a peculiar kind of apparent democracy in which vast meetings are held, impressive documents are written and everybody is absolutely entitled to have his say. This does not mean that he will be actually listened to.

Example: In a Mexican democracy environment, we want to design a new type of stockings. Who is on the design committee ?

  1. A producer of rubber boots.
  2. A representive of the Mexican Foreign Office, in case someone were to export them.
  3. A representative of the Mexican IRS, to properly tax the buggers.
  4. Three lawyers, but not in their capacity of lawyers: rather as representative of the Institute For Stimulating Societal Integration, the Foundation for the Improvement of Terminally Corrupted Capitalist Monopolies and the Ministry of Minor Fuckups and Nuclear Power.
  5. The technology attaché of the Costa Rica embassy in Bhutan.
  6. An engineer, that knew everything about stockings in the '50s, and currently designs rockets.
  7. A TV anchoress, that will gush on for hours about the beauty and loveliness of the stockinged legs of ballet dancers.
  8. A marketing expert from TV Azteca.
  9. Four really expensive consultants, either gringos or from a gringo firm. At least a gringo sounding firm. They are happy, because they make more than anyone in the room (excluding the Big Kahuna and the financial administrator), and they will hardly do any work.
  10. A financial administrator whose corruptness is the stuff of legend: since he is the cousin of the Subsecretary's secretary, he is heavily protected and cannot be fired.
  11. for each on of the above, a technical gopher of varying competence, from can't-find-my-butt-with-both-hands to true genius. Of course, the genius is the unhappiest person in the room, and he has the lowest salary.
  12. The Big Kahuna, that organized the meeting.
Having assembled the people in a really big room, complete with paintings and possibly frescos, someone will set up a videoprojector. Powerpoint slides will be shown. Anger will be vented. Bitchiness will be at its finest.

Possibly someone at a certain point will say:

"I thank you, Mr. Big Kahuna,
and everybody that works in this honorable institution
and the friends and comrades from other entirely honorable institutions
for allowing me to humbly make use of the powers of speech*
and provide an opinion on a subject of which I do not know much,
nay, nearly nothing at all especially if I were to dare compare myself with such stars as Dr. Foo
Prof. Bar
and the very same Big Kahuna.
Despite this, and as a representative of the Ministry of Forged Underpants and Closely-Cropped Bushes,
I feel bound to make some observations:
(here the speaker takes a big breath, and the real rant starts)

More inspired speeches, more showing of slides. A two-year planning is planned, sketchily. It is suggested that representatives of the President, and of the Guatemala Embassy be brought in on the design team: their ideas will be very useful.

After everybody has exhausted his voice box, the Big Kahuna will quietly go his office, together with the financial advisor, one Lesser Kahuna, and decide everything, in about three minutes.
The larger committee will not be informed, of course, and this will lead to many amusing misunderstandings and conflicts of will later on.

*: this is my translation of hacer uso de la palabra, a ponderous, imposing, full-of-shit expression used instead of hablar. This node springs from my experience at the Irritating Lump Company.
Fabulos noder baffo wrote an interesting piece on Mexican Democracy. I would like to add a point or two of additional information given recent changes in Mexico.

It is the case that since the end of the Mexican Revolution (1917, for the most part), Mexico's attempt at democracy has been rather painfully bad. Elections were routinely rigged, opposition parties were harrassed and largely ineffective, and one single political party - the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) held the reigns of power. Long story short, this situation took a rather sharp change in the summer of 2000. The June presidential elections in Mexico were won by Vicente Fox, a member of the opposition party Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), a moderately right wing political party. As an aside, Fox is the former president of Coca Cola de Mexico. This is the very first time that the PRI has admitted defeat in a national election. Quite an historic moment.

Let me also note that the humorous piece mentioned by baffo in his write-up is not a bad tongue in cheek description of state corporatism. State corporatism is a form of government that tends to organize political interests into highly structured, highly differentiated units. I refer the reader to Phillipe Schmitter's "Still the Century of Corporatism" for a discussion of corporatism, and a discussion of how state corporatism differs from societal corporatism ( which is generally a botttom up form of government as opposed to the top down version, of which Mexico was perhaps the best example.)



Mexico's system of government is - at least on paper - fairly similar to that of the United States. The Mexican Constitution, adopted in 1917, sets up three separate, independent branches of government - the executive led by the President; the bicameral legislature; and the judiciary.

The Executive
The President of Mexico is the chief executive, head of government, and head of state of Mexico. He is directly elected to a six-year term. The president appoints a cabinet, the attorney general, the leadership of the military, and judges of federal courts. The president has the power to propose constitutional amendments, which must be aprroved by two-thirds of the Congress and a majority of state legislatures. The president is constitutionally prohibited from being elected to successive terms. This is designed, much like the United States' 22nd Amendment, to prevent the possibility of a popular leader becoming dictatorial through continual reelection (in practice, this means the president often just gets swapped out every six years by the same party). While he cannot remain in office indefinitely, the president of Mexico has rather broad powers, as shall be seen.

The Legislature
The legislature of Mexico, the Congress, is a bicameral body composed of a Senate and a Chamber of Deputies. The Senate has 64 members, two from each of the 31 Mexican states and two from the Federal District (which includes Mexico City). Senators have six-year terms; elections are staggered with half the seats elected at the time of the presidential election and half at a mid-term election three years later. The Chanber of Deputies has 500 members elected to three-year terms; they are not eligible for reelection. 300 of the deputies are directly elected from districts of around 200000 people; the other 200 are filled from the ranks of the various political parties based on the percentage of the total vote each receives in the national election. This proportional representation system was added in 1963 in order to promote the continued existence of opposition parties. Each registered party that gets a minimum of 2.5% of the vote is entitled to a seat in the Chamber of Deputies for every 0.5% it received, to a maximum of 20 seats. Congress meets from September 1 to December 31 each year. When it is not in session, a pemanent committee of 15 deputies and 14 senators serves to approve presidential actions. Because of their short sessions and term limitations, the Mexican Congress has far less power in governing than the United States Congress.

The Judiciary
The Mexican judicial system is very similar to that of the United States. The judiciary is appointed by the political leadership but independent. The judiciary has the power of judicial review. There is a federal system of courts and a state system of courts, and each has its separate jurisdiction. At the top of the federal court system is the Mexican Supreme Court; below that are the circuit courts and below that are federal district courts. These courts have the power to judge cases that deal with federal law. Each state court system has civil and criminal courts, and at the top of each state system is a Superior Court of Justice. Original jurisdiction and appellate jurisdiction are distributed exactly as they are in the United States.

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