Don’t ask what’s going on in both Houses of the Mexican Congress, but irrefutable evidence after the Sept. 7 and 19 earthquakes clearly points out that the nation’s politicians are all shook up. They should be, as there is a reason.
So called “initiatives” to confront the tragedy and its aftermath are raining all over the place. It’d be fine if they came as clean proposals, but what all political parties can’t hide or deny is that they are getting a huge chunk of the federal budget with no visible benefits in return.
Not only that! Last Monday President Enrique Peña Nieto’s ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presented a proposal that would revamp the entire Congress thoroughly to leave it just like it was when PRI owned the Mexican political system.
Current PRI president Enrique Ochoa Reza proposed three courses of action which sound like they come straight out of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. They would give up the remaining 258 million pesos ($14.2 million) they have coming in 2017 from their yearly allowance as a “donation” to earthquake victims, they would also like to eliminate public financing to all political parties (including PRI of course) and finally, eliminate all proportional representation seats in the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
The 258 million is 25 percent of what PRI has coming for the remainder of the year and Ochoa Reza proposes that “if all political parties give 25 percent of their annual financing for 2017 we, together, would manage immediately to come up with about 1 billion pesos.”
Ochoa Reza also proposed in person at the Chamber of Deputies that eliminating subsidies for political parties would save those resources to pay for future natural disasters.
Finally, he would like to amend the Constitution to reduce the proportional representation seats (known as plurinominales) going back to the old system of having 64 senators instead of the current 128, cut the number of federal deputies or congressmen from 500 to 300 and cut state assemblies down to 400 deputies.
Keen observers, don’t take this hook’s bait. Several share the view that since PRI is the ruling party they have all the money in the world, not just to survive but to win the upcoming 2018 elections by a landslide as they showed they could in the State of Mexico elections to elect President Peña Nieto’s cousin Alfredo del Mazo as governor. The use of federal funds was abundant and the president sent several members of his Cabinet to root for his cousin. Plus, in the eyes of many a voter the National Electoral Institute (INE), which is supposed to be unpolluted, showed an undeniable bias towards the president’s candidate.
More of that is not welcome, as other political parties will have no manner of auditing PRI expenditures in “vote buying.”
Downsizing both houses of Congress would only bring PRI back to the good old days when PRI had a de facto majority and all other parties were under represented.
Other political parties have also said they would like — surely much to their chagrin — to part with a hefty percentage of the 2017 income, but they are willing to do it. National Action (PAN), Democratic Revolution (PRD), National Regeneration Movement (Morena), Labor and Green parties probably feel guilty that there are now people sleeping in the open under rainy skies while they all enjoy federal support to live as high on the hog as possible.
One thing that makes the effort of our Good Samaritans not likely to happen is that the 2017-2018 electoral process is already on course since the first week of September and all the money allotted to political parties can’t be used for “reconstruction,” as Ochoa Reza calls the effort, to come up with a piggy for the needy.
But please don’t think Mexican deputies and senators are brothers and sisters of charity. Their “donation” (it’s easy to donate what’s not yours, is the general outcry against the discussions now underway in Congress) is indeed awakening a sleeping monster.
Their shattering is because after the two earthquakes the so-called “civil society” woke up like new vigorous movement armed with interconnecting iPhones and WhatsApp, which the senators and deputies were not ready for. Worse still, they are not connecting with the throngs — millions, I’d say — of new activists who will definitely be voting next year.
The problem political parties and their Senators and Deputies have at hand is that they can’t see that the two earthquakes brought about changes in the political lights.
This Congress is on its way out, but there is no doubt that after Ochoa Reza’s proposals the president’s PRI wants the whole enchilada, forever.