La Profesora Abstraída

Weblog of Michelle Dion, Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science, at McMaster University. My blog has moved to Visit my other website.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Bush on Social Security remix

Go to Yahoo version.

See original version.

posted by Michelle @ 5:53 PM, 0 comments

My favorite Mexican breakfast

Chilaquiles verdes con pollo

Fried corn tortillas, topped with chicken, green tomatillo sauce, and queso fresco.

posted by Michelle @ 10:25 AM, 0 comments

My new t-shirt

Brian bought this for me at Wal-Mart-owned Suburbia, here in Mexico City.

posted by Michelle @ 10:23 AM, 3 comments

Follow-up to yesterday's social security story

Yesterday, the SNTSS submitted its complaint at the Mexico OIT offices yesterday. They are planning a march for July 21.

posted by Michelle @ 9:56 AM, 0 comments

Monday, June 27, 2005

Social security conflict update

Last week (or maybe the week before), I met with a SNTSS (social security) union leader who mentioned he had just come back from Switzerland, where they had filed a complaint against the Mexican government in their on-going dispute over a August 2004 reform law to their pensions. The story has just been covered by the Mexican media, so I feel it is safe to comment. For an academic discussion of the context of the conflict, I have just finished a paper that is under review for publication.

Essentially, in the October 2003 labor contract negotiations, unionized IMSS workers failed to approve a reform to their pension scheme. (Many IMSS workers retire earning more than 100% of their last salary at only 55 years old.) In response, the administration of IMSS (with the support of employers organizations and corporatist or official unions) sought a reform law that had three effects:

1. Any new hires have to be approved by the tri-partite governing board of the IMSS.
2. Any new IMSS workers would be covered by the pension scheme of all private sector workers, not that of the current labor contract.
3. Contributions of workers covered by IMSS cannot be used to fund benefits for IMSS workers.

In response, the IMSS union filed a court case claiming that their pensions were a matter for their labor contract not law. The case has been passed around the courts, but soon it is expected that the courts will rule against the union. This will potentially open the way for similiar legislation to reduce by law the benefits negotiated in labor contracts by other powerful national industry unions, like Pemex, Luz y Fuerza del Centro, and the CFE.

Given the likelihood that the domestic courts will rule against the union, the union filed a complaint against the government with the OIT. In particular, the complaint points to the failure of the IMSS administration to replace retired and other workers who have left the IMSS since 2004. The IMSS administration has frozen hiring until the court case is resolved because they do not want to hire new workers under the old labor contract with high retirement benefits. The union is protesting this policy.

All of this conflict is likely to become more severe as the union and IMSS begin to renegotiate the labor contract again this fall.

posted by Michelle @ 12:09 PM, 0 comments

Mexican Supreme Court to consider "day after pill"

Though the Secretary of Health approved and issued instructions for the use of the day after pill as a means of contraception, a pro-life group went to the courts for an injunction (or something legally similar). According to the article, the group actually targeted all forms of birth control, including condoms. The Supreme Court has decided to review the case and several judges want the case to pass to a full panel.

posted by Michelle @ 12:04 PM, 2 comments

Saturday, June 25, 2005

More on the EZLN, again

Today's (leftist) paper has no less than nine articles about the EZLN.

First, the Secretary of State confirmed that the drugs destroyed last week were not in EZLN territory, and assures the public that the government is not beginning an offensive against the EZLN. The President's office reiterated the same point. (See how nice the President and his Secretary of State can coordinate their statements and appear more consistent when neither is running for President? Creel's contradictions of Fox's spokesperson, I believe, did much to hurt people's confidence in Fox and to some extent the PAN in general.)

On the other hand, the military does seem to be rearranging some of its personnel in the region, but to what ends is not clear.

Second, ONG's are warning that paramilitary activity in Chiapas is on the rise, while at the same time, a government agency has decided that the EZLN is not a terrorist organization. The National Commission on Human Rights is urging the government and Zapatistas to begin a dialogue to avoid hostilities. The Bishop in Chiapas has said that the EZLN cannot remain silent on the 2006 elections.

In Puebla, several people protested in front of central Bancomer offices because the bank had cancelled eight accounts where national and international donors could send money for communities (including Zapatista communities) in Chiapas.

Third, a story about how deserted the rebel controlled parts of Chiapas appear. Reporters describe how some towns are like ghost towns; no one responds when reporters call out in the center of town. I'm not sure how much tourism was received by the rebel controlled (governed) areas before the red alert, but if any, it is certainly over now.

Fourth, sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein was in San Christobal in Chiapas to present his book yesterday, and La Jornada interviewed him about the situation.

My interpretation or opinion? The EZLN is clearly trying to move public opinion and affect the 2006 presidential elections. They have begun so early because the pre-candidates have begun their campaigns within each party and in public. So the EZLN would like to influence the candidacies and later the actual election. The down side to this early effort to have influence through the media is that it will probably bring additional hardship to many of the indigenous living in the EZLN controlled territories. It will probably also hurt tourism in the rest of Chiapas, as foreigners and nationals alike decide not to travel to Chiapas for fear of violence. (I should point out that if I had time, I would still plan a trip to Chiapas....not necessarily to rebel controlled areas...where I wouldn't go even before the red alert...but a trip to the major cities and other areas should not be hurt. For instance, I would say that Chiapas is probably safer to visit even with the red alert, than nearly any border town right now.) So, the early mobilization will probably hurt the economy, which is unfortunate for the residents that live there.

posted by Michelle @ 10:07 AM, 0 comments

Friday, June 24, 2005

Zapatista update (brief)

Three stories.

1. The government is removing onver 200 speed bumps from the rural highway in Zapatista controlled territory, to facilitate the movement of "emergency" vehicles.

2. Earlier this week or last week, it was reported that fields of marijuana had been destroyed by the federal government in Chiapas. Officials insist that the fields were in Zapatista controlled areas. Though the president's office has said the fields were not in Zapatista territory.

3. The EU is aware of the recent escalation of EZLN activity.

posted by Michelle @ 10:05 AM, 0 comments

Organized crime (and violence) update

More dead and escaped in Baja, Nuevo Laredo, and Michoacan.

posted by Michelle @ 9:59 AM, 0 comments

Activist murdered in Queretaro

This week, an activist of the gay community in Queretaro was found murdered in his condom shop in the center of the city. The store also served as an informal source of information for young people about sexually transmitted diseases. He was 28.

The police claim the motive of the crime was robbery, but with six knife wounds, that's hard to swallow. Apparently, hate crimes of this type have been on the rise in this large industrial city two hours north of Mexico City.

Read the story related to my earlier post on homophobia in Mexico.

This Saturday, Mexico City will hold its gay rights march, which has recently turned into more of a gay pride parade, according to one of my friends. In the past, it used to be a march demanding protection of the community's human rights, but of late has turned into a NYC inspired drag parade. I'll let you know what I think on Sunday.

posted by Michelle @ 9:54 AM, 0 comments

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The patron saint of politicians

Do you know the patron saint of politicians? (Neither did I.) It's Santo Tomás Moro, and yesterday at the church that bears his name they celebrated mass. Few Mexican politicians attended, but among those that did, was the new Secretary of State (fmr Secretary of Labor), Abascal. Two other members of the cabinet, a senator, and a subsecretary attened the mass also.

posted by Michelle @ 8:41 AM, 1 comments

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

EZLN on red alert

Over the last few days, the EZLN has issued a series of communiques through the press announcing that the leaders of rebel controlled areas would be going underground, that there has been a reorganization of the leadership to adapt to losses (due to prison, murder, or disappearance), and that accuse AMLO of being as bad as other politicians. It appears the EZLN may be preparing to mobilize again.

The communiques:
June 20, 2005

June 19, 2005

Sometime in early June, 2005

Business elites claim that Marcos is trying to influence the 2006 presidential elections.

Key rebel controlled areas are like ghost-towns, where all children have been evacuated and only the health clinics remain open.

posted by Michelle @ 6:26 PM, 1 comments

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tlaxcala and Puebla

Brian has updated his Flickr with pics of Tlaxcala, Cacaxtla, Xochitecatl,
Puebla, Puebla, and Cholula.

The highlights (segun yo):
In Tlaxcala, this prominent building on the main square is the home of one of the smaller official union confederations in Mexico.

In Xochitecatl, locals put a cross on top of this "mound" before they discovered that it was a pyradmid. In the photo, the pyramid looks small, but the cross is about 20 feet tall at least.

In Puebla, I snapped this photo of Shrek and his sidekick on the main plaza.

I also took this picture of a balloon vendor.

Brian took serious shots of Puebla architecture.

In Cholula, we visited this church built on what locals thought was a hill but later was discovered to be a pyramid. I'm skeptical that the Church didn't know that it was a pyramid at the time or at least suspected that it held some religious significance for indigenous locals.

Today, (since both my morning interview appointments cancelled) we went to the Universidad Autonoma de Chapingo in Texcoco to see some of Diego Rivera's finest murals. Unfortunately, they don't allow photos, even without flash, because they want to make money from the images (according to the guide) and don't want professional photographers to sell the images. Nevermind that this attitude is directly contrary to Rivera's philosophy. It seemed quite hipocritical that the guide introduced the murals as the "patrimonio de la nacion", but apparently only of the nacion that can afford to pay US$1 if you're Mexican and US$30 if you're foreign. What would they do if someone showed up with a group of local peasants to view the murals? Would they deny them access because they didn't have the US$1? Again, I digress.

The murals are painted on the campus of an agricultural university that has historically been one of the most radical and has produced many graduates that later organize workers and peasants in the countryside. Though Brian doesn't have any photos to share, this website does.

posted by Michelle @ 12:23 AM, 2 comments

Sunday, June 19, 2005

The Mexican post

Brian and I took a short trip to Tlaxcala and Puebla over the weekend. When Brian's updated his Flickr, I'll let you know. In the meantime, I feel compelled to mention that Tlaxcala is one of the most policed cities I've been to. The population is only 80K, but there were police on nearly every corner directing traffic (even with the traffic lights). In Oaxaca, we never saw any police on foot, and it's a much larger city. Wierd. I wish I knew why there was a difference.

Anyway. I digress.

The real point of the post was to mention plans to allow Mexicans residing in the U.S. (both legal and illegal, and yes, there are plenty of legal Mexicans there) to vote in the 2006 Presidential election by mail. The Senate and Chamber of Deputies are considering reform laws.

The headline of the article read: "Vote by mail inviable," which only seconds a sentiment expressed to me in one of my recent research interviews. I assumed someone was pointing out the poor service provided by the Mexican postal service. The exact comment made to me was, "Would you send cash using the Mexican postal service? Then, why are you going to send your vote that way?"

Well, it seems the Mexican postal service officially agrees. They claim that they would not be able to afford to handle all of the international mail sent to them from the United States, were Mexicans able to vote by mail. They also said the voting requirements requested by the IFE (Mexican voting institute) are not necessarily compatible with international postal agreements.

posted by Michelle @ 9:59 PM, 0 comments

Friday, June 17, 2005


The headlines today are about BINGO!! Electronic, virtual BINGO that you can play from home. (I certainly hope this isn't available in the States yet, and if so, we must not let my grandma find out.)

The controversy? Former Secretary of State Santiago Creel, who is not a pre-candidate for the presidential nomination of the PAN, apparently issued regulations regarding video or satellite BINGO and then sold over 400 permits for run video BINGO to a large television network, Televisa.

Apparently, people would call in, pay US$2 for a BINGO card, and they play via TV. The cost of the permit was apparently US$50, though a PRD legislator insists that Televisa will make millions. And that every living room in Mexico will become a tiny gambling establishment. Some will have to go to electronic BINGO halls to play.

The concession to a relative company of Televisa is good for 25 years, with the option to extend another 15. The concession will also allow off track betting on sporting events.

Apparently, previous administrations have given out similar permits. But, that doesn't excuse Creel. Members of his own party are questioning whether he should be allow to run as a pre-candidate for the PAN. At the same time, the new Secretary of State has agreed to open an investigation and the President's spokesperson claims the President's office was not consulted by Creel before making the concessions.

posted by Michelle @ 8:00 AM, 3 comments

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Homesick for Mance

These last few weeks in Mexico are going to be rough. Yesterday, I had a few moments where I thought I would lose it while thinking about our dog. My mom's been great to take care of him (and she's going to hate to see him go). But, I'm ready to have my dog back. To smell his frito-smelling toes. To feel him nudge me with his cold nose. If you take one look at him, I think you'll see why I miss him so much.

I encourage you to look at the Flickr slideshow in his honor.

posted by Michelle @ 6:05 PM, 0 comments

Police profiling in Mexico City

Apparently, Brian and I fit the profile of car theives. We were pulled over today by local police who were carrying out a "routine" verification of our car to make sure it had not been reported stolen, since it has Texas plates.

Brian and I really look like the types to have driven a stolen car all the way from Texas, and then cruise it through the middle of the business district at lunchtime. Sure.

posted by Michelle @ 5:13 PM, 3 comments

Calderon is confident that he will win the PAN nomination

Or so it is reported in this article.

posted by Michelle @ 10:05 AM, 0 comments

What happens to your stolen car?

We hear all these stories about stolen cars (really mainly SUVs) in the U.S. ending up in Mexico. And what happens to them? Well, in one case at least, a stolen Durango with no plates was used in a kidnapping carried out by a Mexican law officer (FBI equivalent) in the border state of Tamaulipas.

According to the same article:
Por otra parte, ayer sólo se documentaron dos muertes violentas en el país: una en Veracruz y otra en el penal Neza Bordo, ubicado en el estado de México. Más activos estuvieron diversos actores políticos, al menos en cuanto a emitir declaraciones sobre la violencia en el país.

"On the other hand, yesterday only two violent deaths were reported in the country: one in Veracruz and another in the Neza Bordo prison, located in the state of Mexico. More active were the diverse political actors, at least in terms of issuing declarations regarding violence in the country."

Someone at La Jornada has a sense of humor.

Another article mentions that 41 local police were arraigned yesterday on charges that they participated in a gunfight with officers of Mexico's FBI-equivalent agency. That's nice.

posted by Michelle @ 9:56 AM, 0 comments

Clinton to visit Mexico

June 21st, Clinton is scheduled to speak in Mexico City. Tickets to the convention where he will speak will cost around US$400, with a 50% discount for students. Since the minimum monthly wage is roughly the cost of the student ticket, you can imagine who his audience will be.

posted by Michelle @ 9:46 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Grade grubbing

Maybe this has already made the rounds of academic bloggers, but I just happened upon this article about grades in the Washington Post (via Phantom Prof). Georgia Tech students can be bad, but they are not that bad. In part, the problem is Georgia's Hope Scholarships based on GPAs. It also doesn't help that Tech students regularly make Fs, Ds, and Cs in their "hard" classes, like CS or Physics, and feel that they should get an "easy A" in something like International Affairs.

My strategy for avoiding grade changes? I recommend the following:

1. Have an incredibly detailed syllabus with percentage values for every assignment.

2. Grade all exams and assignments by student ID number (not name), so students can't claim ideological prejudice. (We in Liberal Arts had a nasty scare with Horowitz inspired mayhem last year.)

3. When using participation grades, document attendance, make obvious notes when students talk in class (so they know you're paying attention), and include participation via WebCT discussion board posts (for shy kids). (Students turn in printed copies of their WebCT posts at the end of term to facilitate my grading.)

4. Show students that attendance matters. After the midterm or first paper, I show students a scatterplot and regression estimate for the effects of attendance, class year, and major/non-major on the first assignment grade. Since the assignment is graded anonymously, they can't claim grading bias. And, then I show them that independent of the participation grade, attendance has a positive and significant effect (both statistically and substantively) on their grades. Usually, the difference between attendance and non-attendance is more than a letter grade.

5. When all else fails, hide at the end of the semester. I must admit: I post grades at the last minute or in the middle of the night at the same time that I release complete WebCT grades for the final exam. Then, I hide. And don't answer emails for at least a week. Most of those knee-jerk email complaints go away. [Edited to add:] I tell students via email to come see me during office hours the following semester to discuss. I don't waste my time rehashing grades via email, when most students just send a quick email in a panic. Most students don't come the following semester because once they calm down, they realize they earned the grade they received. [End addition] Students that do follow-up seldom have any excuse since grades are calculated anonymously.

And you'd be surprised by your students' performance if you begin to grade anonymously. Sometimes, when I go put names on papers, I'm surprised by how well or how poorly some students perform. Of course, this is easier if you have a TA to help with the paperwork.

posted by Michelle @ 9:39 PM, 0 comments

Legal guide for bloggers


posted by Michelle @ 9:12 PM, 0 comments

Academic book publishing

Or, why graduate students should not be encouraged to write book-like dissertations. Check out this article on the academic book market in the Chronicle.
Why have monograph sales declined so sharply? Is it because readers are turning to other sources of information like the Internet, as many observers have speculated? The main explanation almost certainly lies elsewhere. Research libraries constitute a principal market for scholarly monographs, and in the course of the 1980s and 1990s they were subjected to intense pressures of their own: the steep rise in the prices of scientific journals and the increasing costs of information technology. Library budgets were limited, and something had to give. In the period from 1986 to 1998-99, the number of monographs purchased annually by research libraries in the United States declined by more than 25 percent. Since academic publishers were also producing more monographs each year, that meant that an ever-increasing range of available titles was competing for a dwindling pool of resources.

At the same time, many American university presses were coming under pressure from another source: their host institutions. In the 1970s and 1980s, some began to find themselves faced with growing pressure to reduce their dependence on direct or indirect subsidies and become more autonomous financially -- "self-supporting" was the term often used. Universities faced their own fiscal constraints, and university presses, with their somewhat ambiguous status (were they academic units or business units?), were obvious targets for financial scrutiny.

Via this blog institution.

posted by Michelle @ 11:12 AM, 0 comments

PRD pursuing additional alliances

This time with the PT.

posted by Michelle @ 11:11 AM, 0 comments

Public security

Over the last few weeks, I have posted (here, here, here, here, and here) about increasing insecurity in Mexico. Mexico City has always been a little wild-west-ish, but gunfights and executions along the border and the unsolved femicidios have increased demands for better policing in the last few weeks.

In response, the military was dispatched to keep the peace in Nuevo Laredo early this week. Meanwhile, there have been more assasinations and a police suicide. The Mexican government is going to ask the U.S. government to do more to stop the flow of guns into Mexico. (Mexico has tight gun control laws, despite the fact that security agencies carry shot guns and machine guns.)

Despite the new military presence, there have been two more assasinations reported in Nuevo Laredo. And two more drug war related deaths in Baja.

In response, the government announced a program targeting organized crime called Mexico Seguro, which will be implemented along the border and in the Federal District (a.k.a., Mexico City). The plan calls for increased coordination among the multiple police organizations.

Personal security is likely to become a key issue in the 2006 presidential elections here.

In the meantime, take a look at this photo of art on display at MUNAL. It's a list of the names of missing or murdered women in Cuidad Juarez through spring 2003. Add a couple hundred additional names, and it would be up to date.

Click on image to see larger version

posted by Michelle @ 10:33 AM, 2 comments

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

So out of character

...for both K Grease and Munger. Who would have thought that Munger would cave to criticism? This is the man that called getting tenure at a top research university a non-event. This is the man that teases (ok...bullies) underpaid clerks everywhere.

Ok, so it is difficult to have a non-anonymous blog and resist the urge to rant about the injustices at your job, in your profession, or personal life. (There have been times I have been tempted to rant about colleagues or staff....) So, you either don't blog about those things, or you get an anonymous blog. The problem with anonymous blogs is that they can quickly degrade into something uninteresting (and most seem kinda whiney).

I thought the great thing about Munger's blog was that he was one of the few to combine both informed commentary and random rants. We got his professional opinions on the economy, tenure, and free speech, but we also got to see what a jerk he can be in real life. (And aren't we all jerks sometimes? Most of us would rather not advertise it, though, so we keep our rants private or share them only with those that know us well enough to forgive us for our jerkiness.) But, it's also clear from the blog that he's not always a jerk and can be fair-minded.

To me, Munger is one of the few who doesn't care if everyone knows he draws skull & crossbones on paper reviews for journals or harasses underpaid clerks. That type of honesty (especially in academia) is refreshing.

So now, we find out he's going to go create some lame pseudonymous blog so that we don't know the real identity behind the performance art? Lame, lame, lame. I would have expected it from some pansy, untenured prof, but not Munger. What does he have to lose anyway? (It's not like those of us that know him don't know what he's capable of...) I thought he was immune to criticism, or at least unaffected by it.

I'm very disappointed in you, Munger. You should know better.

posted by Michelle @ 11:23 AM, 9 comments

Raul Salinas walks

Raul Salinas was released from prison after his family put up 950,000 pesos (about US$86,000) plus leans on 5 properties.

From La Jornada

posted by Michelle @ 11:15 AM, 0 comments

Monday, June 13, 2005

La Virgen de Avenida Amsterdam

This Virgin is less than a block from our house. Sometimes, our neighbors add fresh flowers to the vases in front of the tree.

Via Brian.

posted by Michelle @ 1:15 PM, 0 comments

The cost of sending Mexicans back to Mexico

Aeromexico currently holds the contract with the U.S. government to fly illegal Mexicans back to Mexico. The contract is for 150 flights from Tuscon to Mexico City. The U.S. government pays 14.3 million U.S.$ for this service. That's an estimated $1,100 U.S. for each migrant sent back to Mexico. That's about 4 times the cheapest rate.

Mexican families are askng Aeromexico to bring back the bodies for free of those that die trying to cross the border. So far Aeromexico, like Mexicana before it, has refused. The request seems like a reasonable one. Aeromexico is going to be running these flights anyway, and most of the migrants won't have luggage. Why not use that space to bring back the remains of the 300-500 migrants who die trying to cross the border?

posted by Michelle @ 10:30 AM, 2 comments

Raul Salinas

I've been avoiding it for as long as possible. The news for the last week has been saturated with Raul Salinas and his imminent departure from prison after serving 10 years of a 27 year sentence for murder.

Raul Salinas is the older brother of former president Carlos Salinas. He was convicted on ordering the murder of an in-law who happened to be the #2 in command of the PRI in 1994. There were problems with the case, including a $500,000 payment by the government to witnesses against Raul. In any event, Raul is only waiting now for his friends and family to put together the 32 million pesos (about 2.9 million US$) for his bail. (Don't ask me why he has to pay bail if his case was dismissed...I have no idea.)

His brother and other allies are said to be putting together the money. Raul has at least that much frozen in Swiss accounts, which he claims he was organizing to begin an investment firm. Swiss authorities have ended their investigation of the money, which began after Raul's wife tried to remove millions of dollars with fake identification. The accounts, however, are still frozen, at the request of the Mexican government. Raul is still under investigation in France for related money laundering suspicion.

Of course, the reaction to the change in Raul's case has been received with some dismay and skepticism. Last week, PRD leaders suggested that the change in Raul's case reflected Carlos Salinas's increasing maneuvering behind the scenes in Mexico and his ability to pressure the Fox government. (Some claim Salinas was behind the desafuero efforts, too.) Many Mexicans find it hard to swallow that Raul will be released after only 10 of a 27 year sentence and still doubt his innocence. Powerful families, including that of the deceased, are now asking, if it wasn't Raul, then who is responsible?

posted by Michelle @ 10:09 AM, 0 comments

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Real tacos

None of that fancy Tex-Mex stuff.

posted by Michelle @ 1:12 PM, 0 comments

Friday, June 10, 2005

El Metrobus

The last few months, there has been a flurry of construction activity along Mexico City's main North-South thoroughfare, Insurgentes. The construction is for a new system called "Metrobus." The idea is to replace hundreds of small and medium busses that travel along Insurgentes with one unified bus system. At intervals along Insurgentes, platforms are being built in the center median where patrons will wait for the busses. It's actually a lot like an above-ground bus-based metro system. And it's based on a similar system that Brian and I were able to use in Curitiba, Brazil in the Summer of 2003.

Picture of Curitiba system

In Curitiba, the system works so well, that it inspired Bogota, Colombia to install their version, which is credited with improving city life. I've suspected all along that the new Mexico City system is inspired by Curitiba, but this article confirms it.

Despite the success of the Metrobus set-up in other Latin American cities, most Mexicans that I know are fairly skeptical of how successful the system will be in the D.F. Most Mexicans doubt that they will be able to have enough Metrobuses to replace the small and medium-sized busses that now run the route. The new system means that officially there will be no left turns anywhere along Insurgentes, and instead Mexicans will have to take three rights to make a left at certain points along the route to go left. I'm skeptical that they'll be able to enforce the dedicated Metrobus lane in this way because I see people making prohibited left hand turns along Insurgentes all the time now. Why would this change with the new bus system? There were also protests initially because several large trees that lined the center median of Insurgentes had to be removed.

The DF government has announced that the Metrobus system will be inaugurated June 19 with two free weeks of service. Given the disarray of the platforms in my neighborhood (we live about four blocks from Insurgentes), I'm curious to see how they finish in time.

Picture of Metrobus

Take a look at this Metrobus slideshow.

posted by Michelle @ 10:25 AM, 0 comments

PRD on the move again

As I mentioned, PRD leaders met with leaders of the Partido de Trabajo. Earlier, I also posted a list of potential strategies of small parties like the PT.

But this article in El Universal suggests that the PRD is courting other unions directly, in addition to its talks with the UNT. According to the article, PRD leaders have also recently met with representatives of the SME, which is one of the oldest unions in Mexico, representing electricity workers. The SME also happens to belong to the UNT, which means that the PRD seems to be negotiating alliances on many levels. We'll have to wait to see what comes of it.

posted by Michelle @ 10:15 AM, 0 comments

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Don't believe the hype....just yet.

So yesterday, I mentioned that La Jornada had announced an electoral alliance between the PRD and the UNT (independent union federation).

This morning, I had the privilege of attending a meeting of the leaders of the UNT, in which there was some backtracking. The three presidents of the UNT who apparently met with PRD representatives earlier this week were conveniently absent from today's meeting. They sent their seconds-in-command to fend off claims by the leaders of other member unions that political alliances needed to first be discussed within the UNT and that they should not be learning of them through the press. There was a lot of discussion of the pros and cons to forming alliances with parties in general and whether it should be done at the UNT or individual union level. For full details, you will have to wait for my academic paper on the subject....

(None of this is really secret, though, since the press was there. There will probably be a story about it in La Jornada tomorrow.)

In general, the meeting was interesting just to watch the labor leader interaction and hear all the cell phones going off. There were only about 5 women of the 50+ leaders there, and I had the pleasure of sitting next to one of them. In her union, there are only 2 women union leaders, and women have only belonged to the union for the last 2-3 years. We had a very nice chat that I won't share with you.

Anyway, watch tomorrow for more news about UNT and PRD alliances.

posted by Michelle @ 3:28 PM, 2 comments

De todo un poco

Today's news offers a little bit of everything, including updates on many of the stories that I have commented on before.

First, after announcing an alliance with the UNT, the PRD met last night with representatives of the Partido de Trabajo (PT) to negotiate an additional electoral alliance in 2006.

Legislators finally approved an extraordinary session, mainly to deal with budget issues.

In immigration news, a voluntary program will fly Mexican illegal immigrants back to their states of origin, rather than just the border. Two minutemen-type groups are beginning to organize in Texas. A group of professionals from Yucatan tried to enroll in a temporary work program with Canada, but were rejected because they are not peasants.

In border violence news, the new head of security in Nuevo Laredo was assassinated, as was another official in a hospital. Two more bodies were found elsewhere related to drug war violence.

In other union news, divisions are resurfacing within the powerful electricians' union and a new leadership vote will occur soon. The pilots' union and Aeromar avoided a strike by signing a new contract with a 5% pay raise.

The first lady plans to head an organization against the femicidios in Ciudad Juarez.

There you go. All the blog's themes on one day. Maybe later I will have time to link to earlier blog posts about each one. Now, I have to run off to a union meeting.

posted by Michelle @ 9:01 AM, 0 comments

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

We're waiting....

Supposedly, the PGR was going to announce a final decision on the Lopez Obrador (desafuero) case (to try or not to try...) on June 2. I hadn't come across the announcement in the press, so I searched today. Apparently, on June 3rd, the Attorney General's office released an announcement regarding the case.

The interpretation of La Jornada is that the PGR has indefinitely postponed a firm decision and that this is contrary to the AG's announcement last month that a formal decision would be announced on June 2.

According to the AG's press release, the owners of the property in dispute had until June 2nd to present their complaint that the case had been dropped against AMLO. They presented a claim and formal request to pursue the case by the June 2 deadline. Now, the AG office says, the AG will evaluate the property owner's request and determine whether to pursue charges against AMLO.

Seem convoluded? Well, it is, sort of. Part of the problem is due to the Mexican legal system. If the police catch someone in the act of robbing your house, they can arrest and prosecute them. If, however, you have evidence that someone in particular robbed your house after the fact, you have to file the complaint against the robbers (the police need your cooperation to press charges). In the AMLO case, the government decided not to press charges against AMLO for its case, but the owners of the property still have the opportunity to have AMLO charged. And unlike in the U.S., it wouldn't be just a civil case, where AMLO could pay damanges to the owners directly, the owners can request that criminal charges be filed, which they have. (Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but this is my understanding of what is going on and how the Mexican system works...but given the mixed interpretations in the press by various legal scholars, there isn't even a lot of agreement among lawyers about the case.)

La Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) postergó por tiempo indefinido el cierre del caso El Encino y con ello la decisión de si actuará en contra del jefe de Gobierno del Distrito Federal, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Mediante un comunicado de prensa la dependencia dio a conocer los avances de la averiguación previa 1339/FESPLE/2001, en la cual se acusa a López Obrador de haber cometido el delito de abuso de autoridad al haber violado una suspensión de amparo, y aunque según fuentes oficiales se mantendrá la postura de no ejercer acción penal, la posibilidad de solicitar una orden de captura sigue pendiente luego de que los representantes legales de Promotora Internacional Santa Fe interpusieran un recurso de inconformidad contra la decisión de la PGR.

Parts of the AG's office release, as quoted in La Jornada:
"Dicha inconformidad fue presentada en tiempo y forma legales; el agente del Ministerio Público de la Federación procederá a su análisis, para que en su oportunidad se emita la resolución que en estricto derecho corresponda.

"Cabe recordar que el 4 de mayo del año en curso, el Ministerio Público de la Federación integrador de la averiguación previa 1339/FESPLE/2001, instruida en contra de López Obrador, determinó consultar el no ejercicio de la acción penal, al considerar que el delito que se le atribuye al jefe de Gobierno del Distrito Federal no está sancionado con pena alguna.

"La resolución fue debidamente notificada al dueño de El Encino, en términos de ley, para que estuviera en aptitud de ejercer sus derechos, como lo hace ahora.

"La PGR reitera que la resolución que se emita a la inconformidad presentada estará regida por los principios de certeza, legalidad, objetividad, imparcialidad y profesionalismo que regulan las funciones y acciones del Ministerio Público", indica el comunicado.

posted by Michelle @ 11:14 AM, 0 comments

Let the political alliances begin

Yesterday, leaders of the UNT announced they would lend their support to the PRD's candidate in 2006. This is one of the largest independent labor organizations, to which the Telefonistas, Social Security, and UNAM unions belong. It will be interesting to see whether the alliance pays off, and how many political resources the UNT can extract from the PRD.

posted by Michelle @ 11:00 AM, 0 comments

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Bolivian crisis

It appears that the crisis in Bolivia has flared up again, this time resulting in the President stepping down. Publius Pundit does a great job of linking to various news and blog sources on the crisis.

In all honesty, I haven't followed Bolivian politics, so I don't have much to add. (And I'm too distracted by work here in Mexico to read the necessary 15 news articles to form an informed opinion. At least, I'm honest.) Here are updates from BBC World and The NYTimes.

What is troubling is that this suggests a pattern of increasing instability of political regimes in the region. I'm thinking of the problems in Ecuador earlier this year.

posted by Michelle @ 10:06 PM, 0 comments

Getting your paper accepted at APSA

Henry over at Crooked Timber has some excellent advice on submitting successful paper proposals for the annual APSA meeting. Much of the advice is useful, and logical if you think about the incentives faced by program organizers.

This was the first year that I had been part of a panel proposal that was not placed on the program. We had three papers from Assistant Professors at diverse institutions and a fourth from a Big Name from a Top School. The discussant an Associate Professor (and future Big Name) from a Mid-ranked School. Granted, our paper proposals were pretty mainstream, so that may explain the outcome. Someone suggested that the proposal got lost between the Divisions. I would be interested to know if this ever happens.

In this case, I doubt it because my colleagues at CIDE had also organized a panel proposal with a couple of Big Names that was not accepted. Both of our panels were probably not accepted because they weren't compelling proposals. On the other hand, I noticed at least one panel with 4/5 papers from one Ph.D. granting department, which doesn't demonstrate a lot of diversity.

Therefore, though I'm certain that Section Organizers like Henry are super conscientious and do their best, I'm not certain that there's still not a little bit of randomness in an imperfect process. This should be heartening for those that don't get to participate every year.

My mistake was not submitting a separate paper proposal independently as a back-up. If you have more than one paper in the hopper, that would be my advice. Try to submit both as parts of panels or at least one.

posted by Michelle @ 4:01 PM, 0 comments

Mexican efficiency

I've found that the Mexican government (or at least that of the D.F.) can be highly efficient. Today, I stopped by the Fulbright office to pick up some books from I forgot to put change in the parking meter (honestly), and by the time I returned 20 minutes later, my car had been booted.

Of course, my initial reaction was "Great, this is going to take all day." I found the address to pay the fine listed on the ticket, and began to walk the 5-6 blocks to the office. Luckily, I had cash on me to pay the $30US fine (normally, I carry more like $20). I asked how long it would take to have the boot removed, and the woman said 20-30 minutes. My interpretation? Prepare to wait 2-3 hours.

As I headed back to the car, I saw the guy taking a boot off another vehicle about 1 block from my car. I stopped and told him I had paid my fine and that my car was a block away. He said he'd already taken the boot off. This was less than 10 minutes after I had paid the fine.

Sure enough, when I got back to my car, the boot was gone.

I was booted at 12:07, returned to my booted car at 12:15, paid my ticket and returned to an un-booted car by 12:45. Who would have thought?

posted by Michelle @ 3:39 PM, 0 comments

Drug-related homicides continue

Ten more homocides related to drug violence were reported yesterday. Three were executed current or former police. Several others occured at a family get-together in Sinaloa, where an AK-47 or "cuerno de chivo", and .9mm and .45mm pistols were involved. One of the gunmen arrived at the party, cut the electricity, and then began shooting. The rest were found in other border states with gunshot wounds.

posted by Michelle @ 8:55 AM, 0 comments

Monday, June 06, 2005


GetBlogs, a blog directory.

posted by Michelle @ 10:58 AM, 0 comments

President of the PRI runs 10K race

Over the weekend, the President of the PRI and one of that party's pre-candidates for President in 2006, participated in a 10K race here in the D.F. Madrazo's time was 51 minutes, 25 seconds.

From La Jornada

As you can see, Madrazo conveniently had the number 2006 for the race. When asked by reporters if he had requested that number, he said no, that it was assigned him at registration, with a smile. If you buy that, I have a nice pond in Parque Mexico that I'd like to rent to you.

posted by Michelle @ 10:36 AM, 0 comments

Small parties in 2006

For those interested in the 2006 presidential election, there's a great article in today's El Universal that discusses the strategies of the small parties with official recognition for 2006.

A summary:
Partido del Trabajo:
1. Candidatura propia en unión con movimientos sociales.
2. Coalición con Convergencia.
3. Alianza con el PRD y Convergencia. El candidato sería perredista.
4. Aliarse con el PRI.

Partido Convergencia:
1. Coalición, con el PRD y con el PT. El candidato sería perredista.
2. Candidatura interna.
3. Candidatura ciudadana o externa. Los probables candidato son hasta ahora Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas y Jorge Castañeda.

Partido Verde Ecologista de México
1. Ha presentado ya a su precandidato, Bernardo de la Garza. No se descarta que se una al PRI.

Partido Nueva Alianza
1. Candidato propio. La apuesta es obtener el mayor número posible de diputados y senadores.
2. Candidato externo.

Partido Alternativa Socialdemócrata
1. Su candidata será Patricia Mercado. No descartan uno externo, entre ellos a Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas y al rector de la UNAM, Juan Ramón de la Fuente. Rechazan a Víctor González y Jorge Castañeda.

Since this will be the first election for the last two parties, they are prohibited from forming a formal alliance with any other party. They will need to present their own candidates.

Of course, it's interesting to think about the problem from the perspective of the big three parties. When and why do you ally with a smaller party? What do you have to give up in return to get their support? And how do you gauge how many votes such an alliance can bring you?

posted by Michelle @ 10:27 AM, 0 comments

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Absentee voting in 2006

In Mexico. Given the number of Mexicans that reside in the U.S. both legally and illegally, the Mexican government has been debating since 2000 (or maybe even before) the possibility of absentee voting for Mexicans living abroad. I've heard stories of many people and personally know at least one person who travelled all the way back to Mexico from the U.S. to vote in the historic 2000 presidential elections.

According to some estimates, nearly 2 million of the 4 million Mexicans estimated to be living in the U.S. with a valid voter ID would be likely to vote in 2006 if legislators approve the proposed electoral reform.

It's not surprising, then, that Fox's party, the PAN, has opened a new office in El Paso. The first PAN office was opened at the beginning of May in Chicago, IL.

posted by Michelle @ 11:06 PM, 0 comments

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Spanglish and Beisbol

While in Oaxaca, Brian and I attended my first major league baseball game. In this case, it was major league Mexican baseball. The Oaxaca Warriors (stats) against the Yucatan Lions (stats). We arrived about 30 minutes before the Saturday afternoon game started and bought tickets right behind home plate for $5 each. For a few seconds, there was some uncertainty as I tried to figure out how to say "home plate" to the ticket girl. Luckily, she asked if we wanted tickets "atras del home," or behind home. By the end of the game, the stadium was 15% full.

The Spanglish only got worse. Members of the crowd would yell phrases that began in Spanish but ended in English, usually for the postions: "Dejalo catcher!" or "Quita el pitcher!" Also, the Umpires yelled "Ball" and "Strike," like the flashing sign in English in the outfield. I guess if Spanglish is likely to thrive anywhere, it's in Mexican baseball.

I took some photos of the Oaxaca mascot, who posed for me, after fans yelled at him to tell him I was trying to take his picture. (Specifically, they yelled, "Look, the guera is trying to take your picture" in Spanish.) Actually, he rubbed his fingers together first, pretending to ask for money, then posed for the picture.


They also had a wierd secondary mascot for their Banamex (bank) sponsor, who was dressed as a "businessman" and would appear on the field whenever the cheerleaders came out to dance between some of the innings. He actually ended up seeming more like a wierd, puffy pimp.


You can see my Flickr slideshow with other pics, including a couple of the cheerleaders.

Updated: Brian suggested these links. How could I have not thought of that?
Salon de la Fama
Liga Mexicana de Beisbol
Also updated the post above with links to official and stat sites.

posted by Michelle @ 6:24 PM, 2 comments

Thursday, June 02, 2005

See pictures from Oaxaca

Brian is steady uploading the best pics from Oaxaca on his account.

Unfortunately, our SD card with the picture of me with the person in the puffy suit was corrupted, so that gem was lost.

But pics from my first major league baseball game (Mexican league) and their mascot and wierd puffy suit person will be posted and commented upon soon.

posted by Michelle @ 11:57 PM, 0 comments

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Back from Oaxaca!

Whew! We made it back this afternoon. Oaxaca was wonderful. I think we visited nearly every museum, every set of ruins, a baseball game, and two of the nearby artisan towns. Once Brian posts pics to his Flickr account, I will post a link.

For Paul, I had my picture taken with a person in a big foam outfit made to look like the founder of one of the biggest pharmacy chains. It's a hoot. (Oh, and pictures of the mascots from the baseball game, too.)

In the meantime, there's a regulation conference tomorrow and Friday here in the D.F., so posting will be minimal.

posted by Michelle @ 5:12 PM, 0 comments

Mexico City slideshow

Go to main page:

La Profesora Abstraída

About me:

Name: Michelle Dion
Location: Toronto, ON
View my complete profile
View my website

traducir este pagina

Previous Posts

Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?