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Obama = Wilson, Chapo = Villa?

4 March 2009

I’ve written several times about my fears that the Obama Administration, suffering from the same blinkered view of Latin America as every U.S. administration over the last several decades two and a half centuries and Obama’s own statements that he wants to “help” Latin America… and the Secretary of State’s long-documented contempt for Latin leaders,was likely to lead to serious problems over the long run.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is on a tour of Latin America,  “offering” Mexico the same “assistance” the United States gave Colombia (with a president tied to narcotics dealers, a rising narcotics production industry and a military running rough-shod over human rights).

Woodrow Wilson once said, about Latin Americans generally, and about Mexico in particular (he was exasperated with Venustiano Carranza at the time), “We will teach them to elect good men.”   The suspicion that the U.S. intervened in the 1988 election (when Cuauhtemoc Cardenas probably won) and in the 2006 election (when Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador probably did) … not to mention direct interference in elections in several nations (Bolivia, Venezuala and Salvador recently) more than suggest that “good” is in the eye of the definer, the U.S. Administration.

The “help” being offered sounds supiciously like the “help” offered by the Wilson Administration in elminating Pancho Villa.  While I’m not going to shed a tear if our “hillbilly drug smugglers” came to a bad end, I wonder if we don’t run the risk of making those gangsters into even greater folk heroes than they are.

The best explanation for Villa’s raid on New Mexico (accepted by pro- and anti-Villaistas alike) was to force U.S. intervention, which would undermine the credibility of the Carranza Administration.  Our “hillbilly drug smugglers” are not stupid.  Their continued existence depends on the state (or, rather the marginally credible Calderon Adminstration’s) failure to provide any real alternatives for rural employment and financial growth.  IF — as some U.S. reports say — parts of Mexico are under the “control” of so-called drug lords, it has more to do with lack of opportunity than any particular wish to go over to the dark side.

Certainly, there is some romanticism in the narco trade — listen to any “narco-corrodo”… it’s all about getting one over on the gringos. .  The conservative commentator, Augustin Barrios Gomez, writes in today’s The (Mexico City) News:

The ranks of the criminals are fueled by the Mexican baby boom of 1960-1990. Poor economic growth turned many who should have been part of a “population dividend” of working-age citizens into armies of miscreants.

Impunity fueled by corruption has meant that these many thousands of individuals have no incentive to mend their ways. Worse, there is now a subculture of music, legend, conspicuous consumption and even religious icons that provides a sense of belonging just as powerful as any rebel flag or national identity.

If the Obama Administration is something new (and I don’t think it really is), the last thing it needs to do is give the narcos credibility for standing up to the foreign invadors.

Barrios sees the start of a solution in better education, better job opportunities and a better use of  “human resources”… specifically, recruiting the talented corporate and business elite (and Mexican big businesses are well run organizations) who, until now, have been left out of the equation of what makes up a civil society.

Barrios seems to be agreeing with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of all people (I hope this doesn’t make him change his thinking) that the “drug problem” is one of economic opportunity, though AMLO would also point to the marginal credibility of the “official” opposition (the Calderon Administration).

The only “help” Mexico needs is for the U.S. to clean up its side of the border and figure out how to control its own financial mess.  Figuring out how to do that and keep the U.S. dollars that now flow into rural Mexico from narcotics flowing into legitimate trade… ahi, es un detaille.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. el_longhorn permalink
    5 March 2009 8:45 pm

    Here, here!! We may disagree on some of Mexico’s internal responses to los narcotraficantes, but we agree that the best thing the US could do is stay out of it.

    With all this talk of deficits and spending and whatnot, how much could the US save if it just stopped meddling in other countries affairs??


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