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.

By Don Quijones, Spain & Mexico, editor at WOLF STREET. His blog: Raging Bull-Shit.

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.

Mexican blood is once again being splashed across the front pages of the international press. Mexicans have finally had enough. For President Nieto – the man Time magazine dubbed Mexico’s “savior” – none of this was part of his script to transform Mexico into a miracle economy. Read…  The NAFTA Connection: The Role of “Free” Trade in Mexico’s Tragic Travails

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  13 comments for “Mexico on the Brink – But of What?

  1. NotSoSure says:

    The brink of another brink. That’s where we are now.

  2. Petunia says:

    Wolf, you banned me from your site for calling Mexico a narco state and advocating for bringing them officially into the union, and you post an article that reinforces my opinion.

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Petunia, I didn’t ban you from my site. Your comments are going through moderation after your last two Mexican comments.

      I trashed two comments you made about Mexicans that were offensive to me and to DQ. He is married to a Mexican woman and I’ve been in Mexico and know many Mexicans, here and in Mexico, and so I have zero tolerance for anti-Mexican nonsense.

      This is one example of what you wrote and what I trashed (and that I now pulled out of the trash):

      “America keeps invading the wrong countries. Mexico is a bigger threat to the US than the entire Middle East. Considering that we admit we can’t control the border and the Mexicans all want to come to America, the solution seems clear. Make them part of the US.”

      Do you see, now with some distance, how obnoxious this comment is? There are other forums for this sort of nonsense (even the basic facts are wrong: there has been net out-migration of Mexicans in the US since the Financial Crisis). Your comments are welcome, but they now go through moderation.

      • Petunia says:

        Wolf, as a Latina who has been around Latinos my entire life, I see nothing wrong with my comment. You disagree, but you assume too much in thinking Latinos are of one mind on immigration, and other issues, and it is not true. Yet, I take no offense.

        Sadly, the political situation in Mexico, as in many other Latin countries, has much to do with the Latinos themselves. There is a high level of tolerance for corruption, as long as it benefits them, or doesn’t affect them. But you cannot be just a little bit corrupt and not be part of the problem.

        As Godel concluded, sometimes the solution to the problem comes from outside of the system.

        • NotSoSure says:

          I am always pissed whenever I hear the “Jesus” solution i.e. let’s hope someone comes in, fixes things, and then either send/kill them off and repeat. And I wonder who this cavalry will be this time around. In the old days, the US had at least quite a bit of moral authority, but what happens if the moral authority has also become corrupt?

          The buck has to stop somewhere. Wolf mentioned that hope is a terrible strategy. If Mexicans don’t stand up for themselves, then arguably this is what they deserve.

  3. Allan says:

    My crystal ball says Mexico will continue to deteriorate and at some point international interests will intervene. The existing government (essentially overseen by the cartels) will lose its legitimacy in the eyes of the international community. Then those interests will declare the Mexican government a failed state, opening the door to military intervention and ultimately occupation.

    There simply is no way this government, permeated by corruption, can rid itself of the same. Asking or demanding that Nieto “do something”, although completely understandable, cannot result in anything positive. Assuming he wanted to what can the man do? His police forces are now the cartel’s police forces, his intelligence community is now the cartel’s community, his prosecutors, judges, district attorneys are all being targeted. He has no resources to implement any real change. I feel this thing will get a whole lot worse. We are all assuming a government can oust the bad guys. But what happens when the government is the bad guys? A call for help will be made and then the outsiders come marching in. So sad.

    • Don Quijones says:

      Brilliant comment, Alan. Your observations are absolutely spot on. The biggest fear among many of the Mexicans with whom I speak is that Mexico will be declared a failed state by the international community — the EU is apparently already considering such a move. Should that happen, it will only be a matter of time before foreign boots are on the ground — as they already are, just in far greater numbers.

      As you say, it is all so terribly sad!

    • Ray says:

      The government are always the bad guys. They are always the guys who deal with others at the point of a gun. Civility of some governments is simply pretense.

  4. NY Geezer says:

    The following quote regarding the true meaning and understanding of the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) is to me the most important part of this article:

    “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.’”

    I wish the author had explained his view on what the armoring of NAFTA means for each of the 3 countries involved.

    On the surface it appears to mean that a North American military union is contemplated. Not an economic or currency union as in Europe. The three countries in the North American union would be under the command of an unelected military leadership, and the political structure of all three countries would be altered to accommodate that change.

    The effect of the Security and Prosperity Partnership would be to place the vast oil, natural gas and mineral resources of the North American continent under a unified military control and to enable the ignoring, neutering or repeal of all environmental and health laws and regulations. When the military is involved they use the national security rationale, or in the case of a North American continental union they would use a “continental security” rationale to override civilian concerns.

    Somebody please tell me I’m wrong.

  5. Julian the Apostate says:

    I feel like I’m rereading the Saxon Chronicle. The Dark Ages return.

  6. NOTaREALmerican says:

    Good article.

    One wonders if there’s a “magic level” of population density, society wealth, and ethnic “cohesion” that allows for “good government”. It seems that most of the world’s countries have moved beyond these “magic levels”.

Comments are closed.