Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Politics of the everyday

Today driving from Chichicastenango to Sta. Cruz to run a few errands, I heard a radio announcement from the president, Alvaro Colom, about the situation in Peten and announcing that he had declared a state of siege. Just one problem: in the announcement, which had apparently been recorded sometime today (Tuesday May 17), he got the month wrong. Not just once, but three times. He started out by saying that on the 14th of March (he clearly said "Marzo", not "Mayo") there had been a terrible massacre. And that on the 16th of March, the president of the republic made a personal visit to Peten. (I always get a little anxious when anyone, politicians or anyone else, refers to him or herself in the third person; could he not have said, "On the 16th of May, in my capacity as president of the republic, I made a visit to the Peten...").  And on the 17th of March, a state of siege was declared.  
I was mildly shocked (I tried to rein myself in as the road from Chichi to Santa Cruz is notoriously steep and winding). Didn't someone in the government, or the radio station, listen to the damned thing before airing it? Were they all asleep, drugged, or just not paying attention? Or was this a case of "the emperor who had no clothes" -- some subordinate did notice but didn't want to speak up?  This was almost as annoying as the "Don Justo Cabal" sugar ads: the same ad runs twice in a row. Didn't the various radio stations where the ad runs notice, or does the company think that this is a good strategy?
In any case, by the time I was leaving Chichi a few hours later, someone had obviously noticed the mistake and had gotten the president to re-record the announcement -- so now all the events are taking place in May, not March. Whew! At least they got that part right.  I mean, it's hard to imagine anyone having an effective strategy for dealing with narcotrafficking, or being mildly competent to implement said strategy (assuming it exists) if he goes on the national airwaves and doesn't know what month it is (it would be understandable if he made a gaffe in a live press conference, but this was recorded: you'd think that someone, a sound engineer, or communications director, listened to it before it went on the air).

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