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Mexican Political Parties Are Taking Advantage of Mexico’s Earthquakes

Martha Erika Alonso Hidalgo, General Secretary of PAN, poses with Jesus Giles Carmona, State President of PAN in Puebla while supplies are delivered. Picture tweeted by @PANPUEBLA on Twitter.

Mexico was recently struck by two different earthquakes in two weeks: One that took place on the coast of the State of Chiapas with an 8.2 magnitude, and another one with a 7.1 magnitude that hit the State of Puebla as the epicenter.

The earthquake in Chiapas primarily affected the people living in Chiapas and Oaxaca, the two poorest and most indigenous states of Mexico. About 96 people died as a result of that earthquake and a total of 5,000 houses in Chiapas and 11,000 in Oaxaca were destroyed by the biggest earthquake in Mexico for over a century.

When it comes to the earthquake in Puebla, even though it was relatively smaller than the one which occurred in Chiapas, it definitely was more destructive and cost many lives. The current number of people that have died because of that earthquake is about 360 people, and the number is still rising.

The civil society in Mexico has shown unity and solidarity to the people who suffered from both earthquakes. A lot of Mexicans, regardless of their social class, have donated to the people who were affected, but sadly, the political class in Mexico is doing the exact opposite.

Political parties are using the past two earthquakes to promote themselves. It can come off as something as mild as a bad joke, like the one Briseida Magdaleno, the secretary of right-wing National Action Party’s (PAN) youth wing “Youth Action,” said: “It was a confusion, It wasn’t an earthquake, it was PAN on its track to 2018.” PAN’s Youth Action secretary posted on Facebook and then apologized because of media backlash.

The political class’ attitude can also be seen in something as grave as politicians posting pictures and making ads with pictures depicting them donating to the people affected by the earthquake. This is something which is not particularly rare from Mexican politicians since they often tend to use these kinds of practices to buy votes or make propaganda, which can make them seem like benevolent beings to the average citizen. In reality, though, they are taking advantage of the situation just so they can boost their popularity and image instead of doing it to help others.

Probably the worst example of a politician taking advantage of a natural disaster to spread political propaganda would be the case of Morelos’ Governor Graco Ramírez, a member of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Ramirez has been accused of retaining donations which were sent to Morelos from people of other states and also accused of sending those same donations his Government retained to the State’s DIF (National System for Integral Family Development, a public institution which seeks to strengthen the welfare of Mexican families) just so it can later give those same donations to those affected by the earthquake. As if the Government had provided those provisions and not regular people from other states who decided to donate from their own pockets to those in need. Graco Ramírez is already being investigated by the Government for these actions.

Another way political parties are using the recent earthquakes to their advantage is by pushing their own political agenda. This can be exemplified by two policies that the governing party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), wants to push.

The first policy the PRI wants to push is eliminating plurinominal Deputies and Senators. To understand how grave this is, first, I need to explain the makeup of the Mexican Congress. The Congress of the Union, the legislative branch of Mexico, is composed of two chambers: the Chamber of Deputies (the equivalent of the House of Representatives in the U.S.) and the Senate of the Republic.

The Chamber of Deputies is composed of 500 deputies (300 deputies are chosen via first-past-the-post voting, while 200 are chosen via proportional representation). The Senate has 128 Senators, of which only 32 are elected by proportional representation, while the other 96 are selected by first-past-the-post. The Senators and Deputies which are elected via proportional representation are called “plurinominal”.

Why is it bad that PRI wants to eliminate this kind of politician? Well, it’s pretty simple: PRI holds 35% of Congress as of right now, even though they’re the largest parliamentary group, they’re far from forming a majority in both Chambers of Congress.

If PRI eliminates Plurinominal Deputies and Senators, they would reach a majority in both Chambers, and they would effectively give a big punch to Mexico’s small parties, like Citizen’s Movement (MC), Movement of National Regeneration (Morena), and the Worker’s Party (PT). I’m not naming the Mexican Ecologist Green Party (PVEM), New Alliance (PANAL), and Social Encounter Party (PES) because they’re well-known for being satellite parties of the PRI.

The other policy the PRI wants to push, which is also supported by the 2018 Electoral Coalition “Citizen Front for Mexico” (Composed by center-left parties PRD and MC, and right-wing PAN) and center-left Morena, is the most dangerous and horrendous they could possibly push. All of you reading from the U.S. would agree with me that this is definitely a terrible idea: getting rid of public funds to political parties and letting parties get big money contributions from corporations and the super-rich, which is basically privatizing elections.

The problem with this should be obvious; it basically legalizes corruption. Corporations would give money to politicians just so they can later make laws that can benefit them. This form of corruption already happens in Mexico, but if this happens, it would be legalized.

Another concern that political analysts have shown is that political parties would deviate public funds to political campaigns way more often than they already do, or they could even take more money contributions from criminal organizations like drug cartels. This would be Mexico’s corruption on steroids, and the already super-flawed Mexican democracy could be obliterated with this. The most concerning thing is that PRI, PAN, PRD, MC, and Morena support this, which means there would be a majority in both Chambers of Congress to approve this measure.

Another thing that we should note is that the reason why PRI and other political parties of Mexico have dared to push for these kinds of policies is that a lot of Mexicans are against public financing of political parties and the existence of Plurinominal politicians, mainly because of the very expensive campaigns that political parties make in Mexico and the fact that Plurinominal politicians aren’t chosen directly, but it is definitely not a good idea to get rid of both things.

Political parties are using these circumstances to their advantage, especially since there have been many citizens’ petitions (specially on the website www.change.org/fuerzamexico) to push for the total elimination of public funds to political parties or the existence of Plurinominal politicians, just so all the money which is used to pay for political campaigns and the salary of Plurinominals can be used to help the victims of the past two earthquakes. This is outrageous! This form of corruption and demagoguery is something that even Americans will never fathom. It is not only horrendous but inhumane to inflict these sleazy practices on a society that is already damaged and in dire need because of the past two earthquakes.

Hans Alexander Razo is a mexican-american democratic socialist who works to promote progressivism and justice.

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Mexican Political Parties Are Taking Advantage of Mexico’s Earthquakes