With friends like this…Philippine edition

Philippines’ President Rodrigo Duterte apparently isn’t too fond of our diplomatic staff. A recent Guardian article notes that Duterte “first came into conflict with US envoy Goldberg on the campaign trail, after he said he wanted to rape a ‘beautiful’ Australian missionary who was sexually assaulted and murdered in a 1989 prison riot in Davao, the city he ran for two decades.”  Wow! Not surprisingly Goldberg and the Australian ambassador were vocal in their criticism of Duterte’s comment.

And now, Duterte has started a fresh row with the US envoy, stating “As you know, I’m fighting with (US Secretary of State John Kerry’s) ambassador. His gay ambassador, the son of a whore. He pissed me off.”

Holy cow, and this is one of our allies!  Washington is apparently asking for clarification of the comment!  Really?  Do they really want that spelled out?

US:  So President  Duterte, when you said a “gay son of a whore” what did you mean exactly?

PD:  Well, let me go into some detail so you can better understand my intention…


The dinosaurs fight back

The Economist recently published a good article called “The PRI’s long tail,” which documents a brewing battle between Mexican President Peña Nieto and the traditionalist dinosaurs of his party. There has been tension between the reformers and the dinosaurs at least since Carlos Salinas in the late 80s and early 90s.  But, as Jorge Chabat of CIDE (mine and Kevin’s old stomping grounds) points out, Salinas managed to enact  significant economic reform without fundamentally changing how party politics worked.  Things may be different this time, however:

“The next round of Mr Peña’s reforms, which have already sought to bust taboos in education and telecommunications, is likely to affect areas that could directly challenge the PRI’s grip on regional power. This is uncharted territory. The proposed opening of the energy industry, which will hurt the pro-PRI oil workers’ union, and the clampdown on electioneering, could mean Mr Peña will “crash headlong into the model of the old PRI,” Mr Chabat says.

The pacto, which is an agreement between the major political parties of Mexico to pursue serious reform, was thrown for a loop recently when it was discovered that at least part of the PRI was back to business-as-usual. Specifically,  “video footage showed [party officials] apparently planning to use handouts from federal anti-poverty programmes—which one official called “gold dust”—to buy votes in upcoming local elections.”

The pacto seems to be back on, for now at least, but the president may face the greatest push back from his own party.  Tax reform, which seeks to move collection from local to state authorities, could be strongly resisted by local PRI officials.  Héctor Aguilar Camín,editor of  the magazine Nexos, put it best when he states that “All the risks [of reform] will be plain to see. All the benefits will be in the future.”

President Obama was recently in Mexico and argued for a new, less corrupt Mexico, albeit in a less than diplomatic fashion (He said that “whether you’re looking for basic services, or trying to start a new business, we share your belief that you should be able to make it through the day without paying a bribe.”) For this to be true, and for Mexico to have any hope of serious reform, the dinosaur faction of the PRI needs to go for good.