Bandera, bandera de México

Standard

Otra vez septiembre en México. De nuevo los colores de verde, blanco y rojo invaden las esquinas de nuestras ciudades con puesteros vendiendo banderas, banderines, matracas, rehiletes y por alguna pintoresca razón, pelucas. Suena el Cielito Lindo, Adelita y otras hermosas piezas musicales de nuestro pasado y la gente empieza preguntar en sus conversaciones cotidianas “¿dónde vas a pasar El Grito?”

Bandera, bandera de México. Símbolo de nuestros… ¿Símbolo de qué? Reflexionando sobre el origen de este ícono nacional, tan venerado y respetado que criticarlo, profanarlo, modificarlo o desecrarlo es calificado como traición a la Patria, propongo una nueva posibilidad con todo respeto a dicho enaltecimiento (porque no soy ningún traidor sino un ciudadano comprometido con su pueblo con la fortuna de contar con pensamiento crítico): habría que considerar un cambio de colores y diseño. Sólo por favor, no se lo comisionen a la gente de comunicación e imagen del Tec.

Pero no nos desviemos y volvamos al tema central. ¿Por qué pensar en que deberíamos cambiar el máximo símbolo patrio? Es simple: Nuestra bandera está desactualizada.

Cuando nació la bandera mexicana tricolor, se eligieron los colores verde, blanco y rojo para aludir a la esperanza del pueblo, la unidad de todos los mexicanos y para honrar la sangre de nuestros héroes… porque incluso nuestro himno estima que a la Patria, en cada uno de los mexicanos, un soldado en cada hijo le dio.  Por último, el águila devorando una serpiente en nuestro escudo al centro de la bandera, es representación de la mitológica fundación de Tenochtitlán por nuestro pueblo indígena históricamente más representativo.

Hoy, vale la pena cuestionar si esos símbolos permanecer en la idiosincrasia, en la realidad o por lo menos en las aspiraciones de los mexicanos.

Empecemos por el escudo nacional y su observación de la fundación de la Gran Tenochtitlán. El sello máximo del enaltecimiento de nuestra herencia indígena. Ese mismo indígena que hoy es ciudadano de quinta y al que hemos relegado en todos los ámbitos. ¿Cuál es la participación que hoy tienen los distintos grupos indígenas en la vida del país? ¿Cómo participan en la construcción de nuestro futuro y en las actividades relevantes de nuestra sociedad? ¿No deberíamos sentirnos culpables o por lo menos sentir la vergüenza de la hipocresía que es restregar el águila devorando a la serpiente ante todas las culturas que hemos mandado a las esquinas de las calles del país a mendigar? No le hemos hecho justicia a los fundadores de la Gran Tenochtitlán… ¿qué derecho tenemos de seguir festejándola?

Vamos al verde… Hoy veo un país que en su mayoría ha perdido la esperanza y vive su día a día sin creer en un futuro mejor. Antes de seguir aclaro que yo sigo viviendo día a día tratando de contribuir a dicho futuro pero seamos honestos, nadamos contra corriente. Las razones para esta frustración y apatía generalizada son múltiples y ahondar en ellas bien vale un ensayo de varios capítulos pero si somos críticos respecto a nosotros mismos, es veraz decir que no somos una sociedad civil esperanzada. Estamos hundidos en la conformidad o en la inconformidad inactiva. Lo más cercano a destellos que pudieran dar testimonio de una sociedad civil despierta, son movimientos frágiles, manipulados y de moda electorera, como en su momento lo fue #YoSoy132. La actual administración ha hecho un excelente trabajo en distanciarnos de cualquier posibilidad de influenciar cambios, tomando control de los dos Poderes más relevantes del gobierno y por ende gestando hoy más que nunca, la no representación de la voluntad del pueblo en el Legislativo. Decimos que tendríamos que hacer más por presionar a nuestros representantes, por conocer a nuestros diputados y exigirles que en el Congreso hagan eco de nuestros intereses y prioridades… pero bien sabemos que en México el Legislativo vota por bloque y no por la gente que eligió a cada representante… porque si ni siquiera existe la palabra “accountability” en español, ¿cómo exigirla de los diputados y senadores?

¿Unidad? Estamos unidos en la frustración, en la afición por el futbol y en el sometimiento a programación televisiva de nivel deplorable que fomenta la estupidificación de toda una nación. ¿Realmente amerita eso darle un color a nuestra bandera?

El rojo. La sangre de nuestros héroes. Esos héroes fantásticos que la Secretaría de Educación Pública se asegura sigamos viendo en los libros escolares, adornados por cuentos de ficción nunca repetidos en documentos serios. Esas mitificaciones e idealizaciones de personajes que incluyen a Padres de la Iglesia en cuyo estandarte se festejaba a la Vírgen de Guadalupe y al yugo de Fernando VII sobre México, pillos y vándalos que destruyeron poblados enteros en su pasar, incluyendo la violación documentada de mujeres y la ocupación de una planta cervecera en la ciudad de Monterrey y ¡¿cómo olvidarlos?! Niños que no eran niños y que nunca brincaron a su muerte para que la misma bandera de la que hablo no cayera en manos del enemigo. La brecha entre la historia y la historia Patria es amplia y sigo sin entender la necesidad de mentirles a nuestros hijos sobre los supuestamente respetables hombres que forjaron nuestra nación.  Y aún si quisiéramos mentirnos y seguir llamando héroes a estas personas, creo que para retener el color rojo en nuestro símbolo patrio, habría que empezar a buscar nuevo héroes a quienes honrar. El país los necesita urgentemente.

Propuesta alterna:

Un amarillo pálido que represente nuestra indiferencia y egoísmo. Negro para simbolizar el oscurantismo educativo en que estamos inmersos, la falta de sentido cívico y comunitario y el color de nuestro aparente futuro si no tomamos las riendas del país. Un marco a la orilla con hilo plateado o dorado, para hacer honor a las riquezas saqueadas por nuestros gobernantes sexenio tras sexenio… y en el centro, la foto del Chapo Guzmán impresa sobre el logo de Televisa.

No sé, piénsalo…

Will Mexico’s Telecom Reform Hurt Internet Freedom?

Standard

Here is a link to a recent on AQBlog article of mine, titled “Will Mexico’s Telecom Reform Hurt Internet Freedom?“, published on April 22nd, 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.

 

On March 24, Enrique Peña Nieto presented the Mexican Senate with a bill for a new telecommunications law that complements theconstitutional reforms he approved in 2013. The legislation proposes, among other things, to promote competition in the sector, improve telecom services, and regulate the radioelectric spectrum through the new telecommunications regulator, the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (Federal Telecommunications Institute—IFETEL).  The bill is now being revised, and is expected to be approved in the coming days.

However, the proposal is already raising eyebrows and creating waves in the digital sphere, where it’s being labeled as a form of government censorship.

According to Article 2 of the bill, the legislation is intended to “protect the nation’s security and sovereignty,” and the most controversial articles in the initiative are preceded by mentions of criminal prosecution and promoting the public interest. There is room for discussion on the potential effectiveness of this objective, but much like the current debate in the U.S. over the NSA’s capabilities vs. individual freedoms and privacy, citizens in Mexico are worried about ceding too much power to the federal government.  The far-reaching legislation has created a number of trending topics on Twitter, under hashtags like #EPNvsInternet #ContraElSilencioMx and #NoMasPoderAlPoder (roughly translated to #PeñaNietoV.Internet, #AgainstSilenceMx and #NoMorePowerToTheOnesInPower).

One of the most popular bloggers in Mexico, “Sopitas,” criticized Peña Nieto’s proposal by stating that social media has been the only widespread communication channel where the public can express its dissent with the current government.  On April 21, #EPNvsInternetbecame a worldwide trending topic on Twitter and, as these words are being written, “netizens” in Mexico City are organizing a massive demonstration at the Ángel de la Independencia monument in downtown Mexico City, which also hosted many of#YoSoy132’s protests against Peña Nieto’s alleged alliance with Televisa in the 2012 presidential elections. When the neutrality of the largest news media conglomerate in the country is in question, citizen journalism becomes crucial.

Attempts to control speech on the Internet are not new. One need only consult Global Voices’ Advocacy project to see that, when given the power to do so, governments unequivocally use Internet restriction as a means to block and control dissent.

But how would the president’s telecom law proposal trample on free speech? What are netizens protesting against? Here are some highlights:

  • Article 145, Paragraph III states that Internet Service Providers (ISP) “will be allowed to block access to content, applications or services upon express request by the user, per order of authority…”
  • Article 189 proposes that ISPs be forced to provide real-time geolocation of specific devices to public officials “awarded the faculty of requesting it…”
  • Article 190 states that ISPs will be “obligated to permit […] intervention of private communications…”
  • Article 197, paragraph VII states that, if requested by authorities, ISPs will “temporarily block, inhibit or nullify telecommunication signals in events and locations critical to public or national security…”

Supporters of the proposed telecom law might argue that these new attributions would allow government to better combat organized crime, but the other side of the story shows that if the legislation is approved as-is, any government would be legally awarded the power to read emails exchanged between its detractors, know their location and cut off their communications.

Would the government consider a mass protest on Avenida Reforma to be an event against public security, and thus block cell phone communications in the area? Those opposing the new law seem to think this is a possibility.

This developing story has caused outrage on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. Will this outrage help write a different conclusion—one in which the proposed telecom bill is overturned? Or will Mexico join the ranks of censorship-friendly countries such asCambodiaTurkey and Venezuela?

Mexican Drug Cartels use Christmas to Expand their Fan Base

Standard

Here is a link to an article I published in January for AQBlog, titled “Mexican Drug Cartels use Christmas to Expand their Fan Base” I had forgotten to re-post it in my personal blog so here it is in case you missed it. I’m posting a verbatim copy of it in case you prefer to read it here, but I recommend actually going to the site because of additional content, other blogger’s articles, etc.

They might be taking their cues from legendary Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar, who was famous for helping out numerous communities in Colombia and donating parks and recreation centers to unprivileged communities. Or maybe they’re inspired by the legend of Jesús Malverde, the so-called narco-saint folk hero from Sinaloa, sometimes seen as a Mexican version of Robin Hood. On the other hand, they may feel threatened  by  the “self-defense” groups spawning in Michoacán and Colima—civil vigilante groups  that have taken up arms against the cartels after declaring that local authorities are unable or unwilling to tackle organized crime battles head-on.

For whatever reason, drug cartels in different parts of Mexico took to the streets this holiday season in order to “give back,” and—ironic as it may sound— spread holiday cheer.

In the southern state of Oaxaca the impoverished communities of Viguera, Bugambilia and Calicanto were surprised on Three Kings Day (January 6) withbundles of toys, which mysteriously appeared in different points of the city, some with signs explaining that they were left there “so that people can see that the Zetas support humble people. ” Not surprisingly, these images did not make it into mainstream national media but were shared via Twitter.

The eerie irony behind these charitable acts is that the Zetas are known for being one of the most cold-blooded criminal groups of the country, often resorting to torture and public displays of their victims.

On the other side of the country, in Tampico in the northern state of Tamaulipas, theCártel del Golfo (Gulf Cartel—CDG) took to the streets on Christmas Eve and handed out gifts, food and money. The CDG had the gall to parade in pickup trucks and set up different distribution points throughout the city, never fearing an attack from the authorities. In what would seem like a well-thought-out, below the line marketing strategy, they recorded, edited and uploaded videos that later went viral on YouTube.

One of the videos shows pickup trucks outside of hospitals, the main bus station and other parts of the city, distributing food bags and giftwrapped boxes. The crowds gather around and some of the cartel members try to organize the distribution as if they are conducting an aid campaign. The clip then transitions to another part of the city, outside of a public clinic, where members of the CDG deliver dozens of pizza boxes to people who not only thank them for the gift, but even organize to yell out a “hip, hip, hooray”-style cheer: “A la bio, a la  bao, a la bim bom ba, ¡el Cártel del Golfo, ra, ra, ra!”

The video shows how children run to these criminals with smiles on their faces and exchange a thank you for a plastic toy trinket. Unbeknownst to them, the toy was bought with blood and drug money. The fact that parents would let their kids get close to the cartel members is the perfect illustration of how engrained organized crime has become in underprivileged communities in parts of Mexico.

The larger problem is not that the cartels have the audacity to do these charity runs. The real and critical situation is that, given their lack of opportunities to survive otherwise, abandoned communities have embraced the cartels and come to regard them as semi-gods and role models. Mexico has become a place where, inside a posh shopping mall in Mexico City, a soccer mom can tell her kids to take a picture with Santa Claus, while a less privileged mother might invite her own children to ask the nice drug dealer for a handout.

What an unfair situation to put a kid in. What a terrible way to sentence our children’s futures.

The No Re-election Taboo is Lifted in Mexico

Standard

Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “The No Re-election Taboo is Lifted in Mexico“, published on December 12th, 2013. 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 the midst of a heated national debate on political reform, December 4 marked a milestone in Mexico’s electoral politics, as the upper house of Congress voted on legislation modifying 29 articles in the country’s constitution to allow consecutive re-election for mayoral and legislative positions.

Re-election will go into effect in 2018, and will allow mayors to run for two consecutive terms, while legislators can run for the same position for up to 12 years—though they’re required to run under the same political party they originally ran under. (This raises a number of questions regarding officials running under flimsy party alliances, which come and go faster than the seasons.) The president of Mexico and the mayor of Mexico City will be limited to serving one six-year term, however.

One of Mexico’s most ingrained mottos, born during the Revolution, has been “Effective Suffrage; No Re-election.” Back then, it was understandable that the country would unite under such a slogan, as the revolutionary objective was to overthrow Porfírio Diaz’ 31- year presidential tenure (with only one four-year break from 1880 to 1884).

Since then, however, political life in Mexico has evolved in ways in which allowing re-election could be positive.

On the one hand, the electoral framework has advanced enormously since the revolution. While the Instituto Federal Electoral (Federal Elections Institute—IFE) still has a lot of room for improvement and electoral fraud is far from extinct, the Mexican political system and its institutions guarantee that free elections will take place.

As part of the political reform, IFE will actually evolve into a new institute, the Insituto Nacional de Elecciones (National Elections Institute—INE), which promises to reduce local electoral institutes’ power and supposedly bring training and electoral logistics together under one roof.

That’s apparently the positive side of the story.

The other thing to consider is that elected officials often enjoy a level of impunity that almost invites them to use any number of means at their disposal to fatten their wallets. While print media is relatively effective in denouncing these abuses, a crooked politician rarely ends up behind bars.

Politicians also have little accountability in delivering on promises and providing results. Since there is one shot at a given position, once elected, many try to get as much personal benefit while in office as possible.

The possibility of getting re-elected could change that, becoming an incentive for incumbents to run based on a proven track record of results.

Yet while re-election is a step in the right direction, there are still a number of decisions that need to be addressed for the will of the people to be truly represented in Mexico’s political arena.

Chief among them is the elimination of “plurinominal” legislators, which only serve political party interests and generate an unnecessary and quite expensive payroll in Congress. Plurinominales are legislators who are not directly elected by voters but assigned to lists created by political parties. The number of people who make it from the lists to actual seats in Congress is determined by the proportion of votes the parties receive during elections.

If directly-elected legislators don’t normally feel accountable to the people in their states and districts who voted for them (since they don’t vote according to  their constituents’ interests, but by party bloc), it appears that plurinominal representatives are lucky politicians awarded what some might view as highly-paid vacations in office (senators, for example, are paid close to 150,000 pesos a month—roughly $11,700).

For a number of years now, Pedro Ferriz de Con, one of Mexico’s most influential journalists, has been a leading voice against plurinominales through something he calls“the Revolution of Intellect,” and has collected more than 7 million signatures from Mexicans supporting his fight to eliminate these public figures—but to no avail. Once again, legislators currently debating the political reform have agreed to sidetrack the issue because it does not serve their parties’ interests—and that is not only a missed opportunity, but also another broken promise from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s electoral platform.

The other missed opportunity in the political reform debate is the implementation of a run-off election process—at the very least, at a federal level. I’ve written about this and the reasons to consider this process in the past.

It seems counterintuitive that you need a majority for decisions to pass through Congress but not for a person to be elected president.  Since the IFE was created, there has not been a single president of Mexico elected by  the majority of the citizens he/she leads. There is simply no valid argument to maintain the status quo.

In conclusion: re-election, good. Comprehensive political reform? Not really.

Never fear: an explanation to my blogging

Standard

I am part of the sharing generation. A number of changes in recent history have allowed everyone to have a voice and access to those willing to hear. Yesterday’s ideas were bound by vehicles and arenas which made it harder to disseminate them. This is not to say that I am celebrating and claiming that cyberspace access has made us free; after all immediate and open publishing has come hand-in-hand with incredible empowerment of surveillance actors, championed by the U.S. government (and specifically NSA), as Snowden, Manning, Assange and many others have shown us.

We now know that Facebook and Google are some of the largest information providers (willing or not) for the powers that be, who’ve taken advantage of a culture of fear to obtain never before seen entitlement over monitoring not just suspects and would-be criminals, but all of us. All of you.

Today, your personal data, religion, purchasing tendencies, ideology, sexual preference and many more tidbits of information which you used to consider private, are likely periodically and systematically filtered and analyzed by the U.S. government (and who knows who else). This is screwed up, even if it is true that I have nothing to hide from the U.S. government and I doubt they would find me remotely interesting. Even so, when personal information becomes public, when your cell phone is inherently also a perfect personal tracking device (thanks to GPS), it is easy to succumb to that same culture of fear that allowed legislation such as the Patriot Act to pass.

I live in Mexico. And I blog in Mexico. I blog about all types of things, stemming from comedic tidbits that could be catalogued as “brain farts”, to analytical and challenging pieces about the sociopolitical and economic status quo in my country.

I like to share and I like to say things I feels need to be said. Some of them go unnoticed; others get viral status and reach millions of hits. More than once, people close to me have asked “aren’t you afraid of saying X?”, usually after writing pieces which are critical of the political elite or organized crime.

Statistically, I live in one of the most dangerous countries for journalists to work in, so I can understand my friends’ concerns. The good news is, I’m not a journalist. As an Op-Ed blogger, I am lucky enough to choose what I write and how I write it and because of this, NO, I AM NOT AFRAID.

Institutional, traditional media is easy for anyone to measure and follow. It is thus, an easy and attractive target because EVERYONE has some understanding of the scale reached by say, a national or local newspaper. With most e-media only the analytics owners (and potentially hackers and the U.S. government) know for sure if your words have become relevant to a few or millions of people. Then again, if they become viralized, they will likely fall in the hands of people susceptible to your ideas and words and they might want to do something about it. That risk is always there.

Saying that I am not afraid does not mean that I am reckless. There is a distinction between being afraid and being cautious… and again, not having an institutionalized agenda allows me to take certain precautions which deflect would-be retaliators.

  1. I have complete control of what I say, how I say it and to a large extent, when I say it. This is extremely powerful. I can manage the intensity with which I approach certain topics, the form and the periodicity. If I gauge that the timing is not right for discussing a certain subject, I stay away from it even if it would have been popular to talk about. Does this mean I am not 100% free? ABSOLUTELY. It also means I am not stupid.
  2. I don’t do investigative reporting and I don’t publish otherwise privileged, confidential or secret information. This is not to say that I have not had access to it; it just means that I maintain my “opinion-blogger” status. I am not a reporter, I am not a detective and I certainly am not anything close to Wikileaks. My objective is not to publish something before media outlets have already made it public. I provide commentary and opinion on facts and news which have previously been published and/or I put together pieces of a puzzle that were already out there, accessible to anyone with a web browser and the capacity to find the connections between them.
  3. I don’t pick fights, especially with bullies that carry automatic weapons. I am critical but unless I make the conscious decision to take that risk, I avoid pointing too many fingers on specific individuals, particularly if I am making accusations or evidencing a problem. This goes back to the liberty of choosing how it is I say things. Public political figures, like the President or a governor are used to newspapers talking about them, not always (actually rarely) in friendly terms. As long as it does not cross a certain line, they can take it and in is their job to take it. Now, if I had access to a specific drug dealer’s personal address (which I don’t), would I publish it on my blog? Of course not. I don’t pick fights with bullies. Again, I am not afraid but I am also not stupid.
  4. Commenting on a digital vehicle and basing my commentary of referenced, previously published pieces makes me less relevant and attractive to reaction than the original media that covered the story. I may be still at risk, but certainly less than others… and I keep it that way intentionally. I’ve been offered to write for a couple of local/national newspapers in my time as a blogger. Thanks, but no thanks. If I were a real journalist in Mexico, I would be afraid.

Now if I have to take these types of precautions, you might ask “why write at all?” And why take that risk, small as it may be?

Maybe it’s because I like helping others translate fact into opinion and use my words as a springboard for their own internal dialogue. That’s certainly part of it. It would be incorrect and arrogant of me to say that I like being a thought leader. I don’t consider myself one; I’ll settle for possibly being, at times, a thought catalyst.

Also, I love the satisfaction I feel when someone tells me “you put it together in a way that it finally makes sense to me” or “you said it the way it needed to be said.” I recently wrote a piece on women in the workforce in Mexico; it was extremely fulfilling to get feedback from women saying things like “thank you for really understanding women’s reality in the professional realm. Not too many men take the time to do it and it makes all the difference for a guy to actually say this publicly.” I’m happy to be THAT guy.

There are at least two other reasons that explain my drive for putting ideas out there.

The first one has to do with doing what I feel is a service to my community, my readers and the country I love. I try to write pieces which highlight a problem that needs fixing, celebrate and recognize positive actions and/or motivate and inspire others to learn more and hopefully make a difference.

The other reason is greedy, self-interest and an innate need (dare I say addiction) to transcend. No, I don’t want to live forever but I do want to leave behind a testament of my journey through life and writing is an easy and enjoyable way I’ve found of doing that. I will not likely be remembered by entire nations and my name will never reach Larry King status, but that’s ok. I don’t want to transcend for all of mankind, not even all of Mexico.

I want to transcend in a way that my children have tangible proof of their father’s principles, ideals and ideas. I want them to know that they should never fear about having ideas and putting them out there for the benefit of others and themselves, even if they are ideas that break away from the status quo. Especially if they are ideas that break away from the status quo.

We are not fully free, but I’ll be damned if fear keeps my words locked up in a cage forever. I hope my children eventually read these words and they get to live in a world where they never have to fear for letting others know what they think. Just like their father did.

My deepest appreciation and gratitude. Thank you for reading and letting me share my ideas with you.

Women in Mexico’s Workforce

Standard

Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Women in Mexico’s Workforce“, published on November 1st, 2013. 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.

“Women are not doing well because they want to do it all. They want to study, go out and get a job and be housewives as well. Well, that is really difficult to achieve.”

These were recent and controversial words spoken by Ricardo Salinas Pliego, president of Grupo Salinas and owner of TV Azteca, one of the two television media conglomerates in the country. Salinas made the remarks during the Mexico Cumbre de Negocios (Mexico Business Summit) on October 20-22.

Salinas went on to say that women should receive a salary from their husbands “so that their work at home as caretakers […] is monetized and better valued.”

Unfortunately, his ignorant point of view on gender equality is not as unusual in Mexico as some may think. Even in this day and age, many talented Mexican women face such myopic views as an obstacle to their professional development.

Given the growing number of women with advanced graduate degrees in Mexico—currently 50.4 percent, according to a recent study by the Asociación Nacional de Universidades e Instituciones de Educación Superior (National Association of Universities and Higher Educational Institutions—ANUIES)—forward-thinking companies have begun to understand the need to tap into a talent pool they didn’t used to, given prejudices in hiring and professional development processes.

These companies are breaking ground by incorporating gender quotas into their talent attraction and training processes. Some have also begun to explore work-from-home and flextime schemes to help working mothers split their time between professional and personal responsibilities. But are these strategies fair and effective in tackling the real problems preventing Mexican women from attaining greater professional opportunities, or are they simply temporary solutions?

The effectiveness of gender quotas is highly debatable. Those who favor them say that they allow for greater participation of women in the workforce and that they are an essential starting point for changing deep-seated behaviors in business organizations.

Those opposed to gender quotas say that they don’t promote real equality, risk attracting inferior talent and are condescending toward women.

My problem with inclusion quotas is that they don’t tackle the real issue at hand, which is the need to change the mindset of industry leaders who hold similar views to those of Mr. Salinas Pliego.

Faced with systemic prejudices and severe gender disparities, 30 percent of working women in Mexico feel that they are stuck in their profession and do not have opportunities to grow, get a salary raise or receive appropriate recognition from their employers and peers.

The message is clear. You can try to reach out and attract female talent, but you’re setting yourself up for failure if that talent is brought into a hostile environment and diseased bymachismo that can’t be cured by a quota. In fact, having a quota system could actually exacerbate discrimination by men who think quotas give women an unfair advantage.

Conscious businesses that truly want to make a positive change need to do more than just debate quotas or consider special concessions for working mothers  that would enable  them to thrive professionally. Rather, businesses should promote a cultural change that values talent regardless of gender, and that helps employees modify the often unequal gender roles at home.

Businesses must also understand that their decision to promote gender equality should not be viewed as a public relations campaign. It simply makes sense for businesses to attract, grow and retain the best talent available to them, regardless of gender. Business leaders should look to the numerous studies that have proven that a gender-diverse workforce provides better business results.

As the European Project on Equal Pay posits, there is extensive research showing “a strong correlation between a strong record of promoting women into the executive suite and high profitability.” Catalyst, a U.S. nonprofit, found in its 2011 research that there is a 26 percent difference in return on invested capital (ROIC) between companies in the top-quartile of women board representation and those in the bottom quartile (with zero women directors). According to a recent study by McKinsey & Company, the profitability of Fortune 500 companies with three or more women executives is 5 percent higher than that of their competitors.

Rather than simply implementing quotas, businesses must ensure that their male executives learn these important facts. Ongoing gender inclusion efforts, such as flexible work schemes, should not be discarded or undervalued. But if companies in Mexico are serious about effectively capitalizing on women’s professional potential, they should start with their own employees.

Peña Nieto’s Challenges: From Teacher Strikes to Energy Reform

Standard

Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Peña Nieto’s Challenges: From Teacher Strikes to Energy Reform“, published on August 29th, 2013. 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.

The first nine months of Peña’s administration have kept the press busy and all of the country’s eyes and ears focused on what will happen next. He’s been characterized as bold, action-oriented and dynamic but clearly, not a team player.

He was celebrated by many (yours truly included) in February when he presented an ambitious and much needed education reform but disappointed just as many after having this effort easily thwarted by militant and disgruntled unionized teachers from the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educación (CNTE), which has taken Mexico City hostage in the last week to avoid needed secondary laws to enact the reform passing through Congress.

The inability to prevent and the lack of resolve to disperse a non-justified blockage of Congress as well as a blockade of the city’s main arteries—including those giving access to the airport and the Zócalo—has proven once again that political leaders are taking decisions not based on the greater good, the rule of law or the citizenry’s interests, but on a political agenda serviced by interest groups holding more power than they should and unable to cooperate with each other.

Mismanagement of this situation could soon spark violence and create a larger-than-ideological divide. The affected citizenry in Mexico City will only stand so much. In a recent poll by BCG-Excelsior, 52 percent of Mexicans stated that they are so fed up with the CNTE’s irrational resistance to the education reform and their militant actions that they would justify use of public force to disperse the picketers.

And while the teachers take to the streets, both Peña Nieto and the city’s government cower out of taking necessary action because of the political cost it would imply. Mexico City is not the only thing that’s paralyzed because of this—a broken education system puts the nation’s future talent pool at risk.  

The other current hot topic in the president’s agenda is energy reform. As recently described by Christian Gomez on AS/COA, “the proposal includes constitutional changes that would open up Pemex, the 75-year-old state oil monopoly, to profit-sharing contracts and foreign investment.”

This new notion of natural resources no longer belonging exclusively to the nation poses a huge shift in paradigm. Reactions from the nation’s Left include accusations related to autonomy, national patrimony and the role of government vs. private investors in extraction and having access to revenues from one of the nation’s most important sources of income. The opposition understands that PEMEX’s inefficiencies and the plague of corruption need to be addressed but they propose that a problem should not be fixed by creating another one.

One of the most respected voices from the Left, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, has recently stated that both PEMEX and CFE (federal electricity company) can become highly productive without having to edit the Constitution and without allowing foreign and/or private hands in the nation’s riches. If national patrimony is challenged due to reforms to articles 27 and 28 of the Mexican Constitution, Cárdenas has warned he would call for nationwide protests and he would even take to the streets along with López Obrador’s Morena (National Regeneration) movement.

Given its current party composition, Peña can easily get approval for the energy reform in Congress but he would be naïve to think that this is the only hurdle he needs to jump and he is doing a terrible job at trying to get public buy-in to this proposal through vague infographics on TV.

If there is possibility for effective energy reform, an open and inclusive debate needs to take place. This topic is not one that his team should be discussing behind closed doors and the hard questions will require real answers, not 20-second TV spots.

Peña’s government has been characterized by a “my way or the highway” attitude which is an easier temptation to fall into than trying to build consensus in a country as complex and fragmented as Mexico. This dictatorial style is only possible because of the fact that PRI has a stellar position both in Congress and in the State governments to push its agenda forward, something neither former Presidents Fox nor Calderón had. However, Peña would do well in understanding that his constituency is not limited to the political parties or even the power elites.

Organized teachers have already proven what they can do in Mexico City given enough motivation. Sparked by national patrimony rhetoric, larger, non-organized social mobilizations could easily flare up in different key cities in Mexico and cause larger havoc. As former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza recently wrote, “these red flags, so to speak, are especially relevant given the influence and disruptive potential of many of today’s social movements. The eruption of mass street protests in Brazil is just one recent example of a government being forced to change direction on a policy initiative and find a way to rapidly and constructively respond to the desires, often inchoate, of a newly emboldened and empowered population. It’s a cautionary tale that begins with frustration and finds expression in mass action.”

Even when theoretically, Peña could powerball his reforms forward, both him and the PRI need to wake up and understand that they cannot be the only voice to determine the nation’s destiny. Vargas Llosa sarcastically called the previous PRI era “the perfect dictatorship” but today’s Mexico will not stand for a return of that so-called “perfect” model. Peña needs to learn to play well with others.

Safety in Mexico – Get the facts

Standard

You’ve heard the hype… you know about the insecurity story in Mexico. I’ve even written a bit about it on Americas Quarterly. Now, invest a couple of minutes to get a reality check and understand that there’s a lot more to Mexico than what gets to sensationalist press.

Get the facts: http://howsafeismexico.com/ 

Share this please!

Por un México sin excusas

Standard

He sido participante o testigo de muchas causas e iniciativas, todas ellas enfocadas a buscar mejorar algún aspecto de nuestro país. Es común escuchar lemas como “Un México sin drogas” o “Por un país sin violencia”, etc. Todas ellas son válidas y no pretendo minimizar ni descalificar los esfuerzos para pelear por estos ideales.

Sin embargo, ayer me tocó vivir una serie de situaciones cuasicotidianas que al sumarse me hicieron reflexionar respecto a la manera en que los mexicanos hemos hecho de inventar pretextos nuestro pan de cada día. Así que hoy quisiera abogar por algo mucho más cercano a cada uno de nosotros que los ideales que arropan las causas sociales normalmente. Creo que no me equivoco al decir que todos hemos sido víctimas y a su vez criminales de lo que hemos vuelto un arte en México: la vil, llana y descarada excusa.

Somos un país cuya actividad económica cada vez más se centra en el sector de servicios y aunque los ofrecemos sin duda de mejor manera que algunas otras naciones, nos distinguimos por darlos siempre con la excusa de frente por no haber logrado el objetivo en tiempo o en forma acordada. Las excusas han hecho de nuestra economía de servicios, un mar de mediocridad e irresponsabilidad.

En México el tipo que iba a venir a instalarte el internet el día que pediste permiso de la oficina para estar en casa “no llegó porque la cuadrilla tuvo un accidente imprevisto”, el oficinista llegó a la junta 20 minutos tarde porque (aparentemente a diferencia de todos los demás días) “el tráfico estaba pesadísimo”, el estudiante de universidad no sube la tarea al servidor “porque se cayó la red”, la imprenta entrega los trabajos tarde porque siempre “nos falló una pieza de la máquina”, el plomero no pudo llegar a tiempo porque tenía mucho trabajo, era del otro lado de la ciudad y los microbuseros están de huelga y a las empleadas domésticas se les mueren a cada rato sus diecinueve abuelitas.

¿Por qué? ¿Por qué no podemos tomar responsabilidad y honestamente aceptar nuestras fallas y limitaciones? ¿Por qué no podemos por otro lado, perseguir hacer nuestro trabajo con tal esmero y orgullo que logramos superar las expectativas de quienes reciben nuestros servicios y entregables?

Somos una nación increíblemente creativa pero enfocamos dicha creatividad en actividades que erosionan nuestra capacidad de ser grandes. Si la mitad de las neuronas que destinamos a que se nos ocurran historias épicas para no decirle a nuestro jefe “me quedé dormido” , las dedicáramos a innovar, podríamos destacar internacionalmente en inventiva.

Creo que tememos demasiado y malentendemos la importancia de la opinión de los otros. Creemos que si alguien nos ve fallar o equivocarnos, estaremos marcados de por vida y destinados al fracaso.

No puedo llamarla una máxima irrefutable ni decir que siempre funciona, pero puedo hablar por mi experiencia y compartirles que desde muy temprano en mi vida he buscado eliminar las excusas y reemplazarlas por la verdad, honesta y directa.  He buscado poner empeño en lo que hago porque además eso me permite sentir orgullo por los resultados (en lugar del alivio de decir “por esta ocasión la libre porque no me cacharon en la mentira). Poniendo las cosas en la balanza (porque no siempre funciona), puedo decir que favorecer la honestidad me ha sido más benéfico que detrimental.

¿Acaso no respetarías más a un proveedor de un servicio que te dijera “disculpas, cometimos un error y por ello ofrecemos X en retribución” que uno al que siempre se le atraviesa un tren, se le poncha la llanta o se pierde en camino a la entrega?

Ojo, no estoy diciendo que nos volvamos mártires y andemos por el mundo recogiendo culpas de otros ni queriendo quedar bien con la gente agachando la cabeza y diciendo “tienes razón, todo es culpa mía.” Estoy hablando de tomar responsabilidad por lo que nos compete y por nuestras acciones. Hablo de dar la cara en lugar de resguardarse en una excusa que te exima de tener que pedir que vuelvan a confiar en ti a pesar de haber fallado.

Somos seres humanos. No se puede ni debe de esperar de nosotros la perfección. Es evidente que en algún momento nos vamos a equivocar o vamos a fallar. Como jefe prefiero a un colaborador que trae a mi atención un error con el tiempo suficiente para buscar resolverlo que otro que solapa sus limitaciones escondiendo la falla o transfiriendo la culpa a “causas fuera de su control” como el hecho de que los aliens invadieron su casa el día antes del deadline y le borraron el disco duro de su computadora. Ahora, la clave del juego es equivocarse pero no es cometer el mismo error miles de veces y ser honesto al respecto… está bien que no seas perfecto pero si eres incompetente, tienes mayores broncas que las excusas.

Creo que lo que deberíamos hacer mucho más es (1) al cometerlo, aceptar el error eliminando la excusa, (2) honestamente comunicarlo, (3) generar opciones para reparar o resolver el daño y (4)recoger los aprendizajes necesarios para evitar la misma falla. No es física cuántica… Vivir sin excusas es simple y sólo cuesta la voluntad de hacerlo.

Así de fácil: la honestidad genera credibilidad y la deshonestidad hace que la pierdas. Y una persona que no tiene credibilidad, simplemente tiene muy poco valor que ofrecerle al mundo. No digo que seamos honestos porque es un ideal loable. Digo que lo seamos porque nos conviene.

¿Quién se apunta para eliminar del salón de clases “el perro se comió mi tarea” y así construir un país de gente honesta? ¡Vamos por un México sin excusas! ¿O estás bieeeeeeeeeeen ocupado porque justo este fin de semana que ibas a ser honesto estás muy ocupado porque viene tu tía de fuera a visitar y no va a volver en tres años así que no puedes enfocarte en nada más?