Televisa no compró Iusacell…

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Mmmmmmh… tan buena estrategia que hubiera sido para Televisa.

El día de ayer Miguel Angel Granados Chapa escribió en su columna sindicalizada en varios medios (y posteriormente muchos lo replicaron) que el grupo de Azcárraga le había arrebatado a la televisora del Ajusco el control accionario de la compañía de telefonía móvil Iusacell. Ver artículo aqui

De ser cierto, este hubiera sido un home run de los de Televisa, que recientemente se han mostrado agresivos en sus intenciones de abordar de manera más integral el mercado de las telecomunicaciones (basta con saber un poco del caso Nextel).

Sin embargo, Grupo Televisa ha desmentido la operación y de manera grosera descalificado a Granados Chapa. Para conocer algunos de los insultos (justificados o no) que Manuel Compeán, Director de Comunicación Televisa, lanza al periodista pueden ver aqui.

Los Televisos están indignados… pero la verdad es que lo que propone Granados Chapa hubiera sido excelente para su negocio. ¿Será que les enoja que no se les haya ocurrido antes? ¿O que se les filtró una intención y se les cayó el teatro por lo mismo?

Será una historia interesante a seguir en próximos meses.

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Mexican Congress attacks grocery coupons

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Here’s a link to my most recent article on AQBlog, titled “Mexican Congress attacks grocery coupons”

http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2132
Date published: Jan 21st, 2011 I hope you find it interesting. Please feel free to comment.

Here’s a copy of it:

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In Mexico, most medium-size and large companies provide their employees vales de despensa, or grocery coupons, as part of their monthly benefits to workers. These were originally instituted to provide tax breaks to both businesses and individuals. The value of grocery coupons is not declared as part of one’s personal income (so it is not taxed) but in most cases, it does account for a significant amount of money. Vales de despensa are an accepted form of currency in supermarkets, gas stations and even restaurants.

Now, this week, the Diario de la Federación (Official government gazette) announced that our Federal Congress published yet more proof of their nearsightedness by issuing a new law regulating the use of vales de despensa, the Ley de Ayuda Alimentaria para los Trabajadores. As part of its undeclared war on big business (proof of which is in every recent tax reform), Congress decided to restrict the use of vales de despensa and prohibit the purchase of alcohol and tobacco with this currency (Article 12, section II).

For people with a small cash flow, this inherently means that government is making it even harder for them to exercise their free will and purchase what they please in a grocery store.  Government already has a special tax for alcohol and tobacco, which came into effect on January 1, 2011, and forced price increases in these products (transfering the tax imposition directly to customers). In cigarettes for example, this new tax implied a 25 percent price increase from one day to the next.  It is self-explanatory that the intention is for government to try to squeeze the most it can from its captive tax contributors (as opposed to actually doing something about the other 90 percent of the people who evade taxes and/or are part of the informal economy).

The “healthy diet” excuse does not hold ground, at least in the case of alcohol. Countless studies (here’s one) from international scientists have proven time and time again that in moderation, alcohol can actually make your heart stronger and improve your memory.  Obesity, caused by lack of exercise and the ingestion of junk food, and not alcohol, is Mexico’s top health concern today. If Congress wanted to be logical about it, they would have taxed certain food products including maize and corn tortillas (which by the way are part of our subsidized foods). A better physical education program in public schools would also do a lot more in favor of combating obesity than further restricting the purchase of a bottle of red wine.

More importantly, the constraint imposed on vales de despensa is an infringement on our right to exercise free will. Every worker earns the money deposited in these coupons. It is part of their pay for a hard day’s work and government should not have the power to tell them what they can and can’t spend it on.

I am not a smoker and I hate the smell of tobacco, but as long as cigarettes are a legal substance for adult consumption, I have to respect the right of someone to purchase a pack of their favorite brand using their own money. And the government should do so as well.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Mexico looks for child geniuses

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Here’s a link to my most recent article on AQBlog, titled “Mexico looks for child geniuses”

http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2126

Date published: Jan 19th, 2011 I hope you find it interesting. Please feel free to comment.

Here is a copy of it:

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The Secretaría de Educación Pública or SEP (Ministry of Education) in Mexico has traditionally been known for being slow, over-bureaucratized and square-minded. Low quality levels are reflected year after year through a series of international comparative studies. One need only consult the results of the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) to see in disgust how Mexico’s constant is to come up last in the OCDE countries year after year.

Vidal Garza, a friend and editorialist for a major newspaper in Mexico, writes that the problem is even more apparent when you look at the amount of money we spend on our public schools: “Mexico invests 5 percent of its GDP on public education. The average annual expense per student in elementary school is $1,604, yet we fare deficiently in PISA. We do worse than Uruguay, Chile and China, which actually spend a lot less per student.”

To make things worse, The SEP (and Mexico as a whole) is in a constant battle with the SNTE, Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación, a corrupt teacher’s union that promotes strikes and teacher absenteeism as a the means to advance a political agenda. SNTE has filled our public schools with undedicated, unqualified and mediocre people who should not even have the honor of being called “teacher.” Granted, this is a generalization but a real one. I have met a couple of very good teachers in the public system; unfortunately today they are a rare breed.

It is no secret that we need to improve productivity in terms of education in Mexico. That’s why I was pleased to see a spark of progressive thinking on the part of SEP when I learned that they will be instituting a program to identify overachievers and children with higher intellectual proficiency in elementary schools with the intent to “credit, promote and advance them” in an accelerated manner. For example, if a child in 3rd grade shows the intellectual capacity of a 6th grader, the program will identify, prepare and eventually advance him/her to a 6th grade classroom. SEP estimates that around 10 percent to 15 percent of kids could benefit from this program. 

This is great news for the smarter kids. It is not my intention to brag, but when I was in elementary school I always felt that I was being held back in the classroom. For a child with thirst for knowledge, there is nothing less stimulating than learning at a slow pace or having to go over the same material he/she already knows by heart because others take longer to understand it. These 10 to 15 percentile smart kids need to catalyze their capabilities and be inserted into a more challenging setting. It is great to see that SEP is finally working to do something about it. According to the theory of evolution, if an organ is not being used, it ends up atrophying. I am a firm believer that an under-stimulated brain does not develop to its full capacity and now smarter kids will have a better shot.

I do however have to play devil’s advocate and point out some important side issues that should not be overlooked:

1. In transferring kids to a higher-grade classroom, the program needs to make sure that these younger, smart kids do not become the target of bullying by the older kids. Also, they need to not only have the intellectual skills, but the emotional intelligence to be in a classroom with older kids.
2. The crash-course preparing a child for a higher grade will NEVER substitute the social interaction with his/her peers vs. being inserted into an older social setting. Hopefully the psychological implications of these changes are being observed as part of the program, especially in regard to the early puberty stages.
3. Advancing a smart child has important implications in regard to the rest of the class. The smart kid sets the bar for the rest in the group. He/she becomes the one to beat when it comes to getting good grades. If they are set aside from children their own age, what will happen to the “average” kids? Does the program take this risk of further promoting under-achievement into account?
4. When the smart child graduates from middle school and is ready to enter university level (here or abroad), we have to make sure that he/she will not be denied access due to young age. Let’s make sure we are not breeding child geniuses who will have to wait to continue their studies.
5. The generalized problem with education is not that we are holding back child geniuses (after all, on their own estimations these amount to 15 percent of the kids at most) but that our teachers are inadequate. If you advance a 3rd grader to a 6th grade classroom with a mediocre teacher, you cannot expect that our PISA standings will improve. Granted, you are helping the individual child in some way, but the bigger issue still needs to be addressed.

This list of issues is by no means exhaustive. I am sure you can think of some others and hopefully SEP is thinking about them also. The point is that this program is a small ray of hope for our future in education. Now if we could only figure out a way to get rid of the SNTE…

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

A New Year’s Resolution for Mexico

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Here’s a link to my most recent article on AQBlog, titled “A New Year’s Resolution for Mexico” http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2075

 Date published: Jan 5th, 2011 I hope you find it interesting. Please feel free to comment.

Here’s a copy of it:

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Mexico is the second most corrupt country in Latin America. That’s not an award countries usually strive for but it is, according to UNAM’s Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales (the National Univeristy’s Social Research Institute, or IIS), the disgraceful situation Mexico finds itself in at the start of 2011.

On January 3, UNAM released a press package in which they declared that according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index and the Latinbarómetro indicators, Mexico is only led by Haiti as the most corrupt nation in the region. IIS’s Corruption and Transparency Research Coordinator Irma Eréndira Sandoval Ballesteros explained that throughout Latin America “Mexicans are considered extremely corrupt in terms of public and private practices.”

TI’s 2010 Corruption Perception Index report explains that 75 percent of people believe that Mexico’s corruption has increased in the last three years. Political parties, police, Congress, and the judiciary top the list of corrupt institutions in our country (considered extremely corrupt), followed by media, businesses, organized religion and NGOs.

Sandoval Ballesteros reported that while the 2003 creation and further strengthening of IFAI (Instituto Federal de Acceso a la Información y Protección de Datos, Federal Institute for Information Access and Data Protection) has been a significant progress in terms to access to information, transparency has done little in battling corruption and has been marginally useful in creating a public conscience. In her own words, “if Mexico is not a leading nation in political and economic terms, it is because corruption has not allowed it and has become an obstacle to possible progress.”

According to Transparency International, 50 percent of the people surveyed in their 2010 report worldwide consider that anticorruption policies put forth by government are and will be ineffective. This number is rather conservative for Mexico if you look back at recent history and try to identify one big successful case of combating corruption by our government (hint: there are none). This leaves us with an unavoidable truth: lowering corruption levels cannot be left up to the government. Each and every one of us—as members of Mexican society—has to play a part. We should not forget that while political institutions show the worst cases of corruption, businesses, churches and NGOs aren’t in the clear either.

As with many cases, our hope for the future lies in education. And in this case, I don’t mean building better schools, but better educating our children so that they are less likely to be what we are collectively: a corrupt generation which frustrated by the system, turned to its loopholes to try to navigate through it instead of changing and uprooting it.

Now you can tell a child not to be corrupt but this is a lesson we need to teach by example. For this reason, I propose that instead of (or ideally in addition to) losing five pounds, reading more and smiling, all Mexicans declare that our new year’s resolution for 2011 will be to not exercise in any form of corruption. I propose that we no longer bribe public officials to avoid a speeding ticket. No more tax evasion even though we know how badly the government manages its collections (creating one problem does not solve another). No more paying $2 to a street peddler for a pirate DVD movie or a copied music CD (who by the way will give part of his profits to organized crime and drug cartels). No more negligence in our duty to monitor and demand effectiveness from our local congressmen and women, especially in terms of how they allocate funds and determine contracts for public construction. No more questionable practices in the companies we work for (I invite businesspeople to take and abide by the Thunderbid Oath).

Keeping this resolution will cost time and energy of each and every one of us, but we have to believe that our kids will thank us for it. Most corrupt nation, second only to Haiti? This has to be a wakeup call. This has to lead us to action. As Mohandas Gandhi is famously quoted for saying, we need to “be the change we want to see in the world.”

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

Best Beatles Covers

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Para quienes somos amantes de la buena música, esto es un verdadero deleite. Les comparto una página que estoy seguro disfrutarán:

Los mejores 50 covers de canciones de The Beatles, según Paste Magazine. Incluye videos de las interpretaciones.

http://www.pastemagazine.com/blogs/lists/2010/11/the-50-best-beatles-covers-of-all-time.html

Lo traemos en la sangre.

Why Mexicans don’t care about wikileaks

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Here’s a link to my most recent article on AQBlog, titled “Why Mexicans don’t care about wikileaks”

http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/2072
Date published: Jan 4th, 2011 I hope you find it interesting. Please feel free to comment.

Here is a copy of it:

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In November, Americans turned on their computers, fired up their Internet connections and gravitated to wikileaks.org. The nation was appalled at coverage by virtually all national media telling the tale of a series of diplomatic cables leaked from different U.S. embassies in the world. 

Immediately questions were raised about the U.S. military’s excessive use of force, national security, foreign relations, and a number of other matters included in the first wave of cables reaching the public eye.  Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department (with the help of Interpol) set out to try to silence Assagne.

But the response was starkly different in Mexico. Two days after the first WikiLeaks came out communications were released on U.S.-Mexico relations, the violence problem in Mexico and our armed forces’ internal debacles, as well as President Hugo Chávez’ involvement in supporting former presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the 2006 elections.

Some U.S. colleagues immediately contacted me commenting on “the hard hit” Mexico was taking from Assange’s open communication and free speech antics. However, Mexicans did not start tweeting or commenting on facebook and other social media sites about this. The usual suspect bloggers were mildly impressed and Mexico’s government reaction to the leaks was as agitated as a couple of turtles taking a nap.

The reason for this difference in general reaction between U.S. and Mexico’s society is both simple and strikingly depressing: we’ve lost hope and trust in our political system and its players. We’ve lost the capacity to be amazed by our own state’s inadequacies.

When they leaked that the government was in danger of losing control of some regions of Mexico to organized crime; when they told us that Venezuela’s Head of State was involved in the leftist movement in Mexico; when we read that U.S. consular officers were concerned with President Felipe Calderón’s ability to lead, all Mexicans could say was “tell me something I didn’t already know.” Corruption and inefficient government unfortunately are no longer a surprise to us. In a world where perception is reality, the fact that WikiLeaks told us these things maybe made them more official, but it wasn’t something we didn’t already feel and had been talking about for decades.

So to all Americans I say this: enjoy and value the fact that you can still be amazed when Assange tells you about disappointing activities going on behind the scenes in your political system and institutions. When this becomes a norm and it actually gets boring to hear about it for the nth time, that’s a sign for you to be really concerned.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.