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Pipe dreams

13 January 2010

With voracious demand for a Mexican commodity just north of the border (which had some domestic supply, but not nearly enough to meet the insatiable demand for it, even with sizable imports also coming from Canada and South America), the ambitious, greedy and amoral suppliers turned to thugs, cutthroats and mercenaries in Mexico to control their territories and supply the United States.

The resulting chaos and violence this engendered in Mexico undermined the credibility of the state and its leaders, led to rampant bribery and raised national security concerns, especially with continued threats of intervention — militarily and politically — from the United States.  Despite the best military, legal and political efforts, the situation was only resolved when — managing to build a concensus among political leaders, community organizers, ordinary citizens and even the Catholic Church — Lazaro Cardenas simply nationalized the oil industry in 1938.

Of course, PEMEX has not resolved every problem created by the oil industry, but it did bring relative calm and stability to Mexico.  It neutralized the threat from powerful non-state actors like Edward Dohenny, William Buckley and Lord Cowdry, as well as ending the career of their private enforcer, Manuel Pelaéz (the Zeta of his day).   While there was — and is — exploitation and downright criminality in the oil industry still, and, PEMEX may be — as it is with some (ah heck… er,  good deal… ahh, lots of … no — extremely good) reason considered a bloated, corrupt bureaucracy, it also has had the effect of bringing revenues into Mexico that otherwise would have been invested outside the country.  Nationalization, if nothing else, brought stability and relative prosperity to Mexico, and eliminated the rationale for much of the overt and covert intervention of the United States into Mexico (and completely eliminated British intervention).

In my wilder, “I could never say such a thing, but you might think…” moments, I’ve thought maybe Mexico should just set up POTMEX and bring the latest Mexican commodity with the United States can’t get enough of, which it is willing to turn to criminals and thugs to supply and which leaves the country vulnerable to  subversion financed by private interests north of the border, or calls for that government to intervene in Mexico’s internal affairs. And just think of the funding that would be freed up if Mexico didn’t have to spend so much on military forces, CSI types, and morgues.  And, when it comes to national security, there’d be a huge benefit… the United States, described by someone worried about the effects of drugs on the U.S. now as “half a nation of zombies” would be too busy dealing with their own zombie attacks, or too stoned anyway, to be much of a threat this side of the river.

Yea, there are a few challenges.  Paying off all the arbitration claims from nationalization took twenty-five years, and — while World War II set the process back about several years (the Dutch, being occupied and the British being broke, couldn’t really be expected to press their claims between 1936 and 1946) but, for the most part, it was relatively clear who owned what.  Identifying the owners of narcotics industry properties might be challenging, although requiring the owners to identify themselves if they wanted compensation might be worth something in itself.

But Lazaro Cardenas managed to build support from right, left, center and the Catholic hierarchy when he nationalized the oilfields… support unlikely to be achieved for any nationalization of the narcotics trade.  And, oh yeaaaah… there’s that little detail of the whole industry’s legality.

And the gringos probably would invade to protect their business interests… though they’d have to hire “illegal aliens” to do the job Ameicans were too stoned to do!

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