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Obama ♥s Peña Nieto?

25 May 2012

In March, General Hill gave his annual report on SouthCom’s activities before the House Armed Services Committee. According to his testimony, the commander reported that the US must be alert to two “growing threats” to national security: the “traditional” danger of “narcoterrorists and their ilk,” and the “emerging” menace of “radical populism” that taps into the “deep-seated frustrations of the failure of democratic reforms.” Hill’s somewhat skewed assessment of the Latin American situation suggests that ultimately any political opposition, arguably a necessary element in any healthy democracy, can be seen as a threat to American national security. The Bush administration over the past years has instructed its ambassadors to Bolivia, Nicaragua and El Salvador to inform local authorities that although Washington respects free elections, it will not necessarily respect electoral results if the “wrong” people are elected. Former SouthCom commander General Charles Wilhelm told COHA that while “I don’t think any Latin American countries pose a specific threat… there is a threat to the US if existing democracies are being undermined.”

Eleanor Thomas and Lindsay Thomas — Council on Hemispheric Affairs “US Southern Command struggles to justify its role in the War on Terror“, Panama News, September 5-18, 2004.

Aguachile, attending the LASA (Latin American Studies Association… whose member, by the way, receive a 10 percent discount when ordering books through Editorial Mazatlán) conference in San Francisco, noticed the contradiction between the State Department’s Victoria Nuland having to tell the press that the United States was not interfering in the Mexican Presidential elections, and John Ackerman’s claim that Enrique Peña Nieto is the preferred candidate of the United States.

I don’t see any contradiction.  While the timing of the former PRI- governor of Tamaulipas Tomás Yarrington’s indictment in Texas on money laundering and narcotics charges is suspicious (as is the “quid pro quo” arrest of a PRD ex-governor, Narciso Agúndez Montaño of Baja California Sur, on similar types of charges), and would suggest the U.S. government has an “in” for the PRI, there is no reason the United States government would not prefer Enrique Peña Nieto over his rivals.

While the “drug war” is what dominates the U.S. news about Mexico, it is rather a side-show to U.S. interest in the Republic.  I have no evidence that the United States government prefers the “drug war” to end:  the State Department is in no way looking to cut funding for what is, after all, a “stimulus package” for U.S. manufacturers and suppliers of weapons, and surveillance systems.  And the U.S. Senate just kicked in 244 million dollars.

Peña Nieto, like Josefina Vásquez Mota, have both signed on to continuing the “drug war” under the same rules as its been conducted for the last six years, though Peña Nieto would have an edge over Vásquez Mota.  Not because she is a woman, and might be seen as “soft on crime”, but because her political background is more in the human services field (Secretary of Education, Secretary of Human Development) and she is, apparently open to change.  And, Peña Nieto has a track record of repression and using force against opponents (a la Atenco).  Winning, after all, is not the goal (if there is one) in this “war”:  selling U.S. weapons is.

More importantly, consider what the U.S. interests really are in Mexico.  Hint: Walmart is Mexico’s largest private employer and PEMEX is the second largest supplier of foreign oil to the United States.  Peña Nieto is a protege of Carlos Salinas, the father of NAFTA.  Although PAN is also largely pro-NAFA (and more capitalist than PRI), Vásquez Mota has only talked vaguely about restructuring PEMEX to allow more foreign concessions, while Peña Nieto has come very close to promising to turn PEMEX into a corporation with foreign stockholders.  A PRI victory in the Presidency would also presumably mean a PRI majority in Congress, and — if there is any one thing the U.S. wants more than continued access to narcotics, it’s oil.

Third, consider the implications if the “other” candidate wins.  The “left wing populist” candidate has suggested alternatives to the “drug war”… mostly involving stimulus spending on national industries, as well as changes in trade and agricultural policies — all of which would impact (and probably impact negatively) U.S. exports and corporate interests here. And, would demilitarize the conflict (such as it is) impacting the U.S. “suppliers” to the “drug war”.

As far back as 2004, the U.S. government was trying to define  “left wing populism” as a challenge  “democracy”, although of course, they conflated corporate neo-liberal capitalism with democracy and meant not “democracy” as in people voting for a government that suited their needs and interests but one that would be “doing business our way… with us… or else”.

While the piece quoted at the beginning of this post was written during the George W. Bush administration (when crude and bellicose statements were in fashion), it probably is valid today.  Both Democrats (Wilson in Mexico, Haiti, etc., Kennedy in Cuba, Johnson in the Dominican Republic) and Republicans (Coolidge in Nicaragua, Reagan in Grenada, George H.W. Bush in Panama) are willing to intervene militarily, though Republicans have an edge when it comes to espionage and subversion (… a la Eisenhower in Guatemala and Nixon in Chile, Argentina, etc.).  I don’t believe the Obama Administration has any intention of military intervention here (as they did, under the rubric of  “disaster relief” in Haiti after the earthquake), but the political labels don’t mean all that much.

Obama administration is openly providing mercenaries and paramilitary types like DEA agents in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America … something they’d like to continue doing. Furthermore, the Mexican election is the First of July, while the U.S. election isn’t until the first Tuesday in November.  Although the new Mexican president won’t take office until the First of December, I don’t think the Obama Campaign would want to face Republican taunts of either having “lost Mexico” to the socialists, or… being friendly with a new socialist regime.

Of course, while the PRI is — at least in theory — a socialist party, it is no more socialist than the British Labour Party was under Tony Blair, and besides… a Peña Nieto administration wouldn’t be all that different from a Calderón Administration except for being a bit more ruthless and heavy handed in trying to push through neo-liberal policies.  Vásquez Mota has no chance of winning.  And, absent the “left wing populist”, the Obama Administration’s attitude towards Latin America is about the same as that expressed succinctly by Richard Nixon:  “nobody gives a shit about the place.”

8 Comments leave one →
  1. 25 May 2012 7:52 am

    Dam good post, and I’m very glad you’re back here writing again.

  2. Juanita Cortez permalink
    26 May 2012 11:44 am

    Unfortunately, Nixon and his sidekick, Heinrich Kissinger, who famously said, “Chile is a dagger pointed straight at the heart of Antarctica”, did give a shit about Latin America. Just ask the Chileans, among others.

    The chances of Piña Neto losing are about the same as El Peje winning, nil.

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