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on the border line between the US and Mexico

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wave of Independent Politicians Seek to ‘Open Cracks’ in Mexico’s Status Quo

 Posted by DD Republished from NYT

DD Note; 
We at BB get a lot of comments from readers who have given up on Mexico ever changing.   Some think that a revolution is the only way to cleanse Mexico of corruption and violence.  Some (we try to delete these but a few slip through) are just racist from people who hate Mexicans.  Some have just given up hope.   

But many readers and the public at large is unaware of movements at the grass roots level of just ordinary people who have said "Basta" (enough) and are working to challenge the status quo of corrupt political parties that have essentially held Mexico in a strangle hold for decades.  The people involved know that change comes slowly and takes only one step at a time.  But they are becoming a "wave of Independents seeking to open cracks in the status quo".   They believe that if you open enough cracks in the status quo it will eventually crumble of its own weight.   

This story is a profile of that movement. ...

Speaking of Pedro Kumamoto, a voter said;  “He is not a politician, he is one of us,”   “He is a normal person and that is what makes him so great.  A Mexican politician does not ride a bike or wear tennis shoes."   “I just trust him, he said. “He has my vote.”

Pedro Kumamoto, Independent candidate for federal Senate in Mexican 

GUADALAJARA, Mexico — In a cafe in downtown Guadalajara, Pedro Kumamoto, 28, an independent politician running for a Senate seat, was savoring his early morning coffee when a middle-aged man approached.

“I am sorry to interrupt — I just wanted to greet you,” the older man said, his eyes starting to tear up. “I am sorry for getting emotional, but you are a true inspiration.”

Such effusive displays of appreciation for politicians are unusual in Mexico, but encounters like this have become common for Mr. Kumamoto, an indication of how hungry Mexicans have become for alternative leaders amid growing disenchantment with the traditional political parties.

Two years ago, Mr. Kumamoto was elected as the first independent legislator in the state Congress of Jalisco, a feat possible only after a 2014 change to the federal Constitution allowed for candidates not affiliated with parties. Now, Mr. Kumamoto, a self-described “social democrat,” is leading in the polls for a seat in the federal Senate.

He is among dozens of independent candidates running for state or federal office in the July 1 general election who are looking to deliver a sharp rebuke to politics as usual in Mexico.  

Independent political candidates celebrated with supporters after collecting enough signatures to run for Congress in Jalisco State. Credit Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

“We share a common principle, and that is if you don’t get yourself involved in politics, someone else will come and do it for you,” Mr. Kumamoto said, describing the goals of Wikipolítica, whose name, a play on Wikipedia, is meant to suggest grass-roots politics.

The political establishment, as embodied by the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which held power uninterrupted from 1929 to 2000, is perceived by many Mexicans as inclined to corruption and graft.

Among his political inspirations, Mr. Kumamoto said, are the leftist former president of Uruguay, José Mujica, and movements like Occupy Wall Street. 

“To be born and grow up in a country ruled by the PRI meant you thought that there was one way of doing politics,” said Roberto Castillo, 27, a founding member of Wikipolítica, who is now running for a seat in Mexico City’s state-level Congress. “This meant patronage politics over merit, knowledge or leadership, and we were made to believe that was morally acceptable,” he said. “But that is changing.”

Carlos Brito is another youth activist looking to enter and change the political system.

An earthquake in September left thousands of people homeless in his small hometown, Jojutla, in the south-central state of Morelos, and local leaders were accused of hoarding aid for the victims. Mr. Brito, 30, said he could not bear the outrage, so he decided to run for mayor, leaving a successful digital start-up in Mexico City and moving back to Jojutla.

Both Mr. Kumamoto and Mr. Brito said one of the biggest challenges facing independent candidates is overcoming voter skepticism that the political status quo can be challenged.

“We have been convinced by this lunatic idea that nothing will ever change,” Mr. Kumamoto said. “That is what I call the anticipated defeat, and we must realize that is simply not true.”

Mr. Brito is a former member of a student movement that emerged in 2012 to protest media manipulation during the campaign of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office in December of that year.

Reflecting on the Peña Nieto administration, which has been tainted by corruption scandals, spiraling violence and human rights violations, Mr. Brito said the most valuable lesson for young activists is “to train yourself against frustration.”

“We have been convinced by this lunatic idea that nothing will ever change,” Mr. Kumamoto said. “That is what I call the anticipated defeat, and we must realize that is simply not true.” Credit Brett Gundlock for The New York Times
Mr. Brito expressed confidence that the surge of independent candidates would begin to have an effect. “We are witnessing the demise of the political establishment,” he said. “And we should be happy about that.”

But in a political system that favors established parties — Mexican law, for example, guarantees parties funding and media access during campaigns — the electoral performance of most of the independents in the coming election is expected to be marginal, experts say.

“There is a political oligopoly designed with high entry barriers and enforced by restrictive laws that prevent us from having more Kumamotos,” Mr. Poiré said.

While many of the independents may struggle to win their elections, Mr. Kumamoto has established himself as a rising force, at least in Jalisco.

The great-grandson of Japanese immigrants, Mr. Kumamoto said his activism began when he joined a sit-in at age 19 to halt the removal of hundreds of trees for a highway overpass. He later became president of the student council at his college.

Now Kuma, as he is known among his peers, enjoys a kind of celebrity in Guadalajara. People of all ages stop him in the streets for selfies, and passing cars honk and drivers raise their fists in support.

At his campaign headquarters in Guadalajara, a group of young people were organizing crowdfunding efforts, rallies and media campaigns.

Sitting among them was Susana Ochoa, 27, an activist who served as the communications manager in Kumamoto’s campaign two years ago. With a passion for politics and feminism, Ms. Ochoa said she felt it was time to step on the stage herself and run for a seat in Jalisco’s Congress.
Wikipolítica candidates at a rally in Guadalajara. Credit Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

  “I decided to do it to redefine what it means to be a woman and a woman in politics in Mexico, and so that girls of future generations find it easier to raise their hand, not only in politics, but in every aspect of their lives,” Ms. Ochoa said.

She said she viewed the rise in independent candidacies not as a “panacea” for all that ails Mexico, but rather as a “tool to open cracks with.”

As a lawmaker, Mr. Kumamoto sees one crack to open: He says he wants to show that politics can mean something other than corruption and theft, and he’s donated 70 percent of his salary to a fund focused on 
political participation.

Landing in the state Congress at age 25, he knew it was important to show he could be effective, despite his inexperience.

He garnered multiparty support to pass legislation in which political parties gave up much of their public funding. Called “No Money Without Votes,” the state law cuts funds assigned to the parties by more than half, and calculates future funding based on the votes each party wins in the previous election.

He won passage of another initiative to end protection from prosecution for Jalisco’s elected officials. Early criticism of his lack of experience and political naïveté was quickly silenced.

But opponents argue his popularity is overblown and fueled by a media frenzy over his age, independent status and campaign, which broke with the norm of patronage politics.

“His legislative triumphs speak more about the favorable circumstances of the political climate here than of his true leadership,” said Mónica Almeida López, a state representative from the leftist Party of the 

Democratic Revolution, who opposed the “No Money Without Votes” initiative, claiming it would damage smaller parties.

Mr. Kumamoto says he wants to show that politics can mean something other than corruption and theft. Credit Brett Gundlock for The New York Times

Among his political inspirations, Mr. Kumamoto said, are the leftist former president of Uruguay, José Mujica, and movements like Occupy Wall Street. Now, he has begun to inspire others.

At a small rally in the center of Guadalajara, a banner read: “We will replace them.” Nine young candidates running for the Jalisco Congress had collected the signatures they needed to run and were celebrating.

Among them was Alejandra Vargas, 29, a political novice with a degree in industrial engineering, who said she was flabbergasted when Mr. Kumamoto suggested she run.

“I didn’t even know what a congressional representative did,” Mrs. Vargas said. “But when I thought about it, I told myself I had no excuses for turning it down as I had always preached about civic participation being the backbone of democracy.”

Mr. Kumamoto stood in the back of the crowd that was cheering the new independent candidates. “This is what it is all about, to pass along the baton,” he said.

A gray-haired man walking by stopped at the sight of the rally.

“He is not a politician, he is one of us,” said Jorge González, 63, referring to Mr. Kumamoto. “He is a normal person and that is what makes him so great.

Mr. González noted that a typical Mexican politician does not ride a bike or wear tennis shoes, as Mr. Kumamoto is known to do.

“I just trust him, he said. “He has my vote.”

Note DD:   Three months ago not many people believed that it was likely US gun control laws would have any chance to be changed because of strong opposition from powerful vested interest.  But a powerful grassroots movement sprung up after the school shootings in Fla in Feb.  Mostly led by young people.  While they will probably not achieve all their goals, it now appears they will achieve some changes in the gun control laws   They will be back seeking more change.  Taking it one step at a time.  

Three months from now the big election in Mexico will be over.  All of the Independent candidates for office will not win, but some will win and gain a place at the table where change can be made in Mexico.  The movement that is carrying them there will not go away after the elections.  They will be back seeking to create more "cracks in the status quo".  Who knows, maybe they can do it.   Don't give up hope for Mexico. 


  1. I Know people from that area, it was really devastated by that earthquake , ie, El Terramota........hideous what has gone on.
    Viva Mexico.
    Hope still lies with the young, those at that invincible age, we should invest in them and support them by any means possible, IMHO.

  2. Must admit I am one of those you refer to as described. Minus the racism though. Criticizing government and its citizens for what is done and what is not being done. An unjustified behavior for lack of clarity you note.
    This movement representing change is beautiful.

    Nice article.

  3. I think Colombia has proven that no matter how bad things get, they can get better. Whether they will get better is another topic, but I've never seen Mexico as hopeless.

  4. Great read DD.....please keep informing us of these tiny glimmers of light that hint at possible progress ; we still need this HOPE. Never give up/ in to the powers that be.
    It is an unending task , the human condition. Keep up the fight.

    1. Please do keep us readers informed of these warriors dd. Articles of such inspirational stories and such will be welcomed. A balanced approach / note from the turbulence posted daily.


  5. Yea Pedro Kumamoto! And to DD for the commentary. There is hope! Our Texas version is Beto O'Rourke, challenging (Rafael) Ted Cruz this November. Even if not this time, then the next!

  6. "Leaders who do not help the people must be replaced by the people."
    -DaShane Stokes

    Grassroots organizations are the voice of the people.

    The younger generations are the future of any society.

    Social democracy is a political system according to which social justice and equality can be achieved within the framework of a market economy. Bernie Sanders is a social democrat. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland are all social democracies.

    This political idealogy is fast becoming accepted by the younger, educated generation as a possible solution to the vast disparity of wealth between the elite upper class and the rest of society. One can argue the non existence, or lack thereof, of a middle class once you factor in debt when attempting to classify the masses.

    Is this the answer to all our problems as a society, both here and in Mexico? That is yet to be decided. One thing it is however; is change. Change that is long overdue and can even be called a peaceful protest on failed gov't and broken promises. Change that is welcomed by those that are fed up, misrepresented, and ignored by their gov't but continue to seek social justice and equality through democracy.

    It is hope.

    "A social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution."
    -Martin Luther King Jr.


    El Ocho

    1. @3:AM El Ocho, I want to thank you for posting your comments, not only on this story but other posts as well. I would rather have 10 comments that add something to the topic, promote a civil discussion or debate of the topic than a 100 that are just junk (I use the word "junk" because I don't like to see vulgarity in comments even though several vulgar words would more accurately describe some comments). Thank you again for your comments.

    2. @ dd
      On the contrary, it is I who should be thanking you, dd. Thank you, and the rest of the BB contributing staff for providing a platform to voice our comments, opinions, and feedback on current events that are usually overlooked, if not ignored or misconstrued, by the mainstream media.
      I have been following BB posts for quite sometime now, but only up until recently have I felt a need to post my comments.
      The topics and subject matter of your contributions is of great interest and appeal to me as I have been exposed to the harsh realities of narco culture yet fortunate enough to escape its wrath. Your posts have encouraged me to share my insight and no longer standby without being heard, even if it is only by a select few. My hopes are that my words may resonate and have the same effect on the next reader as yours have with me. Once again, thank you.

      "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
      -Martin Luther King, Jr.

      El Ocho

    3. 8:56 Martin Luther King died a while ago, it should be pointed that his descendants are positive people the crooks of the day use to mislead the people left behind by MLK after his assassination "by persons unknown"...
      "Feeling good and positive about things tend to normalize the abnormal"

    4. Sweden's anti immigration

    5. Sweden's anti immigration?. Yes. So many Swedes and all Europeans immigrating to the Hispanic countries, etc.. And all so welcomed. Put your money where your mouth is.

  7. Good luck to him and I really hope he can bring change and better times to Mexico.

  8. Tan cercas del cielo y el infierno

  9. Maybe this is the future for Mexico. Independent politicians.
    People are always claiming one political party like PRI backs up a cartel and PAN another so maybe now with independents all this shit can stop?
    Of course independents can also be accused of helping sides but they have yet to run entire states for example meaning their influence/help if true towards a particular cartel would be limited anyways.

    1. @11:14 You are mistaken amigo. Jaime Heliodoro Rodríguez Calderón, better known as Bronco, was the first independent candidate to have won a governorship in Mexico. Rodríguez won the 2015 race for Governor of Nuevo Leon as an independent candidate on June 7, 2015, winning half the votes of the election compared to his traditional party competitors, who split the remainder of the votes. At 60 years of age he is not part of the young people's movement that this story is about. He received a lot publicity when he was elected because he was elected as an Independent in a state that had never had anything other than a PRI governor. Prior to his state wide election he was Mayor of Garcia, Nuevo Leon, and was best known for his hard line stance against organized crime. He gathered more than enough signatures on a petition to get on the ballot as an Independent candidate for President in the upcoming June 1 elections.

      But he has not not had much news coverage since his election as Governor. He vowed that as Governor he would not spend one peso on news media coverage. (the govt. and traditional political parties can control what the major news outlets broadcast or publish by the huge amounts they spend spend for advertising) His predecessor as Governor spent $200 million (US) on bribes to television news media (including Televisa)to clean his image. By contrast Bronco did not pay a single peso of government money. One of the consequences was At a live newscast a Televisa reporter, not knowing her mike was on, said "We have to be sure that we mention the Governor (Bronco) the least possible." that kind of bias lasted throughout his time as governor. The media basically ignored him.

      In Dec. 2017 the NYT reported that EPN admin. spent $2 billion (US) for publicity in his 1st 5 years in office. Additionally Times reported that award winning news reporter Carmen Aristegui was controversially fired shortly after revealing the Mexican White House scandals. The article said the president was sending the message: "I don't pay you to critize me".

      Overcoming the obstacle of a corrupt and biased press is probably the biggest hurdle all the Independents will have of face in their quest.

    2. LA Bronca Rodriguez was independent, but when he won, he made sure no prosecution would do harm to his predecessor governor of nuevo lion Rodrigo "altar boy" Medina, of PRI PARTY...

    3. Soon as he got elected, the disciple of Carlos Salinas de gortari, "La mula bronca" a life long priista was traveling aboard the presidential military jeep with EPN and Salvador Cienpedos for a presidential Military parade...
      Also in Nuevo Lion he as a horse breeder had to have had a lot of contacts with horse buyers, Los Zetas were real enthusiastic about horses right then and there...

  10. I am American i pray for the people of mexico. I have frinds that r Mexican. I am not all Racist. The last revolution produced the PRI.

    1. The past revolution (of 1910) ended the porfiriato; "evil demonized dictator" General Porfirio Diaz who beat the French Legionnaires to help Lic Benito Juarez save the republic and kept the US out of Mexico for 30 years had to resign, 5he US promptly established their say so in Mexican politics after a few shuffling and re-shuffling, now that the BS has run out of steam, and people think they are like, winning and winning and winning so hard, it is time to remember there are tons of BS being produced every minute of every day, all over the Mexican estercolero, loaded with steam...

    2. The French (which are romans) were mexico's TRUE allies and not an anglosaxon puppet like benito juarez. Maxmiliano and Napoleon with the support of the mexican people could have wiped out thebwho

  11. Sorry but your social change will not happen. Even with the best intensions, your social equality will turn to Marxist elitist control. You will just establish a power base of rich socialist while the open minded comrades get peanuts. As for those eastern European social countries. Yes health care is free but the costs are distributed in other things gas 15.00 a liter among things

  12. George Clooney runing for President. Sould win and believes in California style government and open border. Ceasar Chavez farmworkers union boss did not want open borders. He said immigration keep wages low

  13. Oh and be kidnapped. Best of luck.


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