The Plagiarist President

by Mari A Gomez

With this unscrupulous, entertaining and rather horrifying election cycle, it’s become difficult to un-glue myself from the conversations happening around the candidates: their lies, their antics, possible body counts, their odd seizure-like behavior, and campaign shake ups. Still more fascinating is media’s biased and dishonest refereeing and meddling. Yet, sometimes the news across the border catches my eye.

The difference in the media circus here and in Mexico is most of us consuming news and engaged in the political process in the States are doing ok. Most of us don’t fear for our immediate safety on the daily or worry about eating the next day or live in a city with collapsing infrastructure and meager public services. We don’t hear about neighbors found dead or kidnapped, or about mass graves found a few miles away. Interestingly enough, not all Mexicans do either, most tend to live their lives as simply and as happily as they can and that’s certainly a testament to their resilience and spirit and, sadly, to how long they’ve been tolerating an incompetent government. 


That doesn't’ change the fact, however, that Mexico, as was recently reported by the executive director of CELS (Center of Legal and Social Issues) of Argentina, Gastón Chillier,that Mexico is living the worst human rights crisis in all of Latin America. . That the Inter-American Human Rights Commission reported the failure to solve 27,000 disappearances. Yet, I don't see many Chicanos or flag waving Mexicans talking about Trump and evil Conservatives are talking about that, maybe because they’re doing alright, living an American life.

There is a lack of response from the Mexican State, CELS director Gastón Chillier, said.

Peña Nieto’s administration has denied such a human rights crisis, has refused to acknowledge some of these infringements have even occurred, yet alone attempt to solve them. Peña Nieto continues to act as if nothing is wrong. Perhaps no one has told him that he has  an approval rating of 23%. 

I often ask myself if some of these things happened in the United States, what would be different? How would Americans react? If under an Obama administration 43 students of a community college in a small town in Montana or somewhere had vanished and had last been seen under federal police custody, how would people react to this? What if during the investigation for said disappearances investigators found a mass grave filled with human remains that, in an unpleasant surprise, did not belong to the students in question. I've written about this before, in other words, they accidentally came across a mass grave.  In America, something would happen. This is a great country.

In recent days the Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui, who at this point has probably written herself into Peña Nieto’s kill list, released yet another scandalous story for the current administration. (I have this image of Peña Nieto wearing a bathrobe, newspaper in hand, falling to his knees, shaking his fists at the heavens and yelling “I’ll get you Aristegui!!” ) Aristegui and her crew broke the story that Enrique Peña Nieto had plagiarized 29% of his academic thesis, including 40 paragraphs copied verbatim from up to ten different authors, some of them well known Mexican academics and intellectuals. This news comes just days after First Lady Angelica Rivera was involved in another scandal about a luxurious apartment she has in Miami, Florida.

These scandals are largely symbolic, for while the fact that Angelica Rivera is using a 2.05 million dollar luxury apartment in Miami owned by businessman Ricardo Pierdant, a bidder for the control of Mexico’s ports, may enrage Mexicans, it’s hardly news that a Mexican politician (or his wife) has unreported riches, or is living in luxury, or conducting shady deals under the table. In fact, Aristegui has received a few good memes where they make fun of her for reporting the plagiarism story with such seriousness. Such is the cynicism of the Mexican already. This is sort of the norm in Mexico and many people have been conditioned to shrug it off, even when they and their families live in perpetual poverty and insecurity, in a country plagued with violence and lack of opportunity. 

This scandal has yet to gain as much traction as did the one reported by Aristegui News in 2014 that concerned the infamous ‘casa blanca,’ or white house. This was another luxurious property owned by the First Lady, which she claimed was entirely paid for by her Televisa salary. Not a single Mexican believed this. Perhaps, like with anything, one starts to become desensitized. The scandal of the First Lady’s casa blanca, ignited tremendous backlash and protest. So much so that it got Aristegui fired from her job at MVS, where she was the highest rated radio show in Mexico. 

Recently the scandal was re-kindled when Joaquin Vargas, a head of MVS, sued Aristegui and the publisher Penguin Random House because of a prologue written by Aristegui for the book about the subject titled “La Casa Blanca de Peña Nieto.” Vargas demanded the prologue be removed and that any unsold copies of the book be swiped from the shelves. Aristegui came out publicly and ousted the lawsuit as an attempt at blatant censorship. The lawsuit against Aristegui is said to be particularly aggressive, prohibiting her from reproducing the text in any medium or format. They sued her for damages to the moral good of the public. Yes, in a country with 27,000 unsolved disappearances, Carmen Aristegui, a journalist, is damaging the moral good of Mexico.

Mexican journalists are fighting tooth and nail against a perpetual attempt to silence them. Three Mexican journalists received death threats via Twitter just the other day. Nasty, strong worded death threats. (I have to wonder how Twitter allows that kind of thing. Maybe they don’t monitor the Mexican Twitter as much?).

The story of Enrique Peña Nieto’s plagiarism in his thesis, while largely inconsequential,  holds similar symbolic value; it indicates that twenty five year old Peña Nieto was not only privileged, but a man of zero intellectual integrity. And a leader’s intellectual capacity and prowess is often an important part of their legacy. Though nobody in their right mind believes, especially at this point, that Peña Nieto has even a modicum of either; there’s something deeply damaging to the image of the President when even his student years were marked with lies and deceit.

Peña Nieto is a thief of ideas and words, unable to think for himself. This is the leader of a country oh so rich in natural resources, who has the capacity, if their governing bodies and institutions weren’t so fundamentally corrupt to the bone, to actually be a relatively successful and wealthy nation. It's just another indicator that Peña Nieto is a puppet, a hanger in a suit.

The implications to all these scandals are profound blows to the already emasculated and ravaged position of Mexico on a world stage, but more so a damaging to the already dismal and almost nonexistent trust in this administration. An online petition, started when the news broke, got 100,000 signatures in just two days demanding for Peña Nieto to be stripped of his law degree.

It seems that while far more difficult to link Peña Nieto to thousands of disappearances and murders and economic hardships, while difficult to oust him for human rights abuses, even when its common knowledge that his administration has been negligent, if not directly responsible, in allowing these massive violations, one thing that can be done is label him as a fake and a liar, to publicly humiliate him as someone who lacks intellect and ideas and personality.

At least they can do that.

In June of 2016 the Open Society Justice Initiative reported that they have strong reasons to believe that the Mexican State has indeed committed crimes, tortures and crimes against humanity. 

In July 2016, in a wonderful theatrical display of shamelessness, Peña Nieto gave a  speech where he openly admits to the scandal of the casa blanca and apologizes. He describes how he felt, in his own flesh (”en carne propia”), the anger of the Mexican people when they found out about this. He claimed he understood the people’s rage. He admitted that corruption was “Mexico’s cancer.” He promised a new day in government transparency and honesty and literally  a month later, he’s known as the world’s worst plagiarist and it’s discovered his wife has a 2 million dollar luxury apartment in Miami, where she goes to relax. 

This guy’s got two years left.

Mexico is a country whose beauty and spirit is consistently thwarted by impunity, government incompetence, corruption, negligence, and drug related violence. Yet, Mexico is it’s own country. The U.S is another. And these self declared, liberal arts major Chicanos really annoy me when they begin to speak about brown pride and La Raza and protest the attempt to protect U.S borders and post/share articles like these, which talk about how parts of the U.S used to be Mexico and how then it's hypocritical to ask that those borders be respected.

These Mexican flag waving protesters in the U.S, or those who strongly identify as La Raza and about how the U.S government simply doesn’t do enough for them. How they are not recognized enough. They want more.  It happened as recently as June in a Trump rally, where again, just like in San Jose a few months back, you had people flying Mexican flags and shouting “We are United.” That is, “we” as in Mexican-American/Hispanics/Latinos, not as Americans. I'm talking about these people because I don't understand what their protesting really. Part of the problem is these people  see themselves so much by their “identity” rather than uniting on any strong set of principles.  That is, they forget perhaps that part of their identity is also American. Is it the U.S  government's responsibility to save all people crossing the border illegally and hand them a future, freedom, and a voting card? Will building a wall  kill more Mexicans than Peña Nieto.

The answer is not to allow everybody to come to the U.S, which most of them seem to support either directly or indirectly. Certainly there is no easy answer. You're talking about people's lives. Yet, these hardcore brown pride people seem to believe that the compassionate answer is demand that the U.S deal with it because it's racist not to take care of people fleeing their countries, yet, let us not demand more of the Mexican government. It's ok, if Mexicans are over here working on your neighbor's lawn for five bucks an hour. 

The answer is to aid in Mexico’s reclaiming of their land from criminals, cartels, and corrupt politicians. How that is to be done in a country where corruption is, at this point arguably cultural, so deeply entrenched in the fabric of government and everyday life, I have no fucking idea, but it has to start somewhere and the U.S has quite a bit of bargaining power with Mexico. 

By the way, where is the international community on all of this? Oh yeah, the U.N did “strongly urge” the Mexican government to mind the independent investigation done on the missing 43 students. Yet, no demands to solve the other missing 27,000 people. Certainly no demands from the U.S.

The problem with these La Raza representatives is there constant play of identity politics and this incessant cry for attention and playing the victim. It's not all of them, of course and it's not just the fact that they identify as this or that, it's when they conveniently forget that it's the freedoms of this country that allow them to identify as whatever they want.

 They complain how this land (Texas) used to be Mexico and shout how unfair it is that the U.S now would try to keep out Mexicans from the land that once belonged to them. Lest they forget that Texas fought for it’s independence before it was even officially part of the U.S. They won their independence in a war. When Santa Ana was captured by Houston’s army, afraid of execution, he ordered his troops to retreat, which means that Mexico technically surrendered Texas.  Texas was not stolen from them. The U.S didn’t wake up one morning plant the U.S flag on Mexican soil and say, ‘You brown guy, get out.’ 

Politicians don't care about Mexicans. They care about how they become potential votes and it's well known they usually vote Democrat, so who does most of the pandering to them? Though I'm sure Trump has realized by this point that he's got to indulge them a little. 

 If they cared about Mexicans they would hold Peña Nieto accountable, they would get serious about the War on Drugs and solving that issue. These people want to increase government power via the Hispanic vote. If they really cared they would enforce the laws and prevent illegals from getting meager wages and no job protection. Need I point out that Fast and Furious happened under Obama? Perhaps Obama, instead of calling Peña Nieto his “good friend and partner” during the Three Amigos summit, should put put pressure on Mexico. At the very least, push him against the wall and say, “Listen, man, you’re killing your people,  they're suffering. This needs to stop.”

But no, Obama shakes hands and smiles (yes, a little forcefully) and they talk about how Trump is the real problem here. 

If El Paso, Texas were to magically become part of Mexico right now, I wonder if these La Raza folks chanting brown pride, waving Mexican flags at Trump rallies, tweeting things like "We are the superior race" would finally be satisfied. I wonder if they would be happy living under Peña Nieto’s administration, making five dollars a day in a collapsing city. I wonder if anybody would care to hear their bad poetry about living on the border and being a 'minority.' I wonder if they would miss affirmative action and all them Latino college scholarships. Would they miss their free speech and ability to buy a gun? I wonder if they would embrace the lack of opportunity for their children, or enjoy living  among unpredictable violence. I wonder if they would miss their government assistance, their food stamps or  Medicaid or Financial Aid. I bet then, and only then, they would say: No, no, wait a minute, but I'm an AMERICAN. 


A small clarification was posted on 8/29/2016. I wanted to clarify that I'm speaking here about folks who adopt a very stringent La Raza identity and become so entrenched in that, they they often forget the American half.





Mari Gomez1 Comment