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Return to normalcy? AMLO and the crises of the day

19 December 2018

Ever since AMLO was sworn in, the “mainstream media” has been fretting over Mexico’s “left-turn”, when it seems less a turn to the left, than a REturn to traditional governance. Never a military power, nor enough of an economic heavyweight to control affairs outside its borders, and always mindful of the economic and military power sitting just to the North, nevertheless, Mexico has played an important role in both regional and international affairs… mostly by sitting on the sidelines.

Despite what is sometimes still published as “fact” there is no evidence that Mexico had any intention of intervening in the First World War, for or against any side. It was it’s strict neutrality that led British and US sources to claim it leaned towards Germany, and gave the “Zimmerman Note” it’s seeming importance. The truth is, no one in the Mexican government ever took it seriously (it’s doubtful Carranza ever read the note) and Zimmerman himself admitted it was simply meant to confuse the Allies, and to block the United States from entering that bloodbath.

The first country in the Americas to recognize the Soviet Union (in 1924, when Alexandra Kollontai — the first woman to ever serve as an Ambassador arrived in Mexico City) despite US and British objections, and has maintained good relations with nations which are violently antagonistic to Mexican domestic policy or it’s more powerful neighbors and supposed allies throughout it’s post-Revolutionary history. The only exceptions would be the Spanish Civil War, when Mexico openly sided with the Republic, and when it later broke relations with Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy shortly before U-Boat attacks on Mexican shipping led to a declaration of war.

Traditional foreign policy. Emperor Haile Selasie may have been an absolute monarch of a dirt poor nation of no importance to Mexico, but Mexico was the only nation to stick up for Ethiopia against Italy in the League of Nations back in 1932. El Universal photo of the Emperor’s 1954 visit to Mexico.

Those exceptions, however, were in the same spirit of neutrality as were other policy decisions like opening relations with the Soviets, and, more recently (and better known), Mexico’s refusal to back the US blockade and subsequent embargo against Cuba. Mexico’s support for the Spanish Republic and its stand against the 1930s-40´s Axis nations was based on the simple precept that nations could run their own affairs without interference, and the Spanish Republic was under threat by Britain, the United States, and France… as well as Germany and Italy. Mexico led the futile efforts against the latter two to counter their aggressive actions towards other nations… Ethiopia and Austria… cobbling together what would, under the United Nations, become the “non-aligned movement”. The country enjoyed particularly close relations with India, and with Yugoslavia (which during the “Cold War” was a sort of inverse Mexico… geographically part of the Eastern Bloc, where Mexico was Western, somewhat limiting their ability to carve out an independent policy, but enough in sync with their bloc’s economic assumptions to keep the major powers from overt intervention).

Also from the 50s… Cuban dissidents in Mexico, including young Fidel Castro.

If nothing else, Mexico has always had an “open door” to political and other asylum seekers. They couldn’t change the governments of South America during the 1990s, any more than they could stop Nazi aggression against Austria, and the rest of Europe. But they could provide a haven, as they still do, not just to Central Americas displaced by years of US economic dominance and climate change, but to Congolese displaced by that country’s own internal issues (nothing to do with Mexico) even when those seeking asylum may not be amiable to Mexico’s historically leftist internal policies (like Cuban and Venezuelan dissidents).

Up until the turn to a “neo-liberal” government under Carlos Salinas… and ever increasing U.S. dominance of the economy — and, more importantly, the security and political structures needed to support that economy — Mexico’s foreign policy has become more and more an extension of U.S. policy. As evidenced by the supposedly “liberal” Tom Boggioni in RawStory a few weeks back.

Boggiono wrote that “US and Mexico military commanders are keeping the border calm by ignoring Donald Trump”. According to the story, there are reports that the U.S. Secretary of Defense… one of the so-called “adults in the room” in the Trump Administration, could be replaced by someone more likely to take Trumps’s tweets, rambling statements and bombast more seriously than Secretary Mattis is said to do. What is said is that Mattis just brushes the worst anti-Mexico statements aside, in the name of U.S. military cooperation with their Mexican counterparts. The assumption being, of course, that the Mexicans would follow the U.S. lead on military matters. as a matter of course.

A more recent change… armed US agents openly operating in Mexico 2014.

Laura Carlsen, on the 4 December 2018 (four days into what the new government calls the Fourth Transformation) Telesur-English program “Interview From Mexico” delved into the more important question of how the Mexican military ended up in a position where the assumption is that it “MUST” follow a U.S. lead, with Ted Lewis (Human Rights Director for Global Exchange). The half-hour exchange is posted here.

It appears Mexico’s “Transformational” administration will continue to rely on the military (as promoted by the United States) in domestic security, and the (unfortunately) traditionally authoritarian model of crime control will continue (although more lip service and hopefully action will be focused on human rights). HOWEVER, as Carlos Heras argues in Jacobin (“Capital Versus Peace in Mexico” 17 December 2018) organized crime in Mexico largely functions as a “service provider” for outside business interests… and changes in which criminals are pursued is likely to be less determined by outside interests and pressure, than by “neutrality”… that is, crimes like narcotics smuggling to the United States is more THEIR problem than Mexico’s whereas oil theft is Mexico’s problem and more likely to merit a military solution. That is, in the most widely reported Mexican “influence” on other nations (transshipping cocaine and opiate production) the government is taking a more neutral stand… looking out for its own interests and accepting that other nations have their own issues to deal with.

And a final sign. The United States administration has stepped up its provocations against Venezuela. Under the previous two administrations (both PAN’s Felipe Calderón Presidency, and that of PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto), Mexican diplomacy openly opposed the Venezuelan government, the AMLO government, from the moment it took possession, has signaled its desire for normal (non-interfering) relations with that country… and may again be in the position it found itself in the 1930s: opposing the bullies, but offering to act as the honest broker and a haven in an unsafe world, This clip, from “Russian Bombers Landing in Venezuela: A Reaction to US Threats” broadcast by Real News Network (14 December 2018), nicely argues that there what seems “radical” in this one policy is nothing of the sort, but a return to normalcy.

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