Scandal in Mexico

Escándalo en México
Foto: Balam Wong

In addition to the arbitrariness in the legislative process, it was discovered thanks to the document metadata that a prediction of the Mexican Parliament that proposes bans on vaping was written by an Argentine lawyer advising the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids, an anti-vaping NGO financed by Michael Bloomberg.

Civil society organizations tend to have a quantitative and qualitative influence on states and play an important role in the social, sociocultural and political foundations of democratic societies. They promote initiatives necessary for development and well-being, agendas for discussion, social participation and bring the interests of citizens closer to state decision-making processes, breaking the monopoly of governments and creating an environment of diversification in the centrality of power.

However, there are situations in which the influence processes of these entities are not focused on consensus. On the contrary, they are part of an exclusionary pressure strategy that legitimizes some kind of power.

For many years, the Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids (CTFK), a US transnational organization with strong operations in Latin America, has based its actions on a clear and manifest incitement for governments to establish public policies based on their spectrum of interests and within their ideological field. To do this, he establishes a routine of influence that imposes his ideas and desires on other opinions and wills without seeking dialogue, in an evident struggle for power.

The lack of appreciation for dialogue with those who think and want differently allows us to identify a political action that is oriented to a forced consensus. In the specific case of smoking and its alternatives, for them organized civil society, science, positive experiences that contradict their discourse and, above all, consumers, have neither voice nor vote.

After the Philippines, Mexico

In August last year, the Commerce, Industry and Health committees of the Philippine Chamber approved a legal text to regulate the entire chain of vaping in the country. Two months later, the activities of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were suspended after a high-level public employee of the Philippine FDA admitted in parliament that they received grants from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (known such as The Union) that receives funding from the Bloomberg Initiative in exchange for promoting certain policies against non-combustible nicotine products, such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

In an article published in August 2020, Dr. Roberto Sussman, professor at the Institute of Nuclear Sciences of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, had already drawn attention to the oppressive influence exerted by the universe of organizations related to Bloomberg Philanthropies in the policies on the healthiest nicotine delivery products in low- and middle-income countries.

What happens in Mexico is no different, as shown in the article “Censorship and exclusion: the real situation of vaping in Mexico” by Dr. Sussman himself published last December. A few weeks ago, without any kind of participation from civil society in the proposal, the United Commissions on Health and Economy, Commerce and Competitiveness of the Chamber of Deputies presented a prediction with reform proposals and additions to the provisions of the General Law for Tobacco Control.

Originally proposed by the deputy Ruth Salinas Reyes, from the parliamentary group of Movimiento Ciudadano, in April of last year, the text proposes, among other things, the prohibition of the import, distribution and sale of vaping products, the introduction of standard packaging in cigarettes and the ban on smoking and vaping in parks, beaches and almost any public place.

In addition to the deputy Ruth Salinas Reyes, stand out in the prohibitionist unilateral initiative the deputies Arturo Escobar and Vega of the PVEM, José Salvador Rosas Quintanilla of the PAN parliamentary group, Ximena Puente de la Mora of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Juan Martín Espinoza of the Partido Movimiento Ciudadano and, distinguished, Carmen Medel Palma, from Morena.

The Red Hand of Campaign For Tobacco Free Kids

But the absence of dialogue with civil society in the discussions prior to the preparation of the proposal and the restrictions and prohibitions imposed are not the aspects that draw the most attention to the document. The legislative process itself occurred under arbitrariness. The legal text presupposes the consensus between all the parliamentary initiatives, but in the case of the prediction of the twelve initiatives, only those that advocated the prohibition were taken into account.

In justifying her proposal (“Ban-regulation of novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products”), Carmen Medel Palma cites the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids without decorum. The deputy literally transcribes the decalogue of the document “When to prohibit is the best” of The Union, which induces low and middle income countries to ban vaping instead of regulating it. Countries where, according to the WHO, 80% of the world’s combustible tobacco consumers are found.

On March 12, the Mexican activist and communicator Antonio Toscano presented on his Facebook channel the information that the downloadable document of the prediction contained something worthy of note. In the metadata of the official document, the Argentine lawyer Gianella Severini appears as the author of the PDF, who is nothing more and nothing less than the legal advisor for Latin America of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) and Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) for the “Promotion of public health policies for the prevention of obesity and tobacco control.”

This fact represents a clear violation of sovereignty and the Mexican Constitution. In accordance with Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution, “foreigners are those who do not possess the qualities determined in Article 30 of the Constitution and will enjoy the human rights and guarantees recognized by this Constitution. (Added, D.O.F. June 10, 2011). The Executive of the Union, after hearing, may expel foreign persons from the national territory based on the law, which will regulate the administrative procedure, as well as the place and time that the detention lasts. Foreigners may not in any way interfere in the political affairs of the country ”.

Statements on the subject

As the lawyer and professor at the UNAM Law School, Juan José Cirión, has informed us: “It is article 33 of the Constitution. Although in my opinion I am not sure what will apply to the case, it is important to see what happens in the legislative process. 1. It is not uncommon for deputies to have advisers to make proposals; 2. The problem is that Carmen Medel used a foreign advisor to make an opinion. An opinion is necessarily the result of the discussion and agreement of the Health Commission (or any other); 3. In the case, this discussion and agreement with an opinion made by a foreigner is being simulated, wanting to pass the opinion as prepared by the commission. Joining the constitutional 33 with the legislative early morning, the thing becomes very filthy. Worse even than the Philippines.”

“It is curious that in the metadata of said document, a person named Gianella Severini appears as its author, who happens to be the legal advisor for Latin America for the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids, which, together with The Union, both financed by Bloomberg Philanthropies, have its parameters of action influence the public policies of third world countries to seek laws that prohibit the use of said alternatives. These NGOs have also put money in Conadic, the INSP and different state health secretariats. It is worth mentioning that some time ago Undersecretary López Gatell has been linked to these positions and financing.

“It is scandalous that a prediction that should be the result of a debate proper to the commissions that have it (health and economy) is actually a document drawn up by an Argentine, paid for by a North American NGO and financed by a millionaire who invests millions of dollars a year seeking to prohibit alternatives to conventional cigarettes, which have achieved such good results in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, New Zealand and Canada, due to ideological and economic interests ”.

Deputy Ricardo Delsol Estrada has also spoken out on the issue on social networks, requesting clarification.

“In our country, there are voices of some deputies who are against the regulation of these products, inexplicably, since despite having been summoned for a series of exchanges of opinions, confrontation of positions and scientific evidence, they have refused in all the opportunities that have been presented, leaving without the possibility of discussing an issue of fundamental importance in the health of Mexicans, especially smokers ”.

According to Del Sol, the parliamentarians refuse the dialogue arguing an alleged conflict of interest of “any person who wants to have an opinion in favor” of the alternative systems of administration of nicotine.

“However, in recent days the information has circulated within the Chamber of Deputies and in the media that the president of the Health Commission of the Chamber of Deputies, Carmen Medel Palma, violating internal procedures and against ethical practices of the judiciary, a “prediction” proposed by her has circulated seeking the support of the members of the Health Commission without any discussion or opposition, without taking into account the initiatives presented by Deputy Valles and a server, and also pressuring the Commission of Economy so that it dictates to steam the opinion, in the same way without discussion or comparison of proposals.”

“The prediction, in addition to not considering the proposals of the other deputies, since it is practically a transcript of one of the few legislative proposals that intends to carry out a total ban on these technologies, turns out to be the proposal presented by Deputy Medel herself, with an extremely serious situation in this prediction.”

“The metadata show that the preparation of said document, which Deputy Medel intends to be approved in a chicanery way and away from the true democratic exercise that legislative activity supposes, was in charge of a foreign person, with direct ties to a foreign NGO. and that is financed by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the main sponsor in the world of the campaigns against the less harmful alternatives of nicotine consumption ”.

According to Antonio Toscano, “in Mexico there are 12 initiatives on vaping of varying degrees of regulation and yet only the most prohibitive was taken into account.”

We have sought contact by email and phone with the advisor of the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids Gianella Severini, but so far we have not received a response. Nor did we receive a response from Deputy Carmen Medel Palma.

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  1. See the complete statement of Deputy Ricardo Delsol Estrada (in Spanish) Activate and translate subtitles

See the communication of the activist Antonio Toscano

For an overview of the topic:

About Mexico:

On the influence of Bloomberg:

Understand the case of the Philippines:

Filipinas dice sí a la regulación del vapeo – 2 de septiembre de 2020

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