The Mexican Connection #2 Reaching Critical Mass

Saturday 21 May, De Balie Amsterdam.


A Club Interbellum project in collaboration with De Balie Amsterdam

For the first time Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will make a state visit to The Netherlands. Club Interbellum and De Balie explore the ‘two faces’ of Mexico, the forced disappearance epidemic and the massive Dutch investments in the country.

Over a 100.000 people have died, an estimated 27.000 have disappeared and the body count is rising. Law enforcement is infiltrated by organized crime, often acting merely in the personal interests of corrupt politicians. The state’s response has been insufficient and the presidency cultivates an air of optimism focused on foreign investment and economic development.

The Netherlands invested over 52 billion euro in Mexico since 1999, making it the second major foreign investor in the country, surpassed only by the United States.

The Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto will visit The Netherlands by the end of May. This visit raises some uncomfortable questions about the position of the Dutch government in relation to Mexico’s ‘two faces’. Can we do business with the land of opportunity alone, while neglecting the land of despair? What opportunities and challenges arise when investing in a country with a dysfunctional rule of law?

In collaboration with De Balie, Club Interbellum presents The Mexican Connection #2 Reaching Critical Mass: a series of debates, interviews, performances and screenings which contextualize the visit of the Mexican president, and unpack the historical, political and cultural roots underlying Mexico’s present-day ‘democracy’.

How can we understand these two faces of Mexico? Can these ever be reconciled? And more importantly: how can a “Critical Mass” at home and abroad contribute to a safer Mexico where justice can prevail?
For more information on our keynote speakers and ticket purchase, see the full program at De

About The Mexican Connection
The Mexican Connection aims to establish a self-reflexive dialogue between Europe and Mexico, through art, culture, journalism and informed debate. The Mexican Connection is a series of bilateral, connecting events, edited and produced by respectively Erika Sprey and Insha Klinkenberg.

The Mexican Connection is made possible by the Democracy & Media Foundation and the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts.

For news and background stories follow our Facebook page The Mexican Connection.


THE SIMULATED DEMOCRACY | Saturday 21 may 15:00 – 16:30

Democracy is suffering a deep worldwide crisis and Mexico is not exempted. What went wrong? How did this crisis of the Mexican ‘democracy’ come about?

The program begins with a deep dive into the presidential archives around which the documentary Speeches: Gustavo Díaz Ordaz (VPRO, 2015) of director and researcher Stefanie de Brouwer revolves.

Followed by an in-depth double interview with the renowned historian and political analyst Prof. Lorenzo Meyer and corruption expert and UN advisor Dr. Edgardo Buscaglia. Together they will dissect the legacy of a 70-year PRI regime, a failed transition and a careening drug war, as well as some structural flaws within Mexico’s particular brand of democracy. They will point the way towards a new sense of national and international civic responsibility that is essential to counter the violence and impunity that is plaguing Mexico.

The meeting will be concluded by a theatrical performance of Gabino Rodríguez, actor, director and founder of renowned Mexican theatre group Lagartijas Tiradas al Sol.

Moderation: Jan-Albert Hootsen. Dutch correspondent in Mexico City, reporting for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Trouw, Vice News, VPRO and the Groene Amsterdammer.

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Nos Faltan Miles. The Forced Disappearance Epidemic in Mexico.

Every week new mass graves are uncovered, while serious forensic investigation lags behind. Hundreds of thousands friends and family members are left in limbo, searching for their loved ones, often in vain.

The program opens with a special report made by Dutch writer and journalist Edwin Koopman for the VPRO radio program Bureau Buitenland. In the town of Iguala, where the 43 students disappeared, he joined family members to the mountains in search for the remains of their loved ones.

Followed by a first time screening in the Netherlands of the short film Absences, 2015. Award winning filmmaker Tatiana Huezo exposes the ever-intensifying phenomenon of forced disappearance in Mexico. This hauntingly beautiful film illuminates the way disappearance affects women, and broadens our awareness on disappearance and its social consequences in Mexico and Central America.

After the screening Edwin Koopman will talk with Maria De Vecchi, member of civic movement H.I.J.O.S. Mexico, that stands for: ‘Sons and Daughters for Identity and Justice Against Oblivion and Silence’.

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SAVING MEXICO? | Saturday 21 May 20:30 – 22:00

Why has Mexico become so violent and lawless, so rife with impunity over the course of a decade? And how can a “Critical Mass” at home and abroad contribute to a safer Mexico where justice can prevail?

This final event of The Mexican Connection #2 begins with an in-depth look into the work of the prestigious Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH). This institute has installed an Inter-disciplinary group or Independent Experts (GIEI) in order to bring justice to the disappeared 43 students of Ayotzinapa.

Fragments of the documentary Mirar Morir (2015) of Témoris Grecko show the deep implication of state actors and also the many ways in which the judicial process is seriously obstructed in Mexico.

This analysis will be followed by a round-the-table with Carrie Comer (FIDH), Sander Wirken (Impunity Watch) and Hannah Bosdriesz (Phd Grotius Center) about the opportunities and challenges that are encountered when prosecuting forced disappearance on an international level.

In the second half of this program, the focus will shift to the Dutch-Mexican Connection and the countries’ economic ties: what’s in it for Mexico and what’s in it for the Dutch? And in what way can the Netherlands and Europe contribute to a more equal, transparent and accountable Mexico?

Key-note speakers Joost Reintjes (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Benjamin Cokelet (Poder), prof. Lorenzo Meyer and dr. Edgardo Buscaglia will give their different points of view on the interrelations between human rights and economic interests, while exploring the responsibilities that the international community can and should assume in the challenge of ‘Saving Mexico’.

This discussion will be backed by the informative presentations of researcher Lyda Fernanda Forero (Transnational Institute) on the existing economic treaties and correspondent Edwin Timmer (Elsevier, Telegraaf) who will dissect the Dutch-Mexican economic ties with some facts, figures and exemplary cases.

Moderation: Jan-Albert Hootsen. Dutch correspondent in Mexico City, reporting for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Trouw, Vice News, VPRO and the Groene Amsterdammer.

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