Young Mexican voters will settle for a “blank slate”

Young Mexican voters will settle for a “blank slate” in their presidential elections, on voting day, July 1st, according to the article linked below.

As I wrote in my recent blog, (https://carlosbgil.wordpress.com/2018/05/26/the-2nd-mexican-presidential-debate-may-20-2018-a-few-impressions/ ), Mexican citizens in general are turning to an independent presidential candidate who has promised to clean up Mexico’s “swamp.”

Maria, a student quoted in the article, reflected this sentiment: “We have gone out to the streets to protest, to demand change and answers about the thousands of disappeared people, the violence, and nothing changes. It feels like we have no control left over our lives.”

Indeed, she and her fellow citizens seem to be fed up with their traditional politicians. Mexico has long been afflicted with government officials, elected or otherwise, who do little or nothing for their constituents and prefer to kick back and collect their fat checks when they’re not involved in corrupt deals of one kind or another.

The independent candidate is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a 65-year-old politician, also known as AMLO (his initials), who relied on a simple, 2-point campaign slogan: 1) I will eliminate corruption along with the political mafia that enabled it, and 2) the corruption money will be used to pay for social programs.

AMLO has offered no details about how he’ll accomplish this.

And, Mexicans, young and old, appear to be so fed up with the status quo that they are reportedly intent on electing him, anyway, like saying, it’s better to start from scratch, from a blank slate. One person in the article below is reported as saying, I prefer to hold my nose for a while to see what happens.

Do you think a senior, independent politician, who has promised the world, will be able to do as he says? I have grave doubts. In any case, we’ll see.

Oddly, we, in the United States, find ourselves in the same situation. We elected an independent candidate who promised the world and we elected him blindly. Now, we are well into his first year running our country, internally and externally, and you can’t dispute the fact that it has been chaotic, puzzling, disheartening and downright frightening.

One major difference between AMLO and Donald Trump is that AMLO maybe an ambiguous populist who may lead Mexico into a series of crises but he is not the bruiser, racist thug that Trump is. God help us!

El Segundo Debate Presidencial Mexicano: Impresiones de un mexico-americano

El Segundo Debate Presidencial Mexicano: impresiones de un méxico-americano

Por Carlos B. Gil

[Esta es una traducción adaptada de mi artículo blog en inglés, “The Second Mexican Presidential Debate, May 20th,2018”]

Más de 6 millones de usuarios de Facebook sintonizaron con el segundo debate presidencial mexicano, el que tuvo lugar en Tijuana, Baja California, la noche del domingo 20 de mayo de 2018.[1] Pude verlo en YouTube desde mi casa en Seattle y, dado mi interés en el país de mis antepasados, ganancia de toda una vida, comparto mis observaciones aquí.

Una advertencia

Aunque los estadounidenses representan mi público lector, en lo general, van a ver algunos mexicanos que se topen con este correo y a ellos ofrezco la siguiente advertencia:

Yo no respiro la atmósfera política de México, ni he sufrido pérdidas personales debido a las relaciones políticas mexicanas, y por lo tanto puedo ver la posibilidad de que para algunos lectores mexicanos mis comentarios aparezcan someros o carezcan de profundidad.

Pero sí estoy seguro de que mis opiniones van a caer lejos del duro sarcasmo que algunos mexicanos disparan contra su sistema político, y yo, por supuesto, no cuestiono eso. Conozco lo suficiente lo que ha sido la política en México, de ayer y de hoy, para decir que estos pesimistas seguramente tendrán sus razones. Hace treinta años, o más, al gobierno no aceptaba las críticas así nomas y algunos de estos cínicos seguramente tendrán un mal recuerdo de ese entonces. Pero yo creo que las cosas han cambiado bastante. De todos modos, yo, un mexicanoamericano que se ha dedicado al estudio de México durante muchos años y ha vivido en el país de sus ancestros en temporadas, ofrezco mis comentarios por lo que puedan valer.

Así es que reconozco que los mexicanos acuden a las urnas para votar por su próximo presidente el 1º de julio. También reconozco que ejercen este derecho, lo que también es una obligación, cada 6 años, y así, como nosotros en EE. UU., el año que corre, 2018, se perfila como un año electoral muy importante.

Acerca del INE

El debate fue organizado por el INE, que tiene la responsabilidad de organizar las elecciones federales en México. Considero que el INE representa un excelente ejemplo del progreso de México en su desarrollo político porque está certificado para funcionar independientemente del presidente, el congreso y los partidos políticos. Es más, el INE está programado a controlar los gastos electorales, todo el negocio electoral, incluyendo la publicidad, y como resultado, los magnates y otros individuos poderosos no deben de influir. He sabido que el INE ha levantado un montón de desafíos, ¡pero como no iba ser así!

¡Vaya si tuviéramos nosotros un INE en los Estados Unidos! Lo que nosotros gastamos en elecciones federales es algo descomunal y, yo diría, inmoral. Es más, el hecho de que hombres poderosos con montones de capital invierten para torcer elecciones a su favor representa la ruina de nuestra democracia y la investidura de una oligarquía.

En todo caso, el INE definió los temas de los debates de la siguiente manera: el primero (22 de abril) trató el papel del gobierno, la política, y los derechos humanos; el segundo (20 de mayo) puso a consideración asuntos exteriores, de comercio y de migración; y el tercero (12 de junio) analizará la pobreza, la desigualdad y la economía. Me perdí el primer debate.

Mis impresiones acerca del debate

Considero que el debate, de 2 horas, en Tijuana, avanzó muy bien. Fue organizado eficientemente y llevado a cabo por dos excelentes moderadores, Yuriria Sierra y León Krause. Estos, en mi opinión, se desempeñaron mejor que cualquiera de nuestros moderadores de debates presidenciales recientes porque lograron formular duras preguntas de seguimiento y se encargaron de todo el procedimiento muy eficazmente. Es más, los candidatos cedieron a ellos, lo que no siempre ha sido en nuestro caso.

Vale la pena anotar que Krauze reconoció, al principio, que el segundo debate representaba una lección aprendida de nosotros, en los Estados Unidos, no solo de colocar a los candidatos frente a cámaras de televisión, sino también de invitar a ciudadanos ordinarios a hacer preguntas a los candidatos. Esto fue muy bueno.

El debate expuso varias inquietudes que me llamaron la atención. Por ejemplo, el TLC (el Tratado de Libre Comercio) surgió como una de las preocupaciones mayores para los ciudadanos invitados al debate. La seguridad personal frente a la violencia del narcotráfico, especialmente en algunas ciudades fronterizas, recibió atención también. En mi opinión, los candidatos no reconocieron estas inquietudes suficientemente, y uno de ellos apenas lo mencionó.

Los cuatro candidatos reconocieron el papel vejatorio que Donald Trump ha desempeñado, y el desafío que representa para México. Tres de los candidatos se refirieron deliberadamente a su postura grosera antimexicana y uno de ellos incluso leyó un pasaje de una biografía de Trump que describe la costumbre de nuestro presidente de aplastar agresivamente a los que difieren con él.

Que el debate tuvo lugar en la ciudad de Tijuana me pareció una idea virtuosa debido a que los flujos migratorios hacia el norte inevitablemente llegan a ciudades fronterizas como Tijuana y por lo tanto se convierten en desafíos para los funcionarios y residentes locales.

Aquí están los cuatro candidatos

[Por favor, mexicanos, acuérdense que este escrito está dirigido a mis compatriotas norteamericanos que saben muy poco acerca de México.]

Aquí están los cuatro candidatos que participaron en el debate, seguidos por una evaluación que hago brevemente de cada uno, y un comentario rápido sobre su desempeño en el debate. Los presento según su ordenamiento en las encuestas nacionales.

Nota: Ninguno de los candidatos representa a una línea política establecida. Tres de ellos están respaldados por una coalición de partidos, y dos de ellos se postulan en contra de agrupaciones políticas en las cuales alguna vez militaron. Uno de los candidatos representa, en su coalición, a dos partidos que en los últimos veinte años estuvieron contrapuestos, enemigos, uno del otro. ¡Imagínense!

¿A qué se debe esta esta mezcolanza política? Se debe a que los partidos tradicionales de México (el PRI, el PAN y el PRD) han perdido una credibilidad considerable entre los votantes, por lo que obviamente los candidatos se sienten obligados a mezclar y combinar para poder seguir adelante con sus campañas Este menoscabo de credibilidad explica mucho el cinismo y el sarcasmo que mencioné anteriormente. Otra razón es la supervivencia de los partidos que les llaman paleros, como el PT, que solo ganan los votos suficientes para mantenerse a flote, por lo que consideran necesario vincularse a otros grupos políticos.

Es fácil concluir que los partidos tradicionales han sufrido una profunda desaprobación por parte de los mexicanos, y Enrique Peña Ñieto, el presidente saliente, no ayudó mucho en sanar esta situación.

AMLO

Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

A los 65 años, AMLO, como se lo menciona en los medios, ha liderado el grupo de candidatos en esta elección. Es de Tabasco, uno de los estados más pobres en la unión, en gran parte agrario, y que nunca ha producido un candidato presidencial hasta ahora. Asistió a la universidad local y luego se trasladó a la UNAM donde lo critican porque tardó 14 años en completar su carrera.[2]

López Obrador cambió de partido varias veces. Recientemente creó su propia agrupación política, que viene siendo una super unión de una confederación de organizaciones conocida como MORENA, más al menos dos grupos políticos adicionales. La mayoría de los observadores lo describen como un izquierdista mexicano a la antigua que se escurre por doquier políticamente para mantenerse a flote. Y lo ha hecho bien. Esta elección de presidente será la tercera a la que se postula. Ha sido un empleado del gobierno o un funcionario electo casi toda su vida. Se desempeñó como gobernador de Tabasco y alcalde de la Ciudad de México y sus logros los reportan de ser ambiguos.

Su auge popular, creo, está relacionado directamente con el rechazo, por parte de los ciudadanos, de los líderes políticos de la nación y de sus partidos. Su mantra, “eliminaré la corrupción”, ha resonado ampliamente. Los mexicanos están hartos de los políticos que hacen promesas al principio y luego simplemente se recuestan, una vez en el cargo, para disfrutar de los altos salarios, los coches finos y otras primacías. La corrupción es su palabra clave, y AMLO la pronuncia cada vez que abre la boca, en un lenguaje impreciso y simple. He hablado con mexicanos que instintivamente confían en él y descartan su ambigüedad.

En el debate de Tijuana se negó a ser específico; confía en la ventaja que tiene a la mano. Todo lo que hizo fue repetir su promesa ambigua de acabar con la corrupción. Culpa a “la mafia política” repetidamente, personificada por sus competidores, Meade y Anaya. Las palabras “mafia política” también forman parte de su mantra. Se reporta que tampoco ha sido amistoso con los hombres de negocios.

Con la excepción de tener una personalidad más relajada, me recuerda demasiado a Donald Trump en su vaguedad y en hacerle promesas “al pueblo.” Muchos lo llaman populista; su alcaldía de la ciudad de México ciertamente fue eso. En mi opinión, los votantes mexicanos deberían retirarlo. No creo que sea bueno para México.

Ricardo Anaya

Ricardo Anaya Cortes.

A mediados de mayo ocupaba el segundo lugar en las encuestas, pero se encontraba bastante atrás de AMLO. Él es el más joven, a los 39 años, y lo veo como una nueva figura política que reclama Querétaro como su estado natal, gigante industrial que se encuentra justo al norte de la ciudad de México.

A diferencia de AMLO, que abandonó el PRI y el PRD hace años, Anaya se identifica con el PAN, el llamado partido “conservador,” más que nada, en el que desempeñó recientemente como su presidente. Reboza de las familias adineradas, orientadas hacia una educación universitaria, y con una mentalidad religiosa que afianzó al movimiento político-religioso que eventualmente se convirtió en el PAN. Anaya se destacó en la escuela, llegó a obtener un doctorado, ingresó al servicio gubernamental queretano y recibió mentoría de líderes influyentes del partido. En términos mexicanos, se podría decir que tiene origines brahmanes, y esto pueda ser una de las razones por las cuales AMLO no lo aguanta (el sentimiento parece mutuo). Sin embargo, Anaya ha sido un aprendiz rápido y muy trabajador, lo que lo ha conducido a la cima donde ahora se encuentra. Sus colegas lo consideran un niño genio.

Decidí que su papel en el debate fue el mejor porque insistió en ser específico en lo que haría con los temas asignados al debate si llegara a ser presidente. En términos relacionados, dijo, entre otras cosas, aumentaría el salario mínimo, otorgaría exenciones impositivas a los pobres, encontraría formas de detener la transferencia de armas a través de la frontera y buscaría maneras de reintegrar a los mexicanos deportados o revertidos a México, y así.

Desafortunadamente, la animadversión que mantiene con AMLO y viceversa, nubló la evaluación práctica que después le dieron los medios de comunicación; muchos reporteros se centraron en la crítica entre los dos, de ida y vuelta. No creo que su pérdida en esta elección disminuya su rol nacional.

Jose Antonio Meade

José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.

Meade, de 49 años, es el candidato que enarbola la bandera del PRI en esta elección, el histórico “partido oficial” de México que gobernó durante más de 60 años. Esta es una nota curiosa porque este no ha sido un miembro bonificado del PRI. El PRI lo seleccionó en 2017 a pesar de su identidad independiente la que protegió por mucho tiempo. Por qué decidió el PRI buscar un candidato fuera de su propia perrera debería servir como un jugoso chismorreo político.

Según los informes, Meade, de origen irlandés y libanés, es lo más parecido a los polémicos “tecnócratas” de los 1980s, es decir, los profesionales tomados de sus empleos no políticos (generalmente un economista o un ingeniero) para hacer gobierno, a diferencia de los políticos de carrera. Nacido en el DF, Meade también podría describirse como un brahmán, como Anaya, por haber disfrutado de una educación destacada, ser hijo de padres profesionales adinerados y, sin duda, acostumbrado a los elegantes clubes de campo de la ciudad. Se le ve nomas al mirarlo.

Esto puede explicar en parte porque AMLO lo tacha a él también, además de Anaya, como perteneciente a la “mafia política”. (Pienso que la enemistad entre el candidato de Tabasco, y Anaya y Meade, me suena más como resentimiento de clase y raza, lo que bien podría ser, algo que no es inusual en México, especialmente cuando se consideran los antecedentes educativos.)

Al igual que Anaya, Meade también obtuvo un doctorado en el extranjero. ¡Pero lo obtuvo de Yale, una de nuestras universidades más elitistas! También ganó dos títulos profesionales de las universidades mexicanas más destacadas, la UNAM y el ITAM. ¡Vaya que tiene títulos de prestigio! Armado con estos diplomas, llegó directamente a la cima (fue Ministro de Presupuestos y Finanzas, por ejemplo). Así logró acceso a los más altos círculos gubernamentales donde trabajó tanto para el PAN como para el PRI. Ha sido presentado como el candidato menos partidista.

Su actuación en el segundo debate me pareció al mismo nivel que el de Ricardo Anaya. Estuvo a la altura de todos los temas discutidos, ofreciendo averiguaciones bien preparadas: combatir el tráfico de drogas y el contrabando de armas a través de la frontera entre México y los Estados Unidos con una fuerza fronteriza y aduanera organizada poderosamente, reconoció la existencia de la desigualdad económica en México y ofreció un programa de inversión urgente para los estados más pobres del sur, etc.

El PRI funciona como una ventaja para él y como una desventaja también. Representa un beneficio porque existe como el partido más poderoso en términos de experiencia, de gente capacitada y de recursos financieros. Es una desventaja porque está cargado con el equipaje moral más pesado. La nación puede culpar al PRI por la mayoría de sus males, junto con sus logros, por supuesto, pero la corrupción del gobierno, en general, y los errores increíbles, pasados ​​y presentes, que se le achacan simplemente por estar en el poder, le quitan el poder. El gobierno saliente de Enrique Peña Ñieto ejemplifica esto muy bien: aprobó algunas reformas muy necesarias al comienzo de su mandato, pero comenzó a cojear con la desaparición de los 43 estudiantes en Guerrero. Su incapacidad para frenar a que los cárteles de la droga se asesinen los unos a los otros al aire libre también empeoró las cosas.

El Bronco Rodriguez

Jaime Heliodoro Rodríguez Calderón (“El Bronco”).

El apodo de Rodríguez básicamente lo dice todo. A los 60 años, es de mente independiente, impetuoso y franco, en una especie de vaquero mexicano, un verdadero ranchero. Es un norteño de Nuevo León como nosotros diríamos, del oeste. Hijo de ejidatarios y uno de diez niños, entiendo que un comerciante local lo descubrió y pagó por su universidad. Trabajó duro el muchacho, rompió moldes a izquierda y derecha, lo que llevó a sus compañeros de clase a apoyar becas para estudiantes pobres como él.

Ningún otro candidato presidencial en el siglo 20 se levanta de un fondo tan humilde como lo hace Rodríguez; AMLO puede acercarse. Claro que ninguno se acerca a Benito Juárez a mediados del siglo XIX que se elevó desde sus orígenes indígenas para convertirse en el presidente más famoso de México. He visto que AMLO le gusta compararse con Juárez.

Debido a que se sitúa sobre el camino hacia la frontera con Texas, Nuevo León fue invadido por cárteles de la droga alrededor del año 2012. Y cuando El Bronco se postuló a una alcaldía local, se reporta que fue duro con ellos por ser agresivos y asesinos. Los capos criminales tomaron represalias; lo querían muerto Se enfrentó a ellos y también contra los corrompidos políticos locales cuando compitió de gobernador como independiente. Y ganó; fue una hazaña verdaderamente excepcional; histórica para México. Contra todas las convenciones políticas mexicanas, pide la adopción de la pena capital, especialmente para los narcos, ¡y también cortarles las manos a los políticos corruptos!

Y, ahora, una vez más se postula para presidente como independiente. No cuenta con el apoyo ni el financiamiento de partido porque no tiene partido, fuera de los recursos que proporciona el INE. Acepta con valentía la desaprobación burlona de mucha gente, incluso de reporteros arrogantes en las principales cadenas de televisión, como Televisa.[3] Lo desprecian no solo por sus métodos contra la corrupción y el tráfico de drogas, sino también por su estilo, su discurso y sus modales. Entiendo que algunas de sus soluciones para atacar problemas sociales y económicos suenan ingenuas. Destila ser el hombre de la calle, sin lugar a duda, y él es el último en las encuestas también.

Su actuación en el debate no le ayudó. No aumentaron sus posibilidades de ganar seguidores a pesar de que reveló un conocimiento íntimo y una simpatía verdadera por la gente marginada de México. Pero, aun así, se paró en el debate como el hombre sobrante.

[1] El Economista, May 21, 2018.

[2] Contraste: El arte de comunicar, http://www.noticiasencontraste.com/andres-manuel-%C2%BFfosil-de-la-unam/

[3] Contraste: El arte de comunicar, http://www.noticiasencontraste.com/andres-manuel-%C2%BFfosil-de-la-unam/

The INE (Mexico’s National Electoral Institute)

 

The 2nd Mexican presidential debate was organized by INE (National Electoral Institute or the Instituto Nacional Electoral). It is an autonomous public organization in Mexico responsible for organizing federal elections.

I consider INE a prime example of Mexico’s progress in its political development because it is chartered to function independently of the president, congress, and the nation’s political parties; furthermore, it regulates funding for elections. As a result, tycoons and other powerful individuals cannot easily influence elections the way they do in the U.S., and the exorbitant spending that has come to mark our elections is kept under control by our neighbor to the south.

The INE has raised a lot of hackles (as you might imagine!) but what an intelligent way to do elections!

Please click the back arrow to return to my impressions of the 2nd Mexican Presidential Debate.

 

The 2nd Mexican Presidential Debate, May 20, 2018: a few impressions

By Carlos B. Gil

Summary: The 2nd presidential debate took place May 20th as a harbinger of Mexico’s coming elections, July 1st. The debate was superbly organized by a national election agency responsible for good and fair elections without the multi-millions of dollars that we spend in the United States. The candidates and their political organizations mirror the deep disenchantment that Mexican voters hold for their politicians and their political parties. The candidates represent an intriguing spectrum of politicians willing to take on a big load.

What does this mean for us, in the United States? The front runner, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (“AMLO”) has stayed ahead by saying little. His performance in the debate was dull; all he did was to repeat his two warnings: 1) I’m going to end corruption in Mexico, and 2) I’m going to deal firmly with our long standing “political mafia.” He’s an old leftist, everybody says, and his track record with the business sector has been frosty. He claims to be a nationalist (“Mexico First!” — you’ve heard that before from Mr. Trump) and if our own president up-scales deporting undocumented Mexicans in some dramatic way or another, it’ll be interesting to see how AMLO responds. The two men are similar in many ways.


More than 6 million Facebook users watched the 2nd Mexican presidential debate which took place in Tijuana, Baja California, Sunday evening, May 20, 2018.[1] I was able to see it on YouTube from my home in Seattle and, given my lifelong interest in the country of my ancestors, I share my observations here.

Yes, Mexicans go to the polls to vote for their next president soon, this coming July 1st, to be exact. They exercise this right, which is also an obligation, every 6 years, and so, as with us, 2018 looms as a very important election year

 

The debate was organized by the INE, an independent Mexican agency responsible for fraud-free elections uncontaminated by private, partisan money (doesn’t that sound wonderful?). https://carlosbgil.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/the-ine-national-electoral-institute/

The INE defined the debate themes as follows: for the 1st debate (April 22nd), the role of government, politics, and human rights; for the 2nd debate (May 20th) foreign affairs, commerce and migration; and for the 3rd (June 12th) poverty, inequality and the economy. I missed the 1st debate.

My general impressions about the debate as a whole

My overall impression of the 2-hour debate in Tijuana is that it proceeded remarkably well. It was efficiently organized and carried out by two excellent moderators, Yuriria Sierra and León Krauze, who, in my view, performed better than any of our own recent presidential debate moderators because they really dug in with hard follow up questions and they commanded the proceedings effectively. The candidates yielded to them too

Also, Krauze openly recognized, at the beginning, that the 2nd debate represented a lesson learned from us, in the U.S., not only by placing the top four candidates in front of television cameras but also by inviting ordinary citizens to ask the candidates their own questions. This was a jolly good first.

The debate exposed several issues that caught my attention. For example, NAFTA arose as one of the biggest concerns to the citizens invited to the debate, the free trade agreement that Mexico signed with the U.S. and Canada in 1994. Personal security, in the face of drug trafficking violence, especially in some border cities, received attention as well. In my view, the candidates didn’t do it justice and one of them, hardly mentioned it.

All four candidates recognized the vexatious role that Donald Trump has scripted for himself and the challenge he represents for Mexico. Three of the candidates pointedly referred to his boorish anti-Mexican stance and one of them even read a passage from a Trump biography describing our president’s practice of aggressively squashing disagreement or dissent.

That the debate took place in the City of Tijuana was a virtuous idea because northerly migrant flows inevitably arrive at borders cities like Tijuana and thus become challenges for local officials and residents.

Here are the four candidates

Here are the four candidates who took part in the debate, followed by my own brief assessment of each, and a quick commentary on their performance in the debate. The list almost included a woman: Margarita Zavala, wife of an ex-president, ran as an independent candidate but pulled out a few days ahead of the 2nd debate. I list the four contenders in the order of their rankings by national polls.

A note about their parties: None of the candidates are representing a main line party. Three of them are backed by a coalition of parties, and two of them are running against parties they once belonged to. One of the candidates is representing, in his coalition, two mainline parties that have been opposed historically over the last twenty years. Go figure!

The reason for this political mishmash is that Mexico’s traditional parties (the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD[2]) have lost a significant amount of credibility among voters, and so the candidates obviously felt obligated to mix and match to be able to go on with their campaigns. This loss of credibility explains a lot of the cynicism and sarcasm mentioned above. Another reason is the survival of diminutive parties (like the PT[3]) that only gain barely enough votes to stay afloat, and so they find it necessary to attach themselves to other candidates or political groups.

The bottom line is that the old party system has suffered a good deal of disapproval from the average Mexican voter, and Enrique Peña Ñieto, the outgoing president, didn’t help matters much.

AMLO

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (Word to the wise: most Mexicans use compound surnames; in this case, López is the patronymic and Obrador is the matronymic). At 65 years of age, AMLO, as he is referred to in the media, has been leading the pack in this election. He’s from Tabasco, one of the poorer states in the nation, largely agrarian, never having produced a national presidential candidate, until now. He attended the local university and later transferred to the UNAM[4], Mexico’s big national university where it took him 14 years to complete his degree.[5]

López Obrador has switched parties and changed his political identity several times. He recently created his own “party” which is a super amalgam of a previous confederation of organizations known as MORENA[6], plus at least two more political groups. Most observers describe him, as I do: a canny, old fashioned Mexican leftist who nips and tucks politically to stay afloat. This will be the third time he runs for the presidency. He has been a government employee or an elected official nearly all his life. He served as governor of Tabasco and mayor of Mexico City and his accomplishments are reported as ambiguous.

His rise in popularity, I believe, is directly related to the rejection of the nation’s political leaders and their parties by Mexican voters. His one-message mantra, “I will eliminate corruption,” has resonated widely. Mexicans are fed up with the average politician who makes promises at the beginning and then simply sits back, once in office, to enjoy the high salaries, big cars and other perks. Corruption is the key word, and AMLO utters it every time he opens his mouth, in vague and simple language. I’ve talked with Mexicans who instinctively trust him and dismiss his ambiguity.

In the Tijuana debate he refused to be specific about anything, confident that he was on a roll. All he did was to repeat his ambivalent promise to end corruption. He repetitively blames the nation’s ill on the “political mafia,” personified, as far as he is concerned, by his competitors, Meade and Anaya, as mentioned below. His track record with the business sector has not been friendly–after all, he’s an old leftist. That’s going to be a big challenge for everyone.

Except for a more relaxed personality, he reminds me too much of Donald Trump in his vagueness, and in making all-purpose promises. Many call him a populist; his mayorship of Mexico City certainly indicates that. In my view Mexican voters ought to retire him. I do not believe he will be good for Mexico.

Ricardo Anaya

Ricardo Anaya Cortes. In mid-May he occupied second place in the polls, but quite far back in numbers, behind AMLO. He is the youngest, at 39, and he is a new political figure, claiming Querétaro as his home state, an industrial behemoth, just due north of Mexico City.

Different from AMLO who abandoned two main-line parties years ago (the PRI and the PRD), Anaya is most identified with the PAN, Mexico’s so-called “conservative” party, and served as its president recently. He exudes the well-healed, college-oriented, religious-minded families that gave strength to Mexico’s pro-Catholic political movement that eventually became the PAN. He excelled in school, all the way to a Ph.D., entering government service in his home state, and received mentoring from influential party leaders. In Mexican terms, one could say that he comes from a brahmin background, and this may be one of the reasons why AMLO seems repulsed by his presence (the feeling seems mutual). Nevertheless, his hard work and his fast-learning propelled him to the top where he is today. His colleagues consider him a whizz kid.

His role in the debate, I thought, was the best because he was specific in terms of what he would do in the areas covered by the debate. In articulate terms he said, among other things, he would raise the minimum wage, give poor people tax exemptions, find ways to stop the transfer of arms across the border, and search for ways to reintegrate Mexicans who are deported or otherwise reverted to Mexico, and so on.

Unfortunately, the animus he holds with AMLO, and visa-versa, obscured the practical assessment of his debate performance in the media afterwards; many reporters focused on the carping back and forth. I don’t think his loss in this election he will diminish his national role.

Jose Antonio Meade

José Antonio Meade Kuribreña. Meade, 49, is the candidate flying the PRI banner in this election, Mexico’s historic “official party,” the party that ruled for over 60 years This is a curious note because he has not been a bonified PRI member. The PRI drafted him in 2017 despite his nonpartisan identity to which he held on for a long time. Why the PRI decided to look for a candidate beyond its own kennel should serve as a juicy bit of political gossip.

Meade, reportedly of Irish and Lebanese origin, is the closest thing in this election to the controversial “technocrats” of the 1980s, meaning the no-nonsense professionals borrowed from their non-political jobs (usually an economist or an engineer) to do government work, as opposed to career politicians. Born in the nation’s capital-city-megalopolis, Meade too could be described as a brahmin, like Anaya above, having enjoyed a well-heeled upbringing by professional parents and undoubtedly familiar with posh country clubs. You can tell just by looking at the guy.

This may be part of the reason why AMLO refers to him too, in addition to Anaya, as belonging to the “political mafia.” (The enmity between the candidate from Tabasco and Anaya and Meade sounds to me more a like class- and race-based resentment, which it might very well be, especially when you consider educational backgrounds. This is not unusual in Mexico.)

Like Anaya, Meade also earned a Ph.D. abroad. He obtained it from non-other than Yale University! This is one of our elitist universities. He also earned two professional degrees from top Mexican universities, the UNAM, and the ITAM[7], the latter being Mexico’s most influential school of economics and finance. He’s got kudos, no doubt! With these diplomas, he went right to the top (Minister of Budgeting and Finance, for example). Having opened the door to very heady government circles, he worked both for the PAN and for the PRI. He has been presented as the least partisan-minded candidate.

His performance in the 2d debate was equal to Ricardo Anaya’s act. He was up to snuff on every issue discussed and he offered well-informed specifics, like combating drug trafficking and gun-smuggling across the U.S.-Mexican border with a powerfully organized border and customs force, he recognized the existence of economic inequality in Mexico and offered a crash investment program for the poorer states in the south, etc.

The PRI works as an advantage for him and his handicap too. It’s a benefit because it is the most powerful party in terms of experience, manpower and financing. It’s a handicap because it comes with the heaviest moral baggage. The nation can blame it for most of its ills, along with its accomplishments, of course, but government corruption and unbelievable blunders, past and present, dis-empower it. Outgoing Enrique Peña Ñieto’s administration exemplifies this very well: it approved some sorely needed reforms at the beginning of his term but began limping with the hard-to-believe-outright disappearance of 43 students in Guerrero. Its inability to curb the drug cartels from murdering each other out in the open made matters worse.

El Bronco Rodriguez

Jaime Heliodoro Rodríguez Calderón (“El Bronco”). Rodriguez’s nickname basically says it all: wild bronc. At 60, he is independent minded, brash, and straight-talking, in a Mexican cowboy sort of way, a true ranchero. He’s a northerner from Nuevo León; like we would say, a westerner. Dirt poor, one of ten children, a local merchant discovered him and paid for his college. He worked hard, breaking molds left and right, leading his classmates to support scholarships for poor students like himself. No other presidential candidate in the 20th century rises from a humble background like he does; AMLO may come close. None come close to Benito Juarez in the mid-1800s who rose from his Indian origins to become Mexico’s most famous president. AMLO likes to compare himself to Juarez.

Benito Juarez

Because it rides the pathway to the Texas border, Nuevo León was overrun by aggressive and murderous drug cartels circa 2012, so when El Bronco ran for mayor locally he hardened his view on how to quell them. The drug criminals retaliated; they wanted him dead. He stood up to them, and to corrupt local politicians too, when he competed for governor as an independent. He won, a truly exceptional feat; a historical first for Mexico. Against all Mexican political conventions, he has called for the adoption of capital punishment, and the chopping of hands for corrupt politicians too!

He is running for president as an independent in 2018, a first, once again, and he does not enjoy party support nor financing, other than the resources INE provides. He courageously accepts derisive disapproval from many people, even from haughty reporters on main line TV networks, like Televisa.[8] He gets dismissed not only for what he claims he would do about corruption and drug trafficking but also for his style, his speech, and his manner. Some of his solutions for social and economic problems sound ingenuous. He exudes the man-of-the-street, without a doubt, and he is last in the polls too.

His performance in the debate didn’t increase his chances of gaining supporters even though he revealed intimate knowledge of, and sympathy for, Mexico’s marginalized population. He stood as the odd man out.

What’s the bottom line? Answer: the candidate who performed the worst in the 2nd debate is way ahead in the polls. Does that make any sense? Did our own presidential election make any sense?

Go figure!  Or, as Mexicans would say, ve tu a saber!


A caveat about me and this article.

While I expect mostly Americans will read this article, there may be some Mexicans who might happen upon it, so I offer the following caveat: I don’t live and breathe in Mexico’s political atmosphere nor have I suffered personal losses of any kind resulting from Mexican political relationships, and so I can see the possibility that my comments may ring shallow to some of these folks. I strive for the fewest possible words here, so this may add to the problem.

I do expect that my views will fall far from the harsh sarcasm that some Mexicans cynically toss at their political system, and I, of course, don’t question that. I know enough about Mexican politics, past and present, to say that the naysayers surely have their reasons to feel as they might. Thirty or so years ago, the government didn’t like critics and some of these cynics may hold a bad memory of those days, but things have changed considerably. In any case, I, a Mexican American who has studied Mexico for many years and lived there in the past, offer my remarks for what they may be worth.


[1] El Economista, May 21, 2018.

[2] PRI = Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party) also known as the “official party.”

PAN = Partido de Acción Nacional (National Action Party), known as the “conservative” party, strongly pro-Catholic Church in the beginning.

PRD = Partido Revolucionario Democratico (Revolutionary Democratic Party), the main leftist party.

[3] PT – Partido del Trabajo (The Labor Party), a small, leftist organization.

[4] UNAM = Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (National Autonomous University of Mexico), Mexico’s leading institution of higher learning.

[5] Contraste: El arte de comunicar, http://www.noticiasencontraste.com/andres-manuel-%C2%BFfosil-de-la-unam/

[6] MORENA = Movimiento Regeneración Nacional (National Regeneration Movement).

[7] ITAM = Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico).

[8] Animal Político, September 12, 2016. https://www.animalpolitico.com/2016/09/bronco-televisa-conductora/

Keep for-profit schools away from your children Here’s why.

President Trump and Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, do not care if you or your children enroll into a fake school or college and waste your money as a result. Think of the enormous feeling of deception for a youngster too. A fake school or college places profit above honest training or education. Their degrees are suspect and sometimes totally fictitious.
You can check-out the list of these fake schools here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_for-profit_universities_and_colleges .
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President Trump’s failed and disgraced Trump University is the best example of what I’m talking about. I discuss Trump University in my book review of Donald Trump in my blog: http://www.carlosbgil.wordpress.com
The topic of for-profit colleges became newsworthy last week when reporters discovered that Secretary De Vos’s department stopped investigating fraud in these phony schools. President Obama had initially ordered a crack-down on these sham schools and so, obviously, Trump is now rolling it back and De Vos is ok with this. Frontline, a well known investigative television program made the announcement.
If you or your children are considering educational training beyond high school, check out the wikipedia list of schools I identify above before you make a decision.
Our American economic system allows quack schools to flourish just for the sake of making money. This is immoral, but many Americans uphold this practice as a basic American freedom without thinking too much about it, most Republicans included. Other countries do not allow this kind of social forgery. Go figure!
We’re walking into a wilderness.

I gave my last lecture today…

I gave my last lecture today for my “KEYS IN UNDERSTANDING MEXICO” course, at the Lifetime Learning Center in Lake City, Seattle, to retirees, mostly. In evaluation forms they reported to have all loved it. It seems I became a minor sensation. Wow!
After I retired from the University of Washington (14 years ago!) I became heavily involved working with my wife, Barbara Deane, at our GilDeane Group offices, doing training and consulting, some of which I really liked. When all that came to a lull, I began writing my recent book (We Became Mexican American) but also thought of looking for some part-time teaching.
It was then that I discovered that if I did that, I’d be preventing some newly minted Ph.D. person from getting a foot in the door wherever I applied. I knew that it takes gobs of time, energy and money to get that darned degree, so I said to myself, “No. I won’t compete with them.” So I just continued with my writing and several years slipped by.
Having finished my long written pieces (including the translation of We Became Mexican American--and I’m looking for a publisher), I decided I needed to keep my old brain busy. Why? I was forgetting too many words, here and there. So, I started worrying about it, and said to myself, “I need to teach again,” to keep my mind from going dark.
This is how I found the Lifetime Learning Center 15 minutes from my home and where I offered to teach the course mentioned above. The director said, “Yes, we’d be pleased to have you,” and so I committed myself to 8 classes, one per week. I started in April and now, its over! I’m so glad I did it, and I’ll most probably teach the course again, next Spring. They certainly want me to.
My students told me they learned a lot (they too wanted to keep their brains busy). Thank goodness. So I’ll give some more lectures. ¡Qué bueno, pues!

Something Sinister is Brewing in Washington D.C.

Stay alert because something sinister is a brewing in the White House this week before Christmas.

Rumors are flying that President Trump is going to fire Special Counsel, Robert Mueller. The reason seems to be that Mueller’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s campaign last year may ultimately reveal that Donald Trump did indeed have connections with the Russian government, which helped getting him elected. This is treasonous.

If President Trump finds a way to get rid of Mueller, major repercussions will come to pass.

If you are confused about the Russian investigations, here is an article that summarizes things. It is written to provide you the larger idea more quickly. Look at it.

https://nyti.ms/2kPQQu9

December 12th: Dia de la Virgen de Guadalupe

Today is December 12th, a day in which the entire Spanish language world pays tribute to La Virgen de Guadalupe. Special masses were being said today in Buenos Aires, Madrid, and Mexico City. And, of course, in San Fernando, California, my hometown—and, nowadays, here in Seattle too.

December 12th was hard to overlook, when I was a boy, because we rose early in the morning, before dark, to attend “Las Mañanitas,” sung full throat by hundreds of Mexicans jammed into our Santa Rosa Church. We sang “Las Mañanitas” because it was her birthday. When I was in my 20s, mariachi musicians became accepted as part of the musical tributes, which had been entirely religious up to that point. I remember attending a December 12th mass in Tijuana in the early 1970s, when I was in a very emotional period, and feeling gratified and comforted by it. I’ve witnessed the overwhelmingly exotic December 12th festivities in the famous Basilica in Mexico City many times too.

There is a fascinating story that gave rise to the culto, or the sum total of devotional happenings, around La Virgen de Guadalupe. Legend has it that she appeared about 15 or so years after Hernan Cortes, in the company of his fellow Spaniards, conquered Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital. It was a bloody conquest, of course, and a spiritual one too: it was Catholicism over Aztec paganism, which had included human sacrifice. Many people heralded the Spanish victory with mystical significance even though the winners were no more than a bunch of bawdy and rough-hewn Iberians who didn’t know what they were getting into.

The basic point here is that the legendary appearances, which form the core of the culto, served to solidify the conquest psychologically. Historical studies show that the subjugated Indians became more willing to abandon their ancient beliefs and begin to accept Spanish Christian ones, after word spread about the Guadalupe appearances.

There is a mountain of historical information about this, but suffice to say here that December 12th always tugs at my heart and soul even though my religious fervor cooled long ago. Nevertheless, I still remember and pine for those old feelings. They’re so comforting.

 

My Experience with Meniere’s Syndrome : Carlos B. Gil

I’ve had Meniere’s Syndrome for more than 30 years and I’ve learned to live with it because I had no choice. I call it my Dizzies. My family knows about it well; they too live with my Meniere’s. I won’t die from it but I will die with it.

What Meniere’s Syndrome is to me:

I began having disquieting vertigo in the 1980s which sent me to my doctors at Group Health (now Kaiser Permanente) who diagnosed it soon enough. For unknown reasons my left inner ear canal had become extra sensitive to its liquid filling, they said, and the reaction of the canal’s cilia to the pressure caused my vertigo, or dizziness, and lack of balance. (Meniere’s causes loss of hearing and so I’m half deaf in my left ear.) In order to be well I needed to reduce the pressure inside my inner ear.     What I had to do:

In order to lower the pressure I had to reduce my salt intake dramatically or undergo what I considered dubious surgery. Salt or sodium helps retain water or liquid therefore increases the pressure. In reducing my salt, or sodium intake (salt is mostly sodium chloride), the doctors told me to aim at consuming no more than 1500 milligrams of sodium per day. Just to give me an idea, they informed me that one teaspoon of salt contains 2,325 mgs of sodium and one piece of bacon contains about 900 mgs. The doctors also prescribed a water pill a day, minimum, because it would make me pee more than usual, thus reducing the liquid pressure in my body including my inner ear.

It took me a long time to discover how to keep my sodium intake at less than 1500 milligrams, and the doctors didn’t help me with the details. I had to learn on my own. I caught on after lots of dizzy episodes that usually turned into bouts of nausea and vomiting, in addition to the consequent loss of energy. It also took me a long time to begin to learn the rhythm that my body had to go through in these episodes: the dizziness, then the nausea followed by intense vomiting, then wanting to sleep, then the slow repair of my body accompanied by extremely carefully eating. Each episode included these stages. I call it “falling off the cliff.”       In my case, each episode took about four to 5 days to take its full course.

Where sodium resides: 

Slowly and painfully, I learned about sodium, and where it resides. I made enough lists and notes that I can tell you approximately how much sodium naturally resides in fish or meat, etc., without having to look it up. A lot of food contains sodium even before you cook it or season it. Most bottled or canned ingredients already contain sodium, and beware of baking powder and baking soda! Furthermore, sea salt is salt, pink salt is salt. Any kind of salt is salt; not for me.  I use substitute salt, a very important dietary aid. It is made of potassium chloride and I understand that overdoses or under doses can send you to the hospital. In my case, my water pill expels potassium so whatever salt substitute I add manually evens things out. I medically check my sodium and potassium twice a year.

For me, at least, limiting my sodium intake and taking a water pill a day has helped me stay on an even keel. If I take these measures, steadily, I can control my normality. I walk, I jog, I ride my bike, get on the roof if necessary, and so on.

How I adjusted my eating habits:

I learned soon enough that the safest eating for me was at home, and since I had already learned to cook, I took over the kitchen with greater intent.

However, I’m not a hermit. I may be retired, but I do have to go out every so often, and that means I have to eat out. In fact, I like to eat out, and that’s where the risks begin.

So, I learned to eat out with great care. I became more aware than ever about how restaurants in the U.S. prepare their food; that most do not prepare their fare from scratch; it comes into their kitchens through the back door, semi-prepared and duly salted already. Almost all franchise operations do this, from McDonalds and Burger Kings and IHOPs to Red Robins, Red Lobsters, Applebee’s, and Denny’s. I began making mental lists of eateries that can cook from scratch; they are usually more expensive, but they also serve better food. These non-franchise eateries don’t have crowds of waiting patrons, and their kitchens are more liable to respond to my requests.

Menieres seafood restaurant

I also discovered that chefs don’t always listen to their waiters or waitresses. You can tell your server, “no salt,” or “take it easy on the salt,” but cooks may dismiss his/her words. Often they’re too rushed. Sometimes they know nothing about what constitutes low sodium meals. Or, they can do little about it, especially if it’s a franchise kind of place.

I was raised on Mexican food but I learned to stay away from it when eating out, because they, and most ethnic restaurants, prepare almost everything ahead. No cooking from scratch there. Asian eateries rely on bottled or canned ingredients to add to their sauces (fish, shellfish, oyster, soy), and these are already teeming with sodium. I “paid” a lot to learn this. As much as I would enjoy Asian food, I stay away. I love food with distinctive seasoning, so you can imagine how hard it has been for me. Thank goodness, Indian fare relies on super complex herbs and spices which seem to require less salt, so I’m more willing to risk it there, from time to time (I love curries).

I travelled in the past and continue to do so, and so I’m known to travel with a “kitchen bag.” It contains a pot or two, a hot plate, extension cords, a knife, and a couple of dishware items. The idea is to allow me to cook if necessary. I’ve traveled with my kitchen bag in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. My usual eating plan when traveling is to try to eat out once a day, in order to taste the local stuff, and eat in safely as much as I can, in my hotel room, if necessary. This way I avoid gobbling a seasoned dish because I’m ravenous. Thank goodness, most restaurants outside of the United States still cook from scratch! Also, I drink wine with my food and so I am thankful it is free of sodium.

Listening to my body:

I have also learned to heed my own body signals. This may not apply to you, but I’m convinced I can tell when the sodium level in my body is getting high. People with Menieres usually have tinnitus: ringing, hissing, or buzzing. I get a hiss and I’ve learned to detect its differing levels. Louder or stronger means I’ve consumed too much sodium. I usually get a “spike” about 2-3 hours after a meal especially if I’ve eaten fish or meat. If my sodium level was low before eating, the spike will dissipate overnight. When I’ve been a bad boy, I’ll also see flashes inside my eyelids when I squint, in addition to the high hiss. If that happens, I know I’m in trouble, and am likely to get dizzy and expect the rhythm mentioned above sooner or later. My body doesn’t forgive; it’s like a machine set into motion and it doesn’t stop until it is finished. Regarding my body signals, when I share them with doctors they look at my quizzically.

I’m also convinced that when I travel to sunny and warm climates (I live in Seattle) my in-the-body sodium level makes adjustments. I hypothesize that in warm or hot climates I perspire, more than in Seattle, expelling sodium along with other body wastes. So, my balancing act (having too much or too little sodium) shifts. When I return to cool, or cold Seattle, I usually “fall off the cliff,” to some extent, because I’m out of balance. The “fall” is sometimes hard, sometimes not so hard. My doctors don’t appreciate my sunny climate hypothesis either.

Is there a silver lining?

Is there any good in any of this, I ask myself from time to time? Maladies are always comparable. Who is worse off than I am, I ask? You may not believe it, but at my age, I feel fortunate to be in good health, except for my Meniere’s and my Psoriasis (let’s not go there!). Still, is there a silver lining in the dreadful details above?

I think so. My Meniere’s diet keeps me disciplined. I really have no choice, because if I go off balance I pay dearly with 4 or 5 miserable days. So, I stay in line. Moreover, my food discipline, as outlined above, forces me to eat intelligently and healthily. And, vegetable-based food is relatively free of sodium, as are fruit, nuts and grains. And, this is what health gurus preach today, hence I’m already doing it! So, there you are! I’m eating according to the gurus and I’m not a guru guy. Eating this way might help me live longer, anyway (and enjoy my wine longer too!)

Final thoughts:

I’m aware that not everyone with Meniere’s goes through what I’ve gone through (and getting dizzy does not necessarily mean you have Meniere’s!). It’s worse for some, not so bad for others. And, I must confess, I haven’t seen my Meniere’s doctor in a long time because all he/she does is measure my hearing loss, so I stopped going. Also, there may be new findings about Meniere’s. I need to find out. In the meantime, I’ll follow my regime described above.

If you have some degree of Meniere’s I hope you can appreciate my experience. I can live with it and perhaps you might too.

A BOOK REVIEW ABOUT DONALD TRUMP

The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2016), a book review by Carlos B. Gil

The author of this book is a widely recognized investigative crime reporter; I see him interviewed on television from time to time. In 2001, he won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism for his work on tax dodges and loopholes. Because of the way he works, critics and admirers tagged him the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” I therefore consider his book as credit worthy. He wrote the book as a warning, as I explain below.

I took the time to read The Making of Donald Trump in an effort to comprehend our current president, hoping, in a way, that I might find something redeeming, but I did not. Johnston’s sleuthing and investigating failed to turn up any evidence contradicting the image that Donald Trump has carved out for himself in his first twelve months in office. His tweeting, and his speeches, if they may be called that, serve to confirm Johnston’s findings. Johnston helped me by tracing and explaining some of Trump’s ways of saying and doing things but the point is, that Trump hasn’t changed an iota since Johnston began investigating him.

Because the subject of this book is the President of the United States, I began taking extensive notes, something I do not do for other book reviews that I publish online. I append these notes below for your going-over, if you so wish. They provide more details.

Trump’s apparent “obsession with money,” is something he learned from his ancestors, according to Johnston. His father, Fred, appears to have taught him the tricks of the trade, including his worldview: money means everything, and looks are second in importance. There is no mention of Donald Trump’s mother, by the way.

Despite his silver spoon upbringing, the ways of the Bowry (one of New York’s rough and tumble wards) seem to have gotten stamped on Donald Trump. His closest friends turned out as shady characters, in some cases outright gangsters.

The best example is Roy Cohn, one of America’s most malicious figures, who served as Senator McCarthy’s right hand man, back in the 1950s. McCarthy took it upon himself to find Communists in the U.S. even when then there were not any, and ruined the lives of many people in the process. He quickly became a hated figure and ultimately resigned in disgrace, but Cohn, his lawyer, who looked like a gangster himself, egged him on with wicked malevolence. Cohn taught young Trump to smear anyone who was not friendly: confuse and disarm your critics by attacking them ten times as hard with foul words and false lawsuits. Indeed, we’ve seen this pattern many times, already. The two were close friends.

Johnston’s reasons for writing this book echo my own for reviewing his book and sharing it here. He wrote that he gathered “nearly half a century” of documents to bring them to the attention of American citizens. They “are most important for voters to ponder,” he explained, because they reveal much about “that person’s character. He adds that Donald Trump’s “obsession with money and the trappings of wealth…and his many comments about women, not as equals but objects,” tell us much about him. Moreover, “His vision is, in many ways, not that of a president but of a dictator.” (my emphasis)

Johnston’s deeply felt conclusion about our president is easy to see since Trump entered the White House. His one-sided immigration bans, insulting judges, even his own Attorney General, dismissing the importance of the FBI, and his constant flattering of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s dictator, come to mind immediately, alongside his out-and-out accusations of Hilary Clinton.

The crowning illustration of this tendency, for me, made the news recently when Trump shook hands with the President of the Phillipines, Rodrigo Duterte, who vowed to get rid of drug traffickers. Thousands of Filipinos have died at his command because he accused them of dealing drugs. They didn’t have to be arrested, they didn’t need a courtroom. Duterte’s accusatory finger was all that was needed. Duterte has blood on his hands and is proud of it. He boasted of killing people himself, even when he was a teen ager, “A human. I stabbed him because he starred at me.”

Trump was quoted as saying, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem…Many countries have the problem. We have the problem, but what a great job you are doing…” He may have also kept in mind that his business organization was in the process of building a Trump Tower in Manila.

I do not believe any American president, up to now, would have shaken hands with Duterte or even be seen with him on the same platform, not even the two Bushes, conservative as they may have been. Their moral standards would not have allowed them.

The editors of the New York Times wrote that Trump fawns and smiles, offering “effusive rhetoric” in the company of strongmen like Putin and Duterte. “Perhaps he sees in them a reflection of the person he would like to be.” Amen, to that.


Notes for a review by Carlos B. Gil of The Making of Donald Trump by David Cay Johnston (Brooklyn: Melville House, 2016).

–Johnston has been an investigative crime reporter since the 1980s. In 2001 he won a Pulitzer Prize for Journalism for exposing tax dodges and loopholes, he earned the nickname, the “de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States.” ( x). [words in quotations are taken directly from Johnston’s book and the page numbers are placed in parantheses]

–Trump followed the footsteps of his father (Fred) from whom he learned the ways of a landlord: own fancy apartment buildings for well-heeled whites and avoid Blacks and Puerto Ricans. Woody Guthrie rented an apartment in Beach Haven and when he discovered this pattern, he called it “bitch haven” and so he wrote a song about it:

Beach Haven ain’t my home! / No, I just can’t pay this rent! / My money  is down the drain, / And my soul is badly bent! / Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower / Where no Black folks come to roam / Old Beach Haven ain’t my home! (35).

–In gathering information, Johnston had lunch with Trump in 1990 (104)

Chapter 5 “Making Friends” is about Roy Cohn, who was “nearly a second father,” according to Trump himself (33). In the 1950s Cohn became infamous as Senator Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer and adviser; McCarthy was the disgraced legislator who hounded Americans as Communists.

–When the Department of Justice accused Donald Trump and his father for refusing to rent to people of color, Donald Trump sought Cohn’s advice and the two became close friends. Johnston informs us that Cohn served as a lawyer for “two of America’s most powerful Mafia figures” at the time. (39) Cohn taught Donald Trump a lesson that he took to heart: when someone threatens you, you attack that person harder: file a huge lawsuit and wear him or her out in the process (37).

–In a 1973 law suit filed against Donald Trump for racial discrimination in renting his apartments, Trump “folded and settled;” it was “a complete loss for Trump” (38), but he spoke about it as if he had won. He broadcast his own positive angle on the matter, a lesson learned from his father: spin the news in your favor; people won’t know the difference. “Offer a simple and quotable narrative” and then just move forward (38). Trump employed this strategy as a politician.

–When Donald Trump began the construction of the Trump Tower on the Atlantic City boardwalk, he was required to submit to an 18-month personal investigation by state authorities to make sure he was not connected with any gangsters. Trump used his connections, financial and political, to dodge it. As a result, his application to build the Tower was approved in a record 5 months’ time and his shady relationship with Mafioso union leaders was overlooked. He used union labor run by Mafia gangs to build his Trump Tower in record time. See “Trump’s Most Important Deals.” Chapter 6.

Chapter 7, “A Great Lawsuit.” In 1983 DONALD TRUMP invested into the New Jersey Generals, a football club associated with the USFL (US Football League), which was trying to compete with the NFL; he became part owner of the USFL this way. He thereupon devised a lawsuit against the NFL for monopoly practices arguing that the NFL had violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. He wanted to force the NFL to admit his team and the USFL and thereby share in the NFL’s money making capacity. Aided by his Mafia lawyer, Roy Cohn, he sued the NFL and the court agreed that the NFL had violated the Act; he won on the monopoly part of the lawsuit, but was awarded only one dollar for damages! An appeals court ruled that the NFL had indeed violated the Sherman Anti-Trust Act by maintaining “monopoly power in the market consisting of major league professional football in the US.” (55)

However, the one dollar damages award meant that the USFL and Donald Trump couldn’t break into the NFL because they had not done the slowly built legwork that the NFL accomplished over many years. Johnston views Trump’s actions as “seeking quick and easy riches from the lawsuit.” (55) Trump appealed to the Supreme Court and it declined to hear the case but required the NFL to send a check to the USFL for 76 cents as interest on the dollar (55). Trump’s strategy to get rich quick via the NFL failed. Years later, however, he issued his own fake news by calling it “a great lawsuit.” As he would do often, he blamed someone else for the loss, his USFL TV associate, calling him a “loser” in disgust. (57) The author emphasizes that DONALD TRUMP employed “a ruinous legal strategy” that “flouted conventional rules of conduct.” (58)

Chapter 8, “Showing Mercy,” has to do with Joe Weischelbaum, a drug trafficker and racketeer friend of President Trump whom he helped and nurtured whenever he got in trouble, even let him live in the Trump Tower after serving time in prison for drug trafficking and tax evasion. Weischelbaum offered Trump helicopter services, confirming the President’s friendliness with shady characters. Johnston suggests that Trump was receiving as yet unnamed services, in addition to piloting the helicopter, but he doesn’t clarify this allegation.

Chapter 9, “Polish Brigade,” looks at Trump’s willingness to cheat and lie in order to get his way, and make money at the same time. In order to build his Trump Tower, on 5th Avenue, New York City, Donald Trump had to tear down the BonWit Teller Department Store. He did so by hiring hundreds of Polish undocumented workers to do the job, all non-union, with no safety standards of any kind, all using sledge hammers! No hard hats, no goggles, no power tools, no face masks, no nothing! In addition, he promised to pay them $4 an hour, and then reneged so that some of the workers went to the extent of threatening the life of the superintendent. Trump had asked Roy Cohn to help him get workers and the Mafia lawyer made it possible by hiring nonunion workers in a pro-union state thanks to his contacts with Mafia-ridden union officials. One worker, Harry Diduck, sued Trump for cheating on the workers and the judge agreed, finding Trump guilty of violating his fiduciary duty to the workers and to the union. Donald Trump settled secretly.

Chapter 10, “Feelings and Net Worth,” reveals Donald Trump’s consistent hiding his net worth in a court room, and out of it. The author writes that Trump lies about it under oath and insists on deliberate ambiguity. In a 2005 lawsuit, he charged an author for undervaluing his net worth. The author’s lawyer asked him under oath what his net worth was and Trump answered, “it varies,” according to how he feels, Johnston added. The judge dismissed the case. (79) The author further remarked that Trump’s ego is imperative. He presents his net worth in high values to bankers, investors, and the public, but low for tax authorities, contractors, or vendors. (95)

Another example regarding net worth involves Mar-a-Lago, his estate in Palm Beach FL. It was originally owned by the heiress of Post Cereal who gave it to the US government for use as a presidential winter home, but the government put it on the market. Donald Trump boasted that he bought it for “cash” in 1985, but this was a lie. He borrowed from Chase Manhattan based on a non-recorded mortgage, guaranteed by his signature, agreeing to pay the loan back on time.

Chapter 11, “Government Rescues Trump,” examines Donald Trump’s mismanagement of his Atlantic City casinos, the Trump Castle and the Trump Plaza, between 1986 and 1990. He drained the cash out of them to the tune of $375 million. (87) As a result, in 1990, he could not pay his bills. Consequently, his creditors took over the casinos to try to make sense of the financial mess and discovered that Trump had borrowed from 70 banks at once, owing them all money and with no way to pay them. The bottom line of this story is that the New Jersey Gaming Commission overseeing the economic functioning of Atlantic City decided Trump was too big to fail and ultimately agreed to rescue him at a great loss to the State of New Jersey. In the spring of 2016, during his campaign, he admitted that he borrowed “knowing you can pay back with discounts. And, I’ve done very well with debt. Now, [I know that] I was swashbuckling, and it did well for me…” (93)

Chapter 12, “Golf and Taxes” describes Donald Trump’s managing property taxes to his advantage by finding a way to devaluate his property. His Trump National Golf Club Westchester, 30 miles from the New York Trump Tower, is an example. He bought a failed golf course there in the 1990s, fixed it up by adding a clubhouse, and so on. Members paid $300,000 initiation fees (including Bill Clinton). Boasting that the value of the course now rose to $50 million he declared the tax value as $1.4 million. When news reports publicized this unusual devaluation, Trump upped the declared value to $9 million. A local legislator complained bitterly that the local county was subsidizing a billionaire “so he can enjoy even more profits at that property.”

When a big storm hit the area and water run off flooded the municipal swimming pool near the golf club, obligating the city to spend money to clean it up, Trump refused to cooperate. It was the city’s fault, he insisted. The suit was unresolved when Trump began his presidential campaign. Johnston added that other golf courses owned by Donald Trump reveal similar chicanery on his part.

Chapter 13, “Income Taxes,” lets the author explain why Donald Trump can boast he can pay little or no incomes taxes: Congress allows real estate professionals to take “unlimited tax deductions against their other income.” Therefore, in 1992 and 1993, Donald Trump “had no income tax obligations” because “he had losses so large that he could apply them to future tax seasons.” (108)

Chapter 14, “Empty Boxes” is about Donald Trump buying expense jewelry worth $15,000 and mailing it out of state to save on the sales tax. When New York auditors discovered this, he avoided prosecution by cooperating and settling with them to avoid back taxes.

Chapter 15, “Better than Harvard” takes a look at Trump University in New York, an outright fraud. In 2005, Donald Trump announced to people interested in signing up that, “We’re going to have professors and adjunct professors that are absolutely terrific—terrific people, terrific brains, successful! We’re going to have the best of the best.” (118) We’re going to teach you better than business schools can teach you.” (118) These were all lies.

When the State of California sued Donald Trump for civil fraud about it, in 2012, the California Attorney General, Rachel Jensen, asked him to identify any one person in the faculty. He could not. He couldn’t remember even one. They were not real professors. They were real estate agents posing as faculty, “one managed a fast food joint.” (118)

The State of Texas investigated his Trump University seminars and discovered they were subterfuges for selling “Gold Elite” packages for $35,000.

The bottom line is that “the desperate and the gullible” paid Trump about $40 million dollars for what turned out to be the outcome of high-pressure salesmanship.

Chapter 16, “Trump Charities.” Johnston writes, “These day Donald Trump calls himself “an ardent philanthropist” but there is almost no public record that he has made much in the way of charitable gifts, and certainly not gifts in line with his claimed wealth of more than $10 billion. (132)

Chapter 17, “Imaginary Friends.” In this chapter, Johnston shows that in the 1980s Donald Trump made it a practice to impersonate a public relations officer for himself, often using the name John Baron, and feed reporters information that made him look like he was closing a lucrative business deal, or how “this or that woman was in awe of him.” (135) Libby Handro’s unflattering film, Trump: What’s the Deal, illustrates this allegation and it remains on YouTube even though Trump threatened Handro with a lawsuit if she went public with it. (138)

In Chapter 18, “Imaginary Loves,” the author writes that Trump also used this mode of deception to boast about his male prowess. Johnston describes how “beautiful” women often looked for him or called him.

Chapter 19, “Myth Maintenance” reviews two core strategies that Trump has employed to manage his public image, one he has “spent decades creating, polishing, and selling.”

  1. A) “He exploits a common weakness in news reporting” which is an avoidance by reporters to analyze and insert themselves, so they try to stick to the facts. Trump’s objective is to strike fear in his critics by threatening to sue, even when he knows he is going to lose. This was the case with Tim O’Brien and his 2005 book, Trump Nation (78-79). O’Brien reported that Donald Trump was inflating his self-worth. Johnston quotes Trump as saying, “I spent a couple of bucks on legal fees, and they spent a whole lot more. I did it to make his life miserable, which I’m happy about.” The court dismissed Trump’s lawsuit but O’Brien’s publisher had to pay legal fees. (147)

(B) The second strategy is that he “distorts information, contradicts himself, and blocks inquiries into his conduct by journalists, law enforcement, business regulators and other people’s lawyers.” (140) Trump’s track record in public office amply demonstrates this.

David Cay Johnston identifies Trump’s friends as shady people. One is Joseph Cinque, a drug mobster, also known as Joe No Socks, who claimed attending Trump’s New Year’s parties. Another of his friends is Felix H. Satter, a “convicted stock swindler.” (162).

Why JOHNSTON wrote this book: He writes that he collected “nearly half a century” of documents regarding Trump’s conduct. He believes these documents “are most important for voters to ponder” about. Then he added if you examine someone’s conduct “you gain a better understanding of that person’s character. Donald Trump’s “obsession with money and the trappings of wealth…and his many comments about women not as equals but objects” tell us much about him (206). “His vision is, in many ways, not that of a president but of a dictator.” (209)