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Sunday, May 6, 2012
THE WEEK IN MEXICO

While Denise Dresser sees Mexico lurching toward a "Putinization," non-governmental organizations say they'll stand up to and educate whomever wins the presidency; López Obrador, in visit to Tijuana, appears to be looking backward; meanwhile, groups in San Ysidro work to improve the quality of their community; Tijuana police, military have confrontation

By David Gaddis Smith

It was a packed week in the San Diego-Tijuana region. Columnist Denise Dresser, in an appearance at the University of San Diego, said Thursday that she thought the return of the Institutional Revolutionary Party to power would result in the Putinization of Mexico.

But non-government activist Mónica Tapia said at Thursday's monica tapia"Mexico Moving Forward" conference at the University of Californa San Diego that NGOs have made major gains in recent years and will not be ceding that ground. "We are not going away," said Tapia, founder and executive director of the group Alternativas and Capacidades. She did say that if former Mexico state governor Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI does win the presidency, as seems likely, he will likely face a steep learning curve about civil society. She said that at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies event that while NGOs are seemingly everywhere in Mexico City, once you cross the border into Mexico state it is a different world, and relatively empty of civil society organizations. She said Mexican society, which is "emerging and maturing," cannot wait for Quetzalcoatl to come back but must act.

On Thursday and Friday in San Ysidro, Casa Familiar held a conference on air pollution at the border. Attendees from the San Diego Association of Governments appropriately came in a clean-air car. Community activists, other citizens and experts discussed pollution studies and hoped to try to get a greater separation of vehicles from pedestrians and get the government to put in place barriers to curtail pollution.

Also on Friday, the Border Transportation Council in San Ysidro held a forum on its efforts to get an intermodal transportation center for San Ysidro that the group hopes will give people crossing the border a convenient way to reach their destinations and also prevent unauthorized transportation providers from stealing customers of licensed transportation businesses. The group heard Jamie Lai and Rudy Emani speak about the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center, an ambitious project near Angel Stadium and the Honda Center scheduled to open in two years. A study for an intermodal center at San Ysidro is being undertaken by SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments.

denise dresserIn her speech, Dresser indicated that Democratic Revolution Party candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador is living in the past and is a disastrous, divisive candidate for Mexico's left. She lamented that his main proposal for improving the economy seems to be to build five new refineries, which economists say would be a waste of Mexico's resources. López Obrador, during his visit to Tijuana on May 1, certainly fit Dresser's picture of him. Story on López Obrador's visit.

Although she did hold out a little hope for Mexico, saying "the country seems to limp forward three steps, and then limp two back," Dresser was generally very negative about the country, which she called a low-quality democracy with "ficticious representation." Delivering the Sally Furay lecture, she said poor PAN decisions have opened the door for a PRI comeback, which she said would result in the Putinization of Mexico. Among those poor decisions, she said, was the drug war in Mexico, part of which involved putting the military in charge of many police forces around the country. That broke many community bonds, even where police were corrupt, and appears to have increased petty crime, among other things, Dresser said, and has caused rising violence.

Although the military is not running the Tijuana police, it is working in Tijuana to battle organized crime, and last week was involved in a confrontation that sent two Tijuana police to the hospital. A military officer who had been drinking on his day off was involved in an incident at a store, was then questioned by police, and the situation blew up into a big confrontation between the police and the military, with two police being badly beaten. City and military officials later said cooperation was to continue; Mayor Carlos Bustamante has been a strong backer of the military role in curtailing violence in Tijuana. He blamed the officer, identified as Tonatiuh Ruiz Delgado. Story, Frontera (PDF). Additional story, Frontera (PDF). Story, El Sol de Tijuana. Bustamante discusses the incident, Frontera (PDF).
Update, May 12: Video of incident (Frontera, PDF)..

Deadly violence continued apace in Mexico. Three photojournalists were killed in the port Veracruz, along with a girlfriend of one of them, less than a week after a Proceso reporter was killed in the state's capital, Xalapa. Other massacres continued; 23 were killed in two of them in Nuevo Laredo.