2014-11-26

Why so many Mexicans want the president to resign?

I do not think that the resignation of our president Enrique Peña Nieto would be positive in the short term. Instability probably would increase. But I want to share why so many people are asking for his resignation, also because the news are not even reaching the majority of the Mexican population.

Peña had a controversial campaign, with thousands of reported electoral irregularities . After two years in office, the violence in the country continues, and many other promises are still to be materialized.

But all this is normal Mexican politics. Previous presidents in similar situations have not met such a rejection from the national and international communities.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the dissapearance and possible murder of 43 students in the village of Ayotzinapa, in the southern state of Guerrro (Acapulco is also in that state, and was last year the 3rd most violent city in the world). The students were intecepted by the local police, there were 6 killed and 25 injured survivors. It seems that the former mayor, his wife, and the head of police were involved. They fled, were arrested a month later, but investigations are still underway.
This occurred already two months ago. The governor resigned, the president has made some declarations, but there is still huge discontent, represented in social media by the hashtag #YaMeCanse https://twitter.com/hashtag/yamecanse (IAmAlreadyTired)

On november 20th, anniversary of the Mexican Revolution, there were worldwide demonstrations. In Mexico City's main square, 11 people were arrested and have been treated as terrorists. There have been further demonstrations demanding the release of the 11 arrested.

To add insult to injury, there has been a huge scandal about a $7 million house, allegedly to the name of the president’s wife Angélica Rivera (former soap opera actress) with indicators that it was acquired with deviated public money. No investigations of course, just a video declaration which has been already used to teach how to detect when people are lying.

Perhaps the main problem is that the government, trying to control some of the media, has not made explicit declarations about what is going on. So rumors spread easily and people don't know what to believe. This lack of credibility of the Mexican government has been highlighted by major international media, while the future of the country lies in uncertainty.


2014-11-15

Winners of the Audi Urban Future Award 2014

On November 10th, a day after the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, our team Living Mobilities from Mexico City was declared winner of the third edition of the Audi Urban Future Award. Together with José Castillo (team leader, watch the video from his final presentation) from Arquitectura 911 and Gabriella Gómez-Mont from the Laboratorio para la Ciudad, we were proud and delighted to be declared winners by an international jury, considering the great proposals presented by the teams from Berlin, Boston, and Seoul.




Our project proposes to create a new social contract, assisted by technology, to improve mobility not only in terms of efficiency, but also in terms of quality of life. This focusses on Mexico City, but has the potential to be extended to other megacities in Latin America, Asia, and Africa. We have a big city with small data, so we aimed at coordinating government, institutions, companies, and individuals to become "data donors". We've had considerable success, and with this opportunity we will extend our partnerships and to offer benefits, in particular to data donors, in general to the city.

The competition was very tight. Perhaps what inclined the balance in our favor was the timescale. Even when some aspects are futuristic, we arleady began implementing some of our proposals, so the impact can be much more immediate.

I am very grateful for this opportunity, for being able to participate and collaborate with a great multidisciplinary team of highly talented people. Apart from José and Gabriella, I am grateful to Mónica Arzoz, Roberto Ascencio, Stalin Muñoz, Daniel Pérez Tello, Christopher Chávez, Ricardo Mansilla, Humberto Del Ángel, Francisco Botello, José Luis Chávez, Luis Alberto Ceja. Josué López, Jaime López, Keylin Ortiz, and Jorge Tinoco. I am also grateful to the fruitful interactions with Christian Gärtner, Sophie Stigliano, Sara Mortarino, and the rest of the team at Stylepark, and also to Lisa Füting, Jutta Firsch, Annegret Maier, Rainer Stahlmann, and many other people at Audi with whom we had fruitful interactions.

OK, we won, now the hard work begins, as part of the prize involves extending the proposal into 2015. This will be an unique opportunity to explore ways in which we can improve cities, collaborating with many more partners.

2014-11-12

Falling Walls

I was just in Berlin for the first time, for the Award Ceremony of the Audi Urban Future Award 2014 (which we won! But that will be the topic of another post). The organizers had the great idea to make the ceremony coincide with the Falling Walls Conference and the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Incidentally, just before I was in Ensenada for another conference, and on the way to Tijuana airport our hosts took us to the border wall by the sea. That is another city marked by a wall, which although permeable, it separates and divides people. So many touching stories you can hear, I've been reflecting these days how states decisions can affect so much the life of individuals. On the other hand, the fall of the wall is an example of how individuals can change states.

A photo posted by Carlos Gershenson (@cgershen) on

I met some Germans for the first time fifteen years ago, from my generation. Whenever there was mention about the war, I perceived shame in them, even when they were born long after it occurred. I was positively impressed by the speeches these days of Angela Merkel (Angie, as the locals call her... Did we ever had a political leader in Mexico called by a tender name? ) and the Mayor of Berlin. They reflect an acceptance of their history and legacy which is not shameful, nor proud, but now an example from which we can and should learn from.

In the night of the 9th, thousands of balloons placed where the old wall was were freed into the air, a "flying wall". If I undrstood properly the speech of the mayor, these balloons represent a message of hope from Berlin to the world, so that never again a regime opresses and separates people. Ironically, now there are many more walls in the world than when the one in Berlin fell 25 years ago, mainly to prevent immigration... Hopefully we will live to see most of them come down.
A photo posted by Carlos Gershenson (@cgershen) on
This reminds me of a thought which originated during a conversation with Stu Kauffman a few months ago: "Science is moving from trying to predict Nature to dominate it, to science as a means to understand Nature and take our place in the cosmos". It seems to me that building walls we are not assuming our place, but trying to impose our stiff ideas over others, and that breaks the natural order of things, which of course leads to suffering.