The Morning Quickie’

Four years into Mexico’s newly minted electoral democracy, all is not as it should be with the body politic. One indication is that the host of the most influential news show in the capital is a clown. Another is that the clear front-runner in the unacknowledged race for the next presidential elections in 2006, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the mayor of Mexico City, is currently embroiled in a scandal that first saw light with a secretly filmed video released in March. It showed the mayor’s all-purpose political operator, René Bejarano, who has served as his campaign chief and government minister for the city and was at the time the majority leader of the capital’s Legislative Assembly, receiving enormous amounts of cash from a notorious empresario, or rich businessman, whose face was blacked out on the film. The video was first broadcast in March on the clown’s television show.

Watching the video of René Bejarano on the take is a fascinating and nasty experience—as if Mexicans had not already enjoyed opportunity enough to exercise their voyeurism on a multiplying number of sex-talk programs, sex tour-o-ramas (E! Entertainment en español), and local franchises of Big Brother in which sexual congress supposedly takes place before our very eyes. Brozo the Clown, who has made a career out of mocking, and exploiting, the prurient interests of a society only recently still in the grip of extreme modesty and repressive sexual codes, seems in this light just the right presenter for the corruption tape, which was exhibited at 7:26 AM on the fateful morning of March 3 on Brozo’s daily news program. The cameras in Brozo’s studio closed in on a grainy black-and-white video with terrible audio quality, in which the glum, balding Bejarano, wearing a dark suit, opens a briefcase, lays it flat, and proceeds to stuff it with wads of US and Mexican currency. Weeks later, the bit that was still getting replayed was the sequence in which, having tried and failed to close the case, Bejarano hurriedly stuffs his pockets with more cash.

It’s not as if Mexicans were new to corruption, which by long political inheritance is practically taken for granted. But it’s not every day that the act itself is shown on screen. And then there is what Bejarano himself had to say about what he was doing in this and in another video which was released that evening on the major evening newscast. In that second tape Bejarano is not actually shown with money in hand, but he talks more. Bejarano’s interlocutor, annoyed and threatening, possibly a little drunk, sits off camera in an office that people who have done business with the man instantly recognized. He wants, he says, to get paid for the construction work he has done under contract with the city—contracts obtained in exchange for the kickback money he previously delivered to Bejarano—but Bejarano explains that there’s no money in the …

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