We started the day with a little café de olla and a mandarina and then headed to the school to work. We met Gosia in the faculty lounge. She asked us if we planned to attend any of the day’s sessions, this being the final official day of the 3er Congreso Internacional de Relaciones Internacionales. We contemplated attending Jon Luckhurst’s presentation with his friend and colleague from Chile on analysis of political discourse, but decided to hold out for the book discussion featuring several authors including one journalist.
The book, funded by the Ford Foundation will be available online free of charge. It is titled, “Security and Defense Atlas of Mexico, 2009.” It features work by 53 writers/editors, many of whom are academics, but others are journalists. One author, Jose Luis Piñeyro, spoke about the connections between drug trafficking and politics. He also spoke about the border region as a region of money, drugs and human trafficking.
Honestly, I had a hard time hearing and understanding many of the speakers, and there were 6 of them. The sound quality was poor (Richard said they had too much bass for the speaker who attended via teleconference calling), many didn’t use the microphone effectively and sometimes they just spoke too fast for my ears and brain to keep up. That being said, I followed just fine when the journalist spoke. Nydia Egremy Pinto, Revista Contralinea, wrote about the threats and dangers to journalists in Mexico as well as access to information. She indicated that 72 journalists have been killed and another 11 have disappeared in recent years. Others have been the victims of personal assaults. Some of her frustrations included gaining access to convenios Mexico signs with other governments. What is the military – both army and navy – doing to combat narco-trafficking? How is the military trained? What materials do they study? Stories on security and defense are of interest to the people in the republic, she said. She has experts who can translate complex information, if needed, so why are there 40 archives that are “reserved”? She wanted access to commercial agreements between the US/Canada/Mexico, but was told the information is in the reserved materials. She considers access to such critical to watchdogging business in Mexico.
Regarding the US/Mexico border, Pinto noted that US intelligence officers cross into Mexico all the time to conduct investigations, but if Mexicans were to do it, it would be considered a crime.
Military, governmental and business archives are all among collections of materials that are “reservados.” Failure to provide the media with access to information is an impediment to democracy, she said.
Following the presentations, we went down to meet the journalist and to congratulate Gosia on a job well done – she had introduced all the speakers and was the easiest one to hear/understand. We were very pleased that Pinto and her colleague, whose name I didn’t get, unfortunately, gave us a printed edition of the book. We were very surprised. The night before, Gosia and I talked about libraries and I told her I worked in libraries for many years before moving into public relations/media writing. The book will be for UNM’s Zimmerman Library. Another gentleman approached us. Raúl Benítez Manaut, investigator at the Research Center on North America, UNAM, had heard of our presentations the day before and was interested, as well. He invited us to participate in an event on border issues being held at UTEP in the next week or so. He’s going to send us some information.
We were getting ready to head out the door, get a little snack and head back to the computer lab, when Gosia stopped us. Would we mind waiting just a moment? There’s a professor who heard about us and our presentation from students and he wanted to meet us. He had been busy with his own conference and hadn’t been able to attend any of our sessions. Dr. Luis Eduardo Zavala de Alba, professor investigator, Graduate School, Public Policy and Public Administration (EGAP), Tec de Monterrey, greeted us. He said that he works at several Tec campuses doing human rights training. He’s a big researcher and has money from the Ford Foundation that has funded human rights programs at both Harvard and Tec de Monterrey. He is interested in doing perhaps 3 day’s human rights training with us and our students during the Cross-Border Issues Group program this summer. He has connections in Guatemala City and that might help us when we’re in that country. Richard suggested that perhaps some of his students might like to participate in our program – we are trying to make it more interdisciplinary to gather various perspectives and present different insights. We suggested if any of his students might be interested that they attend one or the other of the sessions we’re holding with students tomorrow. We’ll see!
We were quite heartened and happy. After a little bit more time in the computer lab, we caught the bus – which stopped so a passenger could hop off and pop into a little store, so I did the same. I got my Coke Zero and was ready for some Añejo once back at Graciela’s. She treated us to our last wonderful meal at her table. It was liver – don’t say “ewwww,” because it was awesome. Richard thought it was veal and it probably was calf’s liver. We also had spaghetti with crema, beans and a wonderful portabello mushroom dish she created. We didn’t linger long at the table, however, because we both wanted to get some work done.
I went upstairs to see if I could get us reservations at Del Principado. Struck out. Looked and looked for a reasonable hotel in the Zona Rosa and finally settled on Suites del Angel on Rio Lerma. We have our reservations and after our final student meeting tomorrow, we head to the heart of Mexico City for a little WR&R: work, rest and relaxation.