Pico de Orizaba

Pico de Orizaba
Taken from Huatusco, Veracruz, the closest town to Margarita's family's ranch.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Democracy, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Press

Yesterday I mentioned something about closed-mindedness and access to information; similarities and differences between Mexico and the United States.  Last night, after shutting off the computer, I went to the kitchen for something to eat.  Well, the refrigeration and the "pantry" were vacant.  So, I decided to "meditate".  Not true.  I don't meditate.  But, I kind of trance out, focussing on my toes or my hands...  Margarita found some eggs and zucchini and brought me her salsa verde, offered to cook something quickly for me.  While I was eating and long afterwards, we talked.  The house was quite.  Everyone was asleep.  I spend "long hours" on the computer these days and Margarita spends a lot of time in the kitchen and doing chores around the house.  So, it's a rare chance that we sit down and talk.  In fact, she often goes to sleep long before I do. In any case, we had a nice long conversation last night.  Margarita told me that a reporter was killed in the Port of Veracruz.http://en.rsf.org/mexico-veracruz-journalist-shot-dead-in-21-06-2011,40499.html  He was assasinated with his whole family.  The question is "who and why did they kill him and his whole family?  What was he writing about?  What was he investigating?"  I guess it doesn't matter anymore.  They killed him and his whole family. http://en.rsf.org/mexico-police-find-body-of-veracruz-state-03-06-2011,40401.html If someone is "brought to justice," the imminent threat represented by that reporter ceased existing.  It's kind of like the question about who killed J.F.K.  It doesn't matter.  Because those who wanted him killed achieved their goal.  You can prosecute who you want.  But, J.F.K. ceases representing a threat to someone.  There was a Mexican journalist working and living in the U.S.  She returned to Chihuahua, Mexico to investigate the kidnapping and murder of her daughter. During her investigation she found some local judges amongst other political figures connected with what happened to her daughter.  All this was being leaked into the press and then suddenly she was assassinated...  Mexico is rated #137 of 178 countries rated on freedom of press.  http://en.rsf.org/report-mexico,184.html How can you have a democracy if you can't speak your mind?  How can you have a democracy if you don't have access to information that tells you what is actually occuring in your country?  How can you vote for someone if you can't know what that person truly does as a politician?

Back in July 2009, we were working in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco. Infront of our coffee bar were two restaurants.  I sat down next to one of the waiters who told me he was from Venezuela.  During the conversation he asked me, "what would you do if you became president?"  And I replied, "I wouldn't become president.  They wouldn't vote for me.  Or, better yet, if I became president, they would assassinate me."  He asked me why I would say such a thing.  And I responded that I would want to do my job well.  I would concern myself with the true needs of the people, etc.  So he said, "If I became president of Venezuela, I would rob the people of whatever I could get my hands upon."  I was just a bit taken aback.  This time it was my turn to ask why he would say such a thing.  And he explained briefly;  "That's what Latin American presidents do. If I didn't do it, then I would be a pendejo, a fool and everyone would tell me so."  And that was the last conversation I had with him.  Maybe I am the fool.  Why?  Because I know he is correct.  That you do what is prescribed for you within you position.  You play the game.  I don't play the game.  If all presidents are thieves and lyers and you enter that position and you don't do what every does, then you just wasted your time and someone else's chance.  In Mexico there are Municipal Presidents.  My brother-in-law Gregorio works for the Municipal President of Sochiapa who was his boss when he sold furniture for this man.  Before he became Municipal President, Ismael dedicated his lift towards selling furniture.  He had quick success and bought new pick-ups and other cars on credit seemingly every other month.  But the strange thing was that he didn't respect the warrantee requirement of taking his trucks to Nissan for servicing every 5,000 miles.  Not long into Gregorio's time selling furniture, one of the brand new pickups blew it's engine.  That year we were invited to Ismael's birthday party by Ismael.  He had spent easily $10,000 USD on the event and I asked Margarita and my in-law's "What is Ismael trying to prove?  Is he going to run for Municipal President or something?"  The following year was the campaign and low and behold Ismael was on the ticket. He had paid a certain amount of money to be chosen as the candidate for his party.  Why would you pay to be candidate?  Because if you win, you earn your keep.  50% for you, 50% for me.  When governors, mayors, municipal presidents leave their offices, with them go the computers, the pick-ups...  When we were still living in Xalapa, the year after Miguel Aleman de Velasco left the Governor's office, the Public Radio Station read off a list of governors, mayors and municipal presidents who owed money to the government for receiving money from the government for projects they didn't work...  Miguel Aleman was on that list and never was prosecuted.  Why not?  "Because everyone is doing it..."  Before the election for municipal president of Sochiapa, the municipality of my in-laws, one of Margarita's aunts came over and asked everyone who they were voting for and asked for their identification if they were voting for the party she belong to...  The reason she asked for their identification was because, if they voted for her candidate, he would know to whom gifts would be given should he be elected...  Margarita said that her father did that work in the past, going house to house asking people for their information before the voting began.  Much earlier I mentioned my brother-in-law Wilfrido who left with his girlfriend Indez for work in the state of Puebla.  Before leaving, he went to the municipal offices to ask for help building a house.  Someone said that he was fortunate that he had voted for Gregorio's boss, because those who voted for the other party who needed assistance for building a house were turned away.  Some people were building very ostentatious houses, people who had money to begin with....

What do I think of this?  Well answer this question, because I find it very difficult to come to terms with the complex socio-political issues/realities of poverty here:  Is it better to be poor without anything, without a voice and without the true opportunity to pull yourself up from your bootstraps through education and training... than to be poor with a nicer house, a car, a large screen t.v., adequate food on the table for your children and still have no voice and without the true opportunity to pull yourself up from your bootstraps through education and training?  You can't break this cycle.  I can't tell my inlaws that the product they cultivate has much market potential and that they should not wait for governement handouts and should find a way to become independent and self-sufficient using their own personal integrity, creativity and some outside ideas and experience.  That didn't come out as clearly as I wished.  Yes, I can tell them whatever I wish and have told them so much.  However, the only thing they know works just a little bit is what has always been. What I offered is too much risk.  It's not risk.  It is foreign.  I gave a ton of books to my sister-in-laws.  Those books were returned to the room Margarita and I use.  The last time we were at my in-law's house, I asked Margarita if she would begin reading a certain book I had just finished.  I mentioned that it was large but it was great reading.  Alba looked at Erica with a smirk on her face rolling her eyes.  What happened here?  I guess there is something wrong with treating a woman as an equal...  It's best that they don't read and serve their brothers and sit down at the kitchen table after the men have eaten and wash their brother's laundry and clean up their brothers' bedrooms EVERY DAY.  And then get married to young men who will later drown their despair in aguardiente with their compas (Compadres/Co-fathers/God-fathers to their children) and call them Hembras or Gallinas (Female Animals/Breeders or Hens for spending their days gossiping with the other women Bak Bak Bak Bak) and continue the cycle of machismo (Male Chauvenism).  The woman could be on her death bed and the husband is asking her why the food isn't ready and why the child doesn't have his shoes tied and etc. etc.  I write from experience.  This is why I must record my conversations with Margarita, because she has some surprising things to say for someone who grew up within this culture and loves her family dearly.


Democracy goes from the top to the bottom.  Democracy begins from the bottom and rises upwards.  At R.V.C.C. I took a Political Science course.  The professor told us that Aristotle mentioned that Democracy was the worst of all political systems.  And that Oligarchy was the best.  The idea is that Democracy is mob rule or rule by the masses. If the majority of the people tend to be ignorant, lazy, uninterested, shallow, that is the government you will have elected.  An Oligarchy is rule by a group of people, hopefully intelligent, thoughtful and well-intentioned.  The problem I have with all this at this point in time is that, the concept of modern Democracy is connected with the concept of freedom and liberty for the masses.  So, if Mexico is democratic, I would hope that the government would consider the needs of the majority of the people.  The problem with the democracy in Mexico is that maybe my in-laws would decide that their children don't need to read, nor go to the state university, nor encounter lifestyles more fulfilling with less socio-economic risk, less limitations.  You may ask, "But if they are happy with this lifestyle?" And I will tell you about all the accusations of who is restricting them, exploiting them, robbing them; who is privileged... who has everything, keeping them in the position of having nothing...    Gregorio told me that he mistreated me for so many years because he was racist against "Americans".  However, he had never known an American until he met me. But he never allowed himself to know me.  My mother-in-law Paz once told me, I had never seen an American until I met you.  And, to tell you the truth, I was scared.  But then I met your mother and Bruce and then your friends (Scott and Laura) and Chris and Bob visited us.  And I realized that there was nothing to be worried about.  This came out during a conversation about my concern about Gregorio's continued sarcasm and snide remarks towards me, no matter how friendly I had been with him ever since we met at Las Cañadas in February 2003.  With Gregorio I lived the Christian concept of Turning the other cheek so they can hit it too...  I don't believe that's a concept for middle-class or wealthy Christians, but for poor Christians.  Remember, there were two different Baptist Churches for the black southerners and for the white southerners; two different Gospels. In Carmen Aristegui's book about Marciel Maciel, it is mentioned that the Christian Legionaires which extended itself out of Mexico and well into the United States, was created to offer the wealthy Catholic Mexicans a Gospel justifying their political-economic positions and for their avarice and the oppression and exploitation of the poor Mexican Catholics.  It created two Catholic Churches in Mexico, sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the Vatican and was exhonerated for whatever criminal activities their mastermind, Maciel Marciel committed (having sexual relations with women, marrying a woman, sexually abusing hundreds of his male students and his "American" son, money laundering, etc).

As I said earlier, "I don't want to overthrow the world."  But, if you complain about something, the least you can do is have access to the truth and seek it...  Maybe there are other options that don't require conflict, anger and resentment; that don't utilize common lies and denile.  The best way to built personal satisfaction is building oneself honestly.  But how do you do that without adequate tools?

And that's why I focus upon Democracy as a concept of freedom and liberty.  Because, if the Democratic country truly is constructed upon freedom and liberty for it's people, then those people will have the tools for becoming owners of their destiny, supposedly.

But, if the reporters are being assassinated for writing or investigating the truth...?  Who would want that career?  Who will report the events in this country?  Who will tell the people what is going on and why?  Where is the base for planting one's feet?

You may say, "Ross, but you criticize your in-laws and their people.  You say that their way of life and their behaviors and world view is wrong and not a good base for a political system."  And I say, "I live immersed within this for 8 years trying to understand and trying to help."  And I understand that the problem is very complex and imbedded.  Check out Publications by Alvaro Vargas Llosa and his father Mario Vargas Llosa's speach infront of the U.N about Democracy in Latin America, and you'll find that it is an uphill battle against a system that began with the Spanish Conquest of the Americas.  They believed that with the election of Vicente Fox and PAN in 2000, Mexico was about to lead Latin America into the 1st World with socio-political reforms.  But, then they realized that PAN decided to become Neo Liberal/Neo Conservative, like the Bush Administration... And that was that. Mexico, the 11th richest and the 11th most populated country in the world, could set an incredible example.  But it doesn't and now look at what's happening.  And I could be killed just for saying this...  Do you remember that New York City reporter Brad Wills who was shot in the head in Oaxaca October 27th, 2006?

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