Few would argue that, these days, Mexico has an image problem. The bad news has been building up since 2006, when Felipe Calderón, president at the time, declared war on drugs, a war that has claimed about 100,000 lives and has been sustained by his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Peña Nieto's problems have not abated since last autumn, when 43 students were kidnapped, tortured and probably murdered in Ayotzinapa, Guerrero -- most likely at the behest of the local government. The President's response to this and other atrocities has been woefully inadequate; it would appear that there is absolutely no one in his cabinet who is capable of showing him how to put a foot right.
Still, the government has its ways of trying to change Mexico's reputation. The people who hacked into the internal files of Sony recently published reports that officials of the government offered tax incentives of up to $20 million to Sony to make changes in the script and casting of Spectre, the upcoming James Bond film, partially shot here in the Mexican capital.
Mexico wanted the script shaken rather than stirred. Among the alterations solicited were that, instead of the murder of the mayor of Mexico City, an "international leader" would be killed; the principal villain of the film would not be Mexican; and the Mexican police force would be replaced by an "international police force."
The officials who dealt with Sony also demanded that a Mexican actress get to play a Bond girl, for the first time in the 24-film franchise. Stephanie Sigman, who shined in Miss Bala in 2011, got the gig.
There were also requests by the government that they shoot some flattering travelogue scenes in Mexico City. (Apparently, they stopped short of asking that James Bond's name be changed to Jaime Albóndiga.) According to reports -- published here in Proceso, and also in the Washington Post, the Guardian and other international media -- Sony executives Jonathan Glickman and Amy Pascal, happy to save some money, bent over backwards to accommodate Mexico. "We should insist they add whatever travelogue footage we need in Mexico to get the extra money," wrote Pascal in a hacked email.
Spectre is also being shot in Italy, Austria, England and Morocco. I wonder if those countries' demands went as far as Mexico's. Meanwhile, the violence continues here -- to name just one incident, earlier this month, a mayoral candidate in a Guerrero town was kidnapped and decapitated. The government may have $20 million to offer to Sony, but half the Mexican people still live in poverty. Perhaps a snuff movie, rather than a James Bond film, would reflect the country more accurately.