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General discontent with Plan Merida

28 April 2013

In anticipation of the up-coming state visit of Barack Obama, where the U.S. President — without much to show in the way of progress on controlling the illegal arms trade from his country — is expected to double-down on demands that Mexico continue it’s involvement with the “Merida Plan” by which Mexican law enforcement and military personnel have been largely co-oped by U.S. forces, in a “war on drugs” in this country.

While it is expected that the Peña Nieto administration will largely accept whatever it is the U.S. is proposing, one Federal Deputy from the President’s own party (the PRI) is publically questioning the entire premise of the drug war, and the government’s cooperation with the United States.  This would be easy enough to ignore if  Deputy Roberto Badillo Martínez was just a cranky back-bencher, but Badillo  sits on both the Chamber of Deputies committees on Public Security and National Defense (and is the Secretary of the latter)…  and — he is not just some politician from Veracruz — but  a retired  General Diplomado del Estado Mayor  (in the Mexican military hierarchy, one rank below “Comandante Supremo de las Fuerzas Armadas” i.e., Commander-in-Chief: the President of the Republic),  who in addition to field commands, 384was in charge of the Army’s national service program, was  military attaché to Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, and has written widely on military and political subjects.  With active duty military officers not permitted to make political pronouncements,   General Badillo is often the semi-official voice for one of the key “stakeholders” in U.S.-Mexican relations.

My translation of the key parts of that letter (as published in SDPNoticias):

When you [Obama] were elected President of the United States, there was genuine euphoria here in Mexico and throughout the western world.   Some in  Mexico foolishly said your country was the undisputed creator of democracy. Many commentators and political scientists treated you as a Messiah.

[But, at the time] I said that the U.S. government is like an orange cut in half, with the Republican Party to the right and the Democratic Party to the left.  For the rest of the world, it was the same whether the Presidential Chair was held by a Democrat or a Republican, the two halves being separated only by your internal differences and nuances.

In the years that followed [your first election], you have not lived up to your  promises to lower —  even for a moment — the level of U.S. war-mongering in the world, as demonstrated by more 600 military bases on every continent (and including those in allied and friendly countries, sometimes also complicit in your war-mongering, like Germany, Italy and Spain) and have not touched a  military budget of over 600 billion dollars … [and]… when the Merida Initiative engulfed my tragic country… and when no one would listen to Latin American leaders’ who aired their grievances about your country’s interventionist and militaristic history, all you said was “Well, I’m not guilty”, throwing away our concerns as surely as you threw the book Open Veins of Latin America*.

Through a miscalculation rooted in the anxiety of a governor whose election was considered dubious, my country permitted the government of George W. Bush’s to implement the infamous Merida Initiative, which you have allowed to continue.  It is the Merida Initiative that is the responsible for the current tragedy. … The Merida Initiative is accountable to the people of Mexico to:

The death of more than  70 000 youth, children and women.

The disappearance of more than 20,000, who will never be seen again.

The depopulation of large areas of northern Mexico — and in some cases, not so far north, but hundreds of kilometers from the border — thereby causing untold family tragedies and indescribable, yet adequately known and studied , human drama.

The flight of thousands of millions of dollars from the border towns and some places not so near the border, where Mexicans with solid financial  the border towns of his country and some not so border, where Mexicans had substantial financial investments  in houses, apartments and businesses but were forced to flee the generalized violence caused by hundreds of thousands of weapons of all kinds and the millions of cartridges, clandestinely, or in operations authorized by your government such as “Fast and Furious” poured into Mexico, socially and economically destroying large areas of the Republic .

As I have said at the time in the Chamber of Deputies and in other media: the Merida Initiative was a national tragedy, that would further divide the Mexican Armed Forces.   As we know from U.S. history, it does not help other countries, destabilizes other governments and nations. The U.S. has no friends, it only has interests as Dean Rusk  said in the 60s of last century, echoing  the English Prime Minister Palmerston…

President Barack Hussein Obama: your first and second terms do not deceive me.  You are part of orange democracy the Democratic and Republican parties have implemented in their country, to deceive your people, and the peoples of the world.

Now the plan is to intensify the Merida Initiative, by other means, we’re told.  Surely, those other means will also end in more tragedy, “help” you call it, as was the “help” given to the naive President Calderón to “combat narcotics trafficking and organized crime.”  Time will tell.

Personally, I would hope the phrase “Merida Initiative was erased from the Mexican vocabulary.

In general, I agree with the General.  I see nothing productive coming out of the U.S. President’s visit, nor in maintaining the close relationship with the United States either militarily or economically.  Should the U.S. (most likely for domestic political reasons) cut back on its “investment” in the middle east, it depends on its war industries to keep its economy humming, and the “narco war” is going to offers an irresistible opportunity to continue spending, at a lower domestic cost.   It’s nonsense to say that “legalizing drugs” (or, rather, decriminalizing marijuana) will change that situation.  First, since any legalization would only mean U.S. coporations like Montsano or Archer-Daniels-Midland would control the market, and would either freeze the Mexican producers out, or — under the excuse that the “gangsters” control the production here, seek to make this country safe for U.S. democracy (i.e., corporate control of agricultural exports).

Economically, I have always seen the over-dependence on the U.S. market as a weakness.  Mexico can grow it’s own middle class through increased internal marketing, and by doing business with the faster growing South American and Asian markets, none of which are militarily invested in this part of the world.

I don’t expect Brigadier General Badillo will be invited to meet with Obama, nor that he’ll finally read Open Veins… nor that the U.S. will, or can, change the way it sees Latin America (and Mexico specifically).  But, the assumptions that the Mexicans — and perhaps the military forces in Mexico — are likely to resist a continued penetration of the market and control of national security here is a huge mistake.  Mexico, like the United States, has interests.  But… not being a world power, nor seeking to dominate the world… it does have friends.

* Eduardo Galeano’s 1971 Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina is considered the essential work in any discussion of foreign exploitation of Latin America.  While leaders at the Summit of the Americas in April 2009 were not all in agreement with the policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, they instinctively understood the reason — and quietly or otherwise, applauded — when Chavez presented the book to Obama.  Obama’s indifference seemed another sign that U.S. leaders had no knowledge of, and no interest in learning about, Latin American issues and grievances.  And appallingly bad manners.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. AllenG permalink
    29 April 2013 7:32 am

    Mexicans, and to a lesser extent, Canadians, have come to realize that Obama, as head of the world’s largest economy, really doesn’t know what he is doing.
    Obama and his administration are goats in a flower shop. Munching , crashing, floundering, but looking cute and funny in photos. Obama’s actions are not the problem, but his lack of management ability, and his desire for personal publicity.

  2. 29 April 2013 8:36 am

    This was excellent, Richard. I hope it is widely shared.

  3. norm permalink
    30 April 2013 5:52 am

    Do the people of the US want to act the role of the world’s policeman? Most say no but when something happens, they ask what we are doing about it. Obama has a mandate that includes interfering off shore. It is just the way it is, I’m not happy with it, not one bit but it is what it is. Honduras is ready to boil over and the US military is stirring the pot-how many US citizens even know where Honduras is?

  4. 2 May 2013 11:56 pm

    You might be interested in my post on the topic, Richard.

    I have not been this pessimistic about US-Latin American relations since Nixon and Pinochet.

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