Felipe Calderón has arranged for a cushy exile to Harvard University … where he is unlikely to be extradited to The Hague to stand trial on the plethora of human rights indictments, and where somebody will inevitable ghost write his “memoir”. I expect there are Mexican who are themselves victims, or relatives of victims of outgoing administration’s policies who are residents of the Bay State, and who could at the very least file civil suits which might at least force FeCal to explain what he was up to over the last several years. As a historian, I certainly hope so.
The biggest embarrassment — or rather, disappointment — with my Gods, Gachupines and Gringos was not an annoying typo that somehow made it into the book more than once (“Bryant” for “Bryan”, as in William Jennings Bryan), nor an error that only came to my attention this last week (Sam Houston had no children by his first marriage, and was not fleeing child support when he lit out for Texas), but having so wrongly predicted the future. Writing in 2007 — before Plan Mérida was proposed or implemented, “Calderón’s adminstration, having begun with a military operation against drug dealers, appears to be fostering better relations with the United States. ”
I wasn’t wrong, but had no way of predicting the extent of “mission creep”… policy creep, media creep… no way of predicting that “a military operation” would mean not so much “better relations with the United States” as it would would interventionist rhetoric not heard since the Coolidge Administration, and the introduction of armed agents of a foreign power in levels not seen since the Emperor Maximiliano was propped up by French, Austrian and Belgian troopers.
Nor was it possible to predict that talk of the “drug war” would suck the air out of all discussion, making it next to impossible to discuss anything BUT narcotics trafficking and the violence engendered by the Calderón Administration’s “military operation”. Impossible to predict that even writings about subjects as far removed from narcotics trafficking as traditional sports editors apparently were compelled to drop in a paragraph or two on narcotics and violence.
How much of the violence was due to the gangsters themselves, and how much fomented by the state are questions we still don’t have answers for. How much of the so-called “drug related violence” is “drug related”… and how much related to the outgoing (and probably in-coming) administration’s “war on subsistance farmers” (did anyone notice that the foreign press only noticed the on-going assassination and violence against environmentalists and those defending their traditional way of life from opportunists who, like the “drug cartels” are feeding an inordinate appetite for Mexican resources)?
As far back as January 2007, I compared Felipe Calderón to Porfirio Díaz and not in a good way. State violence has been justified and excused on the grounds that it was enforcing “stability” on the country (which wasn’t all that unstable — simply having a rather loud, and out of the polling booth, exercise in democracy when Calderón came to office), and — at the behest of the foreign economic interests — extreme violence in rural regions, and the imposition of what is, in all but name, a police state. The “shock doctrine” was nothing new… simply the recognition that the processes by which radical change could be imposed was understood to be something that could be artificially created. As was this “narco war”.
Will it end? Probably not, but dubious as I am about the incoming President, his electoral legitimacy is slightly less problematic than Calderón’s and a sort of battle fatigue has settled in. Not that there won’t be dissent, but we can (at the risk of writing another cliché) let the smoke of battle clear, step back slightly and figure out what the Hell it was all about. Drugs? Not really. The imposition of a chaos to force through unpopular change? Perhaps. A calculated move to maintain control of resources? Likely. A cock-up of monumental proportions, based on miscalculations, wrong assumptions and continued out of bone-headed stubbornness? That we’d like to know.