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Governor changes informe format, listens to criticism

Without the excessive ostentation so common in the past – although with disproportionate security, many citizens complained – Jalisco Governor Aristoteles Sandoval walked the short distance from his Guadalajara office to the Congress building on Tuesday to deliver his first annual state-of-the-state report (informe).

Sandoval made some innovative changes to the format of this year’s informe.  Following his address in the Congress patio, he and his cabinet members moved to the small, historic Congress  hall for the first glosa ciudadana – where representatives from various sectors of society were given the opportunity to respond to the governor’s report and comment on their specialist areas.  Cabinet ministers were also on hand to answer questions. (Opposition politicians, however, had to wait until the five-hour session had concluded to express their opinions.)

This is the first time in a state informe that critical voices have been permitted and the scene resembled that of an open-mike television program or town meeting. Among those chosen from the audience to air their views were academics, educators and business leaders, as well as representatives from the arts and culture and various civic groups.

When given the chance to speak, Mario Silva, president of the Jalisco Ecological Collective, noted that the administration’s urban mobility record over the past has been woeful although he praised the government’s tough drunk-driving program, Salvando Vidas. Guadalupe Morfin, former head of the Jalisco Human Rights Commission, highlighted the continued use of torture as a method of police interrogation, as well as the appalling treatment of migrants passing through the state. Aimee Figueroa, an Universidad de Guadalajara researcher, questioned the administration’s record on transparency, noting that it has failed to regularly provide promised three-monthly breakdowns in spending.

A key thrust of the governor’s address was to highlight his administration’s commitment to austerity and transparency in its first year.

Despite inheriting huge debts from his predecessors, Sandoval boasted that 191 million pesos had been saved in administrative costs last year thanks to his austerity initiatives.  He also promised to root out corruption in law enforcement agencies, noting that 100 young men and women are being trained to substitute at a moment’s notice officials from the Ministerio Publico (public prosecutor’s office) “who do not understand this government’s philosophy for not tolerating corruption and impunity.”

Sandoval also highlighted a number of significant projects either nearing completion or planned over the next five years. They include the Ahogado and Agua Prieta treatment plants designed to treat 75 percent of Guadalajara’s sewage and wastewater, the construction of a third subway line running from Zapopan to Tlaquepaque and the new Purgatorio Dam on the Verde River outside Guadalajara that will significantly augment the metro area’s water supply and reduce the dependency on Lake Chapala.

Other positive results from the first year in office, Sandoval said, were the creation of an elite police force, the Fuerza Unica, able to respond rapidly to high-impact crimes and emergency situations, the reactivation of the tourist sector in Jalisco; subsidizing the transportation costs of thousands of public school students; and the ongoing development of downtown Guadalajara’s Digital Creative City, planned to become the home for Mexico’s digital creative hub over the next decade.

Opposition politicians were quick to criticize the governor’s assessment of his first year in office.

“I listened to a report on projects and dreams … It was more like a list of campaign promises but not a report about results,” said  Miguel Angel Monraz, Jalisco president of the opposition National Action Party (PAN).

Former PAN governor Alberto Cardenas, now a Guadalajara city councilor, criticized the governor’s “expensive” program to distribute  thousands of backpacks to students that he says are “worthless” and being under utilized.  He also slammed the recent metro area bus fare hikes, the administration’s inability to address security issues and the lackluster reaction to the flu outbreak in the state.


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