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Latina moms vs Tiger moms

And now for something entirely different. What is the trick that makes Latina mothers so effective despite a hands-off style?

It is La Chancla -- the slipper. Check out this video, which had us rolling on the floor in our house. There's a bit of truth in it, for anyone immersed in the region. Who needs Tiger moms? Here's the blurb from the YouTube site:

Why are Hispanic children so well-behaved?

The secret is Hispanic culture, which emphasizes boundaries, developmental growth and a traditional technique known as La Chancla.

For centuries, the secret of La Chancla has helped millions of Latina moms:

Focus attention to each child's unique needs.

Instill values of fairness and fair play.

Encourage healthy eating habits.

Learn the discipline required to excel in academics.

Moral reasoning.

La Chancla can help every parent master a truly hands-off parenting style.

The meaning of the student movement

The student movement that surged earlier this month -- opposed to concentration of power in the media and, to a lesser extent, the PRI candidacy of Enrique Pena Nieto –- appears to have dissipated somewhat.

But it has led to some serious name-calling among the pundit class.

For background on the movement, here’s a story I did last week. 

Near the center of the latest controversy is Jorge G. Castaneda, a former foreign minister and arguably one of the better-known Mexicans in global circles, perhaps because of impeccable English and a clear writing style.

Castaneda has argued in several places that the students in the streets have amorphous aims that don’t really touch on concrete social or economic matters.

“This is much more Occupy Wall Street than Arab Spring. They aren’t trying to topple a dictatorship,” Castaneda said on the Hora de Opinar debate program on Foro TV.

In a separate column (in Spanish, see here), Castaneda comes down hard on young Mexicans who confuse what appears to be the likely outcome of the election (Pena Nieto wins) with their own wishes, believing that the opinion polls are part of a plot designed to thwart the desired outcome. He described some of the university students as “lacking in the political culture that one would expect in such a privileged group.”

 “Wow, they are nuts,” he concluded.

An American law professor in Mexico City, John M. Ackerman, lashed out at Castaneda in a column in La Jornada, accusing him of “intolerance and elitism” and adding this:

“Students may not remember well the corruption and ineffectiveness of the PRI government, but they suffer daily the ravages of media manipulation and electoral opacity. They are not ready for another six years with a president of questionable legitimacy who has no social support or political will to fully resolve major national problems,” he wrote (Google translation).

Ackerman accused writer Enrique Krauze (who he said has an advisory role at Televisa, the monopolistic network that is a target of student wrath) of not having credibility to comment on the student demands.

Sadly, Castaneda’s comments have drawn much harsher commentary on Twitter, where critics have called him “Nazi” and worse. Making matter worse, both Krauze and Castaneda have Jewish heritage.


An uncomfortable photo for Pena Nieto

A photo is making the rounds on Twitter, and it is probably one that Enrique Pena Nieto wishes didn’t exist.

It shows Pena Nieto with Tomas Yarrington, a former governor of Tamaulipas state and mayor of Matamoros who was fingered by U.S. prosecutors yesterday for allegedly laundering drug profits. We don't have rights to reprint the photo but if you click here you can see it.

Pena Nieto is the front-runner for July 1 presidential elections. Yarrington, too, once sought the presidential nomination for the Institutional Revolutionary Party. 

I don’t know when the photo was taken. But both Yarrington and Pena Nieto look pretty much as they do today. 

Here’s an AP story about the charges against Yarrington, which notes that he bought a 46-acre piece of land around the San Antonio, Texas, area, and a $460,000 condo on South Padre Island, all apparently with drug proceeds. Here is a copy of the press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office (read to the bottom).

I wrote a story about Yarrington’s legal troubles earlier this year here. The noose seems to be tightening around him. 


'Time Out' comes to Mexico City

If you can make your way with Spanish, and you’re coming to Mexico City, there’s a handy new tool to find out what’s happening in the capital.

“Time Out,” the venerable weekly listings magazine that is already published in 60 major cities around the world, has finally come to Mexico City. 

The second edition was published this month. As someone who likes to see what restaurants are hot, which musicians are coming to town and what else is happening, this is just the thing. 

There’s the usual hipster, slightly snarky tone, with the big city feel. This month’s edition has articles on “Restaurants with terraces” and “The City seen from a Bicycle.” It also has a comparison of the Will Ferrell movie “Casa de mi Padre” and the Mel Gibson movie “Get the Gringo,” both of which are set in Mexico. Time Out says Ferrell wins, and his movie is "amusing, absurd and ridiculous." 

Unfortunately for our family, there is a column on our favorite restaurant, El Parnita, in the Roma district, that will only make the lines longer to get in. A few weeks ago, we had to wait an hour on a Sunday. But the food is lip-smacking worth it, especially the “Carmelita” breaded shrimp tacos.


Breezing across the Mexican border

I’ve written here and here about humongous wait times to get across the border. It’s no surprise, really, since an average of a million people cross the border every day.

But no all border crossings are equal. I happen to be at one now where wait times are rarely more than 10-15 minutes. It is the crossing at Ciudad Acuna in Coahuila state. On the U.S. side, the adjacent city is Del Rio, Texas.

I’ve been here for a few days, and people invariably talk about how easy it is to cross over. Some 2,000 people who work in Ciudad Acuna’s 63 factories, or maquiladoras, cross daily, Acuna’s mayor told me a few hours ago.

People cross to go grocery shopping, visit friends, have a legal beer (if you are a U.S. soldier from Laughlin AFB over 18 but under 21), go to work or sell blood plasma (that’s another story).

I crossed over in a taxi at about 9 a.m. and after a minute of questioning from a U.S. officer was on my way into Del Rio. Two hours later, I don’t think border formalities took any more than 30 seconds on the Mexican side. There were two vehicles in front of us that you see in the photo above.

This region, by the way, boasts that it is at the mid point of the 1,950 or so miles of border, making it closer to everywhere. But the only U.S. city it is close to is San Antonio, 144 miles away.


Corruption probe hits army hard

For the second time in two days, Mexicans were treated today to the spectacle of another senior retired army general hauled in for suspected links to drug lords.

A few hours ago, the National Defense Ministry issued a statement saying it had collaborated with prosecutors in sending retired Gen. Ricardo Escorcia Vargas to be questioned over alleged collaboration with organized crime.

Escorcia, a three-star general, went into retirement in 2010. 

Proceso Magazine’s website says prosecutors believe Escorcia collaborated with the Beltran Leyva narcotics gang, the same suspicions that hang over the two generals taken into custody Wednesday. They are retired Gen. Tomas Angeles Dauahare,  the assistant defense secretary from 2006 to 2008, and Gen. Roberto Dawe Gonzalez.  

Escorcia once headed a military base in Cuernavaca, a stronghold of the Beltran Leyva gang.

This is a huge black eye for the Mexican army – and a smaller black eye for President Felipe Calderon. While the allegations have yet to be proven and convictions handed down, these actions suggest drug cartels have penetrated into the inner sanctum of the defense secretariat. Angeles Dauahare was No. 2 in the Defense Ministry and the highest-level officer snared in an organized crime probe while serving Calderon.

Until his arrest a few days ago, Dawe commanded an elite unit assigned to the 20th Military Zone, headquartered in the western state of Colima, a major entry point for imported chemicals used in making methamphetamine.


Mexico's old courtyard homes

Earlier this week, a photographer friend with whom I’m working and I stayed at a delightful hotel in San Blas in Nayarit state on Mexico’s central Pacific Coast.

IMG_2943I’m not sure I’ve stayed in a colonial mansion with a central courtyard before. But it’s got a lot of charm. Most of the rooms at the Hacienda Flamingos Hotel open on to the courtyard, filled with vegetation and flowers and with a central fountain.

I awoke in the morning to have coffee in a rocking chair and listen to the gurgle of water from the fountain while enjoying their wifi. Ceiling fans kept the languid air circulating.

The walkway around the courtyard is broad. So while you are close to the garden, you aren’t overwhelmed by it.  This particular hotel dates to 1883. 

If you ever make it to San Blas, which is near some great Pacific surfing spots, try out the Las Islas restaurant. My friend and I couldn’t believe how good the seafood and fish were. 


The G20 and the 'Argentine issue'

Next month, heads of state of the G20 countries will gather in Los Cabos, the resort city in Baja California. Already, it’s looking like the presence of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner may become an issue.

Earlier today, the office of Sen. Dick Lugar (the Indiana Republican who lost a primary bid last week and will be leaving the Senate soon after 36 years), sent out a news release saying he wanted Argentina removed from the G20.

Lugar noted that Argentina has refused to honor over 100 court judgments ordering it to pay U.S. creditors. He said Argentina has failed to comply with 47 of 49 recommendations to combat terrorist financing and money laundering, the worst of any G20 country. And he made note of the recent state seizure of the YPF S.A. oil company from the Spanish energy company Repsol YPF.

It may be just one of the issues – along with European economic turmoil -- that may make the G20 powwow interesting.

Here’s some of Lugar’s press release on Argentina:

“Argentina has failed to respect the property and rights of U.S. and other foreign investors.  It has failed to respect judgments against it by U.S. courts and international arbitral tribunals, refused standard IMF inspections, and expropriated property from investors.  As long as this “outlaw behavior” continues, Argentina does not deserve membership in the G-20,” Lugar said.

“The G-20 is for nations that respect the rule of law, and Argentina clearly has not.  As a nation that mocks the law and declines to respect the property and interests of foreign investors, Argentina should not have a world leadership role in the G-20. Argentina’s behavior is unique in the world today.  Unlike countries facing genuine challenges, Argentina has a productive economy and over $45 billion in reserves.  It could easily live by the rules and pay its bills—but the current government chooses otherwise,” Lugar continued. 

“… The US government must take a firm stand against Argentina’s serial evasion of its obligations, and refusal to follow international rules and standards,” Lugar concluded.

The silencing of a newspaper

Last Friday night, gangsters threw an explosive at the façade of the El Mañana newspaper in Nuevo Laredo, then raked it with automatic gunfire. Luckily, no one was injured in the attack.

At least six cars in the adjacent parking lot were damaged.

It is the second time the newspaper in the border city has come under attack. On Feb. 6, 2006, an assailant threw a grenade at the newspaper.

As a result of the latest attack, El Mañana announced in an editorial on Sunday that it would no longer report and publish news about the criminal gangs that besiege the city and much of the border region. It marked another small chapter in the slow death of the free flow of information in areas of Mexico where organized crime reigns. Here’s a portion of the editorial:

“This newspaper, appealing to the understanding of public opinion, shall not for the time being publish any information about the violent disputes taking place in our city and other regions.

The Editorial Board of this company has come to this unfortunate decision forced by circumstances that we all are aware of and due to the lack of conditions for the free exercise of journalism.

We will only address the issue (of crime) through the professional opinion of analysts who study the phenomenon and treat it wisely and responsibly.

However, we will not lose heart or give in in an effort to promote the values that dignify Mexican society: the value of social and economic justice, rule of law, responsibility, honest and well-paid work, transparency and accountability, citizen participation, strengthening institutions and commitment to education.

…We also share the fundamental idea that all forms of lawless violence, aimed at subduing, oppressing and removing the freedom of a peoples, is definitely doomed.”


Colbert on the debate Playmate

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Mexico's Debate Playmate
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive

The foofaraw about the Playboy model and her, ahem, costume during last Sunday's debate actually made The Colbert Report. Beware: A bit of profanity in this ... but quite funny. Check a few posts below to get the background on the story and reaction from one of the candidates, Gabriel Quadri, who grabbed an untold amount of headlines this week after acknowledging that he found the model "sensational."  



This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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Read Tim's stories at news.mcclatchy.com.

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