miércoles, 14 de marzo de 2007

For citizens who prefer proposals over protest

Commentary on the Basta Ya Meeting of March 8, 2007
By Mercedes San Martin
translated by Holly Yasui

A spring-like afternoon was the peerless setting for the citizens' meeting that took place in the patio of the Museum Casa de Allende. The great General Allende, proud of his home, put forth good omens for the gathering to measure up to its surroundings. Early on, almost an hour before the event, people started to arrive, some with invitation in hand and others without. More than a hundred and seventy chairs awaited their occupants, and soon the aisles, the stairs overflowed with people and the patio was packed.

The presentation by Ambassador Alberto Szekely was solemn, professional, intelligent and well-documented. Accompanied by a group of colleagues from his law firm, the ambassador began his discourse with conciliatory tone: "We haven't come to confront anyone, but rather to offer cooperative alternatives for the citizens who would substitute proposals for protest."

To that effect, we listened for about an hour and a half to the "Legal Strategy for the Protection of the Traditional Town of San Miguel de Allende." Twenty-seven proposals for citizen participation are included in the plan which, dealing with a series of problems concerning both cultural and natural heritage of the municipality of Allende, attempts to transform the complaints, the apathy and the legal disputes into proposal-oriented and democratic work for the good of our municipality. Who can be opposed to citizen participation based on the laws with which our institutions endeavor to promote democracy? Without a doubt, no one should be.

Dr. Szekely, an expert environmental defense attorney and ambassador, presented us with the tools that enable effective citizen participation. The purpose of the presentation, and I quote it literally, is "to design a strategy for the citizens of San Miguel de Allende to contribute to what they are qualified to assume: the co-responsibility to protect their natural and cultural heritage in a proposal-oriented manner, abiding by the law and using the various means and resources offered by it, working with the authorities, and thereby assuring that those authorities find, in the citizens' participation, the necessary incentive to fulfill the pertinent legal provisions."

It was clear that citizens' initiatives resonate when they are proposed out of respect and knowledge; it is not overly idealistic to suggest to the authorities the need to work together in order to accomplish the development of our municipality for the benefit of the whole community. We are working to make the law not a dead letter but rather an instrument; we are working with the authorities, putting aside rivalries and distrust. The fact that the forum was open to all citizens and authorities showed that we are not trying to be confrontational -- if that had been the case, we would have made the meeting private. We give ourselves the task of validating the law, everything within the law and nothing outside of the law.

Yes, we are all in favor of the rule of law and order; we will use the law, its framework and substance, and, above all, we pledge to fulfill it. Equality, justice and respect should be values that enable us to envision a future in which all of us belong.

We have the right to dissent -- in a democracy, that helps us to reflect, to find solutions to problems, to see in the other an inexhaustible source of perspectives on reality. Those who fear criticism fear themselves, fear that they are insecure in their knowledge and opinions, and are not able to defend them.

We should congratulate ourselves for this step forward and I welcome this new web page ("Va Por San Miguel" www.vaporsanmiguel.blogspot.com in Spanish), which will be a fount of information for citizens who prefer proposals over protest.

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