Editor’s Note: We recently sent a couple of articles on Mexico from the Financial Times to our Mexico correspondent to check their accuracy. The following is his reply.
Here in Mexico, Trump’s victory was seen as a disaster for our government and its begging bowl, which views the chains of nafta as a blessing. The government and the Mexican political parties went to ridiculous extremes, even distributing T-shirts with Hillary’s picture. Today, January 1, the government imposed a major increase in the price of gasoline, because with the fall of oil prices and the imbecilic privatization of pemex, it has run out of resources, and thus prefers to charge higher taxes through the gasoline price. This will set off inflation. At the same time, they are preparing laws to legalize the presence of the army in the streets, presumably to pursue the “war on drugs” but in reality preparing for repression and the next electoral fraud in 2018. The recent article in the Financial Times reflects the perception of Mexican people: the debacle of Peña Nieto and of the pri, and global winds which are setting the stage for amlo as the next winner.
The price rise of gasoline and the announcement of further monthly price hikes, together with the impact of the slow but persistent devaluation of the peso relative to the dollar, will have an inevitable inflationary impact. Further, the government and the Mexican elite seem to feel completely orphaned and abandoned by the rise of Trump. In fact, at the moment, it appears that a national storm is erupting out of the gasolinazo (the 20 percent increase in gasoline prices and the following uproar). At the world level, Mexico appears as one of the big losers in Trump’s triumph, and the docility and submission shown by the Mexican president led to disgust and rejection even in the ranks of his own party.
Confronted with the gasolinazo and its context (devaluation, growth of the public and foreign debt, probable return of Mexican migrants, ever-increasing insecurity and criminality, inflation, slow growth and low wages, privatization of the oil rent, tax increases), some analysts think that the social unrest could reach the levels of the greatest disaster of recent times: the devaluation and crisis of 1994–95.
Meanwhile, a large part of Mexican public opinion oscillates between guilt and cynicism, with self-accusations of being an indolent, cowardly, resigned, submissive and apathetic people, repeatedly saying: “What is happening to us, why do we do nothing?” and “How much will we take?”
For myself, I think that:
- People continue forgetting the obvious, and I wish to insist on this: civil war already started in Mexico in 2006, after the flagrant electoral fraud of that year and the explosion of class struggle at the national level: miners’ strikes throughout the country, following the “accident” in the Pasta de Conchos mine, in which several miners were buried alive, and especially in the Lazaro Cardenas steel works where the workers blocked police repression (two workers killed), the brutal confrontation between the police and the peasants of San Salvador Atenco (following years of defending their land against plans for a new airport), and the Oaxaca Commune, which culminated in the invasion of that state by naval personnel and by a mobilization of infantry (which the government did not want to use, since the latter was not “trustworthy,” given that a large part of the soldiers were…Oaxacans!) Meanwhile, the “radical” campaign of amlo distanced itself from the social agitation to avoid frightening the middle class.
- amlo won the elections…but the middle class took fright again (“amlo is like Hugo Chavez and not like Lula!”) and an agreement between the pan and the pri wound up imposing a president that no one wanted: Felipe Calderón.
- The militarization of the country begun by Calderon on the pretext of fighting the drug trade was interpreted in two ways: (1) as a way of acquiring political legitimacy, which supposedly led to a “strategic error,” the intensification of violence, and (2) as a militarization and intensification of violence as geopolitical objectives by the United States and the Mexican government: arms sales, business for the drug trade, social and political cleansing, and the spread of fear and psychological terror.
- In 2012, the pan returned the favor to the pri, allowing Peña Nieto to win the elections.
- As in 2006, voices were heard even in the business class and the political establishment to the effect that amlo could be a “transitional” option, on the condition that he moderate his attitude.
- As in 2012, amlo has adopted a conciliatory stance, arguing that he does not want to take power in a country sinking into anarchy, in keeping with which he declared that he does not want to excessively pressure the Peña Nieto government. Confronted with the teachers’ movement in primary and secondary education, his attitude was: they should not radicalize or attack the government! Thus amlo seeks to appease and lower the temperature so he can make it to the presidency and begin a “real change.”
- But I insist: this is an induced “low intensity” civil war which has made it possible to militarize the country and intimidate the population. On the other hand, it is a war for Mexico’s oil and natural resources; there is no room for a tepid “left” government representing even the slightest risk for US interests. In 2016, it is clear that US imperialism and the rootless local bourgeoisies will not tolerate even governments of the “Lula” variety (now nato and Colombia are holding negotiations…).
- Faced with this scenario, opinions on the left are divided: those who believe there are possibilities with amlo, and those of us who think that not only are a “reformist” and “nationalist” politics already unviable, but that there will not even be an opportunity to attempt anything of the kind.
- Moreover, although amlo may come to power, I do not think he is up to the demands of the times: the world is geopolitically fractured and is heading on steroids towards a conflagration. Being president of a country means defining oneself relative to the colliding major powers and defining oneself militarily.
- I therefore consider articles of the kind run by the Financial Times (very similar in fact to those published by the Mexican left) to be lacking in range and in depth…in fact, they only deepen my anger, because I have no time to read and deepen my thinking, and I get really pissed at all these journalists and analysts with lots of time for study and analysis, and who only repeat bullshit!
-  pemex is Mexico’s national oil company, nationalized in 1938 from various Anglo-American oil majors, and recently privatized under Peña Nieto. ↩
-  Enrique Peña Nieto, current president of Mexico. ↩
-  Partido Revolucionario Institutional, which ruled Mexico from 1930 to 2000, after which it has alternated in and out of power. Peña Nieto is from the pri. ↩
-  Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, main candidate of the center-left prd (Revolutionary Democratic Party). ↩
-  Mexican term for the current ferment and strikes in response to the gasoline price increase (January 2017). ↩
-  The Oaxaca Commune of April 2008 was a weeks-long uprising of the people of the southwestern state of Oaxaca, set off by a militant section of the national teachers’ union, against the corrupt governor of the state (whom it failed to dislodge). ↩
-  Partido de Acción Nacional. The pan is a center-right party openly committed to a neoliberal agenda, in contrast to the pri, which has statist and nationalist rhetoric but which increasingly implements neoliberal policy. ↩