physical contact with the specimens. And for gods sakes, don’t eat them!

Read for life.  A new reading campaign promoting reading is an effort to bring qualified trainers and library collections to children throughout Mexico. Books are very expensive in Mexico, and lending libraries tend to not work out, as the books never come back.

So book retailer Libros Gandhi and the Mexican chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), have gone into cahoots to raise funds promote reading. IBBY Mexico is a non-profit organization that represents an international network of people who are committed to bringing books and children together. Their job will be preparing the collections from its 250 titles, especially selected for readers between four and 12 years old. In a first stage, the program will go out to children in at least 13 foster homes with the help of 26 qualified trainers who will  take library collections with them.

On average, Mexicans read about three books a year. 40% of the Mexican population has never set foot inside a bookstore, and 41% occupy their free time watching television; only 12% read.

Prison riot. 49 people died in a prison riot over on the mainland, but four of them were neither inmates nor staff. Authorities have admitted  they don’t know who they are or how they got there. The riot, apparently triggered by rivalry between two leaders of the Los Zetas cartel fighting for control within the jail, was quelled within two hours but not before 49 inmates were killed and 12 injured.

The fighting began when Juan Pedro Saldívar Farías, mobilized a group of prisoners to attack rival Zeta leader César Hernández  but they failed to reach his cell. As the riot began at about 11:30 pm Wednesday, the intended target was lounging out on his king size bed with a woman. Charges have been made that prisoners have been required to pay a quota of 1,500 pesos (US $79) a week to prevent being tortured by criminal gang members who controlled the prison. Well, that might be a step better than what goes on in the Los Cabos city jail where it’s the police who torture prisoners, including water boarding. And yes, they have water boarded at least one American that we know of. Behave yourself.

Not The Best Health Insurance Say you get clobbered on the fourlane and say the meat wagon comes to pick up your smooshed body. Don’t say you want to go to the local Social Security hospital.

The new head of the countrywide system has just been appointed and his goal is to reduce wait times. As a for instance, he pointed out they were successful in cutting wait time for a person having a heart attack from about an hour to less than 30 minutes. Really? Say, you’re having a heart attack and you stagger into the ER. There’s a line for that? And the new honcho beamed as he bragged about this program, saying it cut fatalities by 50% in a trial run in Mexico City. No kidding. How about cutting fatalities further with a no time wait for heart attack victims?

The Mexican Social Security hospital program is funded by mandatory payroll deductions of the people, (about 47% of those working) who pay their taxes. (The rest of the population works under the table.)

The IMSS system serves 62 million people and on any given day the institute provides 500,000 medical consultations, attends 1,200 births and 60,000 medical emergencies, and cares for 204,000 children in its daycare facilities. The Social Security Institute employs 430,000 people in its 20,000 medical facilities spread throughout the country.

This one’s for you, Donald Trump. 2,000 jobs to be lost in the U.S. as Carrier air conditioning company moves manufacturing to Monterrey. The maker of heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration systems, will move its Indianapolis manufacturing operations to Monterrey, Nuevo León, over a three-year period starting in 2017. Company executives said the move will address the migration of suppliers and competitors to Mexico and cost and pricing pressures. Carrier is the world’s largest manufacturer of air conditioning equipment.

The firm is owned by United Technologies, which also owns United Technologies Electronic Controls, a manufacturer of microprocessor-based controls for heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration. It, too, is heading south. The firm said its customers and competitors are also moving to Mexico.

The average wage for union members at the Carrier factory is about US $23 an hour, about four times what that labor will cost in Mexico.

Taking legislation to the streets. The Mexican legislature is not going to tackle corruption: They make too much money off it. So, empowered by political reform that was approved in 2014, a collection of Mexico’s civil society groups, academics and activists went in together  to present a bill that would establish clear penalties for acts of corruption.

This is a citizen’s initiative, and could hit Congress as early as this spring, if its backers can gather the 120,000 signatures required to get it on the agenda.

 120,000 signatures may very well be collected. Students, citizens and business communities are all on board. Public and private university deans have offered their tacit support. The hashtag #Yafirmé (I signed) has inundated the web, and one of the main chambers of commerce of Mexico, Coparmex, is asking all of its members to sign the bill. Farmacias Similares, a chain of pharmacies throughout Mexico, has granted permission for their locations to accept the required hard copy signatures of those supporting the initiative. Even El Sopitas, a radio star, is actively promoting signing the bill through his pop music radio program. 

Apart from its grass roots character, there are many features that make the citizens’ initiative unique. It would be the first law in Mexico to properly define 10 types of corruption, following United Nations best practices. It creates protections for whistle blowers and incentives for confessors. It creates a framework for coordinating and defining clear obligations for the more than 96 official authorities that currently exist to fight corruption in Mexico. Furthermore, it asks all officials to present declarations of interests and assets, and to prove they pay taxes.

The Pope Is Pissed.  But so are we. Pope Frances, (often called Papa Paco here), spent five days in Mexico, mostly whining about the Mexican government. And the American government.  He stood at the U.S. border and shouted over to the United States a plea to let more Mexicans into the country. His impassioned plea for the plight of immigrants, a sure crowd stopper with the ranks of those running for the Republican presidential nomination, was a balanced counter punch to how he’s already trashed Mexican officials before he even arrived. Even before the pope set foot on Mexican soil, government officials were incensed by his comments.

 “The Mexico of violence, the Mexico of corruption, the Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of cartels, is not the Mexico that our mother [the Virgin Mary] wants,” Papa Paco said in a message sent before his arrival.  “I, of course, will not cover any of that up. To the contrary, I want to exhort you to fight every day against corruption, against trafficking, against war, disunity, organized crime.”

Mexico has a checkered history with the Catholic church. Following the 1910 revolution, the government confiscated church property and prohibited priests from wearing their collars and robes in public.

Now that trend has been reversed; diplomatic ties with the Holy See were established in 1994, and many clerics today tend to be supportive of the government of the moment, having learned their lesson not to meddle in politics. The Catholic church backed the wrong party in the revolution, which is what created the backlash against the church.  Now a new pope is pushing his limits to the limit. 

As CEO of an organization that’s hiding pedophiles from prosecution, and which is sitting on billions of dollars in loot stolen from poor people over the last 2,000 years, Papa Paco is not in a good position to be criticizing Mexico. So why does President Pena Nieto take this humiliating beating from him?

Because despite losses among their flock, and a strong secular push, Mexico remains more than 80% Catholic.