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15 October 2014


I honestly don’t know what to say about the disappearance of the 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Normal School.  Sin Embargo has an overview of the situation as of this morning, focusing on the investigation and the political aspects of the situation.  The foreign media, as expected, has seen this as somehow related to the narcotics export trade (which, of course, would not exist without the huge buyer’s market in the United States).  That the alleged head of the alleged gang that allegedly kidnapped the students allegedly committed suicide and that PAN is now demanding the PRD state government resign, while the Peña Nieto administration worries about the economic fallout from reportage on this, raise the kinds of questions that the historian in me wonders whether they even need to be asked at this time, or if they can only be addressed when there is more information.

And, what seems to be missing from all the discussion is any mention of who these students are, and what their disappearance (I have no doubt they’ve been murdered) means.  These kids were the best and the brightest of very poor families, most of them from indigenous communities.  It was a sacrifice on the parts of their families to even send their sons (and most were young men, though a few are women) to lose their labor while the students themselves lived in appalling conditions BY CHOICE.  There were not pampered college kids… these were young men and women on a mission.

We are told that these students were “radicals”, but radical only in the sense that educating the poor is a radical idea, and educating minorities is “radical”.  If the rural normal schools have a reputation for being on the political left, whose fault is that?  Who else have supported the schools, and who else is providing the material support (like books for their libraries, let alone food for their cafeteria)?  And, given the “support” given to rural people and the indigenous in this country, what would one expect?  When “education” is being re-defined as job training and not as a way of means of liberating one’s self, students are right to rebel.  And… in this political and social climate… to liberate one’s self, and to see one’s role in life as assisting others in their own liberation is a “radical” act, a defiance of the State and of the prevailing economic assumptions.

We are mislead when we see this tragedy as tied up with “DRUGS!”.  It may very well involve narcotics exporters in cahoots with the local estabishment, but I have long argued that the narco-trade is no different than any other exploitive agricultural enterprise… requiring what Aldous Huxley called “sweatable coloured labour” to provide the wants — not necessarily needs — of the planet’s priviliged.  That the local administration is the party usually considered the left (PRD) is only a matter of degrees without much meaning.  That these students are actually very conservative (simple “peasants” seeking to preserve their culture, but within the modern world) is lost when we see those posters of Che or Lenin or Emiliano Zapata.. but what other models are presented to them?  What neo-liberal — or social democratic — model would make room for their survival, or accept their way of life?  What has representative “democracy” given them?  I’d be tempted to torch a statehouse myself if my representatives were not just doing nothing (I’m used to the U.S. Congress), but actively working against my survival, and appeared to actively participate in the destruction of my family, my culture and the future.

There is a war in this country against the indigenous, and the campesinos.  Whether the fight is over water, or electrical power, or minerals, or narcotics, it has less to do with access to the product than with who stands in the way of “progress”, and what they are able to say or think about those who have access.  Those that teach, those that speak up, those that refuse to acquiese in their own destruction, are the ones being “disappeared” or murdered.

Who are the killers?  We are.



A miner cost of doing business

14 October 2014

The estimated cost of environmental damage from the copper sulfate spill at a mine operated by Grupo Mexico in Sonora State last August is over $133.7 million USD, according to Mexico’s Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (Profepa).

SEMANART (the Department of the Environment) came up with a damage estimate that’s a bit more than double what the State of Sonora claimed, but then the Federal agency was taking into account both immediate damage and long range effects, which may not be known for some time.

One troubling aspect of the clean-up is that Grupo Mexico (the people who brought you this disaster in the first place) will be the ones to “permanently monitor river pollution, damage to land, livestock conditions, and the atmosphere.”

Incidentaly, CONAGUA.. the woater commission (and water rights are a federal, not state, matter) reports that in addition to having illegally taken water for years, Grupo Mexico’s spill is could get into the Hermosillo water supply… the one that is already overtaxed and stealing water from the Yaquís.

(Ooska News, via Aqua Now)

You don’t need no education

13 October 2014

Panamanian Secretary of Labor, Luis Ernesto Carles, goes one step beyond the Mexican government’s educational “reforms” which would turn most public universities into mere technical schools (and the cause of so much unrest of late). Minister Carles suggests the universities stop offering degrees in fields for which there are no job openings.

This seems to be a theme here in Central America… with rising expectations, and growing disparity between the haves and have nots, better the have-nots don’t have any expectations beyond what the haves allow them.

(Panama America)

A reminder about assimilation

12 October 2014

… from our friends across the water, those other Catholic agrarians whose migration to the United States freaked out the conservatives. Immigration is nothing new, and your bigoted names may become a mark of distinction in the future.

Derogatory names for immigrant groups are legion and in the case of those who left Ireland include “Shanty Irish” and almost certainly “Black Irish.” It is also possible that within the various Irish cultures that became established in America that there was a pecking order, a class system that saw some of their countrymen labeled as “black.”

The term “Black Irish” has also been applied to the descendants of Irish emigrants who settled in the West Indies. It was also used in Ireland by Catholics in Ulster Province as a derogatory term to describe the Protestant Planters.

While it at various stages was almost certainly used as an insult, the term ‘Black Irish’ has emerged in recent times as a virtual badge of honor among some descendants of immigrants. It is unlikely that the exact origin of the term will ever be known and it is also likely that it has had a number of different iterations, depending on the historical context. It remains therefore a descriptive term used for many purposes, rather than a reference to an actual class of people who may have survived the centuries.

Who were the Black Irish? James O’Shea, Irish Central

Massacred Democracy

11 October 2014

Peña Nieto is best compared not to Roosevelt, but to Augusto Pinochet or Vladimir Putin. Like Russia, two decades of simultaneous economic and political “liberalization” have not ushered in a new era of citizen empowerment, honest government and public debate, but consolidated the same corrupt, authoritarian tendencies of the past. And like Chile under Pinochet, in order to impose unpopular “structural reforms” on the economy Peña Nieto has used an iron fist to purge and frighten the opposition.

Wow… John Ackerman isn’t pulling any punches. It’s a shame that so few Mexican voices are heard, even in the quasi-mainstream media (the article was in an offshoot of the Huffington Post), and perhaps a bigger one that the voices that do get into the mainstream media are usually those like Enrique Krauze or Jorge Casteñeda, who are, in the end, cheerleaders for a more U.S. style economic and social system.

Late Friday Nite video (ok, Sabado… Sabado Gigante)

11 October 2014

Thanks to Mercedes Olivara of the Dallas Morning News for digging out this gem:

Chip Wood, getting in touch with his inner Mexican on “Sabado Gigante” in September 2003:

Yesterday’s non-ruling: U.S. Supreme Court

7 October 2014

No, not the one on same-sex marrriage (but not taking cases from appeals courts, the Supremes basically upheld the lower courts in their rulings on sae-sex marriage, immediately creating them in five states, and making leaving five states having no recourse but to change their own marriage laws).  That was good.  I have mixed feelings on the one nobody mentioned north of the border:

The United States Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal of 10 people who tried to sue former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo on the grounds that he was partially responsible for a slaughter committed in 1997 in Mexico, claiming the president then tried to cover it up.

The high court gave no reason for refusing to admit the case. A federal judge in Connecticut and the Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York had dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds that Zedillo has immunity as a former head of state.

The plaintiffs claim that they are survivors of the slaughter of 45 people in the village of Acteal, in the southern state of Chiapas, perpetrated by paramilitaries allegedly linked to the government.

Zedillo called the allegations as baseless. He was president of Mexico from 1994 to 2000 currently teaches at Yale University in Connecticut.

(La Jornada, “Corte Suprema de EU bloquea demanda contra Zedillo por Acteal“, 7 October 2014)

I have mixed feelings about the U.S. assuming it has the right to try cases for crimes in other countries (and its people scream when their own citizens are tried here for crimes committed in this country … see any rightwing site talking about gun-runner and general fuck-up Andrew Tamorresi for the latest example), but the plaintiffs had standing in U.S. courts, and Zedillo is, by his own choice, a resident of the United States.
And, while I understand the historical reasons for prostecutorial immunity for officials in this country (in the badder old days, there was a tendency to arrest dissident congressmen and governors, or judges who ruled the wrong way) Zedillo is not a sitting office holder and I was hoping to at least get the facts on the record in a court of law… a Mexican court, not some Connecticut one.


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