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Image and Reality on the Pope's visit to Mexico.


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The only infallible person on earth is in Central America right now, paying a visit to his flock in Mexico and Cuba. The right wing press fawned all over it.

The Daily Mail ran with ‘You've got to take your hat off to him: Pope Benedict delights crowds in Mexico as he pulls on a sombrero for farewell tour’ whilst the Express went for ‘Pope urges Mexicans to seek justice’.

The Mail and the Express however failed in any serious examination on the political situation in Mexico and the Mexican Catholic Church’s support for the disastrous war on drugs. 

Much better analysis comes from Paul Imison. His article ‘Ratzinger in Mexico’ gives you a much clearer analysis into the politics of Mexico and how it involves the Church. In his second paragraph he tells us why the Pope did not visit Mexico City like his predecessor did.

‘In January, it was announced that 84-year old Ratzinger would bypass the Mexican capital on account of the effects of smog and high altitude on his ailing health. The more likely reason was the city’s leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) government, which famously legalized abortion in 2007 and same-sex marriage in 2009; the only federal entity in Mexico to do so.’

The Mail did mention this in article on March 23rd but found the official Vatican line more convincing,the Express failed to mention this. The Mail does highlights some aspects of Mexican politics. The failure of President Felipe Calderon to defeat the cartels (rather than the continued catastrophe of the most unwinnable war of all) and the death of 50,000 people since 2007, all in the name of combating drugs. It wrote. 

‘The president has staked his reputation on beating down the cartels. But the government's inability to stem the gangland violence has eroded support PAN, which faces an uphill struggle to retain the presidency in elections in July.    

Calderon cannot run for re-election and the PAN's candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, trails the presidential front-runner, Enrique Pena Nieto of the opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), by double digits in most opinion polls.’ 

This is a relatively handy summary of the present situation, but what about the Church’s reaction to the war on drugs? Imison has this to add. 

‘The pontiff bemoaned Mexico’s “violence, corruption and lack of morals” – although did not refer to the twin causes of the conflict: vast social inequality and a voracious appetite for drugs north of the border.’

What about the Mexican church feelings on the War on Drugs? Nothing of this in the Mail or Express, Imison yet again answers. 

‘Yet the Mexican church has, for the most part, been a cheerleader for the president’s “war”, despite the condemnation of human rights groups and a civil resistance movement that marched 200,000-strong on Mexico City last May.

Evidence has long linked the Mexican church itself to organized crime. The ties between Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo– famously murdered during a shoot-out between rival narco groups in 1993 – and the Arellano Felix family from Tijuana are well-documented.’

We all remember the exposures of numerous Catholic priests molesting children (as well as more recent exposures). Maybe it would have been reasonable to apply this to Mexico, the Mail and the Express did not think so. Imison did. He wrote.

‘Those millions of Mexicans who could care less for the Catholic Church – and there are more than would likely admit it – might also have asked Ratzinger to comment on the slew of sex-abuse complaints made against members of the country’s clergy. In fact, the papal visit coincided with the launch of a book by a group of priests who in 1998 brought charges against Legion of Christ founder Marciel Maciel for having abused them when they were seminarians. “La voluntad de no saber” (“The Will not to Know”) includes powerful evidence that the Vatican knew of the notorious Maciel’s alter-ego – drug addict, paedophile – decades before it acted. Maciel was “disciplined” by Joseph Ratzinger in 2005 and died three years later.’

Here you can see a great example of the inadequacies of the mainstream media. You get the basics but not much else. This is what Noam Chomsky would no doubt call ‘the narrow framing of issues’.* Can the Pope’s visit to Mexico be an example of Chomsky’s propaganda model?

*Not an exact quote, but see Manufacturing Consent or Media Control where he says the same sort of thing.

(Disclaimer – I only used the Mail and the Express, would be happy for people to show me an example of me being wrong on this by giving me a reference to a mainstream newspaper saying the same thing as Imison.)

Daily Mail articles.


Daily Express articles.


Paul Imison’s article.


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