AMLO outside the Senate, Monday, October 26

Worker's Party Deputy Mario di Costanzo Tears Apart Carstens Economic Plan

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Meeting in the Zocalo: March 22, 2009 (report)

As Andres Manuel López Obrador steps down from the template after addressing another chock-full meeting in Mexico City's Zocalo, today's blog will be dedicated to a run-down of the events.

The meeting began with an announcement of the formation of Municipal Committees for the Legitimate Government. This follows on yesterday's meeting of 12,000 members of these Municipal Committees, the goal of which are to represent the Legitimate Government in every town and city in the country, and enroll as many people in the legimate government as electors who voted for López Obrador's coalition in the last election - 15 million. Obrador will be making another sweep through each state's capitals from June 1st to the 15th to assist in the establishment of the committees.

Following an eloquent address by Laura Esquivel, most well-known in the United States for her novel "Like Water for Chocolate," Senator Ricardo Monreal of the Worker's Party (PT) took to the stage, and focused his remarks on denouncing five major atrocities in current government policy:
1.) the government's depleting of its dollar reserves in propping up the peso. Who gains, asks Monreal, from buying up cheap dollars from Mexico's Federal Reserve and speculating on them? And why is the announced policy of support for the peso only to last until July, when the legislative elections will be taking place? Will the peso be allowed to go into free-fall after then?
2.) the government's supposed help for small businesses to weather the crisis, 80% of which is actually going to large, oligarchic consortiums such as Soriana, Coppel, Chedraui and Feromex. The government is simply using its anti-crisis funds to buy up the debt of these large consortiums, charged Monreal, acting as their guarantor. Not coincidentally, these are the same companies that supported the electoral fraud of 2006, proselytzing with their employees and contibuting to the media "dirty war".
3.) usurious interest rates on credit cards and banking services. Banks charge for everything, Monreal pointed out, even to the point of charging to close an account. Not suprisingly, the banks are the only institutions reporting profits to their mother nations in this time of crisis. Monreal reported a recent meeting of bankers, where the charges of usury were brushed off: "local lending institutions charge even more!"
4.) Banamex operating illegally. The United States of America, through its bailout of the Citigroup, is now the largest shareholder in Banamex. This is prohibited by the Mexican Constittion and even NAFTA, but Treasury Secretary Carstens is doing nothing about it, preferring instead to offer a three-year waiting period to see if the situation resolves itself.
5.) PEMEX is now giving concessions in blocks of territory to private companies for underground explotation of resources, exactly what the movement warned about when the Pemex law was passed late last year. Of the four counselors recently chosen to form part of Pemex's governing board, none of whom meets the legal requirements: 10 years of experience in the field and no political party connections. In fact, all of the four counselors have party ties: 2 to the PAN, 1 to the PRI and 1 to the PRD hierarchy.

López Obrador began his speech with the gains an unfinished business left with the Pemex issue. The movement succeeded in avoiding privatization of Pemex, but the work remains to avoid the block concessions of exclusive areas that Senator Monreal mentioned, to avoid the endemic corruption of Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE), and to prevent Mexico's oil to continue being produced as a raw material for export and instead be used for the domestic production of gasoline ad petrochemical products.

As regards the economic crisis, he reiterated the movement's demands for reductions in the prices of electricity, gasoline and diesel, a reduction in interest rates for loans and mortgages, and a reduction of $200 billion pesos in unnecessary government spending which could be funnelled into social spending: interest-free loans to farmers, advances in health care and education, among others. He also called for the IETU (the flat-rate tax on businesses and the self-employed) tax to be abolished and for pension moneys which were invested in the stock market and losing their value to be protected by the government.

For those who may think our labors are futile, he reminded, without it, things would be a lot worse: Pemex would have been completely privatized and the economic crisis would be even worse. The government was forced into announcing they will build an oil refinery, he noted, after saying there was no money for it. The movement has also forced the government's hand into providing pensions for senior citizens in towns with populations of less than 30,000. Furthermore, a law to set maximum salaries for government officials - which could reduce bloated bureaucratic salaries up to 50% - has been approved in committee and awaits approval by both Houses of Congress. A rally will be held outside of Congress the following Wednesday in support of the bill.

Obrador praised the city government of Mexico City for freezing the cost of the subway at 2 pesos, for providing scholarships for students, increasing medical attention and initiating a program of free medications, and for setting up 300 eateries to make sure people do not go hungry during the crisis. On the national level, the legitimate government is setting up support centers in the capitals of each state to provide legal assistance to people burdened with excessive charges on credit cards, loans and mortgages.

Obrador has recently finished a two-year tour of every single one of the 2,038 municipalities in the country which operate on the political-party system. There remains, he pointed out, the 438 indigenous pueblos in Oaxaca governed by "usos y costumbres" (town meeting government) which he will be hitting later this year. "I am going to live in Oaxaca for a while," he noted.

He further lauded the establishing of the Municipal Committees for the Legitimate Government, which will have four tasks: 1.) organization - "we learned our lesson from 2006," he noted; 2.) support the development of democracy; 3.) support the "people's economy"; 4.) form a national network of information and communication, a nation-wide alternative news and information service, including the establishment of a weekly informative bulletin.

With respect to the national legislative elections in July, besides the standard rallying cry of "Not one vote for the PAN, not one vote for the PRI," Obrador left to each person's criteria which of the parties of the the 2006 coalition to vote for this year: either the PRD, or the "Save Mexico" coalition comrised of Convergencia and the Worker's Party (PT). Personally, he announced, he will be support the Save Mexico Coalition in Chiapas, Veracruz and Oaxaca, and the PRD in Mexico City and Tabasco. The rest of the country he did not mention.

He concluded with a reminder that wealth and privilege in Mexico are more concentrated now than before the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Then, 300 families controlled the wealth of the nation; now, it is 20 or 30. We must form a new republic, one where people are valued for their honesty, and especially, by their generosity. With his standard recitation of Vivas!, Obrador left the stage and the National Movement for the Defense of Oil and the People's Economy returned to its labors.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Deconstructing Mexico (Literally)

Suddenly, the word "Mexico" is on everyone's lips - drug-infested narco Mexico, that is, the shadowy projection of America's sunny, white, What-me-bomb? ego consciousness. Defense Secretary Robert Gates goes on Meet the Press to discuss putting aside some of the "old biases" against "cooperation with our - between our miliaries and so on." Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen briefs Obama on what his own Pentagon has conscpicuously labeled as a future failed state, and suggests borrowing from U.S. tactics in the war against terrorism to help Mexico in its drug fight, including the prospect of joint miliary operations; President Obama was reported to be "very interested in what kind of military capabilities could be applied." The governor of Texas calls for the border with Mexico to be militarized, with the military, the National Guard, Customs Agents, whoever. At a ceremony to name a new drug czar, and in the context of bringing about "the demise of the Mexican drug cartels," Vice President Biden suggests that "we've done this before. We did it in Cartagena -- I mean, excuse me, not Cartagena, we did it in Colombia, in Medellin." It has gotten to the point where little Don Lipe, the man who considers himself to be the President of Mexico, has felt it necessary to deny imminent US military involvement in Mexico. Alleging the existence of an international smear campaign designed to make Mexico look bad, Don Lipe goes on to deny that any part of the Federal Government is not in control of certain parts of its territory: "I'll take you there myself," he says with tremulous bravado at a business forum.

US policy towards Mexico is the moral, psychological and practical equivalent of forcing medieval Jews into money-lending, then blaming them for being usurers. The US needs its drug fix just like medieval Christians needed their money lent; better, however, to let a series of faceless Shylocks in their locked-away ghetto take care of the actual grubby business of lending, or in this case, a series of faceless Juans, shipping their merchandise past the borders of their locked-away nation so that a legion of doctors' sons can slip off and do a few lines behind the prep school gymansium.

And would that it stopped at mere demand for drugs. In fact, it is the United States that is arming Mexico to the teeth, either officially, through the Plan Mexico, the first $400 million dollars of which have just been disbursed for the purchase of "Bell helicopters, CASA maritime patrol planes, surveillance software, and other goods and services produced by US private defense contractors," or illegally through arms bought at US gun shops, often by US citizens, and smuggled into Mexico, undercutting Mexico's laudably stiff restrictions on the purchase of firearms. Both Mexican and US officials agree that over 90% of the weapons being used by Mexican drug cartels, including high-powered assault weapons, come straight from gun dealers in Texas, California and Arizona, thanks in large part, as ABC news put it, to "lenient American gun laws." John Smith provides the arms; Juan Pérez dies.

And if any further reminder is needed as to why American military intervention (disguised as "joint operations") in Mexico would be an unmitigated disaster, just have a look at the plan that Plan Mexico was based on: Plan Colombia. At a price tag of $6 billion dollars so far, Plan Colombia doesn't have much to recommend itself. As Robert Naiman reports, "an October report from the Government Accountability Office found that coca-leaf production in Colombia had increased by 15 percent and cocaine production had increased by 4 percent between 2000 and 2006." Human rights have fallen by the wayside: "Washington supports the Colombian government, and therefore the Colombian government can do whatever it wants without restraint." And does, from sending a bombing raid into neighboring Ecuador (Colombian President Uribe as a Latin American Nixon in Cambodia) to tarnishing human rights critics as members of an international guerrilla bloc, causing even members of the US Congress to fear openly for the human rights workers' lives. Result: following El Salvador's election last Sunday, the two remaining Latin American countries with propped up right-wing governments are...well yes, Colombia and Mexico.

But, as a certain Fr. Tothus reminds us in the comments string at the bottom of Robert Naiman's piece (, it is difficult to be too cynical about what the real motives for Plan Colombia were. He writes:

Stop the drug flow? Human rights? This was never the intent. Plan Columbia's farcical premise was quite successful in providing cover for the actual US corporate aims, however. It provides a cover for US military "training" of quislings ready to overthrow a populist regime. It destroys native farmers and resistance to US Agro imports, impoverishes and starves the already poor. The cash generated keeps Wall Street busy laundering it, and provides funds for further US covert ops against official enemies. The drugs then find their way into American inner cities courtesy of our very own CIA. Meanwhile (surprise) it turns out that it is really a war on only certain drugs. Certainly not the world's deadliest - tobacco - which Columbia (among others) is forced to import and forced to allow advertising for, or US corporate Big Pharma. By US standards, Columbia ought to have the right to fund militant anti-US government groups, bomb our corn fields, and defoliate the Carolinas at the very least.

Mexico is teetering on the edge of this same fate, and Uncle Sam is its enabling accomplice.