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Mexican Government Takes Down Ad that Told Citizens to Stop Complaining

The advert was removed from the government YouTube channel after citizens griped about being lectured.

by David Agren
Oct 14 2015, 8:15pm

Captura de pantalla vía YouTube

The Mexican government has backed down from an advertisement chastising critics as complainers and portraying them as not grasping the greatness of its agenda of structural reforms.

The controversial ad was released on Monday but was taken off the government YouTube channel after a few hours as Mexicans complained loudly on social media about being told to stop whining.

The ad shows a carpenter griping to a co-worker about the reforms as the radio beside them plays a government advert promoting them. "Ya chole con estas reformas," he says, roughly translated as "I've had enough of these reforms." His buddy shoots back: "Ya chole con tus quejas," or "Stop your complaining."

The well-informed woodworker then rattles off three recent improvements to their daily lives: Lower electricity bills, no more long distance telephone charges, and jobs in their workshop that were "formal," meaning they pay taxes and are entitled to benefits like health and pensions.

"And you know why?" he asks, without waiting for a response. "It's because of the reforms. That's why you need to stop your complaining."

President Enrique Peña Nieto has won international acclaim for pushing through an ambitious agenda of structural reforms in areas such as energy, telecommunications, and labor markets — all of which his Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ironically opposed between losing power after 71 years in government in 2000 and regaining it in 2012.

But many Mexicans were never convinced by the promises that the reforms would bring major benefits, such as a 5 percent annual economic growth by 2018.

The skepticism is rooted, in part, in past experience. The last wave of major reforms in the 1990s created some fabulous fortunes, including the empire built by Carlos Slim after he bought the state-owned fixed phone line monopoly and became the world's richest man. They did not deliver on hopes for economic dynamism, poverty reduction, or benefits for consumers.

Meanwhile, with the most recent reforms, "The results are very, very far from the promised land," Jonathan Heath, an independent economist in Mexico City, told VICE News.

Only 5 percent of those questioned in a poll published by the Excelsiór newspaper in late August said they had seen results from the 11 structural reforms approved under Peña Nieto.

Peña Nieto's office has asked for patience, insisting that the building blocks for success are now in place.

Some of the reforms such as in education, where teacher testing is now obligatory in an effort to improve standards, were never going to produce immediate improvements. An opening of the government-run oil industry suffered a false start in the initial auctioning off of oil field development, but a second round of auctions last month exceeded expectations.

The president doubled down on the reform discourse on Tuesday, saying a "record" 1.6 million jobs have been created since he took office and the informal economy has shrunk. He also highlighted the establishment of a single minimum wage for all regions of Mexico, albeit at 70.10 pesos per day, or roughly $4.25.

"We continue working so that our country and our population have better conditions and better welfare, and we're achieving it by putting structural reforms into action," Peña Nieto said on Tuesday in the northern city of Aguascalientes. "We are not a government that resorts to shrillness or fads."

The barrage of outrage sparked by the "Ya Chole" advertisement, however, demonstrated the government's difficulties recharging its discourse around the reforms that were pushed off the public agenda by a series of security crises and corruption scandals, beginning with the 43 students disappeared after they were attacked by police a year ago.

Related: Human Rights Crisis Threatens to Overshadow Mexican President Peña Nieto's Visit to UK

"The government complains that we complain. They don't get that they don't get it," tweeted Armando Regil, founder of a think tank publishing student studies, one of many who rushed to express their irritation at the government lecture on twitter where #YaCholeConTusQuejas was a trending topic for hours.

The Peña Nieto administration has spent more than $650 million on official publicity since taking office in December 2012, according to press freedom advocacy group Article 19.

But analysts say the ads have failed to resonate with the public, as have the president's many somewhat stiff and highly scripted public appearances that draw from the style of a bygone political era when a Mexican president's words were the final say on national matters and dissent was kept quiet.

"His advisers have no idea of the country and how much it's changed in 12 years," said independent analyst Fernando Dworak, referring to the period in which the PRI was in opposition. "There is no narrative guiding this government … something basic that gives a sense of belonging and points us somewhere." 

Related: Mexicans Outraged — But Not Surprised — After Crony Clears President in 'White House' Scandal

Follow David Agren on Twitter: @el_reportero

Carlos Slim
political advertising
ya chole
enrique peña
jonathan heath