Banning a documentary film has resulted in even more people seeing it
Mar 31st 2011 | MEXICO CITY
Sent behind bars with a yawn and a sneer
“PRESUMED GUILTY”, a documentary film which was released in Mexico in February and banned two weeks later, is the opposite of a whodunit. From the beginning it is clear that Antonio Zúñiga, a mild-mannered computer-repairman, had nothing to do with the murder that took place near his Mexico City market stall in 2005. Forensic tests were negative; fellow stallholders gave him an alibi; the one supposed witness could not even describe his appearance. This quietly angry film, which has been shown at film festivals over the past couple of years, is a detective story in reverse, following Mr Zúñiga’s difficult, dignified fight to overturn his conviction.
It sets out to shame Mexico’s justice system, and succeeds twice. After the prosecution witness in Mr Zúñiga’s trial made a dubious complaint that the film invaded his privacy, a judge suspended screenings on March 2nd. But the ban, seen as an attempt to suppress an embarrassment, has backfired gloriously. In the days before it kicked in, multiplexes were jam-packed. More than 1m tickets have been sold, making it by far the most successful documentary in Mexico’s history. Pirate DVD hawkers stock it alongside Hollywood blockbusters.
The president and first lady split up—leaving her free to run for office
Mar 24th 2011 | GUATEMALA CITY
TO AVOID the dynasties that have misruled many Latin American countries, Guatemala’s constitution forbids relatives of the incumbent president and vice-president from running for high office. This clause had seemed to scotch the chances of Sandra Torres, the country’s ambitious first lady, becoming its first presidenta. But on March 21st she and her husband, Álvaro Colom, announced a novel way to sidestep the rules: they filed for divorce.
Rather than being a sign of marital discord, the parting looks much more likely to have sprung from political unity. Speaking last month, Mr Colom gushed over his wife’s leadership skills and the “impressive passion” she inspired. On March 8th Ms Torres declared that she would run as the candidate of National Unity of Hope (UNE), her husband’s party. Candidates can register from May 2nd, and the election will be held in September.
Billionaires feud over converging television and telecoms markets
Mar 17th 2011 | MEXICO CITY
What’s on television tonight? Nada, as usual
MEXICO’S telephone and television industries are near-monopolies. About 80% of landlines are connected to Telmex, one of many companies controlled by Carlos Slim, the world’s richest man. Another of Mr Slim’s firms, Telcel, has 70% of the mobile-phone market. A second-division billionaire, Emilio Azcárraga, maintains almost as tight a grip on the television business, in which his company, Televisa, claims 70% of the country’s free-to-air TV audience. Most other viewers are mopped up by TV Azteca, run by Ricardo Salinas, the country’s fourth-richest tycoon.
The Mexican billionaires’ club has long been cosy. Apart from some sporting rivalry between the two broadcasters, there has been little reason for members to intrude on each other’s captive markets. Until now. On March 9th a group of 25 companies led by Televisa and TV Azteca filed a complaint with the competition authorities against Mr Slim’s telephone empire. Full-page newspaper ads denounced the industry’s “expensive and bad monopoly”.
Many now have reason to want Manuel Zelaya to come home
Mar 10th 2011 | TEGUCIGALPA
SINCE the confused morning in June 2009 when its president was marched to the airport at gunpoint and sent packing, Honduras has been creeping back towards something resembling normal political life. Porfirio Lobo, a conservative who was elected president in a reasonably fair contest five months after the coup, is popular at home. Most of the world now recognises his government, meaning that the vital tap of international grants and loans to one of the poorest and most violent countries in the Americas has been turned back on. Last year the Honduran economy was restored to growth, which many forecasters think will accelerate this year and next.
Yet political life in Tegucigalpa, the higgledy-piggledy mountain capital, cannot get back to normal until relations are patched up with Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, the left-wing former president, who remains in exile in the Dominican Republic. As long as Mr Zelaya is away, a hard core of governments, including Brazil, Argentina and left-wing allies of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, will have nothing to do with Honduras. While they freeze the country out, Honduras has little chance of rejoining the Organisation of American States, a regional group that is one of the remaining obstacles to a normal existence on the international stage. And since Nicaragua’s president, Daniel Ortega, is one of those who still boycotts Honduras, previously routine co-operation among Central America’s leaders has got harder.