¡Apoya a @Nachito10 en su proyecto para asistir a la niñez invidente!

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Me enteré por redes sociales de este gran proyecto de Nacho Llantada y ¿qué puedo decirles? Se me hizo poca madre. Tan es así, que aquí me tienen escribiendo un par de líneas para aportar en la masificación del mensaje y proyecto que se ha propuesto. POR FAVOR, den un par de minutos, conozcan el proyecto de este compadre y ojalá puedan sumarse.

Con el apoyo de EPIX, una gran empresa dirigida por un gran ser humano al que le sobra compromiso con la sociedad (me consta porque tengo el honor de conocerlo a él y su trabajo social en Monterrey), Nachito tiene una meta clara: se está entrenando para correr el maratón de San Diego en menos de 3:45. Lograrlo implicará haber ganado el Reto EPIX y dicha empresa donará $$$$ a la organización “Destellos de Luz A.B.P.“, la cual se especializa en apoyar a personas con problemas de la vista. Esto incluye cobertura de costos de hospitalización por cirugías, exámenes pre y post-operatorios, tratamientos, medicamentos, lentes y prótesis, dando seguimiento completo al paciente hasta su total recuperación.

Pero el Reto no termina ahí… ¡Tú puedes ayudar a Nacho a llegar a la meta de recaudar $50,000 pesos que se sumarán al monto donado por EPIX! Por favor da clic en este link para conocer más del proyecto y donar: https://fondeadora.mx/projects/reto-epix

Felicidades a Nacho y a EPIX por esta iniciativa. ¡Qué chingones son, carajo!

 

The Candigato is back in Mexico

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “The Candigato is back in Mexico“, published on April 3rd, 2014.

Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

In 2013, Morris, the Candigato (Cat Candidate) gained notoriety in Mexico’s social networks and news outlets after launching a successful online campaign via Facebook and Twitter, in a mock run for the position of Mayor of the city of Xalapa, Veracruz. The Candigato’s comedic slogans, such as “Tired of voting for rats? Vote for a Cat,” became popular among the online community and almost instantly his account on Facebook gained close to 250,000 followers. Morris, the Candigato, is a perfect reflection of Mexico’s idiosyncrasy: Many Mexicans will laugh at their tragedies.

The online campaign lasted for two months and only cost as much as the registry for the web domain. Yet after the votes were counted, CNN reported that Morris had bested at least 3 of the 8 actual candidates running for office. The creators the Candigato were recognized by the Victory Awards, winning the “Best Political Innovator” during the 2014 Marketing Político en la Red (Political Online Marketing) Conference—an unusual selection for an award usually won by political consultants.

Unfortunately, while the Candigato’s online success may be amusing, it is also points to Mexican society’s apathy and callousness for its political leaders. Now Morris is back with a different mission.

In a similar strategy to Bill Maher’s #flipadistrict, the creators of the Candigato are once again using humor to raise awareness. This week, Morris announced that he would be organizing an awards ceremony to recognize the worst politicians in Mexico under three categories: worst governor, worst political career, and finally, honorary sandbox, for retired or deceased politicians.

While this online campaign obviously follows no official protocols or processes to denounce ineffective public officials, it is quickly and easily providing an open channel for frustrated constituencies in different parts of the country. Replies from the Candigato’s followers on Facebook and Twitter mention too many politicians to list, but Nuevo Leon’s governor Rodrigo Medina and Estado de México’s governor Eruviel Ávila have gained repeated mentions. One Facebook user sarcastically commented “I’m worried Morris will have a tough task ahead finding a winner. Maybe he should just declare a 32-way tie,” referring to the governors of all 31 states and the Head of Government in Mexico City.

The Candigato may be just another joke about Mexico’s corrupt and ineffective politicians, but it is notable that a social media campaign with no funding is able to obtainhalf of the write-in votes for a cat running for mayor of Xalapa. The effectiveness of theCandigato’s campaigns show the level of disapproval Mexican constituents have for the candidates proposed by formal political parties in Mexico.

With the Candigato Awards showcasing some of Mexico’s allegedly “worst” elected officials, we will see if this affects their future careers or if it just serves as comedic distraction. And as long as the political class in Mexico continues to have low credibility among many constituents, Mexicans will keep tragically laughing.

The Best University Student in Mexico is an Inmate?

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “The Best University Student in Mexico is an Inmate?“, published on March 6th, 2014.

Please feel free to visit and comment. Here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

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The penal system does not work; criminals that do jail time do not reform. We’ve heard these arguments in Mexico before—and for the most part, they seem to be true.

Stories abound of drug lords continuing to run their operations from within their cells by using unauthorized mobile phones, and of youth that are imprisoned for minor crimes, only to turn  into full-blown criminals once they enter the penal system.

However, one case in Baja California sheds a beacon of light that could be a sign of better things to come in the Mexican penitentiary system.

Pedro Antonio Gerardo Acosta is a 29-year-old inmate in the El Hongo jail near the city of Tecate in Baja California, serving a 20-year sentence for kidnapping. This convicted criminal also recently obtained the highest score in the countryon the national academic test for higher education (public and private), administered by the Centro Nacional de Evaluación para la Educación Superior A.C. (National Evaluation Center for Higher Education—CENEVAL).

Gerardo Acosta is one of the first inmates to graduate from a pilot program run by the Baja California State Penitentiary and the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California (UABC), which allows people serving a sentence in El Hongo to receive higher education while incarcerated.  Along with Gerardo Acosta’s amazing achievement, two of his inmate classmates also received special recognition for outstanding academic performance in 2013.

Rosaura Barahona, renown editorialist for El Norte newspaper, commented that El Hongo’s educational program is part of a number of changes in the state’s penal system, which is migrating away from a “lock them up and throw away the key” strategy toward a transformative strategy of rehabilitation-and-reinsertion.

“Educating someone is never a waste of time” said Barahona, noting that Gerardo Acosta earned his degree despite having eleven more years to serve behind bars.

Felipe Cuamea Velázquez, Dean of the UABC, agrees with Barahona and congratulated Gerardo Acosta for this achievement. “It represents a great step in his life and an important tool towards his reinsertion into society,” said Cuamea Velázquez.

Of course, the educational program will never be bulletproof, and there is no evidence to say that someone who goes through it will never commit a crime in the future—but there is no arguing against the fact that it is better than the alternative of doing nothing.

Moreover, the three students’ success is proof of the seriousness with which the state penitentiary is taking this program seriously. It is not a PR ploy for authorities to boast that they are trying to reinsert convicts into society, but is actually a legitimate project that provides access to top-level education to people who never had it before.

The way I see it, a person who is in jail but who is studying hard enough to receive better scores than non-criminals is also an inmate who is staying away from trouble; someone looking to better himself because he wants a different life after he serves his sentence.

Baja California’s El Hongo is the first state penitentiary to initiate a program like the one with the UABC—and although it has only graduated ten students thus far, imagine the possibilities if this program were to be implemented at a national scale.

What if a young guy who committed a minor crime served his sentence—and instead of having learned to be a more effective gang-banger, he came out a university graduate?

Transforming Monterrey’s Landscape

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I had forgotten to post a link to this article on AQBlog, titled “Transforming Monterrey’s Landscape“, published on February 26th, 2014. Please feel free to visit and comment.

Also, here is a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it on my personal blog, though I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

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Monterrey, one of the largest cities in Mexico, has recently become a hotspot for criminal activity and host to a number of violent incidents. An ambitious urban development initiative, however, is set to change the city’s deteriorating reputation.

Seventy years ago, an institution that transformed the educational system in Mexico was bornTec de Monterrey, an icon of entrepreneurial spirit and industrial development success based in the city of Monterrey. Dubbed by many of its alumni as the “MIT of Latin America”, Tec was founded in 1943 by Don Eugenio Garza Sada, an MIT graduate himself.

Tec de Monterrey is much more than a university, it is a nation-wide system of high school, university and post-graduate campuses with a common mission: to develop human and professional potential in its students. Its headquarters and most important campus is the Campus Monterrey, located in the valley of the famous Cerro de la Silla of southern Monterrey, an  area that has hosted violence, including the tragic deaths of two students in a 2010 shooting.

However, Tec de Monterrey recently presented a 500 million dollar urban development project which will, among other things, reclaim public spaces of 17 neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Monterrey Campus. The money funding the project will come predominately from donations and proceeds from the annual Sorteo Tec,  a lottery system similar to state-run lotteries, that is privately organized by Tec de Monterrey.

 

“District Tec” as it is being called, will include drastic improvements to surrounding roads and infrastructure to be built over the next 15 to 20 years. A large public park is part of the project, as is the renovation of the campus’ library. The old football and soccer stadium, currently home to the Rayados de Monterrey professional team, will be demolished and replaced by sports facilities, leisure areas and an underground parking lot.

José Antonio Fernández, President of the Tec de Monterrey Board, said that the university “will work hand in hand with the community and authorities in order to transform this part of the city into a safe, attractive and inspiring place where talent can be attracted and retained.”

District Tec is a scarce but valuable example of visionary collaboration between the private and public sector and the communities. It will certainly pose its set of implementation challenges, but while many efforts to curb violence and insecurity—such as government crack downs on illegal casinos and brothels—have been short-lived, the brilliance of the District Tec is its focus on a long-term solution.

Mexican society has traditionally played the victim when it comes to dealing with issues of insecurity. It is far too easy to blame the government while we see our communities deteriorating. District Tec shows only too well what city leaders should be paying attention to—if you’re not part of the solution then you are part of the problem. Congratulations to Tec de Monterrey for its commitment to this bold effort in making their neighborhood safe again. I look forward to my children enjoying their university experience the way that I did back when it was much safer to live in Monterrey.