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From my workplace: Intelectual property

Submitted by gwolf on Thu, 08/25/2005 - 14:24
I work in a technical role at the Institute for Economics Research in UNAM, Mexico's largest university. This is an institute with relatively low computer awareness, although with a slight (or not so?) left-leaning political balance. I have found some points with which I can engage in interesting conversations with people here, but still, I am still amazed when I see something directly related to my Free Software interest areas. Today, I got in the institute's mailing list the link to a simple but interesting article called Intellectual-property rights and wrongs, written by the 2001 Nobel winner Joseph E. Stiglitz - It speaks about the common conceptions (and misconceptions) about intellectual property, and how the Free Software (well, I must admit - he used the "Open Source" wording) has proved many of its principles wrong. But even more, he goes on talking on how the strong IP protection can hinder development, how patents can be wrongly assigned (and how they have halted development even in industrial areas, even 100 years ago), and how IP protection is killing thousands of medication-deprived people. Nice article to point people at :)
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This left or the other one?

Submitted by gwolf on Fri, 08/12/2005 - 13:04
Some of you might remember I posted back in June about the red alert in Chiapas issued by the Zapatistas. Some people approached me at Debconf, asking for my opinion on the current state of my country - And I have not posted a peep about it since then. We have received all kinds of messages from the actors involved - Some quite contradictory. All in all, the EZLN declared this alert in order to be prepared in case there was an attack, as there once was under similar conditions, and to get the attention. Some days later, they announced they reached the conclusion to be more active also outside their very limited sphere of direct involvement, that is, the well-being and non-discrimination for the indian people in Mexico, and specifically in Chiapas because of their influence. Ok, we didn't really know what this was about. Only some time later we started getting news that made many of us quite anxious: The EZLN, through Marcos, was harshly criticizing everybody in the PRD, the only semi-leftist party that has real strength in the country. The more prominent somebody is, the worse the criticism becomes. Why is the EZLN attacking the only important party that might tilt the things, at least a little bit, to their side? Because that's the curse of the left: It always disgregates between competing little factions. I cannot say I completely support the PRD - Not by a long shot. I, as many people, will vote for it as it is the lesser of all evils. I prefer a semi-centrist semi-leftist demagogic and opportunist president to a repressive tyrannical anacrhonistic PRI dinosaur or with a ultraconservative religious extract of the most useless government we have ever had. Yesterday I read in La Jornada a letter by Marcos, answering to one of many people who have questioned his attacks. As always: He is a brilliant writer, and reading this letter does bring you to his side of the argument. He is a master of propaganda - And by that, I do not mean I don't agree with him or with EZLN's views. It just... It saddens me that, whoever plays, politics is still the same. And this will only benefit the PRI/PAN - EZLN knows how to wait, how to be careful. I know they want to keep the sanest distance from any of the parties that make up the Mexican government a nest of corruption and unfaithfulness it now is. I do hope the PRD wins - And I do hope they do not disappoint their supporters as our current government has. Defeating the traditional power is a tremendous struggle, and it will need unity from the forces in the left - We need to send a clear message to the undecided voters, we need to gather as much trust as possible. I know EZLN should not shut up and should dennounce when the PRD has played the evil role... But it should be more careful not to push voters to the right. As a final remark: I love the way Rocha puts it. [update] Much to my surprise, and contrary to the site's tradition, I must admit that this thread in Cofradia has some interesting comments ;-)
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Red alert in Chiapas

Submitted by gwolf on Wed, 06/22/2005 - 18:20
Who the fuck knows what our government is up to now? Regarding the indigenous rebellion that started (in the eyes of the world) in 1994, our oh-so-dear government has played a stupid but very effective tactics: The Mushroom principle: Keep them in the dark, feed them with shit. This rebellion, where the Zapatist Army for National Liberation jumped to the spotlights, is very different from what you will find in many other countries in this region - and that's why the EZLN was not crushed on its first days. This insurgent army is not about toppling a government and seizing power - It is about bringing decent life and equal rights to the indigenous population of my country. Seems easy, yes, but it is such a fundamental and radical change that it has had the political class for over 10 years in a stalemate. First of all: EZLN is not a violent guerrilla. Much to the contrary, it is a peaceful group. They resorted to an insurrection as that was the only way to get any attention - but the fight lasted for only 12 days. There has been a truce since then (except for two sad but very short periods). The government has set up many paramilitary groups (the guardias blancas) to weaken them and to scare the population. There have been important killings (the largest one, over 40 women and children, in Acteal, 22-12-1997). But the EZLN is about dialogue, not about power. Two years after the rebellion, in 1996, the rebels and the government signed the San Andrés Larráinzar agreements, in which the government agreed to pass a law granting freedom and recognition to the traditional organizations and ways of self-government for the indigenous population all over the country. The problem was, it was never implemented. The actual president, Vicente Fox, made a promise when he was on campaign: I will solve the Chiapas conflict in 15 minutes. As a side note, Fox has been the most prolific contributor to the Mexican folklore in the last 50 years, overshadowing great contributors such as López Portillo (Defenderé al peso como un perro) and even Luis Echeverría (No es ni bueno ni malo, sino que todo lo contrario). Fox is a master of words and responsability evasion, as we can easily witness in this Vicente Fox phrasebook. Well, back on topic. Last Sunday, Subcomandante Marcos published the (impossible) geometry(?) of the power in Mexico, a harsh criticism of basically every politician out there - specially of some of the worst aspects of López Obrador (the only one from the left wing, however centrist he is, with real possibilites of being elected). One day later, a general red alert was announced in the Zapatista area. The caracoles and the juntas de buen gobierno were closed, friends of the movement were asked to leave. Simultaneously, the biggest army movilization since 2001 into Chiapas was reported, although it has been continuously denied by any high-ranking officers. The army reports it found large plantings of marihuana in the Zapatista-influenced area. It is not even surprising for us: the areas they talk about are not Zapatista at all. Today, the Zapatistas announced their reason for the red alert: The EZLN is having an internal consultation regarding their reorganization, and is freeing whoever wants to leave them from any responsabilities in their future path. And why a red alert? Because the last time they had a consultation, in February 1995, the truce was broken by the Mexican Armed Forces. I don't know what comes next. I am posting this in good part due to [friend]Alex[/friend]'s pressure - It is important to get the word going, to spread the news before -as it often happens- our practically-state-controled duopoly spreads false news. So, help spread the word in any language you know. The Zapatista movement has gained tremendous support from people all over the world, and thanks to person-to-person communication and the pressure coming from around the globe, they are still around, demanding their right to live with dignity. Just a couple of final links: Natorro's article, explaining this situation with more background information, Narconews' Mexico: The False Narco-Smear Against the Zapatistas, the overly stupid reaction of our politicians to the recent events, and -more general- Frente Zapatista de Liberación Nacional will surely keep us informed (unless they are attacked again, as it happened on Monday), and -as not everything must be that serious- the beautiful lyrics of Oscar Chávez's Chiapas record, to which I am currently listening.
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Is my president disconnected from reality?

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 05/23/2005 - 12:24
That is the only plausible explanation I can find... Vicente Fox and his team are continuously telling things are better in every possible aspect. Supposedly, more jobs are created every day - Of course, strongly aided by his ridiculous microcredit program, which has given a total of (according to the Presidency's own good news website) 700 million pesos (around 63 million dollars) to 1.3 million families - That gives us a whooping average of 538 pesos (48 dollars) per family! Maybe that'll be enough to buy a carbon stove and large pot, the needed material to sit outside a Metro station and sell tamales... Meanwhile, the Economist Intelligence Unit (from The Economist - Not exactly a left-wing group) reports that during the four and a half years that Fox has ruled here not a single formal job has been created. And that surprises nobody - this government has seen a huge increase of the informal economy - People selling whatever goods they can get a hold of in the streets, with no social security, no medical care, no security for the future... But this seems to be good, they say... Now, last week we all heard Fox's infortunate declarations: A proud president defends his conationals working -mainly as illegal immigrants- in the USA, saying that they do jobs that not even black people want. Yup. We were all stunned at his ability to screw up over and over. He never apologized - The only thing heard after this was that his secretary said his comments were misinterpreted and were no racist at all. He was even visited by anti-racist fighter Jessee Jackson, who invited Fox to his radio program in Chicago. Our president was proudly there - But Fox seems to be unable to be publicly sorry. And even so, the Presidency's site lists this intervention as a notable achievement. Many people talk about foxilandia. That's a term I have refused to use... But it seems this man's idiocy is as real as portrayed. 19 months to go. For the first time ever, there is a chance our next president can come from the left-wing opposition (well... Cárdenas won in 1988 and everybody knows that - But that chance was sadly smashed). As bad as López Obrador can seem, he just cannot be worse than what we have had for the past 74 years.
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A whole country on one street

Submitted by gwolf on Mon, 04/25/2005 - 11:57
Yesterday I attended one of the largest (if not the largest at all) political demonstrations in Mexico's history. As I have previously mentioned in my blog, the federal government wants to get rid of the strongest presidential candidate for the 2006 elections - And, although we have gone a long way from the 1970s politics, with a strong and authoritarian one-party system, the temptation to fall back to it (or to a very similar emulation of it) is too strong. López Obrador was impeached on April 7. Now, there is no certain opinion on whether, besides the juridical immunity, he lost his governorship on our city - Most jurists point out that he will only lose his authority once a judge declares there is a penal process against him. Right now, around 9 million people (the inhabitants of Distrito Federal, roughly one third of the inhabitants of Mexico City) don't have a local government. Nadezhda and I spent the previous night together with Irma and Susana, printing around 70 T-shirts stating We are building a democracy, please excuse the inconvenience. We finished at about 5:30AM, finally went to sleep at 6:00, and one hour later we woke up to get everything ready and in place. We then left, together with my father, to meet with our group of friends at the National Auditorium. I do consider myself as a supporter of López Obrador. I do want to see him as our next president. Yes, he has done some very wrong things, but overall he is a much cleaner candidate than most other politicians. However, we walked together with many people who were not in favour of López Obrador - People who just wanted our political rights to be respected. I was surprised at my father being so enthusiast about this demonstration, as he has been completely apolitical (out of lack of trust in the system - he only got his voting card two years ago as it is right now the only universally accepted ID document we Mexicans have, and has not voted in over 30 years). I was also surprised at walking next to my friend [friend]negrabarba[/friend], a strong critic of anything political. update: I just read even my right-winged friend Pop was there. If you talk Spanish, take a look at this entry in Cofradia. How many people were we? Nobody will ever know... This was, yes, something huge - Even the most right-wing media (such as Monitor) acknowledge we were over 600,000. In my favorite newspaper (and, no wonder, a newspaper often seen as the left-wing official divulgation media) says we were 1,200,000 people demonstrating against this abuse of authority. This number is also held by El Universal, which also compares the number to the population of the state of Zacatecas or to Mauritania. I laughed at Crónica's coverage, stating in whatever way they could that this was not that impressive - They just compared a picture of this demonstration to a picture of last june's demonstration against insecurity, widely perceived as a right-wing demonstration - I don't understand what they tried to show. Both were huge, and we cannot really compare them... But I know of many people who attended both, in the end both basically demand our rights as citizens. I do remember exhaustive media coverage back then, compared to basically none this time (the attention was all directed to the new Pope's first mass, my family says only ocassional shots of the demonstration were aired). Whatever, let's say we were 900,000, a middle point... I do have some numbers to share (you can take a look at the Reforma map to locate the points I mention, starting from the extreme left (Auditorio Nacional) - I doubt the map is on scale, but it will give you a rough idea), as we were at the very end of the group: We started at the National Auditorium, a long way behind the supposed meeting point (the Anthropology Museum). By the time we started moving, the head of the group was already at Zócalo (as we heard via the security personnel's radios). Shortly before we reached the Monumento a los Niños Héroes, the speeches began, indicating the Zócalo was basically full. We kept slowly moving. López Obrador's speech finished when we were passing by Ángel de la Independencia. That means, at least five kilometers packed with people. We kept walking until we got to Av. Juárez, and went back home to rest. So, in the end, one out of every 25 inhabitants of this city took part in this demonstration. It was not, as it was planned, a silent demonstration - of course, that'd be impossible being it that large. But anyway, if one million people with their feet aching cannot make our federal government rethink its virtual coup, we will keep moving, working for this country to move forward, to get out of the dark ages in which it still lives. Update thanks to Natorro: Around the world: Toulouse, Berlin, New York, Sydney, London, San Francisco, Brazil, Barcelona. ¿Anybody else? update2: Visit Mauricio José Schwarz's blog.
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Mexican politics - fraud before the elections coming up

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 04/05/2005 - 11:41
This is still not a fact... But it will soon be. We were so proud on July 2000 as we had finally beaten the eternal PRI and its perfect dictatorship. The hope, though, didn't last long. Our shiny new president made the most hilarious bunch of promises about what would happen in the Government of the Change - And as soon as he assumed the power (December 1, 2000), he started breaking them one after another. I remember particularly talking with a good friend of mine who went to study for six months in Spain. It was March 2001. I was telling him of the stupidity of the new government, when the Zapatista representatives started a march through various states until reaching the country's capital. My friend asked me how stupid could the Zapatistas be, by defying Mexico's most popular person - Well, my friend did not feel this as he was away, but we had only seen three months of his rule, but his approval rate had descended over 20%. The Zapatista movement has been waiting on the government to act, to honor his word, since the last official cease-fire (1995, IIRC). The government (quoting ex-president Salinas) does not see them, does not hear them. Well, this shiny new president Fox promised that he'd solve the Zapatista conflict in 15 minutes - He did nothing. He did not talk to them, he did not listen to them... But he says that Chiapas is now again peaceful and prosper. Of course it is, but thanks to the EZLN, which is not your everyday killing and kidnapping guerrilla, but a real national reivindication movement. ...But I will not talk more about the EZLN, as they are not the reason for me being angry. Fox's government has showed us over four years of ineptitude, of broken promises, of going back to the corruption and power abuse levels of the Echeverría-López Portillo docena trágica, the dirtiest 12 years of our country's politics (1970-1982) and the beginning of the continuous crisis we have faced since. Back in the day, the elections were seen as a simple joke. PRI politicians knew they could get whoever they wanted to power, they could remove anybody who fell from their grace, and did so with complete impunity. This changed radically in 1988, when the Frente Democrático Nacional (National Democratic Front) led by ex-PRI-member Cuauhtemoc Cárdenas challenged the most obvious fraud we had ever seen. After 1988, we had 12 years of slow but steady steps towards democracy - And we all thought that in 2000, when for the first time in over 70 years the PRI became opposition, we were already a democratic country. Our new government has, though, reinforced the almighty figure of the President, and has re-adopted the fraudulent techniques of the past, reaching a new level. By far, both Cárdenas and Mexico City's major, Andrés Manuel López Obrador are not my favourite people to run the country. They both (as many other important people in their party) were very prominent figures in the PRI until the mid-1980s. They display many sick attitudes that I do not want to see in a president - But then again, every single politician in this country seems, as we say, to have been cut using the same mold. Since early 2001, when López Obrador started appearing ahead in basically every popularity poll, all sorts of discredit has been tried against him. But, once the holders of the power found they could not undermine his popularity, things started becoming dirtier: As this guy will be tough to beat in the elections, it's much better not to allow them to run for president in 2006. A whole mess has been created around the very vague issue of Predio El Encino. It has been shown that the judge's resolution has been honored. It has been shown that the limits of El Encino are not clear - they are not even important!. However, this week we will witness the desafuero (removal of the privileges given by law to an elected authority) that PRI+PAN have seeked for long months. I do hate the victim personality that López Obrador has built thanks to this, I hate the way he has been showing himself as the savior of legality, I hate to see he might be no better than anybody else... But I cannot stand still while the rulers once again remove a legitimate candidate from their way for something that irrelevant, while the real lawbreakers (the first examples that come to my mind are Morelos' governor Sergio Estrada Cajigal has proven links to drug dealers and his state's congress has requested his removal from office, or the tens of PRI leaders involved in the Pemexgate affair. It seems we are stuck in our nice little banana republic. It seems we still have to fight to get back to the point we were at a couple of years ago. NO AL GOBIERNO FASCISTA NO AL DESAFUERO NO A LA CANALLADA
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It feels like Europe down here...

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 03/08/2005 - 10:53
My country is slowly but steadily becoming more and more like Europe. No, it is not because Mexico suddenly became a free, democratic and advanced nation - it is because Europe is becoming more and more a banana republic. Europeans: Don't let the antidemocratic Council (not elected by you) get away with it. Don't let it overturn a decision made by the European Parliament, an elected and legitimate body. If this corrupt initiative does not pass, it will be thanks to the government and people of Denmark and Poland. Thank you very much!
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