I haven’t written much in this blog recently. I have been really affected by what’s going on in Mexico at the moment. It’s been a really difficult time and there is no sign of it all abating and writing good things about Mexico is really quite hard at the moment…
The news shot round the world at the speed of lightening when it was announced that 43 students had disappeared in the town of Iguala, in the neighbouring state of Guerrero. 43 adults were spirited away into nowhere by the local police and then, we presume, handed over to the local organized crime gang. This happened almost 2 months ago, since then the governor of the state has resigned, the mayor and his wife of Iguala disappeared (or on the run), although eventually tracked down and slapped into gaol; clandestine burial places have been found all over the place and no one knows the real number of bodies found and even less who they might be. More bodies were found in an illegal rubbish dump, burnt to such an extent that it is impossible to identify them but the authorities said there were more than 40 bodies there so they assumed that they were the missing 43. No one accepts this explanation, especially not the families, so the search continues while the ashes and bits of the bodies have been sent to Austria, to some specialized lab in Innsbruck, which apparently will be able to identify the missing bodies. Meanwhile, there are demonstrations every day with people blocking tolls and streets and motorways. Buildings have been burnt down in the capital of Guerrero, the city of Chilpancingo, and the unrest has now moved to Mexico City and other cities too. Social media has helped to make all the details known and there has been endless discussion about who is right, what can be believed, but basically there is absolutely no trust at all in the authorities or the government. Absolutely none at all.
All of this rocked the careful image of the presidency, to a major extent. For the first time in 2 years the media are now making it obvious what they think. The media are no longer towing the line, interesting times indeed. Also, there was a huge row over the announcement of the winner of the high-speed train project that will one day run from Mexico City to Queretaro. Since there was only one project that was presented in time then the winner was obvious anyway. However this winner is a consortium of China Railways and a bunch of Mexican companies. It transpired that the other 16 interested parties declined to submit their proposals because they had not had enough time to prepare them. They were refused more time and so they declined to participate. So that was strange for a start, then it transpired that the Mexican companies - in the consortium with China Railways - are owned by people linked to the President. So there was a huge fuss about that, naturally, in fact a huge huge fuss. So much so, even in the senate, that the president did the unthinkable and cancelled the whole thing. At the same time, there was pressure from another direction: it turned out that an enormous house in a posh part of Mexico City belonged to one of the companies involved in the consortium, and that the presidential couple were buying the house from it for when they no longer inhabit Los Pinos (the presidential residence). So the whole thing stunk to high heaven of underhand goings on, favouritism, corruption and everything else you can think of.
Add to all that the fact that the president was just about to go off on a state visit to China and then the G20 in Australia. It’s worth pointing out at this juncture in the story that he has not been to see the families of the 43, he has not addressed the nation to announce what has been going on, he has said nothing at all. There has been zero presidential presence and everyone is furious. So he put off his trip by 3 days, but did not cancel it. In those 3 days the bodies in the illegal rubbish dump just happened to be discovered so, in a way, he could leave having “found” the bodies, but then they probably aren’t the bodies, so really the whole thing is moot.
So then the presidency said the house belonged to the first lady, as if that made any difference, and now she is being kept out of the limelight in China and Australia. Meanwhile, the families of the 43 have set out in buses this weekend to do a tour round the country demanding justice and looking for support.
This has been a long weekend, in celebration of Revolution Day on 20 November, which is apt really, considering the situation. However, as the masses tried to flock out of Mexico City to get to Cuernavaca or even Acapulco last Friday (where hotels and restaurants are in huge crisis, having lost 60% of bookings due to the insecurity) they spent hours stuck on the motorway as people demonstrated and blocked the motorway in both directions. There is chaos. This has nothing to do with the 43. It appears that a taxi driver had been kidnapped the day before and since the authorities do nothing to help people then the inevitable action these days, and the only one, is to demonstrate and block the motorways. That way they get coverage, they get listened to and everyone gets upset.
Tempers and emotions are running riot. In the football match last week Mexico against Holland (a friendly match), which was played in Amsterdam, the Mexican fans waved white and black handkerchiefs at the start of match, showed photos of the 43, and then in the 43rd minute of the match they all began to chant “Justicia, justicia, justicia”. Naturally, this was witnessed by millions of people watching on tv.
Last weekend I went to Mexico City twice. The toll on the outskirts of Mexico City was “taken over” by people in balaclavas y handkerchiefs obscuring their faces, so we didn’t pay a toll. We gave instead to them, as much or as little as we wanted, and every penny was appreciated. We are talking about students, about young people, all from tiny villages in the far away places of the state of Guerrero and probably other states too, who have nothing, no money, very humble houses, no future.
So you see that as you pass the tollbooth, you think is this really happening? How is this being permitted with such freedom? This seems like a clear example of anarchy. You then get on the periferico, which is a road that skirts a huge chunk of Mexico City and is key for getting anywhere, and where buses and coaches and lorries are completely forbidden. So what do we see? Police outriders accompanying a bright yellow coach, which belongs to Club América, the leading football team in the country, first of all on the periferico and then, on the second floor! Unbelievable. You realise that no one is in control, everyone does exactly what they want, there is no law, there is no respect for authority, everyone just shrugs their shoulders and says, well, why not? Another clear example of anarchy. It’s worth noting too that Club América is owned by Televisa. The first lady is an ex telenovela actor for Televisa, the reason the president is where he is today is thanks to Televisa, so does that mean that Televisa is running the country? Well, probably, yes.
So you can imagine how depressed I - and all my friends - have been feeling. Never before have we felt so downhearted or let ourselves get affected by all this, but this time it has been so hard to take. Everyone is angry, everyone is fed up, everyone is manifesting in some small way their feelings be it writing a blog, tweeting feelings and demands, marching or demonstrating, burning buildings and buses, just doing anything that comes to mind or to hand.
Today is Monday and I’m at home listening to music and reading, and enjoying my garden, at peace. But just a few miles away people are marching and demonstrating and burning whatever they can get their hands on. The other day a group burnt one of the massive ancient wooden doors of the National Palace in Mexico City, an incredibly symbolic act. So this is an on-going situation and one that could blow into something huge at any moment. What will the government do we wonder? Just sit back and watch it happen, is the general feeling.
As we all say, Mexico is in pain right now, it's a country that is hurting.
Everyone is feeling the pain.