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The Reds’ ransom of el Jefe

24 December 2010

With a lot more wit than I can muster, Burro Hall nicely sums up the reaction so far to the re-appearance of Jefe Diego:

So far, about the only reasonably credible piece of information to come out since he got sprung is the fact that the ransom negotiations were headed up by Jefe Diego himself. Some people just don’t know how to delegate. Apparently the kidnappers wanted an Austin Powers-esque One…hundred…million…dollars! But El Jefe told ’em fuck you, 30 mil or I walk. So $30 million it was. In cash. US dollars. El Jefe just had it laying around. Other press reports are saying that he’s been free since Dec 11.

Opposition politician in Querétaro are now saying things like “How great that he’s re-appeared – if he really was kidnapped, that is,” while others are saying that it would be unfair of PAN to use the kidnapping to gain an advantage in the polls next year. We Americans have some experiences with right-wing politicians cashing in on their lengthy involuntary confinement, and we can tell you it’s never pretty.

Meanwhile, fingers are pointing at the Ejército de Liberación Nacional as the possible kidnappers, though there doesn’t appear to be any actual evidence for this…

Some question the  “evidence” that a kidnapping by anyone took place.

What struck me first about the so-called manifesto that appeared after Fernández de Cevallos was either released (or emerged from wherever he was holed up) was its clumsy, and prolix reiteration of the “alternative presidency” platform.  While I have my doubts that the Ejército de Liberación Nacional is even active — besides the “evidence” that they were involved in a pipeline sabotage last year also being dubious, its leadership would be in their late 70s or early 80s, if they’re even alive…and, back when they were active, Queretaro — from whence Fernández de Cevallos disappeared — was never ELN territory.  I’m even more dubious of the proposition that “former policemen” carried out the kidnapping.  Although badly written, “former policemen” don’t write manifestos, especially not manifestos beginning with a quote from Bertold Brecht’s Über das Töten — a fugitive essay written in 1933 or 34 and published posthumously in 1956.

The classics established no statues that forbade killing.  They were the most compassionate of human beings, but they saw enemies of humanity before them who could not be overcome through persuasion.  All that the classics strived for was to create the kind of conditions under which it was no longer necessary to kill anyone.  That fought against the violence that abuses, and the violence with impedes the movement.  They did not hesitate to oppose violence with violence.

There is no such thing as forensic literary criticism, and I’m not all that into playing amateur CSI guy.   I’d just say that Epilogo de una desaparión is too Lopez-Obradorish (in its complaints) to be from ELN and  is the output of reasonably well-educated people, which rather eliminates another popularly suggested group of kidnappers, “former policemen”.  Although the ELN is typically Marxist, and might include people who’ve read obscure works by Brecht, as a “popular liberation front”, it would be unlikely to appeal to the Mexican masses (or to the Mexican elites for that matter) with quotations from a German playwright’s political essay justifying the Stalin’s purge of the Bolsheviks.  I’d guess you’d need at least a master’s in Marxist Studies — or a lot of luck and a good search engine — to figure out the quote.  My translation was largely based on David Pike’s “Lukács and Brecht” U of North Carolina Press, 1985, page 233).   Pike explains the quote this way: “Killing was acceptable if it occurred as part of a regulated revolutionary process.  The ‘classics’ — Marx and Engels — had given their blessing to selective killing, after all,  because  it would take place in order to do away with killing.”

Very early on, the manifesto makes mention of “Fobaproa” — the bank bailout and restructuring program of the 1990s attacked endlessly by López Obrador for destroying middle-class savings and enriching the “mafias” — and continually returns to the more or less “bourgeois” populist concerns:

We see day-to-day military impunity, police who deliver victims to the narcos and evident coexistence between the president of the Republic, governors, senators, deputies, judges, generals and police chiefs with major [narcotics] capos.  It is not too much to state that the high bureaucracy and reactionary sectors of the political class are the most criminal of the nation’s mafias.   The “war” the government claims to wage for the sake of peace is not to combat the root of the problem nor the real criminals —committed by white-collar criminals who — through  fobaproas, business bailouts, privatization (highway concessions, secret contracts in the oil, fiber-optics and natural resources) oil, fiber and other natural resources) — are enriched and acquire the ability to make and unmake governments.

However the most sophisticated form of violence, which hits us every day and is perhaps least recognized as violence do not seem to come from any one person.  This  is the “invisible” structural violence continually presented as “havoc”, “blows” or “international crisis” that never seem to end for we the people, and are presented to us as “progress”.  The television duopoly and the government  wants us to believe in “progress” and “modernity” while there are more layoffs, fewer opportunities to find productive employment and our salaries are worth less every day.  This “modernity” is not our dream, nor something we wish to leave to our children.

In other words, this is highly unlikely to be the product of a ragtag band of RURAL Marxist guerrillas.

Jefe Diego himself said his kidnapping was both economic and political.  Burro Hall implied (nah… said) that as a “victim” the Jefe was being positioned as a viable candidate for public office.  I’d add that, given his statements that he was somewhat open to his kidnapper’s point of view, that it also gives him an opportunity to run as a viable anti-Calderón PANista.  Needless to say,  Epilogo de una desaparión is a veritable grab-bag of talking points. It not only lays out (badly worded as it is) the short-comings of the present PAN administration, but of the expected PRI alternatives as well. And, being the product of supposedly irresponsible leftists, very neatly leaves a political opening for … Jefe Diego.

Politically, this benefits Jefe Diego.  Economically?  I have heard of people negotiating their own ransom, so the reports that Diego was actively involved in arranging the transfer of thirty million U.S. dollars (in U.S. currency) is relatively plausible.  One amusing (or troubling) detail, that I saw in a U.S. news report and neglected to bookmark, had him pressuring the Mexican government to pay up some overdue bills for legal work, to raise an untraceable large amount of cash  to be handled by the “Global Transformation Network”.  Which still sounds like a banking services company to me.

And 30 million dollars —  Not bad for a few months of work.

(I noticed after I posted that Octavio Rodriguez Araujo makes some of my points in Regeneracíon).

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