In the 1970s, Mexicos economy grew strongly following the discovery of large oil reserves in the Gulf of Mexico. However, a global overproduction of oil occurred and in addition, the Mexican economy suffered from growing international interest rates and the US Dollars sky-rocketing. Mexicos foreign debt exploded, the country had to ask for international support, and in fact the Mexican Peso collapsed in 1982.In the final comparisons in my two-volume work The World According to Aztecs and Incas: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU, I describe the economic development and the escalation of violence in todays Mexico:
From 1988, the newly elected – after a much debated election – President Carlos Salinas de Gortari privatized parts of the large state sector and ordered the rest to operate on terms of market economy.
With Canada and the United States, Mexico entered into NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which entered into force on January 1, 1994, which was marked with cheers, champagne and fireworks. The agreement was intended to foster cooperation: US-American farmers were supported, whereby small Mexican peasents were ousted. In return, low-paid Mexican workers could find work at US-American-owned companies in Mexico – or easily cross the border illegally and seek low-wage knuckle work in the United States.
In the state of Chiapas, NAFTA was marked completely differently. So far unknown Zapatistas – it’s told that one third were women in this Mayan movement named after Emiliano Zapata, leader of the peasant revolution, occupied New Years Eve five towns and barracks. The military was sent and the fighting cost 1,000 lives before a ceasefire was agreed.
President Salinas had opened Mexicos borders and it made industrial production flourish. Growth increased and inflation was low. Mexico could resemble a modern industrialized country and joined the OECD. Drug offenders also benefited from the countrys open borders: politics and crime were woven ever closer together in corrupt Mexico, as described above. To secure his legacy, Salinas invested in popular projects financed by short-term, speculative capital and then maintained the Pesos exchange rate against the Dollar, even though it lost value as a result of rising inflation.
In 1994, three weeks after Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León was elected President Salinas successor, the Peso had to be devalued by 50%, and the International Monetary Fund once again supported Mexico accepting a tight economic recovery policy.
Zedillo strongly criticized Salinas for the economic misery he had brought Mexico into, and Salinas settled in Ireland. From here he could follow the arrest of family members suspected of financial crime. Eventually, in 2008, the Swiss government transferred US $ 74 million – of the US $ 110 million that the ex-Presidents brother had deposited in a Swiss bank – to the Mexican Government.
The Salinas family got none of the money.
In 2006, teachers again expressed their dissatisfaction during the May Day demonstration in Oaxaca in the state of the same name. And again, they launched a strike in protest against their low wages, working conditions, their own unsatisfacting education as well as against the state governor who they accused of corruption. Unarmed they occupied the towns Zócalo; 3,000 policemen were deployed to the occupation which lasted seven months. A newly formed asso-ciation, APPO, organized both the occupation, the feeding of the incarcerated and the education of the citys children. Police suppress of the occupiers cost 17 people their lives.
Since 2006, the year President Calderón deployed the military against the drug cartels, the war has cost drugdealers, policemen, soldiers, musicians, taxidrivers, hookers, journalists, politicians, wealthy people who could be blackmailed and others who were at the right place but at the wrong time(!), life. Over a decade, the war between and against gangs has claimed more than 200,000 lives. According to government statistics, 30,000 people have disappeared.
Mentioning these horrors in Mexican medias can be dangerous. In the years 2007-2016, 154 journalists disappeared. (Lohmann 2016, Christensen 2017:303-315)
In the first half of 2018, according to the Ministry of Interior, 15,973 killings were committed; that equals 22 killings per 100,000 inhabitants.
Under President Enrique Peña Nieto, the authorities have increased the use of force. The authorities torture and summary executions of with de facto guaranteed impunity for the killer is part of the norm. The Navys elite corps kills 30 people for each they wound, which experts compare to extrajudicial executions. (Ahmed 2016, Ahmed 2017)
In Iguala, in the state of Guerrero, students from the teachers college in 2014 would join the memorial demonstration for the students slaughtered in 1968 at the Square of the Three Cultures. Police stopped them with open fire, killing six students. Fourty-three students disappeared, apparently after being left to Guerreros Unidos, a local drug cartel that allegedly controlled the local police. Volunteers searched for the missing and bodyremains were found, but forensic pathologists found that these did not originate from the missing students. During one years search, 60 mass graves with a total of 129 bodies were found in this southern state. Students and teachers occupied government buildings and set fire to them. 22 policemen were arrested and the Minister of Justice confirmed rumors that the mayor had ruled the city along with Guerreros Unidos. The mayor was arrested and the State Governor resigned.
State persecution of critics and disappearances has a long history in Mexico. Violent confrontations mark the country, but Mexicans do not accept their misery. New forms of organizations are emerging among farmers, workers and students, several places in the form of self-defense committees. But also drug cartels can be considered a form of self-organization in a corrupt state.
Often replacements are carried out in the police force or new units are created to fight corruption and abuse of authority. It seems like a repetition, like a ritual. Mexico has a culture that is both fierce fighting and bloody oppressive. It looks almost inevitable.
In the most bloody election campaign in modern Mexican history, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, called AMLO, wins the Presidency in 2018 by more than half of the votes, thus breaking the PRIs power monopoly for the second time. He had been member of the PRI 1976-88, after which he became a leading member of the left-leaning PRD and elected mayor of Mexico City. In 2006 and 2012 he lost in very disputed presidential elections, which he now wins at the head of the newly formed MORENA.
AMLO has pledged to unify the country with a new approach to the countrys drug-and-corruption-misery, bring justice, lift poor young people out of poverty, reduce inequality and pursue a more offensive policy against US President Trump. These are great promises!
(pp. 473-476 in volume 2, reproduced without notes and illustrations):
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO AZTECS AND INCAS: MYTHS AND STORIES FROM MEXICO AND PERU. Edited, translated, retold and commented by Mikael Witte. Volume 1 + Volume 2
476 pages + 540 pages. Richly illustrated in colors
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