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Column 123112 Wall

Monday, December 31, 2012

Mexico (and the World) Rings Out 2012 and Rings In 2013

By Allan Wall

The end of one calendar year and the beginning of another is an occasion for reflection and analysis. This is certainly the case for Mexico, which has a new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who began a six-year term on December 1st.

How will a Peña Nieto presidency be different from the previous Felipe Calderon administration?

The Mexican economy is not doing badly. The country has a 4% growth rate, a 4% inflation rate, and in the past year 700,000 jobs were created in the formal economy. Also, Mexico is not overwhelmed with debt as is the U.S. Hopefully the Mexican middle class will grow more, drawing more Mexicans out of poverty. Fundamentally though, the economic situation Peña Nieto inherits from Calderon is solid.

One issue that can't be ignored is that of security, with the ongoing drug cartel war. It's been estimated that during the past six years 70,000 were killed in the drug war, while over 20,000 Mexicans simply went missing, though it's not proven that all the disappeared were victims of the drug war. Still, whatever the reasons, it's a security disaster.

On December 17th, President Peña Nieto announced his new security policy. It includes the establishment of a new federal police, distinct from the current one. This new force, or gendarmerie, would take over the security duties currently being performed by the Mexican military. The plan also includes an elevation of the Attorney General post, and the investment of money in crime prevention programs.

It's also thought that the new president's approach would depend more on general security and less on going after heads of the cartels, which tend to fragment. A recent estimate by the Mexican government calculates that there are 60 to 80 drug cartels in the country. This figure would include many smaller, regional cartels. The biggest two are the Sinaloa and Zeta gangs.

As for Peña Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon, he's now in the United States. Just three days after leaving office on December 1st, Calderon and wife Margarita were landing at Newark's Liberty Airport (in New Jersey), where they were greeted by Carlos Sada, the Mexican Consul of New York. Calderon is to reside in Cambridge, Massachusetts and serve as a fellow in Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. Calderon is participating in a new fellowship at the school, specifically for former government leaders. In fact, Calderon is the first leader to participate in the program, in which his time is to be spent in lectures, writing, meetings with faculty and students, and the development of case studies based on his term as President of Mexico (2006-2012).

The long-awaited date of December 21st, 2012 has now come and gone, without major incident. For decades the hysteria had been building up in "New Age" circles, over this supposed cataclysmic date, in various countries of the world. This hysteria was mostly driven not by scholars of Maya culture or the contemporary Maya, but by New Age gurus, some of whom must have made real money off of it.

Even the purveyors of the supposed prediction, however, weren't in agreement. Some predicted the end of the world through various means, others a major catastrophe that might be survived, while others, hedging their bets, foretold a change in "cosmic consciousness" or something like that.

When the day finally arrived, nothing directly related happened, except for things caused by the hysteria itself. Thousands of tourists visited Maya archaeological sites in southeastern Mexico. There were also many visitors at the Teotihuacan site near Mexico City, not a Maya site but a focus of much New Age attention.

At the Tikal Maya archaeological site in Guatemala, one of its famous pyramids, known as Temple II, was irreparably damaged by tourists who climbed on it. They really weren't supposed to be climbing on it, but maybe they let themselves be carried away by their New Age fervor.

Many people visited the Chichen Itza ruins in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. For example, North Carolina radio host Jonah Bolt was there and declared, "It is a transformation, the dawning of the Age of Aquarius." Bolt had brought a large quartz with him to "download" energy from the archaeological site.

Another North Carolinian on the scene was a man with a long, grey beard who calls himself "Raja Merk Dove," and claims to be an "interplanetary ambassador." Believing that aliens helped construct the Chichen Itza site, Raja Merk Dove was hoping they would visit on the special day, proclaiming that "I envision on a higher plane, or whatever our reality is, that extraterrestrials and their spaceships will come and land on top of the pyramid or wherever the landing site is, and that they will come and mingle with the people, bringing new information, new knowledge, new blessings. This is one of those dates. If humanity is ready for that, it can happen today. If humanity is not quite ready, it will happen at a future date."

December 21st must have been a very entertaining day for the real Maya, the local people, some of whom make their living off archaeological-based tourism. A local Maya who sells obsidian figurines and souvenir knives to tourists summed it up this way, "It's pure Hollywood."

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Allan Wall, an educator, resided in Mexico for many years.  His website is located at http://www.allanwall.info/.

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