MEXICO CITY -- It may be one of the most clever video spots to come along in Mexico's political campaign season. And one of the most controversial.
The four-minute clip presents vignettes from Mexico's mayhem -- shootouts and shakedowns, corrupt politicians and violent drug traffickers. But all the roles, from the police to the crooks, are played by children.
It is jarring, and perversely amusing, to see pint-sized perps and kiddie kidnappers going about the ugly business that is otherwise so familiar in Mexico. One politician is a boy in a suit and tie who gladly fills his briefcase with stacks of dollar bills delivered to his office in a paper bag (while other legislators snooze on the floor of Congress). In another vignette, children dressed as military special forces -- black masks, heavily armed -- capture and then parade before reporters a boy meant to represent a notorious drug gangster known as La Barbie who calmly smirks in ways we have seen all too often.
Wildly popular, the video at this writing had nearly 3 million views on YouTube. You can see it here, in Spanish.
The video is well done, if slightly subversive, and immediately won praise from the candidates and numerous commentators. But a group of lawmakers took offense and demanded the government remove the video from the Internet (as if that were even possible).
Strangely, these lawmakers, for whom legislation protecting children seems never to have been much of a priority, claimed their objection was that the video was abusive of children. It violated their human rights, they said.
This left more than a few people scratching their heads. Could the objection really be that politicians are so sublimely skewered in the piece?
"Not me!" protested Rep. Miguel Angel Garcia of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (a faction with a particularly corrupt past). He was answering a television interviewer's suggestion. He said it was wrong to "use" children and that the video was shrill and sensationalistic.
During a debate on the floor of Congress at which there were proposals to ban the video, Rep. Mario Di Costanzo said it was "unacceptable and excessive" to dress children up as kidnappers, drug traffickers and cops on the take. "I think it is scandalous to use children who are armed, smoking, have guns and are shoving their victims into car trunks," he said.
The video was produced by a social action group called Nuestro Mexico del Futuro, Our Mexico of the Future, which said it was paid for in part by donors in the business community. The head of the group, Rosenda Martinez, seemed somewhat bemused by the controversy. The children, all aged between 8 and 10, were actors, she noted, and the guns were fake.
The video comes out as the presidential race is heating up, and the top candidates are exchanging increasingly pointed jabs at one another. Under new election rules, however, Our Mexico of the Future's effort cannot be aired on regular television (except as parts of news broadcasts) and instead will circulate primarily on social media.
The election is July 1.
-- Tracy Wilkinson
Photo: A screen grab of the satiric political video on YouTube. Credit: Associated Press