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Come over to the dark side?

5 February 2012

5-Feb-2012, 12:00 Oops… a bit of post-posting editing… a paragraph got moved and a few words were lost, making a mishmash of things. Not to mention my usual 2 AM misspellings.

El Blog de Izquierda (and a tip of the sombrero to Erich Moncada for pointing me to an excellent political resource) has a fascinating post on an routine  “drug war” story.  General Bernardo Pineda Solís, the new brigade commander in Zacatecas is newsworthy for saying “the Army is not the solution to resolving security and crime problems in the country.”

Quoting Cicero, General Pineda said, “‘If you fight violence with violence, you end up with either anarchy or a dictatorship.  Is that what we want?”  While willing to take up duties in Zacatecas, Pineda was emphatic that the need is for legal change, as well as economic and social restructuring. “

Of course, Blog de Izquierda sees that as evidence of support for AMLO, and it might be.  While the military, as an institution is a conservative one, I have never assumed that the officers themselves are necessarily knee-jerk reactionaries.  Indeed, the opposite.  Career officers, if not from military families,  generally started out as ambitious kids from “traditional” families, and usually rural ones.  And, if you remember your history, the modern left, the PRD, was formed largely from PARM, which itself was originally the military cadre of Lazaro Cardenas PRM, when the party was reorganized as the PRI.  However, with restrictions on military participation in elections, and the strong sense that the military services, as institutions, are “above” politics, there is no way to gauge sentiment in the armed forces.  As I mentioned in my last post on the elections, we just don’t know how strong the left’s support is, but there are signs that there is more support for the left from sectors  we (we foreigners, at least) tend to overlook.

Harder to overlook is that the more “conventional” opinion makers are also hinting that the upcoming elections are tilting further left than it appeared even a couple weeks ago.   Vicente Fox and Enrique Krauze both grudgingly admit some value to “AMLO-ismo.

Ex-President Fox, who tried mightily to have AMLO disqualified from holding public office, now admits that old age pensions (introduced in the Federal District during AMLO’s tenure as head of government) were a good idea.  Of course, Fox turns 70 the day after the upcoming Presidential election, so maybe he’s starting to appreciate state support for those of the “third age” (as Mexico euphemistically refers to old people).

More seriously, as a practitioner of the dark arts of politics, Fox and AMLO aren’t all that different.  Like AMLO, he has not been adverse to fomenting “populist” demonstrations to overturn electoral results (people forget Fox became a national figure when he led street protests and shutting down the state capital in Guanajuato after losing an election for governor in 1991).   Fox’s presidential campaign depended, like AMLO’s now  in both presenting himself to a party with often discordant factions as the most electable of possible candidates, and to the middle class and intellectuals as a useful alternative to the status quo.

Which is what makes Krauze’s semi-support not all that shocking.  The dean of conservative Mexican intellectuals, is suggesting he will support AMLO in the upcoming Presidential elections.  Maybe.

Carlos Fuentes — who in 2000 could in good conscience back Vicente Fox despite ideological differences with PAN on the basis that a vote for Fox was a “useful vote” for change — can now back AMLO for the simple reason like other intellectuals, he senses that neither Enrique Peña Nieto nor whomever PAN selects in today’s primary, have either the intellectual or political vision the Presidency demands.  Krauze is holding back, waiting for a sign that AMLO is not “Mesías Tropical” of his June 2006 essay in Letras Libres.

Picked up and vulgarized (to the point of aburdity) by George Grayson, the William and Mary University Mexicanist and “usual suspect” quoted by U.S. media whenever Mexican political issues are mentioned, Krauze’s essay  created image of AMLO as a radical, anti-democratic rabble-rouser that dominated the hostile media image of the leftist leader in the 2006 election.

Specifically, as Krauze later tweeted (and, twitter posts are now media fodder in this weird election), that although he said on television that AMLO was the “cleanest” of the candidates, the historian will only vote for him if the Tabascan shows that he has given up his “intolerance and redeemerism*”.

“Redeemering” and rousing the rabble may be democratic, although being “outside the (ballot) box”, it doesn’t fit into Krauze’s neat definitions of what is, and what isn’t the way a modern state should operate.

Krauze is not so much important for his politics  but for providing a historically-referenced basis for political discourse:   no mean feat in a country where historical references and allusions are not the province of the academics, but of any intelligent conversation about national affairs.  As a popular historian (Biography of Power is his best know work in English translation), especially influential through his inexpensive, widely distributed “Clio” television and booklet series,  Krauze is a “brand-name”.  That is not a put-down by any means… a few chance encounters with the guy, as well as his books, were of enormous help in writing Gods, Gachupines and Gringos… only that one more or less knows what to expect from Krauze from his historical assessments of Mexican leaders.

Whether AMLO is intolerant and has a Jesus complex (as vulgarized to the point of absurdity by U.S. writer and “go-to guy” for English-language mainstream media discussions of Mexican politics, George Grayson in his anti-AMLO screed, Mexican Messiah) based in part on the anti-clerical traditions of Tabasco politics is not for me to say.  That AMLO does seem, as I’ve said before, to be putting his effort into downplaying the “radical, fiery leftist populist” image Grayson and others projected of him in 2006, and is going out of his way to win over the urban middle class and reassure the business community that he is neither Oliver Cromwell nor Ché Guevara, suggests that while Fox may have learned a lesson from AMLO, AMLO is learning from Fox… positioning himself to be the “useful vote” for change.

* Krauze’s tweet used the word “redentorismo”, which doesn’t translate into any English word I know, and I had to coin a rough equivalent…

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