Mexico telecoms reform hits world’s richest man

A new telecommunications reform that was presented in Mexico by the government of Enrique Peña Nieto has been heralded worldwide.  The reform bill seeks to amend the Mexican Constitution and will open the telephony and television industries. The changes had been recommended last year by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation  and Development, which said the lack of competition in the telecommunications sector cost Mexico $25 billion dollars a year and offered among the highest prices in the world to consumers.

The Mexican Congress’ lower house approved the law on Thursday March 21 and the Mexican Senate is expected to approve it in April.  The version approved opens radio, television and telecommunications to foreign investment.  The reform was presented to Congress in February, a feat reached by the Pact for Mexico, a multi-party front that seeks to introduce major reforms in the country. In the Mexican Congress, the bill was revised considerably by legislators. For instance, at the onset, the proposal would have allowed 100 per cent foreign investment in radio, television and telecommunications.  But after two weeks of congressional tinkering, the law was restricted. In the approved version of the bill, foreign investment in radio and television is now limited to 49 per cent, although it could be higher — if the foreign company is from a country that offers reciprocal treatment to Mexicans. Fixed line telephony and cellular phone is set at 100 percent. The bill will impact Carlos Slim, now owner of Telmex, a fixed line telephony company that controls most of the country’s fixed lines, and Telcel, the country’s largest cellular telephone company.

The multi-milllion dollar open, non-cable television spectrum in Mexico is controlled by two media giants, Televisa and Azteca Television, which have controlled open waves for several decades.

The bill also creates a new regulatory body that will be functioning in 2014.

Critics such as Ernesto Villanueva welcomed the bill’s recognition of community radio in Proseco Magazine, but worried about the future of such local media, because the law does not permit them to seek publicity.  The World Association of Community Radios, AMARC, urged the Mexican Congress to protect the rights of marginalised communities.

When asked his opinion about the reform, Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man, according to Forbes, said he welcomed the reform which will improve broadband, telephone and television and radio industries in Mexico. Since the reform was made public, stock prices for America Movil, Slim’s company plummeted causing $6 billion dollars in losses.

“Crime-inducing” miniskirts banned in Mexican border town

Ciudad Acuña, a tiny town on the Mexican side of Del Rio, Texas, has been in the news regularly because of drug-related violence.  The town,  resides in the state of Coahuila, which has been dominated by the ultra-violent Zetas. A competing organised crime group, the Sinaloa Cartel has been trying to take control of this territory in recent months, creating a surge of violence. Just last October, Jose Eduardo Moreira Rodriguez, the son of Humberto Moreira, a high-ranking politician from the Partido Institucional Revolucionario (PRI) and former governor of the state of Cohauila was kidnapped and killed, a drug cartel with the cooperation of a top police official.

But police in this city have decided to focus on a more serious threat — miniskirts. General Javier Aguayo y Camargo, head of public security in this embattled border town and a retired army brigadier, has  ordered a ban on women and men wearing miniskirts, imposing an 800 peso fine (about £42) on those who disobey.

He said the bill was aimed at transvestites and prostitutes, rather than women in general. Wearing miniskirts, according to Agudelo, violates the decency and well being of residents of Ciudad Acua, and can also be used to “commit several sorts of crimes,” including luring kidnapping victims, and men using bathrooms intended for the opposite sex.

The police will allow prostitutes to wear mini skirts and other tiny attire in the red light district. But if they attempt to venture into downtown areas dressed in such a manner, they will be taken to jail for up to 36 hours, said local police.

About 50 people have been taken to jail since the edict was put into motion a few weeks ago. Aguayo y Camargo has deflected criticism, saying he is only following the law under Article 42 of the Public Morality code.

Mexican teacher fired for showing gay rights film

A 28-year-old middle school teacher at a private school in Mexico City has been fired after showing her students the 2008 film Milk, which tells the story of gay rights activist Harvey Milk, who was murdered in San Francisco in the 1970s. Mexico’s capital has been celebrated as a champion of gay rights in the region, permitting civil unions in 2006 and approving gay marriage in 2009. However, the scandal around the dismissal of the teacher, Cecilia Hernandez, shows some of the ongoing battles for gay rights in the city.

Until December last year, Hernandez was an adjunct professor of civics and ethics at Lomas Hill middle school, which serves a well-heeled community on the outskirts of Mexico City. In a telephone interview, Hernandez said the dismissal surprised her,  since she was only “following Mexican educational standards”. According to Mexico’s Education Ministry guidelines, teachers in public and private schools should provide lessons on tolerance and against discrimination.

The film was given  a B15 rating in Mexico, deeming it appropriate for viewers older than 15 years old.  While Hernandez´s students were 13 and 14 years old, a B15 rating stipulates that younger viewers can see the film if an adult is present. “For me it was important that my students watched this movie. We had agreed to show the least explicit parts of the film and I was there to explain to them the meaning of the movie,” said Hernandez.

Initially, the teacher planned to show the film to three of her scheduled classes, allowing a period of discussion during every session. However, students during the initial screening were riled up with the film, and asked the teacher to stop the screening and change the assignment. A few students made derogatory statements about homosexuals — and according to Hernandez, one of them was the nephew of the school’s prinicipal, Annette Muench.

Following class Hernandez received an angry email from Muench,  calling the film “filth”, and accusing the teacher of showing the film without her approval.

Hernandez says she went through the correct procedure to show the controversial film. “I never had any problems with this school. I wrote them a list of my school activities and they never objected to my lesson plans,” she said.

Later that week, Hernandez was welcomed by two security guards when she arrived to school. She was held for two hours against her will before being reprimanded by Muench in front of the staff and student body. She was eventually escorted off of school grounds.

Shortly after being fired, Hernandez blasted the decision on Twitter, and her account of the incident went viral. It soon turned into a personal showdown between the school principal and Hernandez. Muench accused Hernandez of embarrassing her and of promoting pornography among innocent children.

Hernandez  says Lomas Hill pride itself on their reputation as a school that protects the rights of all children and favors education for children with special needs. “My students were always very open to the rights of others,” she said.

A petition calling for a public apology from the school has now garnered more than 80,000 signatures, but the school refuses to budge on the matter. Mexico’s federal anti-discrimination agency, CONAPRED, has now taken on her case.

Newspaper offices attacked in Mexico

Another attack targeting the Mexican media was carried out on 29 July. The Monterrey-based offices of the regional daily El Norte, a newspaper owned by the Reforma publishing group, were set on fire by armed men late on Sunday. It was the third attack on one of the daily’s offices in the past month. The office attacked Sunday covers the weddings and community events of the elite living in the upper-class enclave of Monterrey’s San Pedro Garza Garcia.