What's Going On In This Country?

July 9, 2018 Edition
BY: SANTIAGO VERDUGO

There is a line. And prison officials have crossed it raising the price of potato chips. Imprisoned drug lords are among inmates who are complaining of the high price of chips in federal penitentiaries. 130 prisoners in two federal penitentiaries have written to complain to the head of the consumer protection agency, Profeco. Signatories include former drug cartel bosses such as Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, who led the Juárez Cartel; Sidronio Casarrubias, former leader of the Guerreros Unidos; and José Noé Barajas, drug chief in Michoacean.

The inmates complain that prices of their canteen, including junk food, toiletries and stationery rose by an average of 20%. “We’re forced to buy  (junk food), because adequate nourishment is not provided”, they said in a letter.

The inmates requested that realistic prices be charged in the penitentiaries and punishment for those who carry out what they called abuse, “because they can’t sell us things at whatever prices they decide just because we’re bad guys.” OK, we made up the bad guys part.

The protesters backed up their complaints with quotes from the Mexican constitution and general law on transparency, and the American convention on human rights. The relatives of inmates in a federal penitentiary in Michoacán filed a similar complaint before Profeco, asserting that “we make an effort to give [the inmates] money because they’re all thin for having been given too little to eat and they gorge on junk food because they’re hungry.

Breaking the curse. Literally. Mexico’s national soccer team endured draconian $10,000 fines levied by soccer officials in Russia for yelling out their favorite chant, “Eh, puto!” during the World Cup.

The team took to, what else, social media, telling their fans to give it up already, do not support us with this shout.  Also imploring fans was one of their biggest stars, saying, “Let’s not risk another fine.”

It’s not the first time that players on the team have appealed to fans to stop the chants, but this time it worked. Puto means faggot or male prostitute.

The chant gained international notice the 2014 World Cup but FIFA took no action at the time. However, it sanctioned the Mexican Football Federation (FMF) 12 times for fans’ homophobic chanting during the recent World Cup qualifying rounds. The 13th time seems to have done it.

Next up. Mexico, the United States and Canada will jointly host the 2026 World Cup, announced FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. The three North American countries’ joint bid — known as United 2026— beat Morocco’s bid to be host by a margin of 69 votes, 134 to 65.

Well, let’s just hope the United States’ team doesn’t blow it again like they did this year, not even making the cut. How can the US co-host the most watched sporting event on the planet when they can’t even get a seat at the table?

The matches will be held at 16 venues across the three countries. The United 2026 bid called for each of the three countries to host one match each on the first day of the tournament with the main opening march to be held either in Mexico City or Los Angeles.

There’s more to Mexico than soccer.  Well, maybe not.  A foosball tournament with 1100 contestants has given Mexico another Guinness World Record. Foosball is a table top soccer game popular in bars. The winner got a trip to Russia to see the World Cup final, all expenses paid. Juan Presa Paulino, 55, of Toluca in the state of México defeated everyone, proving once again that old age and cunning will beat youth and inexperience.

The Guinness record was awarded for the most people playing foosball simultaneously.

separate sources. It was, in other words, a piece of fake news.

Fake news. In the waning days of Mexico’s biggest election ever, (as in the most seats to be filled), identifying fake news is pretty important and not an easy task. Mexicans have long distrusted the press and for good reason. For decades, the national news media here consisted of two television networks and a handful of newspapers, all propped up financially by the controlling PRI political party.

“When the government wanted to announce something, it came out over Televisa,” says Esteban Illades, editor of the Mexican magazine Nexos author of the recent book Fake News: A New Reality.

Government publicity continues to be an important part of media companies’ budgets. The government spent $1.88 billion between January 2013 and June 2017 on media advertising, and many outlets still report the “official” version of events without further investigation. A recent poll showed more Mexicans trust the army and the Catholic church than the media. Yikes.

The American style of fake news is also becoming a factor here, with silly stories about the candidates bursting onto social media in the last days of campaigning.

Corruption. Francisco Abundis, the director of the polling firm Parametría, argues that anger over corruption looms larger than every other campaign issue. "The perception is that something has been taken from you," he said. "You don't know how, or how much, but you feel it."

That leads to the suspicion that anyone who has climbed up the ladder may have benefited from questionable help during the ascent.

lawmakers have joined with columnists, television commentators and other pundits in denouncing a direct threat to democracy with all the killings of office seekers. Still, Mexico’s leaders seem powerless to halt the killings, which have targeted candidates from all major political parties.

The slayings have widely been seen as the work of criminal gangs that hold a grip on large swaths of territory and demand compliance from local governments to aid drug trafficking and other enterprises.

“These are not small islands of violence, but a vast archipelago of barbarism,” wrote columnist Jesus Silva-Herzog Marquez in Mexico’s Reforma newspaper. “The mafias don’t need to assault the federal palace directly. They do not look to exercise power directly. They want power at their service, and to ensure this they send their messages of death.”

What about the girls? Boys are narcos, but what about the girls? It’s easy to recruit young men living in extreme poverty into the drug trade, but the girls are left behind, their labor in this industry not so valued. One of those young women left behind is Yenizeth Peña from the Chihuahua town of Témoris. She grew up in extreme poverty, but went on to University. Now 22, she was helped through school by government grants, an uncle in the United States, and her own grit. Peña is planning to go back home to Témoris where she wants to share her experience with young people and encourage them to get an education and show them there is an alternative to the drug career.