Reasons to leave Mexico #3

So today as we take the dogs for a walk and go to Burger King to get lunch, I’m waiting with the beasts in the parking lot. Since nobody respects handicapped parking, the lot’s handler has placed two carts, one on each parking space, to reserve them for people who actually need them. However, big mistake, he left enough room for one car between the carts.

So indeed, this cretin arrives, squeezes his car between the carts and in the process uses up not just one, but TWO handicapped spaces. He leaves the car running so his daughter inside can enjoy A/C; never mind that the idiot has the sunroof open, letting hot air inside. He then goes into the store and spends I don’t know how long inside. I don’t know because I left. The best part? there were open spaces elsewhere in the parking lot.

Here in Mexico you see this sort of thing all the time. People don’t seem to respect the law or regulations or signs or anything. They just do what they want, and usually nobody even tries to stop them. In any case they usually get off with some snide remark.

So people double-parking  at school to pick up the kids, using up handicapped spaces, or even two parking spots (nice semi you got there, idiot), running traffic lights because, hey, nobody’s coming anyway so why should I wait?, or parking in front of other people’s houses “I’ll only be a minute, thanks!”, it’s bread and butter here.

A chronic lack of respect for your co-citizens might speak badly of a few rude people if that’s all there was. However the phenomenon is rampant and happens more and more every day. So I have to think that it’s an education problem; people no longer think it’s necessary to be nice to your neighbor. Indeed, the consensus is now that “it’s better to come off an abusive cretin than a yielding loser”. Sorry but I’d rather not stay here long enough to start thinking that myself.

Las patrañas de los panistas

¿Qué está haciendo el PAN en el Distrito Federal?
¿Qué está haciendo el PAN en el Distrito Federal?

Hace unos días el Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) repartía este panfleto en las casas de la colonia, posiblemente en busca de promover y obtener aprobación popular a sus absurdas medidas de “beneficio”, y obviamente con miras a mejorar su perfil en la capital de México, rumbo a las elecciones federales y locales de 2009. Cabe mencionar que según las leyes electorales, el incurrir en actos de campaña antes del periodo estipulado es ilegal; en este caso otorguemos el beneficio de la duda, pues aunque el propósito es claro, estoy meramente suponiendo, y de cualquier manera como veremos el panfletito tiene mucha tela de dónde cortar.

¿Qué está haciendo el PAN en el Distrito Federal?, pregunta el panfleto. Hay muchas respuestas: como todo capitalino sabe, en la ciudad el PAN es un partido de oposición, pues el D.F. ha sido bastión del PRD desde 1997. Así, el PAN ha quedado reducido a cacarear sus magros logros en materia electoral, a confrontar al gobierno local desde las  delegaciones “bien” de Miguel Hidalgo y Benito Juárez, e intentar meter zancadilla a los perredistas desde el generoso cobijo de la silla presidencial que ocupa el PAN desde el año 2000.

Sin embargo, cercanas las elecciones, el PAN quiere cambiar y dar una imagen de un partido que se preocupa por la gente, con medidas de corte abiertamente populista, el mismo que tanto le criticaron a López Obrador y a sus antecesores.

Este panfletito nos informa de las excelentes campañas y programas que el PAN tiene para nosotros en la ciudad. Veamos.

Primero nos presentan una campaña para “regular las marchas y manifestaciones”. Desde luego que las marchas son incómodas, y la propuesta del PAN de hacerlas “a un ladito para que no estorben” difícilmente va a prosperar. Las razones son dos: primero, el objetivo de una manifestación pública es efectivamente el molestar y llamar la atención. Una iniciativa que pretende quitarlas de enmedio es tan absurda como el “manifestódromo” de Pekín, y es cuestión de tiempo para que se caiga en negar el permiso a los manifestantes, que entonces volverán a recurrir al manifestarse sin ninguna ley de por medio. Sólo que ahora se tendría pretexto para levantarles proceso por violar una ley; es decir, que lo que dice el panfleto de “garantiza la libertad de expresión” es una vil patraña.

De hecho el problema es tan importante que sería digno de organizar un referéndum para recoger la opinión popular al respecto; el mecanismo empleado por el PAN únicamente muestra las firmas “a favor” lo cual constituye una muy bonita manera de falsear el apoyo o rechazo que tenga la medida en cuestión.

En segundo lugar tenemos un intento de atacar las políticas de transporte público del gobierno local. Las “más de cinco mil encuestas denunciando el deterioro del metrobús” es un descarado y burdo ataque a un proyecto abiertamente impulsado por las autoridades perredistas, y no persigue otro fin que el de enfocarse en los proyectos más visibles mientras que el PAN, como es su costumbre, ignora y deja a un lado el verdadero problema en transporte público: los microbuses, tema que se ha discutido a profundidad en este y otros espacios. Desde luego para el PAN es más importante que en los metrobuses se corrija el cierre de puertas (sin detallar cuál es el problema con dicho proceso), y no les importa que 94% de los microbuses operen sin concesión, ni que las pérdidas económicas y en vidas de la operación de dichos transportes sean cuantiosas. El gobierno local está atacando ese problema, mientras que el PAN simplemente lo ignora y se enfoca en medidas para que no “manoseen” a las pasajeras del metrobús.

También se propone una medida para “proteger” a los capitalinos de los “aumentos repentinos” al transporte público. El gobierno local es de hecho el que primordialmente ha defendido la no alza a las tarifas del transporte; y únicamente se autorizaron, después de muchos años y muchos reclamos, alzas a las tarifas de transporte concesionado, que por tratarse de empresas privadas están siendo afectados por la carestía que ha fomentado la mala política económica del gobierno federal (panista desde hace 8 años). El transporte municipal dependiente del GDF ha seguido con las mismas tarifas desde hace años. De modo que los dichos “aumentos repentinos” son completamente inexistentes; existen sólo en el mundo azul del panfleto que nos ocupa.

También el PAN sale a nuestra defensa con el “bachómetro” gracias al cual los particulares podrán denunciar al gobierno local si su auto cae en un bache y sufre desperfectos. Saquemos dos puntos a relucir: el primero es el castigo que el gobierno federal ha impuesto al GDF, al dejarlo fuera de muchas partidas presupuestarias, con lo cual se reduce el monto que se puede destinar a obras de mejoramiento urbano, lo que redunda en la “pésima” calidad del pavimento en muchas avenidas. Aún así, el gobierno local ha emprendido programas de repavimentación, como la molesta obra que se lleva a cabo en Circuito Interior, y que por su naturaleza técnica requerirá menos mantenimiento y será menos vulnerable a los caprichos y venganzas del gobierno federal.

El segundo punto a mencionar es la doble moral con que opera el PAN; ¿por qué no se extiende esta iniciativa a las carreteras federales, que en ocasiones están en tan mal estado que causan, no sólo desperfectos, sino muertes y accidentes? ¿qué tal que una ley similar protegiera a las víctimas inocentes del caso Mouriño? Desde luego esto nunca va a suceder, porque aunque suene increíble, el mismo panfleto nos dice muy claramente a quién pretenden atacar: “podrán reclamar cualquier deterioro causado por una acción, omisión o negligencia del gobierno local“. OJo señores: castigo para el gobierno local, y completa impunidad y desvergüenza para el gobierno federal.

A continuación el PAN denuncia la “arbitrariedad” con que se demolieron inmuebles patrimonio de la humanidad. Nuevamente no se aclara cuáles ni se dan mayores detalles. Y de nuevo se ve la paja en el ojo ajeno, mientras que la viga en el propio (la descarada venta del patrimonio histórico y cultural de la nación por parte del gobierno federal, véanse casos Teotihuacán, Chichen Itzá y El Tajín) pasa completamente desapercibida. También tenemos esta instancia en la cual las autoridades panistas de la delegación Benito Juárez demolieron un inmueble con valor histórico. Así que de nuevo es un caso de doble vara para medir y criticar las acciones.

El PAN, siempre preocupado por nuestra economía, nos protege contra el aumento del impuesto predial, por medio de amparos que privan al gobierno local de lo que se está convirtiendo en su única fuente de ingresos, luego de que es estrangulado y pasado por alto al momento de repartir los impuestos federales. Es bien conocido mi rechazo al impuesto predial en el DF, sin embargo ni en este caso es posible simpatizar con el PAN porque nuevamente se mide con distinta vara; y no se menciona la onerosa carga tributaria a que nos somete el gobierno federal. Nunca veremos al PAN promoviendo amparos contra el “gasolinazo”, reducciones al IVA e ISR, el retiro del IETU, impuesto a depósitos en efectivo ni IEPS.

La respuesta: entorpeciendo el trabajo del gobierno local
La respuesta: entorpeciendo el trabajo del gobierno local

Una de las iniciativas de ley más discutidas en 2008 fue la ley que legaliza el aborto en el DF. Es la única entidad del país donde se brinda este derecho a mujeres embarazadas que por razones personales no desean tener un hijo. Es poco sorprendente que el PAN, un partido de corte ultraconservador, pretenda implementar programas para disuadir el uso de este derecho. Lo que sorprende es el cinismo con que afirman que “6 de cada 10 capitalinos se opone” a dicha práctica “por considerarla un atentado al derecho a la vida”. Ya que de nuevo se cae en afirmaciones tendenciosas y no respaldadas por un método estadístico, por lo cual es igual de fácil que yo les diga “no es cierto, 6 de cada 10 están a favor” y no tienen argumentos para rebatirlo.

El PAN abrió un portal en internet para “denunciar de manera anónima” y evitar que “se vuelva a repetir la negligencia ocurrida en el operativo News Divine”. El nivel de absurdo al que se llega con este programa es tan inaudito como la grotesca maniobra de “colgarse” del caso específico y mediáticamente muy sonado de News Divine; claro que se hace mención de ese caso pues es la mejor táctica sensacionalista para obtener publicidad. Claro que no se habla de una línea de denuncias para compras irregulares y procesos gubernamentales mal llevados, para que no se “vuelva a repetir la negligencia ocurrida en el caso Mouriño”. Eso desde luego no les sería nada conveniente.

Así que este es el partido que nos gobierna: el PAN, un partido ultraconservador al grado de ser retrógrado; un partido que busca el sensacionalismo y la publicidad para intentar aplastar al rival; un partido que prefiere la mercadotecnia que un discurso político inteligente y programas económicos y sociales que realmente ataquen la causa del problema en lugar de maquillarlo; un partido que no aprende de sus (muchos) errores y abre el panfleto diciendo que “la Ciudad de México ocupa un pésimo lugar en lo referente al nivel de calidad de vida”; independientemente de que nuevamente se cae en afirmaciones arbitrarias y sin ningún sustento numérico, sería bueno que se dieran una vuelta por el resto del país para que constaten que en realidad todo México ocupa un pésimo lugar. También se dice que “en 13 de las 16 delegaciones han empeorado considerablemente”.

Desde luego está implícito que  dos de las delegaciones donde todo es color miel son Miguel Hidalgo, cuyo gobierno es encabezado por la panista Gabriela Cuevas y es omnipresente en las páginas de los periódicos por la cantidad de controversias, encontronazos con el gobierno local, escándalos de corrupción, pleitos con los vecinos, viles maniobras para salirse con la suya y malos manejos en que se incurre; y Benito Juárez, a cargo del también panista Germán de la Garza, y escenario de perennes problemas de construcciones ilegales, fruto de la codicia de las autoridades panistas que llegan exclusivamente a beneficiarse de jugosos contratos de los que obtienen una tajada, y de arbitrariedades como ésta, justo de la clase que el PAN denuncia… cuando le conviene.

Tras este breve recorrido por las afirmaciones del PAN en este panfletito, espero haya quedado claro que ellos sí son un peligro para México.

Twitter and bad karma

Few internet companies or services or phenomena, if you will, seem to attract as many visceral reactions as Twitter. First there was the whole buzz about Twitter and Ruby on Rails,  which always excites passions. Then the “Rails doesn’t scale” debacle. Next the “built wrong” accusations. Twitter even got some sprinklings from Zed Shaw’s spectacular departure from the Ruby scene. Then Twitter screws over their users and stops SMS service basically everywhere but the USA.

Recently Twitter indirectly angered another user community when they hired Rael Dornfest, creator of personal productivity apps I Want Sandy and Stikkit. The problem is that Mr. Dornfest decided to kill both services, altough he will take the “intellectual property” behind them to Twitter. Of course he is within his right to terminate a service that was free and under no promises, but all the users who had come to rely in these apps certainly don’t agree.

Sandy’s user community seems to be, by far, the most affected: messages at Rael’s “going offline” announcement range from the indifferent few to the truly upset, inflamed and disappointed at the whole Web 2.0 thing, specially Twitter. “Karma’s a bitch”, says one comment, and it’s true that Rael’s decision to leave users hanging out to dry will bring him and a whole bag of negative karma to Twitter. As another poster said, “I’d be weary of using any Twitter product with your name on it”.

Will Sandy and Stikkit return as twitter add-ons? possibly, but the real lesson to remember here is this: Twitter itself is also free, so it might go away at any time the creators decide it’s in their best personal interest to kill it and move on. So are most Web 2.0 apps. So if you must use them and learn to depend on them, you’d better make sure you choose the ones that, at least, let you get your data out when they die.

Apple: Where the hell is the push notification service?

Prior to my current iPhone i had a Blackberry Curve. And the single most important feature it had was Blackberry Messenger. I messaged other blackberry users a lot, and since I paid a flat fee for data usage, I could basically send 1000 messages a day and not get charged extra. Even considering the extra cost for the data plan, the blackberry was cheaper than my previous Nokia phone, where I had to pay for each SMS I sent.

Then I bought an iPhone. Mind you, in Mexico we had to wait for Apple to create the iPhone 3g. Then we had to pay through the nose for the device, and then again a significant amount for the monthly data plan. All in all, phone service + data plan pretty much equals what I was paying monthly for my Blackberry. However, due to SMS usage to replace what I previously did with Blackberry Messenger, the iPhone was costing me about twice as much as the Blackberry each month. I had to cut back on my messaging;  spending that amount of money for a communications device and then having to cut back on your communications just doesn’t make sense. Why did this happen?

The iPhone has no Blackberry messenger equivalent. Sure, there’s fring and plenty of other messaging applications, but since Apple didn’t see fit to allow for 3rd-party background processes, none of these applications work unless they’re in the foreground, unlike BB messenger which would deliver messages at any time.

Can it be done? Sure it can! Apple’s applications (Mail, phone, SMS) do it all the time, beeping and popping a nice notification icon to let you know “you’ve got mail”.

“Not to worry”,  I thought. “At WWDC where the iPhone 3G was announced, Apple announced a push notification service where applications could send, through Apple’s servers, background notifications to any iPhone app, to be displayed in several different ways.” This would enable messenger functionality for almost any application and would mean you could send instant messages without incurring SMS charges. After all, I’m paying through the nose for an unlimited data plan, I should put it to use. Apple said the service would be available by September.

September came and went. October came and went, and so did November.

iPhone software updates came and went: 2.0 was the original iPhone 3G release. 2.0.1, 2.0.2, the 2.1 major release on September 12th, and 2.1.1. By now we were wondering where our push notifications were.

Apple announced the 2.2 firmware in October. Expectations grew high that it would include the vaunted push notification functionality. But on November 21, we were disappointed again: 2.2 includes mostly eyecandy improvements. Apple, come on! this is an expensive device, and you can’t keep delivering disappointments. Performance and stability improvements are welcome, but WHERE THE HELL are: 1) the PUSH NOTIFICATION SERVICE YOU PROMISED YOU’D DELIVER TWO MONTHS AGO and 2) A FREAKING CUT/PASTE FUNCTION LIKE EVERY $20 PHONE ON EARTH?

This is an official call for Apple to stop wasting time and delivering the functionality I was promised; Now don’t get me wrong, I like the iPhone, but the lack of this service is costing me money, since all those messages I have to send through SMS are not cheap. The thought of going back to the blackberry has crossed my mind; so Apple, you either deliver this sooner rather than later, or I’ll snatch a Blackberry Storm the first chance I get. Because yes, the iPhone is THAT expensive; It’d be cheaper for me to purchase a Storm at retail price, than keep subsidizing, through SMS,  the iPhone’s inability to come into the 21st century with regards to BASIC functionality. Oh, and maybe then I’d be able to keep using my wonderful Blackberry unit converter, which I’ve been unable to port to the iPhone because, hey, I can’t afford the $100 to enter the iPhone developer program, because I spend it all on SMS!

Ebrard, no es nadie para exigir

Marcelito, ponte a trabajar

En este artículo Marcelo Ebrard, “jefe” de gobierno del Distrito Federal, anuncia que va a “exigir” a los contribuyentes el pago oportuno del impuesto predial.

“vamos a hacer una gran campaña el año que entra, los impuestos los vamos a mantener como están, salvo el ajuste de la inflación, pero sí les vamos a exigir, colonia por colonia, que aporten su predial, no sólo porque es una obligación, sino porque lo vamos a usar preferentemente para seguridad”

Téngase en cuenta que el gobierno del Distrito Federal es uno de los que cuentan con más apoyo de sus constituyentes y el DF ha sido un bastión del supuesto partido de izquierda desde 1997.

Sin embargo Ebrard parece empeñado en despilfarrar todo este capital político pues en ocasiones sus políticas son simplemente una embestida sin distinción contra capitalinos que en su gran mayoría tampoco ven un gran beneficio.

Así pues, como Marcelo se siente en derecho de “exigir” sin distingos el pago del predial, impuesto por demás absurdo y que por otro lado se ha incrementado fuertemente recientemente, la población también debería ser muy clara en lo que se exige y se espera del gobierno de la ciudad. Así que cuando llegue la campaña de Ebrard a sus casas, colonia por colonia, a “exigir”, yo espero que la gente también tenga los pantalones de exigir con esa misma granularidad, casa por casa, que se atiendan las necesidades de todos.

Marcelo, te EXIJO que:

  • Pongas en cintura YA a TODAS las unidades de transporte público, taxis y microbuses por igual, ya que se sienten dueños de la calle y conducen ARMAS MORTALES sin entrenamiento ni capacidad, y a veces agotados o drogados. No esperes a que un microbús cause un accidente para suspenderlo. Es TU CULPA que 95% de los microbuses estén operando sin concesión.
  • Pongas en cintura YA a TODOS los policías que operan manualmente los semáforos de las avenidas desquiciando el tráfico por las mañanas y por las tardes.  Es ridículo que en mi (pequeña) calle se tarde 15 minutos en avanzar 300 metros porque el policía que controla el semáforo decidió irse a echar un taco de canasta en lo que el tráfico de la gran avenida se desahoga.
  • Pongas en cintura YA a TODAS las obras de  mejoramiento vial e hidráulico porque son unos FLOJOS que destrozan la calle y luego se van, no aparecen en semanas, mientras tanto las calles y avenidas son un caos vial por los agujeros, bloqueos y baches que dejan, un desastre para los peatones y una fuente dañina de polvo y desperdicios para las casas. Casos específicos de la zona división del norte- miguel ángel de quevedo.
  • Pongas tus PINCHES CAMARITAS en lugares donde sí hay problemas de seguridad y vandalismo, no las pongas TODAS EN REFORMA y EL ZOCALO. Pon una afuera de mi casa, a ver si encuentras a los desgraciados que me rayaron mi coche, me poncharon las llantas y me arruinaron un cristal, o a los marranos que se ORINAN enfrente de mi casa. (pero claro, si yo pongo una luz para disuadirlos la rompen y si no la rompen, LFC me cobra una fortuna por tenerla encendida). Atrapar a secuestradores y robacoches es muy bonito pero HAY OTRAS CLASES DE CRIMEN.
  • Te dediques YA a dotar de infraestructura de transporte alterno a otras zonas de la ciudad, no solamente a las vistosas Reforma e Insurgentes. URGEN ciclopistas en todos los puntos de la ciudad; haz una encuesta y verás la ENORME cantidad de gente que NO va en bicicleta o autobús a su trabajo por el peligro físico que esto implica. La ciclopista de Chapultepec es bonita pero NO sirve para ir al trabajo.
  • Te pongas YA a mejorar las vialidades importantes aunque sean menos vistosas; deja de construir superpuentes en Santa Fe y atiende zonas que están en el OLVIDO como el sur de la ciudad. Basta que tardes 40 minutos en llegar de Copilco a Taxqueña para que ENTIENDAS que LAS VIALIDADES NO BASTAN.
  • Exijas YA, que así como tú subes el IMPUESTO según la inflación, también mi empresa me suba el SUELDO según la inflación y el gobierno federal deje de SUBIR la gasolina; porque hay que recordar que aunque no subas los impuestos locales, todo lo que es de competencia federal y privada sube y sube y sube. El representarnos y defendernos frente a los abusos del gobierno federal ES responsabilidad del jefe de gobierno y de los diputados y senadores que están ahí porque NOSOTROS VOTAMOS POR ELLOS. Y si estás peleado con Calderón y no te hacen caso, lo ARREGLAS, o le INSISTES, o RENUNCIAS, porque no fuiste elegido para decir “es que no me hacen caso”.
  • Te fijes bien a quién le EXIGES; le tienes que EXIGIR a las grandes empresas que llevan años sin pagar su predial, NO LE EXIJAS a la gente que como yo pagó su predial SIN CHISTAR, A TIEMPO y AL CONTADO (ojo, muy importante, danos prioridad y descuentos a los que NO NOS ENDEUDAMOS, porque luego no vamos a estar chillando para que nos quiten de encima a los usureros de los bancos).

Así que Marcelo, con todo el respeto que mereces (disminuyendo rápidamente), te EXIJO que TE PONGAS A TRABAJAR. ¡Gracias!  JAJA.

Untrustworthy cops in Mexico: what else is new?

As part of the ongoing public safety mess in Mexico, the president himself sent a document to the Senate, detailing the findings in a “trustworthiness” evaluation that was performed this year to Mexico’s security forces. The unsurprising result: 50% of all law enforcement personnel don’t fulfill the required trustworthiness requirements.

The report itself is ridiculously incongruous, with high ratings for states such as Tabasco, Mexico City (where every inhabitant knows that cops are a joke) and, bafflingly, Chihuahua, with a 97% approval rating. Mind you, world-famous capital of violence against women, Ciudad Juárez, is in Chihuahua, so this information is so obviously and flagrantly flawed, that it calls into question the entire study, as well as the prowess of the so-called statisticians who gave a 97% approval rating with only 82 cops taking the tests. Yes, we’re supposed to believe that 100% of Tabasco’s law enforcers are trustworthy and reliable.

What are the implications of this? there are many, for starters, how flawed was the hiring process that allowed this high an amount of worthless people to get to such a position of power and influence? second, as the article points out, how reliable are the people who administered the test? meaning, basically, that the percentage might even actually be higher.

But the real problem is, now that we know this, what is the government going to do? Because  the sensible thing to do would be to fire all these people. Of course, since the process was wrong from the beginning, it’s now a tangled, unsolvable mess where the obvious solution won’t work. You can’t fire half the cops in the country, which is already in the middle of a public safety crisis, and expect things to improve. You need time to fix your training and screening procedures, because they are so flawed that they are partly to blame for this mess. You need time to find and train new personnel (which the unemployment rate might make a bit easier, assuming most applicants actually make it through the screening procedure).

Assuming you did this, in the meanwhile you’d have close to 30 thousand people out of a job. Mind you, these people have a certificate for unreliableness, as well as police training. So we’re looking at two possibilities: either they start to make a living out of illegal activities (kidnappings, robberies, drug dealing, racketeering schemes) or they join private security companies. Now, these companies are a huge success because, if there’s something the average mexican wants, is security. So I foresee a situation where, desperate to have more personnel to get more customers, these companies will hire those, certified unreliable, former law enforcers. Ironically, as someone concerned about security, I might hire one of those companies who would then send a security guard with questionable integrity to watch over my property. Who’s to say he won’t tip his friends off so that they can rob or murder me?

This problem is indeed so complex that a solution eludes the mind. But indeed this is how things work in Mexico most of the time: it looks as though the government is hellbent on digging itself (and us) into the most tangled, deep hole possible, so that as there is no solution possible, none will be demanded of them. But it is time that the mexican people started demanding something from the people who amount to our (quite highly paid) employees.

Kidnappings in Mexico

Kidnapping in Mexico has been a big security problem for several years now. A crime previously unheard of, kidnappings are now common, fueled by a number of circumstances. Chief among them is the fact that authorities are completely inept and bound to be useless in cases of kidnapping. Many times former police staff have been involved in this crime. Naturally, then, when a family suffers a kidnapping, the last thing that crosses their mind is reporting this to the authorities.

Once again, Mexico exhibits its kafkian nature: if you work hard and get rich, you’re a target for kidnappers. Even if you don’t get rich, you’re still a target. And are most kidnappers poor people who do this out of necessity? no, they’re already quite wealthy but will keep doing this because it’s more profitable than having a company or investing in the stock market.

Fernando Martí, a wealthy sports store owner, had his son kidnapped and murdered earlier this year. The case received a lot of publicity mainly because he’s a well-known businessman. Not even government officials are safe from this: Nelson Vargas, who was president of the national sports commision, also had his daughter kidnapped, about a year ago. However, as is most usual, he kept quiet about this: the public only knew about this when, after Martí’s murder, Vargas made a public statement revealing his plight. Back then he pleaded for the authorities to do something. Today, however, he exploded and actually, amidst profanities, demanded, in a press conference, that the authorities find his daughter. As usual, said authorities are clueless: even Vargas has provided them with clues and insight on who might be responsible and where to begin investigating. And still nothing. Who are they protecting? Shouldn’t we all be really worried that even an important man like Vargas is ignored? or is the true reason to worry seeing that the authorities just don’t know what they are doing?

Another related article tells about a 15-year old who escaped the safehouse where he was being held for ransom and told the authorities, who then proceeded to catch the criminals. So here we have it, short of someone telling them “I was kidnapped, I escaped and they live in this house over here”, nothing will be done to help the victims.

So how did the kid escape? “the kidnappers were sloppy”, authorities explain, “and were not very experienced in this business. Just a bunch of beginners”. They say this with utmost confidence and almost arrogance.

Please! Wake up! They need to realize that this comes from the fact that Mexico has diminishing, instead of increasing, opportunities. So what are people going to do? indeed, they are being forced into kidnapping because there’s nothing else to do. And they target your average citizen, in this case the son of a moderately successful couple of street merchants. The fact that this particular band was unsuccessful shouldn’t be a cause for self-congratulating. It should be a wakeup call that while something needs to be done to curb crime in all its forms, the true heart of the problem is the lack of honest opportunities in Mexico. As long as there are none, people will resort to the next easiest way to make money. Drug dealing yesterday, kidnapping today, and I can only wonder in fear about the “self-made opportunities” for tomorrow’s Mexico.

BerryUnitConverter 1.2.1

Just released Berry Unit Converter 1.2.1, to fix a stupid bug with ounces and stones conversion. An upgrade is advisable. BerryUnitConverter is free software. Get more info and a download from here.

The “Pinky proposal”

So here’s the thing. Everybody’s gaga about security these days. And biometrics are big because, hey, you always carry them around. At work, we already scan our fingerprint instead of punching cards, and it’s saved a ton of time for everyone.

However, the problem arises when you talk about a high-security setting. Because, everyone fears, what if someone, just to get your access, cuts off your finger? that would be much worse than having your keycard stolen, wouldn’t it? the prospect of losing a thumb or (in some cases) an index finger is scary to most people.

So here’s the proposal: let’s use our pinkies instead. I know losing a pinky would be just as painful but bear with me for a second. The loss of a pinky will impair you a lot less than losing an index finger or thumb. So while painful, it will let you get on with your life a lot better. Imagine not being able to grab anything, or to point at things. Look at your hands when you’re typing; I bet you barely use your pinkies anyway. You’re supposed to lift them when you eat or drink, so again, you’re not using them. So I think they’re a good choice when you absolutely must lose a finger.

So there; particularly if you live in a violent country where people wouldn’t think twice about mutilating you just to get in that high-security facility you work at, be sensible and ask your HR staff to scan your pinky instead of your thumb. Might save you a lot of grief.

Mexico’s secretary of the interior dies in plane accident

Photo (c) La Jornada, 2008
Photo (c) La Jornada, 2008

Or, was it an accident? There’s plenty of speculation about the plane crash that cost Juan Camilo Mouriño, Mexico’s secretary of the interior (Secretario de Gobernación) and (so far) 12 other people their lives. Theories ranging from a simple accident to a narco-fueled vendetta abound.

But the fact is that the tragedy should be looked at from a humanitarian point of view. 13 dead and over 40 injured, 3 of which might also die in the next few days. It’s a time for mourning, yes, but for us to mourn for all the people who died, not just mr. Mouriño; a time for the entire mexican society to give their support to the families of the deceased, just as we would in any other tragedy.

Let me be cold-hearted for a while and state this: Mouriño’s death will not have a great impact for Mexico or even for president Felipe Calderón’s team, his plans or aspirations. Because for all the power his position brought, Mouriño himself was a rather grey politician. So yes, let the president give speeches about how we lost a “great mexican” (he was born in Spain so even that is debatable). But the truth is, Mouriño will get replaced by someone else, with similar political prowess, capabilities, aspirations and a similar position to further Calderón’s plans, whatever they are. And in the public eye, Mouriño will fade and then disappear, to become a footnote like Ramón Martín Huerta (whose name, incidentally, has resurfaced in connection with the Mouriño tragedy).

He will disappear, that is, in the eyes of everybody but his family and friends: these people didn’t just witness the death of a high-ranking government officer; they lost a friend, a father, a husband, and a son. To them, and to all the relatives of the deceased, the tragedy has a very personal feel. This is the level at which us normal people can empathize and understand the magnitude of what happened, for any loss of human life is to be regretted. So indeed, let our prayers (for those who pray) and our condolences and best wishes be with mr. Mouriño’s family, as well as with those of all the others who lost their lives or were injured in the tragedy.

Peseros in Mexico City, the spawn from hell

Peseros in Mexico City are a fact of life; indeed, due to several mishandlings of transport policy (yes, the government again), they have thrived and carry up to 60% of the city’s passengers. Yet, as everybody knows, they’re unsafe, dangerous, rude and cause endless traffic jams and problems.

Watching two of these behemoths racing down an avenue, in a contest to win god knows what (but usually more passengers, never mind that the poor schmucks already on board are risking their lives), is a sight to behold and a prime example of just how out of control the situation is.

Pesero accidents are quite common, but sometimes they take a turn for the tragic. And strangely, high-profile accidents are the ones that bring the neglect and impunity of the Pesero problem into light.

On October 29th, 2008, a pesero was driving too fast, then rolled over. The tragic result: 15 injured, 2 dead. The two casualties were crushed by the (precarious and strength-lacking) roof and side metal as the vehicle flipped over and ended upside down. The entire scene was gruesome.

People were shocked; the driver escaped. Authorities reacted by launching a massive manhunt for the driver, opening legal procedures against the unit’s owner who is considered an accomplice, as well as cancelling the Pesero’s concession. This is a first, never before has this been done in response to an accident of any kind involving a pesero. So everyone is happy about what happened, right?

Think about this for a minute. Pesero accidents are a dime a dozen. The driver is most often responsible; the owners just ignore the fact and protect themselves with lawyers and amparos (a legal procedure to harbour yourself against government action). People have died before in pesero accidents, as pedestrians run over by Peseros, car drivers or passengers hit by out-of-control units, or everyday passengers.

So why is this the first time one of these negligent criminals has had his concession suspended? While the driver is mostly responsible, it’s the vehicle owner’s responsibility as much as the driver’s. So indeed, any owner whose unit is involved in an accident should have the concession revoked. It doesn’t matter if it was the driver’s fault (why do they hire 18-year-olds with no experience and entrust them with the lives of up to 50 passeners?), or a technical failure (most of the units are in sad conditions, falling apart, and lack even the most basic security measures)  or a simple traffic accident (pesero drivers are known for purposely hitting other cars when they feel like it, because their units barely suffer any damage). It’s their responsibility to provide quality service with safe, courteous drivers in up-to-spec units and upholding all traffic regulations; if all, they should be even more cautious than other vehicles.

This of course is never going to happen; the accident will help to make an example and then things will go back to normal. Few people will remember this the next time a fatal accident is caused by a Pesero. Hopefully this article will help change that, so that eventually, Peseros can be replaced by something better. But it won’t happen unless authorities change their policies regarding this problem.

Reasons to leave Mexico #2

Imagine working at Mexico’s most prestigious educational institution; indeed, Latin America’s top university. Here you are, pounding away in your cubicle, when suddenly you hear the distant ramble of a disturbance. Curious, you get out of your seat and go outside, just in time to see a mob of rabid young men, most carrying sticks or rocks, many lighting home-made, high-powered firecrackers whose explosions rattle windows and startle quiet, harmless professors and students, swarming through the parking lot, damaging and jumping on cars. They go on their way to the stadium, not before causing huge damage to cars and the university’s property. But more importantly, they damage the community’s faith and sense of safety. Even here, within the generous shelter of UNAM’s walls, you are not safe. So, as is usual in Mexico, you give thanks that the most that happened was that YOUR car got this beautiful scratch. Hey, you should be glad that’s ALL that happened to you.

I’ve never actually understood “porros”, groups of psudo-students who act as hitmen to terrorize and further political intentions. Whose political intentions? I have no idea. All we know is that they gather in huge numbers and, sheltered in the mob they form, they perform all sorts of mindless vandalism. In this case, with the excuse of a traditional football game (Poli vs. UNAM), they came to campus for the “burning of the donkey” (Poli’s mascot), and in their wake a lot of damage and fear was left. The school was evacuated, all buildings closed down and locked, and the university was left at their mercy because, hey, what will the few hundred security staff do against over a thousand porros except stand idly by?

I have a very low opinion on UNAM’s administrative staff but in this case I admire the nerve to at least stand close to the action when most people would run away. But the fact is UNAM is nobody’s land, and as such is usually a victim to this sort of event. Of course public force could be called to hold off the mobs, but that would be a violation of university autonomy and a huge backlash would come. So no, instead the entire university is left at the mercy of these guys.

What’s most ironic is that these guys are supposed to be university students; they should uphold its values and be honest, have integrity and be open to dialog, not resort to vandalism and violence.

So there you have it: the country actually nurtures something that is worth all the trouble; one of the few candlelights in Mexico’s darkness. An institution to make us proud, within the country and internationally. This is the best Mexico has to offer: its best cultural achievements, its brightest minds, its most open and plural community.

What do Mexicans do with this wonder? they milk it for all it’s worth, take malicious advantage of it, use it to further political causes, vandalize it, harming its reputation and property, and above all, scare away the very minds that helped build this institution. Because hey, let me tell you, after today the only thing on my mind is to put as big a distance between me and these people as possible.

I won’t for the time being, because I’m proud of this university (I studied here) and glad to be able to contribute to make it better. However my patience is wearing thin, as my concern grows that the university is becoming more and more a mirror of how things work in this country. If we don’t respect and protect UNAM, what’s left for us to defend and be proud of? precious little, I think.

Reasons to leave Mexico #1-1

Here’s a report about how a female elephant escaped a circus warehouse and then wandered into a highway, where it was struck and killed by a passenger bus.

Interestingly the note talked about how the elephant “caused” the accident. I think that any bus driver in decent conditions would be able to spot a 5-ton animal a MILE away and behave accordingly.

So that’s how a 40-year life was ended because the driver just “didn’t know what to do”. In a way, I’m almost glad the driver also died from the impact.

And that’s just a taste of how poor Mexico’s wildlife culture really is. Nobody cared about the elephant really, and if this can happen to such a beast, imagine the hard time other animals are having here : cats, dogs, cattle, horses.

Clearly, Mexico is a lousy country to be in, even for an animal. And today that has turned into tragedy.