In Mexican viral video, innocence and corruption

Mexicans in July pick a successor to President Felipe Calderón, whose 2006 win was credited in part to campaign videos. AP
Mexicans in July pick a successor to President Felipe Calderón, whose 2006 win was credited in part to campaign videos. AP (Mexicans in July)
Posted: April 15, 2012

If this is the future waiting for me, I don't want it."

Spoken by a young girl, those words close Niños Incómodos (Bothersome Children), a video released last week in Mexico to shock, objection, and controversy. It's a viral sensation with more than 2.7 million views.

It has drugs, corruption, violence - and all the actors are children. In the opening, a little boy playing a businessman shuts off his alarm and (in a scene one congressman called "unacceptable") takes a drag on his morning cigarette.

Niños aims to shame a people and their politicians, make an intervention in a country many see as dysfunctional. Like its neighbor to the north, Mexico has a hotly contested presidential election this year. Videos have helped swing Mexican elections before (or so many people believe), and Niños has ignited debate over the power and appropriateness of social media used in politics.

Members of Congress decry its "sensationalism" and its tactics. Presidential candidates take to Twitter in support. Josefina Vázquez Mota of the National Action Party tweets that Niños is "a rallying cry that cannot go unnoticed. I accept the challenge. . . ."

In the four-minute vid ( http://bit.ly/Hwr8P5), narcotraficantes (drug lords) rampage through the city, shooting, robbing, kidnapping. Police and politicians are on the take. Citizens wear masks against the smog. Crowds wave placards saying, "Enough already!" Coyotes transport victims across the border, to wander the deserts or be found and deported.

Arthur Schmidt, professor of history at Temple, says, "The underlying message is: 'Who are the adults and who are the children here? How have we come to this?' "

Stakes are huge in the July 1 vote: the six-year presidency, to replace departing Felipe Calderón; 128 six-year seats in the national Senate; 500 three-year seats in the Chamber of Deputies.

Voters remember the hotly contested 2006 election, which Calderón won by only 0.54 percent of the vote. That summer, a surge of campaign-related videos were widely thought to have helped tilt the balance.

The group behind Niños, Nuestro México del Futuro (Our Future Mexico), which includes the insurance company National Provincial Group (GNP), says it's an alliance calling on "all Mexicans to express their vision of the Mexico in which they'd like to live.Its website invites viewers' ideas, to be put into a book to be given to the candidates.

"It's funded by wealthy men," says Schmidt, "but it's hard to locate its political viewpoint." Conspicuous by its absence, he points out, is "the United States, the chief consumer of the drugs, the chief source of the weapons."

Calderón enjoys approval ratings in the high 50s, and polls suggest people feel somewhat safer. Immigration/emigration remains unresolved, but many credit Calderón with gains in security and education, and in addressing ecological problems such as deforestation.

Despite that, and despite increased U.S.-Mexico cooperation, drug cartels terrorize much of the country, particularly in the north. The murder rate remains among the world's highest. Greenhouse-gas emissions and urban pollution are still monumental, along with poverty and undependable social services.

Miriam Ivette E., of Mexico City, says via Facebook: "The video seems harsh to me, but it's . . . a sad reality that is in our country."   Ana Cervantes, a teacher, musicologist, and pianist living in Guanajuato, says also via Facebook that Niños is "extremely well done," but she laments its grim view. "On the other hand," she writes, "it IS the perception many people here have. . . . I sometimes get the feeling that the news coverage is precisely designed to give us all an inferiority complex about México!" She wishes the good things got more coverage: "We have such incredible potential here."

Slick but emotional, Niños drills to the profound mixture of love and sorrow Mexicans feel toward Mexico. Irba, on the website El Informador, writes, "What a shame to leave this future to the new generation." On YouTube, Carlos Uvalle says, sure, responsibility rests with politicians: "But let's not forget change should also come from the citizens."

It's that very notion Niños seeks to reawaken.


Contact John Timpane

at 215-854-4406 or jt@phillynews.com, or follow

him on Twitter @jtimpane.

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