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On top of everything else…

17 December 2014

Given the on-going political and social crisis that Iguala disappearances brought to a head, the scandals raised by both Primara Dama Angelica Rivera and Finance Minister Luis Videgaray’s inexplicably special deals for private homes with government contractors (who are themselves suspected of padding their state and federal building contracts), the continuing militarization of the police, and now the free fall of oil prices (and the peso) what are the prospects for Mexico?

Dan La Botz, writing in New Politics (Collapse of Oil Prices, Fall in Peso, Exacerbate Mexican Political Crisis), suggests that the prospects for genuine change are about nil, given U.S. interests:

What, then, are the prospects in Mexico, given the underlying social situation and the current political crisis? Well, first, there are several possibilities in Mexico that are precluded by the United States’ government: 1) the election of a left government; 2) a military coup; or 3) a total breakdown in social order. The United States must maintain a nominal democracy in Mexico or, if it cannot preserve democracy in North America and in its “own backyard” (as Mexico is always so disrespectfully called), it will lose credibility throughout the world. To say nothing of the billions of dollars of U.S. investments in Mexico that must be preserved.

The question, then, is whether or not there exist social forces that could create a unified movement for the genuine reform of the Mexican government. Reform, because the possibility of revolution in Mexico is impossible without a broad unified movement and a strong left party, neither of which exist at this time.

While the Mexican government seems in this current conjuncture to be facing serious problems, there is no strong political party on its right or its left that is prepared to push to see if the Peña Nieto administration can be forced to step down. The National Action Party (PAN) is too deeply involved in the political and economic system to risk a serious challenge that might go further than it intends. On the left, the situation is not so different where calls for change are not accompanied by the organization of mass action. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, head of the Movement of National Regeneration Party (MORENA) and the country’s leading left politician, has been calling for months for Peña Nieto to step down, but his call has found little response beyond his own party and others on the left, perhaps because so many Mexicans are cynical about all of the political parties.

I tend to think a military coup is unlikely… first off, one forgets that the military was removed from political life when the PRI was created out of the old Revolutionary Party in 1948 specifically because the officer corps was predominantly leftist (the last real threat of a coup came from the left, after the tainted 1988 Presidential election). In 2006, the left’s reaction to another tainted and dubious election was mostly theatrical, and the military kept out of it. While it would be foolish to suggest that the “brass” are leftist today, it would be difficult to imagine any scenario (even with covert U.S. support) in which a coup could count on widespread support even within the military establishment.

While the leftist PRD seems headed for extinction, that seems more a reflection of the party’s own acquiescence with the establishment parties as with anything else. Furthermore, with a healthy assist from the right, and from Televisa, a growing number of Mexicans seem to blame the left for “disturbing the peace”… meaning simply protesting and demanding change. Even those who describe themselves as “liberals” (in the U.S. sense) make excuses or justify crack-downs on protests that disrupt traffic or … as they claim… just go on too long. Not that the left here, as elsewhere, doesn’t have a tendency to form a circular firing squad, but the left isn’t dead, merely fragmented.

With political leaders, including AMLO, seen as increasingly out of touch, or irrelevant, I expect some realignment in the political structure. The major parties have made it increasingly difficult to form new parties, and the prospect of a left-right (PAN-PRD) coalition to bring down the PRI doesn’t seem to offer any particularly useful solution to the problem of making the parties relevant to the people. Other than some mild calls for unspecified reform from other institutions (like the Church), the existing institutional system just isn’t working. Pressure from student, guerrilla, consumer, workers, and even business groups will force the parties to propose changes that will continue to provide the facade of “democracy” of the sort the U.S. assumes is the only kind (with political interests filtered through parties, and elections… whether tainted or not being beside the point) while attempting to preserve their own perquisites. I can see some “opening” to new parties (the minor parties … the Greens [PVEM], the Workers Party [PT], and Morena [Lopez Obrador’s new party] have been gaining members at the expense of the three main parties) but the PRI, in one form or another, is not going to go away. At most, it will redefine itself to fit the interests of the country’s elites (as it did going from Socialist to Neo-liberal, and — under Peña Nieto — becoming more culturally conservative to form what the left dismisses as PRIAN… a PRI indistinguishable from supposed rival PAN).

That’s as much as the U.S. will “allow”. HOWEVER, what happens in the homes, schools, factory floors, boardrooms, in the mountains, and on the streets, is out of the control of the United States. While more violence and state repression is to be expected, and in some sense will be accepted (as has been true in the U.S. for the last several years), it doesn’t mean democracy by other means is not in the offing.

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