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Memo From Mexico | Is Mexico About to Fall Apart?
The year 2006 has been a turbulent year for Mexico. Besides the usual problems, there's been an acrimonious election campaign, a disputed election, a donnybrook in the congress [video], a violent uprising in Oaxaca City and ongoing drug cartel wars which claim more and more lives.
So is Mexico a failed state, as VDARE.COM's Brenda Walker keeps suggesting? Is a new revolution or civil war in the offing? (Some correspondents have actually expressed concern for my well-being, and I appreciate that.)
Mexico is not falling apart. And at least Mexico's leaders still believe in the Mexican nation. I can't imagine a Mexican Senate approving a measure to flood the country with foreigners to underbid Mexican workers, as did ours.
I've heard for years that Mexico is "on the verge" of a revolution. It hasn't happened yet and I don't see it in the foreseeable future.
In the mid-90s things were looking bad too. There was an uprising in Chiapas, there were high-profile assassinations (including a presidential candidate and a cardinal) and other negative developments. And a disastrous peso crash effectively cut everybody's income in half (including mine). But, Mexico survived and here we are a decade later…hearing the same predictions of collapse. As they say, there's a lot of ruin in a nation.
Mexico faces enormous problems that are not about to magically disappear. Corruption, incompetence and bad policies are greatly in evidence. Nevertheless, the political system, the bureaucracy and the levers of power are still functioning, with no viable secession movements on the horizon. All the major political forces, in fact, have a vested interest in holding the system together.
I live in Mexico. If I believed it were falling apart, I'd be getting my family out of here.
Revolution in Mexico is neither imminent, nor desirable even if it were. Can you imagine the chaos that would ensue, with tens of millions of refugees crossing the border? If our government won't stop illegal crossers now, why would it then?
A much better solution than "revolution" is "evolution"—gradual change moving Mexico towards being a more efficient and prosperous society. It's happening. The country has made great political progress in the past few decades. But it's happening on Mexico's terms, not our terms.
The U.S. and Mexico are distinct societies, with different roots, histories, languages, cultures, legal systems, and different expectations of government. They should remain distinct societies. We shouldn't try to annex Mexico, let Mexico annex us, or merge with Mexico.
The way to view Mexican political developments is to see them in a Mexican context. In such a context, the turmoil of 2006 is troubling, but doesn't indicate Mexico is falling apart.
In reality though, the Oaxaca strife is essentially a local matter, with plenty of blame to go around on all sides. And it all started with a teachers' strike.
In Oaxaca, local #22 of the S.N.T.E. (the Mexican teachers' union) went on strike in May. There's nothing extraordinary about that. The local #22 goes on strike every May.
But this year, Ulises Ruiz, the Oaxaca governor decided to use tear gas on the teachers, which they obviously didn't like. This radicalized the teachers and attracted the attention of a more radical group called APPO (Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca). Flavio Sosa, that group's leader had his own ax to grind. Sosa had lost the exclusive transport concession he'd had with the previous governor, so he jumped on the dump the governor bandwagon.
Things went from bad to worse in Oaxaca, real violence followed and protesters were killed. President Fox, always reluctant to use public force, did nothing, hoping the situation would peter out. It didn't and Fox finally sent in the quasi-military PFP . It's still not completely calm in Oaxaca City.
In eight months of tumult, however, the unpleasantness in Oaxaca has failed to inflame the rest of Mexico's population, where it's business as usual. It's neither a revolution nor a harbinger of revolution.
What about Mexico's contentious 2006 presidential election? Isn't that a sign Mexico is falling apart?
Once again, no.
The presidential election was a squeaker, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) losing to Felipe Calderon by a scant quarter of a million votes (out of 42 million cast).
Lopez refused to accept defeat, cried fraud, and unleashed massive protests in Mexico City, in which his followers actually camped out on a major boulevard for weeks on end.
The protests were devastating to downtown Mexico City, and put some hotels and restaurants out of business. Residents of a city already known for traffic congestion had to spend even more hours than usual in traffic.
It's no accident that most of the protesting was in Mexico City, because that's where Mexico's media is centered and that's where they'd get the most attention. Also, Mexico City mayor Alejandro Encinas was a political ally of Lopez Obrador and was aiding and abetting the demonstrations. The city is also home to multitudes of activists who are always ready to participate in a protest.
But it was counter-productive to the cause, as support for AMLO plummeted among the general Mexican population. And outside of Mexico City, the protests just didn't pick up much traction.
One example will suffice. In the Mexico City area, protestors took control of toll booths and allowed motorists to drive through without paying. When they tried that near Monterrey, it was a complete failure. That's because drivers, after being waved through for free, were returning on foot to pay their tolls! That was no fun for the protesters, who gave up and left.
AMLO's next step was to have himself declared the "legitimate president" of Mexico, which was carried out in a big rally on November 20th (anniversary of the Mexican Revolution http://www.mexidata.info/id1130.html).
This has all happened before. Ironically, in 1989, PANista Manuel Clouthier, who'd placed third in the 1988 election, also set up an "alternative government."
As for AMLO, he's now touring the country giving speeches, much in the manner of "Delegate (formerly Subcomandante) Marcos," white guerilla leader of the Chiapas uprising of the 1990s.
Meanwhile, opposition members of the Mexican congress, who didn't recognize Calderon's election but did recognize their own elections to Congress, had promised to prevent Calderon's taking the oath of office on December 1st.
So on November 28th, they rushed the dais in the legislative chamber, the plan being to physically control it and prevent the oath-taking ceremony 3 days later. Not to be outdone, the PANistas (of Calderon's party) also rushed the platform. There the two factions stayed, camped out for 72 hours, each group afraid if it left the others would maintain control.
Now this might seem rather bizarre, and in fact it is, but you have to realize the Mexican Congress is a pretty rambunctious place. Protestors have ridden horses into it, and others have walked about naked in its precincts.
The legislators themselves can sometimes be quite unruly, and the dais campout was simply an extension of such behavior.
It's fair to point out that legislative violence in not unknown in other countries, Taiwan is rather famous for it.
On the morning of December 1st, the dais campers were still there, and real brawl had erupted on the chamber floor. But, thanks to careful planning by the EMP (the presidential security detail), Felipe Calderon entered the chamber and, amid cheers and jeers, took the oath of office, as Mexican law and custom dictate. The deed had been done.
Mexico has weathered the 2006 election dispute. All the organs of government are functioning, including Congress. As for the opposition members who said they didn't recognize Calderon's election, they are de facto part of the system whether they admit it or not.
Furthermore, the long post-election contention did not adversely affect the Mexican economy (except for the downtown Mexico City tourism industry). There wasn't any peso crash or stock market dive or anything like that.
Which indicates the people protesting weren't contributing much to the economy anyway. Even during the Mexican Congress campout, the Mexican stock exchange actually went up, not down.
So far, I am guardedly optimistic about the presidency of Felipe Calderon.
He seems to exhibit better political skills than President Fox, and also enjoys a much better correlation of forces in the Mexican congress than Fox did. What's needed is a working majority which can enact real reform that will free up Mexico's economy to be more dynamic.
The U.S.A. can help Mexico by simultaneously
(a) Increasing investment in Mexico, and
(b) Getting control of our borders and making it clear that the era of mass immigration is over.
This strategy would provide both the funds and the incentive to make productive changes.
The rest is up to the Mexicans themselves.
American citizen Allan Wall (email him) resides in Mexico, with a legal permit issued him by the Mexican government. Allan recently returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the Texas Army National Guard. His VDARE.COM articles are archived here; his FRONTPAGEMAG.COM articles are archived here his "Dispatches from Iraq" are archived here his website is here.