Son of a Salinas

I was alerted by my friend Jim Johnston's blog that last November, the geniuses at “TED” – an organization whose motto is “Ideas Worth Spreading” – invited Emiliano Salinas, son of former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, to emit his ideas about how Mexicans should respond to the violence that is plaguing the country these days. If you have twelve minutes to spare, you can see his remarks, in Spanish with English subtitles, here.

(By the way, that's him in the photo up there. Umm ... was he adopted or what?)

I found myself somewhere between perplexed and enraged by his remarks. They are at best disingenuous and reflect that, while he may carry a Mexican passport, he has no idea how his country functions (or, perhaps more aptly, dysfunctions). His speech carries so many misconceptions that it's a little overwhelming. I will only focus on two or three of his most spurious points.

AP photo

He says disapprovingly that the response of many Mexicans to the overwhelming violence in much of the country is to stay at home in fear. With over forty thousand dead in the last five years – and those are only the official figures – as a consequence of all this violence, many might say that cowering in fear is a reasonable response.  Particularly when there are no organs of the government that are protecting people from the carnage.

Salinas suggests that Mexican citizens should take non-violent civil actions to “take back” their society from the drug traffickers and other assorted gangsters. (He avoids talking about the politicians, police and army --on both sides of the border -- that seem to be, at best, unable to protect society from the violence, and at worst, fostering the violence for their own financial and political gain).

Yet he only talks about one instance of this sort of civil protest, which resulted in the murder of a family member of the organizers. That murder does not bode well for the “thousand Gandhis” he’d like to see organizing all over the country. Shall they incite a thousand more murders?

Latin American Herald Tribune photo

A few months after he made this speech, Salinas could have spoken of poet Javier Sicilia, whose son was murdered last March and who, as a consequence, has founded the National Movement for Peace, which has organized marches and manifestations all over the country in the last few months. However, he wouldn't have quite fit into the Salinas plan. As commendable as Sicilia’s actions are, they have not spurred the government to reconsider its position justifying all those murders due to its supposed “war on drugs.” The movement of this one Gandhi may have raised the consciousness of some people, but it has not changed or stopped the continuing violence in the country.

The most upsetting part of Salinas’s speech is early on, when he blames Mexicans for their problems because, according to him, they “think like victims.” Sad to say, most Mexicans are indeed victims – victims of scandalous governments, in which politicians enrich themselves legally (by whopping salaries, higher than those of their counterparts in the U.S. and Europe) as well as illicitly, manipulating the public trough and making corrupt business deals. People who are doing so well that it is in their interests to maintain the status quo. Meanwhile, the minimum wage in Mexico is about $4 a day.

It is unfair to blame the sons for the sins of their fathers. Still, there is something particularly distasteful and offensive about this speech, because it comes from the mouth of a man whose father is generally acknowledged to have stolen the 1988 presidential elections – as well as billions of dollars while he was in office.