Thursday, January 11, 2007

there's never so much seething that it can't be disarmed 

So my promised second installment of the Intergalactica blogging has not materialized. I've been busy, but more importantly, uninspired. I'm not really gonna know what happened until I review the tapes, and even then I don't think anything of particular significance took place. Although I could tell more stories about gastro-intestinal problems.

Today we arrived in Morelia, the capital city of the State of Michoacan. In the next few days we plan to go to Zirahuen, the only Zapatista community outside of Chiapas and talk to them a bit about what they've been doing with themselves.

After arriving we spent the afternoon with our hosts catching up on local politics. Morelia has two distinctions that I know of so far. The first is that it is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, narco-trafficking state. The second is that it claims to have more of its people illegally migrating to the US than any other state in Mexico.

Several weeks ago Mexico's newly minted President, Felipe Calderon, sent the army into Michoacan to "clean house" and round up the Narcos. Thousands of soldiers and federal police arrived and began rounding up low-level drug traffickers. The roundup is political theater designed to show his bosses, foreign capital, that he's a "serious" guy and can take control and be counted on. It is also designed to show Mexicans the same thing.

Felipe, known by his enemies by his abbreviated name "FeCal" (the pun works in Spanish as well), has a legitimacy problem that you may have heard about. The problem being that he's illegitimate. He was awarded the palm in a squeaker of an election that everyone who isn't in his party thinks was rigged. To be fair, international observers were on hand and certified the results. The election was contested however by his opponent Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (aka AMLO). The Supreme Court denied the recount, and FeCal kept the crown.

This was a watershed event in contemporary Mexican politics. It was widely believed that AMLO would pull off a win and would be thus the first remotely progressive Mexican President in living memory. Mexico has three major political parties:

The PRI (with the oxymoronic title of Institutional Revolutionary Party) which ruled the country as a near perfect fascist state for 71 years

The PAN (National Action Party) which is to the right of the PRI, completely neo-liberal on economics and socially/religiously conservative. It is the current home of Mexico's religious right. The PAN's candidtate, Vincente Fox, won in 2000 and was the first non-PRI president since the Revolution.

The PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) is analagous to our Democrats, the left wing of the business party, and is the party of AMLO.

After FeCal won the presidency AMLO and his supporters made a lot of noise about creating a parallel government, but ultimately didn't put their money where their mouths were. FeCal stands.

Incidentally this created a big split in the Mexican Left. Subcomandante Marcos and the EZLN refused to endorse anyone, and Marcos wrote several editorials mocking both candidates. So now the PRD people are giving him the Nader treatment and claiming he spoiled the election. Nearly all of the public intellectuals left of center have abandoned and denounced the EZLN for this reason.

Meanwhile, FeCal has to consolidate his position. So in order to demonstrate that the people with guns are indeed taking orders from him, he's ordered the drug raids in Michoacan. Even though it is theater, it must be hurting the Narcos a bit. The biggest drug family in Michoacan took out a full page ad in the local daily to explain to the public that they're good people. They complained that they were getting blamed for all the drug killings in the state, but that they weren't responsible since they only kill people who intrude from other states and not native Michoaquenos.

Incidentally, I was told last night that drug killings are getting particularly bad here. Several months ago several Narcos were killed, then beheaded and their heads rolled into the nightclubs of their bosses. This was apparently a copycat crime from an event the year before when two policemen in Yucatan were killed by Narcos and their heads put on spikes in front of the Municipal building.

So that's fun.

Not only is FeCal tearing it up in Michoacan, he's announced that the military is going on tour and they're going to hit five states, mostly in the south, the most rebellious area. Ultimately though, it is basically an empty display. No one in power in Mexico or the US has any interest in stopping drug trafficking. If you'd like to know why, I'd highly recommend this article by Catherine Austin Fitts. Fitts is a financial executive and one-time civil executive. In the piece she explains the economics and finance of narco dollars. Suffice it to say, it isn't pretty. Turns out our economic and political system is largely dependent on drug money.

AMLO has announced that he will be touring the country as well. In an imitation of the EZLN's other campaign, he will be talking to his supporters and asking them what they'd like him to do. The EZLN meanwhile will be starting the second phase of The Other Campaign in February and are sending out two Zapatista Commandantes to each region to help organize the locals.

So you've got the right wing on tour with the military. The liberals on tour with their charisma candidate, the radical left on tour, and the APPO in Oaxaca coming back to life after the beat down by the feds. 13 communities in Oaxaca have now declared their autonomy and a major assembly is scheduled for the coming month.

Add to that the price of tortillas has doubled, in some cases tripled, in the last few months as has the price of eggs, milk, chicken, and gas. I read today in La Jornada that in order for a family to have a minimal supply of these basic staples they would have to earn 11 times the minimum wage. On top of that everyone is holding their breath waiting for the US recession which many economists anticipate. 85% of Mexican exports go to the US so when we go into recession their economy will swan dive.

Its going to be a fun year in Mexico.


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