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Badiraguato, Lyndie England and PEMEX

13 April 2008

Our protests this week in response to the “Badiraguato Massacre” — as the press has taken to calling it — have not seeped into the “mainstream media” … yet. With everything in the country concentrated in Mexico City, it’s the proposals to open up PEMEX to private investments, and the protests against the proposals, that dominate the news.

Still, last Wednesday’s mass protests in Mazatlán indicate growing dissatisfaction with the Calderón administration and their tendency to assume their very narrow mandate (if indeed it was a mandate) gives them “carte blanche” to push PAN’s economic and political agenda.

The three privates, corporal and lieutenant who have been sent up for a court martial in connectin with the Badiraguato Massacre (announced AFTER the protests) may, in some ways, be victims of this agenda. Like Lyndie England — the U.S. soldier sent to prison for her part in the Abu Graib scandal. As Frank Rich writes in today’s New York Times about Erroll Morris’ documentary on that scandal, “Standard Operating Procedure”:
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Ms. England, who is now on parole, concedes that what she and her cohort did was “unusual and weird and wrong,” but adds that “when we first got there, the example was already set.” That reflection doesn’t absolve her of moral responsibility, but, like much in this film, it forces you to look beyond the fixed images of one of the most documented horror stories of our time.

As in the United States, the Mexican presidency also faces growing opposition to the war they claim is a success as economic policies are also seen as increasingly dubious. Arturo Santamaría Gómez wrote on the connection between attempts to sell PEMEX reforms and the Badiraguato Massacre in Saturday’s (12 April 2008) edition of Noroeste de Sinaloa (my translation):

President Felipe Calderón is almost cerain that his iniative to modify the state ownership of PEMEX will be accepted by his own party and much of the PRI. Others are dubious, but probably the initiative has sufficient support to send the last bastion of economic nationalism and Mexican statism off to a better life.

Broad Progressive Front (FAP, made up of PRD, PT and Convergencia) Deputies occupied the House Chamber on Thursday in an attempt to derail, or at leat delay approval of the measure, but the attempt, like street demonstrations, lack the force and social approval to stop the Calderonista proposal

The PRD has lost much of its political capital and legitmacy though incessant and absurd errors, although one finds throughout society nationalist sentiment in favor of a state-owned PEMEX.

From the 50s to the 70s in the last century, the prevailing sentiment of the Mexican public was that it was in the national interest for the Nation to own the natural resources, and maintain national and cultural sovereignty for their own sake, although there was never total agreement on what – in cultural terms – was “strictly Mexican.

There was never any doubt that petroleum resources were public property. Efraín González Luna, the PAN presidential candidate in 1952 – in those days before globalization dominated the blue and whites and the tricolors – in a party speech on economics, said, “We must defend a Mexican oil industry from the private sector. The implication of allowing power to accumulate in mostly foreign hands in an economy as weak as ours” is a dangerous dependence.


This same thinker assured his audience that “one of the desirable, legitimate and necessary goals [of a nationally owned oil company] is the social elevation of Mexico.”

But…”the world has changed”, according to those who say economic nationalism is dead. “Today, nationalism and public ownership are nonviable”, and at least need to be minimized. These modern ideologues would add “González Luna was right fifty years ago, but Felipe Calderón is right now, because of the new reality.”

Effectively, that is what all PANistas say. They no lonber have anything to do with González and Gómez Morín [PAN’s founder]; not their ideology, not their ethics, not their policy.


The new, dogmatic vision of reality says that any proposed change must be accepted without any major revisions.

What prevails now in Mexico – and the world – is the thesis which says that any form of public ownership is out of date; that private ownership is “modern”, that public ownership “irremediably” generates corruption, and private ownership is “transparent” and “honest.” Furthermore, public ownership is inefficient, private is efficient. Nationalism is anachronistic and globalization is “modern.

This ideology creates a blank slate of circumstances, traditions and needs specific to each concrete reality. Worst of all, the appetite for privatization and de-nationalization tacitly accepts the illegal an illegitimate interests of political promoters who take advantage of the change for their own benefit

Only PANistas doubt that Juan Camilo Mouriño sees financial advantages to himself in approval of opening in petroleum refining and transportation to private capital, as Felipe Calderón proposes. Mouriño, as with several other members of both is own party and the Institutional Revolutionary Party are quite content.

In Mexico, reconfirming our long-standing fame for corruption (said generically: there are many honorable and excellent civil servants and business people) we have the capacity to prevent the nation’s advancement.

So, the thinking goes that private investment will same PEMEX from bankruptcy and leave behind updated technology is a politically sustainable proposal.


In order to justify the changes in PEMEX ideologically and to gain popular support, Felipe Calderón offers a Edén future for the Mexican poor:

“It will be possible for oil to continue to be the lever that allows us to finally pull us out of poverty, and to guarantee the education and health of all Mexicans.”

The fifty million Mexican that already live in poverty should celebrate. Private investments in oil refining and transportation are going to open the gates of Heaven to them… and it’s Mouriño they have to thank.

But, while Felipe Calderón is winning the battle of PEMEX is he is losing the one with drug traffickers.

In Los Pinos they do not want to see or still do not realize, the growing resentment against the Mexican Army in states like Chihuahua, Tamaulipas and Sinaloa. Perhaps not all the protests against the Mexican soldiers, like those seen last Wednesday in Mazatlán and before that in Culiacán, were spontaneous. However, the sentiments are real, and show a growing popular dissatisfaction with the Armed Forces and the Federal Government.

The mobilization that descended on Mazatlán from Badiraguato last Wednesday (9 April) was a courageous action. What is worrisome and has gone unpublished is the massive and open rejection of what must be one of the most solid of state institutions

As long as these rejections do not appear in Mexico City, our governors, with their centralist vision, remain unconcerned. The news did not impact the Federal District, and was in far-off Sinaloa, seems to be the thinking at Los Pinos.

They are excessively confident because they think everything outside Mexico City is Cuatitlán; that is to say, insignificant.

A year and a half into Felipe Calderón’s term the waters are choppy and the air is less clear. If he pushes through his energy reform it will give him some breathing room. At the moment, there is nothing he can show to claim progress against drug trafficking. The power of the traffickers remains enormous.

President Calderón continues depending on the support of the most powerful industralists of Mexico, and on the political supports of the governments of the United States and Spain, to the exclusion of any others.

While he can still count on the support of the majority of the middle-class, the people are moving further and further away, and do not see that they are benefiting from his policies.

The promise that oil manna will soon fall to the ground for the poor does not seen a vain promise, but the mobilizations in the streets of Mexico City haunt the good consciences of those who have the full stomach and dream about spending their vacations in the shopping malls of American cities.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. el_longhorn permalink
    14 April 2008 4:28 pm

    Good, thoughtful post. I don’t see how the PRD thinks its protest will be a success or garner additional support for them, and I am very sympathetic to their politics! PRD and AMLO offer nothing but criticisms – they put forth no policy proposals. If they are opposed to the Calderon proposal, what do they recommend? How will PEMEX get the funds to do the deep water wells that everybody agress that they need? Do they propose cutting PEMEX’s contributions to the federal gov’t? Do they support higher gas prices or additional taxes?

    What is their plan?

  2. 14 April 2008 6:45 pm

    You are right about the part where you say, “have not seeped into the mainstream media”

    A google search of “Badiraguato Massacre” turns up some old pages, mostly about Mexican music about narcos. A google search under NEWS turns up:

    Your search – Badiraguato Massacre – did not match any documents.
    Suggestions:
    Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
    Try different keywords.
    Try more general keywords.
    Try fewer keywords.

    What exactly is going on there?

  3. 14 April 2008 6:51 pm

    Another comment about PEMEX, if I may.

    There is hue and cry about Pemex needing help for expensive deep water exploration. From what I have read, the past few Mexican presidents and governments have purposefully underfunded Pemex exploration, in some opinions, for expressly the purpose of making the enterprise look bad, for exactly the purpose of being able to say that the company needed outside help. How else to convince the people to let foreigners in. And without the foreigners let in, how else to get huge bribes and “contributions”. It is all so predictible, and so “Mexican”, and so what should be changed about Mexico in the future.

  4. 14 April 2008 8:08 pm

    I think what the FAP (PRD coalition) proposals envision is higher income and corporate taxes to make up for the revenue generated by PEMEX. I’ve also seen some suggestions that the government incorporate some of the PEMEX social services into the Social Security system (PEMEX has a parallel pension and hospitalization system… the separate civil service system was folded into the general Social security system last year — a success for the Calderon Administration). And AMLO, like that other great political showman, Ronald Reagan, is a great one for railing against “waste, fraud and abuse.”

    Kind of typically Mexican were the dueling headlines. The conservative Guadalajara Informador said “FAP Sabotages Reform” while the leftist Jornada had “FAP Prevents Sell-out” !
    Both true.

    My visa does not say “journalist”, and I’m not suicidal… so — like everyone else in Sinaloa — I’m depending on rural news correspondents and what I see around me. I missed the demonstration (and don’t know enough to get involved… or know enough NOT to get involved). The commentator is right, though. Unless it happens in Mexico City — or in front of the U.S. media — the powers that be tend to ignore situations.

    The Army seems to be sweeping this one under the rug. Are the soldiers being railroaded, or is there something else going on? Or was it — as the Army seems to be saying — the kind of dreadful mistake that is bound to happen when military units handle police work?

  5. el_longhorn permalink
    15 April 2008 11:02 am

    I don’t think that anyone has purposely underfunded anything at PEMEX, but various administrations have used it as a piggy bank to fund their programs, projects, campaigns, etc. (remember Carlos Salinas Solidaridad!) and then failed to make any investments in the company – sort of a benign neglect.

    Add to that PEMEX’s reputation for being one of the worst run corporations in the world…

    Deepwater mineral exploration is a high risk endeavor, less than it was a decade ago, but still high risk. At $100 million or more per deepwater well, PEMEX has a razor thin margin for error if they do this on their own. A major setback could send Mexico into a budget/financial crisis. If they contract out, there is much less risk and still great reward.

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