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Mexico on the Brink – But of What?

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Mexico on the Brink – But of What?

The Mexican government blames the nationwide protests on groups seeking to “destabilize the country” and undermine the “reform agenda”. But in this militarized, corrupt society, the risk of escalation of violence is immense.

Wolf Street
By Don Quijones
23 November 2014

For the vast majority of people living in Mexico, one thing has become abundantly clear: things can no longer carry on the way they are. Too much innocent blood has been spilled, too much trust in government betrayed.

In many ways, Mexico has been on the brink for years, perhaps even decades; it was merely a question of when it would fall off. Now the country finds itself in an existential position: either renewal and regeneration; or political repression, a complete breakdown in law and order and, in the worst possible case scenario, international intervention or civil war.

To achieve renewal and regeneration will require a united, carefully coordinated and sustained response from all prominent members of the country’s civil society. As the internationally renowned security expert Eduardo Buscaglia says, it will mean using the same techniques of social activism and non-violent resistance employed by Italy after the mafia’s assassination of two judges, Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino; the same techniques that helped Americans of all creeds and colours overcome the state-sponsored racism of the 1950s and ’60s and which Gandhi pioneered in India’s struggle for national independence.

Citizens have to take to the streets en masse and through peaceful means bring the economic system to a standstill, thus leaving the country little choice but to clean up the State, which currently consists of politicians closely linked to criminal gangs and semi-criminal businesses…

Beyond Repair

As recent events have highlighted, the Mexican State, as it currently stands, is beyond incremental reform or repair. The forced disappearance two months ago of 43 students revealed the extent of the rot at the local government level: not only had local political institutions been co-opted by drug trafficking cartels, as all Mexicans already suspected; they were being run by them. Not only were some local governors turning a blind eye to drug trafficking and murder; they actively participated in the criminal operations and at times even pulled the final trigger.

But the rot does not stop there – it goes all the way to the very top. As shown by the recent Casa Blanca scandal, in 2011, a year before President Enrique Peña Nieto took office, he and his wife were allegedly gifted a luxury mansion worth seven million US dollars by a subsidiary of Grupo Higa, a construction company that had received lucrative public works tenders during Nieto’s term as state governor of Estado de Mexico. Once in office, Peña Nieto’s government would reward the same company with participation in a Chinese consortium’s construction of a fast train line between Mexico City and Queretero.

Naturally, the president has denied all allegations – despite the fact that just a few days before the scandal came to light, his government suddenly cancelled the Chinese consortium’s tender. But no matter what the president or his government now says, most people are not buying it. Public trust in Nieto’s government has been shattered beyond repair; regaining it will be an almost impossible task.

Yet while calls for Nieto’s resignation ring out from the streets and plazas of just about every city across the land, the chances of him stepping down are razor slim. In Mexico’s modern history, no president has resigned before completing his mandate. What’s more, rather than adopting a conciliatory tone in the face of public anger, Nieto has blamed the nationwide protests on groups seeking to “destabilize the country” and undermine his government’s “reform agenda”.

“Arming NAFTA”

Just as worrisome, Mexico is nowadays a heavily militarized society and the risk of escalation of violence is immense. Since Nieto’s predecessor, Felipe Calderon, declared an all-out war against the Narcos in 2006 – at the U.S. government’s insistence – the army has taken over many of the functions of Mexico’s deeply compromised police force. As Laura Carlsen reports in NACLA, this did not happen by chance, but rather by design. Under the guise of the 2005 Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP), the militarization of Mexican policing has happened in lockstep with the militarization of its two northern neighbors, the U.S. and Canada:

In April 2007, on the eve of the North American Trilateral Summit, Thomas Shannon, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs, described the SPP’s purpose with remarkable candor: The SPP, he declared, “understands North America as a shared economic space,” one that “we need to protect,” not only on the border but “more broadly throughout North America,” through improved “security cooperation.” He added: “To a certain extent, we’re armoring NAFTA.”

Since then, the Mérida Initiative (often referred to as Plan Mexico), signed in 2008-09, has cemented security cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. The plan provides billions of dollars in military aid and training to Mexico’s armed forces. As Carlen reports, the war on drugs/counter-terrorism model embodied in Plan Mexico invariably extends into repression of political opposition, “blurring the lines between the war on drugs, the war against terrorism, and the war against political opposition”.

The sheer extent of U.S-Mexican security cooperation was confirmed today (Sat. Nov. 22) by revelations from the Wall Street Journal that agents of the U.S. Justice Department are disguising themselves as Mexican Marines to take part in armed raids against drug suspects in Mexico. Naturally, almost all the emphasis was placed on the “significant risk” to U.S. personnel; much less mention was made of the blatant infringement on Mexican sovereignty.

Despite its glaring failures and countless innocent victims, the U.S.’s War on Drugs continues to expand, with the Mérida Initiative now including signatories from across Central America and the Caribbean. For the U.S., the War on Drugs has served as a means of expanding its influence over the governments, police forces and armies of Latin American countries. For Mexico, by contrast, the War on Drugs, together with endemnic corruption, rampant poverty and political impunity, has brought society to the very edge of the abyss. Whether it is able to bring itself back from the brink will depend on the extent to which its deeply divided society can unite behind a common agenda of peaceful resistance against the heavily armed forces of a corrupt, failing state and ruthless drug cartels, often in league with one another. The challenge is immense, the stakes immeasurably high but change is no longer an option; it is a necessity.

By Don Quijones, freelance writer, translator in Barcelona, Spain, and editor at WOLF STREET. Mexico is his country-in-law. Raging Bull-Shit is his modest attempt to scrub away the lathers of soft soap peddled by political and business leaders and their loyal mainstream media.


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