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Give the (old) Devil his due

18 January 2022

Holed up for the last several years in his San Angel home, centinarian Luis Echeverría Álvarez, has been dubbed the “Ogre in the Castle”. The sobriquet is well-deserved, given his role in the Tlatelolco massacre and the crack-down on political dissent here in Mexico both during his tenure as Interior Minister from 1963 to 1969, and as President from 1970 to 1976. The Tlatelolco Massacre of 1968, the Halconazo (“Corpus Christi Massacre”… best known to foreigners from its portrayal in the film “Roma”) in 1971 and the “dirty war” — the largely clandestine (and US backed) campaign of military persecution, extra-judicial murder and “disappearances” of (mostly rural) dissenters — are not forgotten.

Left: 1972, Right: last known photo (courtesty La Jornada)

In his quest to restore not only his unsavory reputation among intellectuals and his attempt to legitimize his preferred role as would be leader of the “third world”, what was bally-hood in the media — besides spectacular economic growth (over 6% during his tenure) — was massive investments in cultural institutions (and state employment for would be intellectual opponents) and foreign policy decisions clearly meant to break with the pro-US “Cold War” restraints, including opening diplomatic relations with both the People’s Republic of China and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, providing political asylum for leftist dissidents from Chile and Spain, and… just as Franciso Franco was on his death-bed, attempting to hurry along the end of Spanish Fascism, pushing to have the country expelled from the United Nations…. and later openly campaigned to become its Secretary-General (allegedly calling on the then “untouchable” Mother Theresa to lobby for him!).

None of which moved Mexico towards a more equitable and just society, the benefits of the growth mostly concentrated among the “usual suspects”, the populist policies largely forgotten by subsequent adminstrations, and his remembered accomplishments being best summed up by slightly misquoting Lady Macbeth:

Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood ON him?

One Comment leave one →
  1. mexicomystic permalink
    18 January 2022 8:00 pm

    I caught a bus down to Mexico City in the 70’s and all the customs agents had jailhouse tattoos and talked with curses. They were asking for bribes and insulting people. I pretended not understanding Spanish to not understand Spanish and was called a cabron. One elderly lady (looked to be in her 70’s) had a small transistor radio in her purse and was told as she cried that she was a contrabandista. I asked someone on the bus what was going on and he said “Chilaens expelled from Chile given jobs by Echeveria.”.
    Today I saw an article on yahoo news comparing Echeveria with AMLO..I lived through that era and believe me there is NO comparing them.
    It only leads me to think writers of yahoo news are being paid by PRIANS.

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