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Catarino Garza… an unfinished revolution?

19 March 2018

In September 1891, Catarino E. Garza issued a statement, declaring that the citizens of Mexico were “treated like ‘despicable slaves,’ that the Mexican government was plagued by ‘frightful corruption,’ that freedom of the press had been squashed, and that the Constitution of 1857 had been betrayed.” Garza called on Mexicans to “rise in mass in the name of liberty, the constitution and the public conscience.”

— Wikipedia

Garza was a Mexican citizen, who after failed attempts at shop-keeping and a selling Singer sewing machines , learned printing, and began a career as a newspaper editor on the Texas side of the Rio Bravo/Rio Grande. As a newsman in an era when newspapers were the primary media source, and Spanish-language papers on the US side of the border felt free to openly criticize the Mexican government, Garza had been bitterly attacking Porfiro Diaz for years: ever since Don Porfirio had “unconstitutionally” run for a second term. Diaz had come to the presidency following a coup against the previous government 1876 claiming re-election to the Presidency as his rationale. Then “elected” when the interim president stepped down to make way for him, Diaz “allowed” his minion, Manuel Gonzales, to hold the office for a term… during which the Constitution was changed (at Diaz’ request) to allow the election of Presidents for non-consecutive terms. During that second term (1884-1888), Diaz got the constitution changed once again, to allow for re-election under “special circumstances” … which he managed to find in 1888… which was what Garza particularly railed against in his paper. And earned him more than one attempt on his life by hitmen (including, in one instance, a US customs inspector) and his decision to go into open rebellion.

Despite being a “mutualist” — favoring cooperatives over state or corporate enterprises, Garza had support from wealthy Mexicans living on both sides of the border, when he, and about 50 followers crossed into Mexico in April 1891 to being a guerrila campaign against the Diaz dictatorship. Although the Garzistas had support among the rural populace, his rebels were ruthlessly pursued by the Mexican Army and forced to retreat into Texas in 1892. Although the rebels were able to hang on for another year, mounting raids into Mexico, the rebellion failed, and Garza fled to Panama (then part of Colombia) where, in an abortive uprising against the Colombian government, he was killed in 1895.

Although a footnote to both U.S. and Mexican history, maybe we should be taking a closer look at the life and thoughts of Catarino E. Garza.  While there are a few academic dissertations on Garza and the “Garza War”, very little is available for the common reader.  But that is no reason to ignore his stuggle.   It might be highly relevant to US Mexican relations beyond the historic effect it had in tightening border security back in the 1890s.

After all, the putative next president of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is a student of Garza.  AMLO recently wrote Catarino Erasmo Garza Rodríguez: ¿Revolucionario o bandido?  (Planeta, 2016… link is to a US “Kindle” version). Although AMLO disengeniously claims he is only bringing to light the story of a Mexican patriot, in  discussing Garza, Lopez Obrador seems to be obliquely signaling his own issues and agenda. Little is said about Garza’s mutualist theories, but as a theory that proposes giving more power to the workers, and curbing that of large scale capital, it might offer a clue as to the economic reforms an AMLO administration might pursue.   That the author justifies Garza’s revolt by pointint to the Diaz regime’s willingness to give foreigners control of natural resouces, it’s tight political control over the media and its dependence on military forces for internal control suggest other possible goals for the putative next administrion.  At the same time, the regime’s cavalier attitude towards democracy and constitutionalism is condemned, as is Diaz’ about-face when it comes to presidential elections.  This, it seems to me, is key:  if this is what the author sees as Garza’s most legitimate issue, one can presume he sees extention of presidential power as something to be eschewed… putting a damper on the campaign to paint AMLO as a wannabe dictator.


Vote for “you know who”…

18 March 2018

ONLY IN MEXICO… or, in this election anyway.

One of the more unusual (and very Mexican) politican ads I’ve ever seen … or non-ads, since we are in the inter-campaign period, and campaigning can’t begin until the first of April, nor can ads mention a specific party or candidate, A “niña bien”… a coddled rich girl who follows convention… rebels. Along with the priest, pleads for a change in the country. Naturally, the “thing” for conventional upper middle class families is to vote the party line. But… perhaps its time for a change, and a vote for “you know who” (presumably not the PAN-PRD-MC candidate):

Just the facts, señores

13 March 2018

#Verificado2018 — a collaborative reporting effort of over 70 media groups and journalists from across Mexico working together to fact-check, verify, and debunk claims and news content related to the upcoming 1 July 2018 national elections.

#Verificado2018 combines the two approaches — with journalists fact checking and debunking content and claims in the run up to the elections, and a large scale election day effort to cover the electoral process in real-time. and on facebook.

The Google Poll?

13 March 2018

Citibank analists make a case that Ricardo Anaya’s campaign is heating up, and AMLO’s is losing ground based on the number or recent google searches.  As Citibank researchers note:

Google search trends better predicted who would win during the last two Mexican Presidential elections than did voter intention polls. More searches for PAN’s Felipe Calderon in 2006 and PRI’s Enrique Pena Nieto in 2012 accurately predicted they would win the presidency even as polls underestimated the candidates’ leads, the analysts said.

While the bankers caution that the rise in the number of people searching out information on Anaya could be looking for more information on the recent allegations of money laundering by the PAN-PRD fusion candidate, one should also remember that “twice is happenstance”.  There was no revolution in 2010, as so many predicted based the coincidence of Mexico’s war of Independence having started in 1810 and its Revolution in 1910.  Nor, with AMLO searches (which might include searches for “AMLO”, “Lopez Obrador”, or “Obrador”) still vastly outnumber the searches for “Anaya”.



(Michelle Davis, Google Searches May Signal Trouble for Mexico Election Favorite, 12 March 2018, Bloomberg Technology)

Send us beans, chile, corn… doctors and teachers

5 March 2018

San Rafael, a Savi (Mixteco) community in the Guerrero municipality of Cochoapa El Grande is the poorest place in the country.  The only sure source of income for its inhabitants (mostly women and children… the only men not having emigrated north to find work in the community are elderly) has been  opium poppies.  The small return they get for their produce is needed to allow for any sort of meaningful participation in the cash economy (let alone e-commerce… San Rafael would need electricity for that).  No wonder the farmers protested when the Army rolled into town last Tuesday to destroy a modest two hectares of poppy fields.

Dozens of women and children from the community pleaded with Army officers to leave their crops alone, arguing that it was the only way they had to earn any money… and, if the government was going to prevent them from growing a cash crop, it needed to provide them with food assistance, as well as schools and a medical clinic.

As I see it, it would be more cost effective for the people financing the war on (some) drugs to listen to the farmers… or, legalize the sale, so they can at least get a fair market price.  According to the Statista: The Statistics Portal, opium sells for $34.00 a gram in the United States, San Rafael farmers are only receiving between 25 and 50 cents US a gram.


Ocampo Arista, Sergio.  “Protestan indígenas por destrucción de cultivos de amapola en Guerrero” Jornada, 1 March 2018

Statistica: The Statistics Portal “Street prices for opium in selected countries in 2007 (per gram in U.S. dollars)



How to win an election without even trying

28 February 2018

Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself.

With the PRI demanding legal action be taken against Ricardo Anaya over alleged money-laundering schemes, and PRD and PAN talking up José Antonio Meade’s failure to do anything about corruption in the various government departments he headed, I noticed a few pundits speculating on why AMLO was not saying much about these scandals… usually in the vein that by not openly condemning them, he is somehow condoning corrupt practices, or secretly supporting one side or the other, in return for future support (and his not-really-defined call for amnesty).

Seems to me, the front-runner has a simpler reason for letting the mainstream parties fight over each other’s candidates.

The liberal oligarchy, or what’s left?

23 February 2018

I always have a difficult time, or find I spend more time than I need, explaining that the political terms adopted from European theorists, are not necessarily the same as how they are used here. And, that “leftist” and “liberal” are very different things here, and not, as in the English-speaking world, often used interchangeably. Brazilian social theorist and political scientist, Emir Sader, looks at our upcoming presidential election, in which the “leftist” candidate has been called a “conservative” by a “liberal”.

My translation from “El liberalismo oligárquico latinoamericano” in today’s La Jornada:

In his debate with Andrés Manuel López Obrador, one of the most well-known theorists of Latin American liberalism, Enrique Krauze, describes the candidate as a “conservative”. Latin American liberals always define themselves as believers in the defense of freedom*.

They claim an affiliation to European liberalism, the ideology of the rising bourgeoisie in the struggle against feudalism. Then mechanically transfer the role of liberalism in Europe to Latin America, without realizing the historical frameworks of the two continents are very different, creating radically different definitions of the nature of liberalism.

In Latin America, liberalism was the ideology of the primary export models, that is, of the oligarchic right, in defense of opening markets. It was associated with right-wing political regimes, including military dictatorships.

It opposes the State, popular leaderships, and populist policies of income distribution and ecognition of the social rights for all. Liberalism in Latin America has never been identified with the defense of freedom, with the exception of freedom of the press to present liberal thought.

Liberalism here, in opposing the State, has identified with the market, therefore with the big business and its liberal and neoliberal economic policies. It has always been on the right.

By contrast, the European right identifies with the defense of the State and the nation: but, with a chauvinistic concept of the nation, by which one state is better than all the others. There is no external domination.

In Latin America it is the left that assumes the defense of the State and national issues, against external exploitation. Liberalism was always appropriated by the right in Latin America.

In the neoliberal era the connection between liberalism and the market has become structural. There has been a convergence between economic liberalism and political liberalism. In Mexico, the arrival of the PAN governments to the Presidency in 2000 was hailed as the democratization of Mexico. Of course, after the failures of the governments of that party, the liberals have not taken stock of their illusions and continue to support candidates of the traditional parties to avoid what for them is the greatest evil – the left alternative.

Thus throughout Latin America, beginning in the 1990s with the election to the presidency of Brazil’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso — supposedly a social democrat** — governments have been incorporating liberals into the government to support neoliberal programs. Everywhere the liberals have accommodated themselves to market interests, fighting against the State and its capacity to induce economic development, to guarantee social rights, and to pursue an independent foreign policy.

Im short, Latin American liberals confuse combat against the State with a fight for freedoms. They do not realize that the forces working against the rights of the vast majority of the people are not those of the state, but the market, which they long for as a supposed guarnator of freedom. What freedom the liberals end up supporting is freedom of capital and big business: expropriating the rights of the people and concentrating income is what the market does in the face of the minimal state advocated by the liberals.

The rich do not need the State. They have private banks, they have private transportation, they have private education, they have private health plans. Those who need the State are the most fragile, the most destitute, the excluded in a State that is the instrument of the powerful and the millionaires.

Liberals do not understand Latin America because they do not realize that we live in capitalist societies in a neoliberal era, that we live in societies oppressed by imperialism. They are essential categories — capitalism, neoliberalism, imperialism — that they do not know.

Now the Mexican liberals are concentrating their attacks on the candidate that could rescue the country from the misfortunes that neoliberal governments and the Free Trade Agreement with the United States have brought to the country. They are in panic at the thought of a government which defends the interests of the great majority of the Mexican population, defends national interests and brings Mexico closer to Latin America. But that is the hope of the majority of the Mexican people and also of Latin America.

Defeat neoliberalism and subordination to the US to affirm a just and sovereign Mexico.


*   Krauze, writing in the SPANISH daily El País: “López Obrador says that I am conservative. I refer to history:  the conservatives favored the absolute concentration of power in a leader endowed with a large and powerful army; the conservatives believed in “planning advisors”, not in congressional representatives; conservatives encouraged state economic intervention and protectionism. I do not identify with those ideas. López Obrador does. He uses the adjective “conservative” as an anathema against anyone who does not agree — in the strict sense of the word — with the “real change” he preaches. But the truth is that his economic program is akin to the populism of presidents Luis Echeverría (1970-1976) and José López Portillo (1976-1982), which led the country to bankruptcy. In that sense, his “true change” is a change backwards.


**  To win the Presidency in 1994,Cardosa’s small Social Democratic Party went into coalition with the neo-liberal   “Liberal Front” and “Brazilian Labor” Parties, and the far right, “Christian” Progressive Party (Latin American political terms are not “our” terms).  Although Cardosa did implement some important social programs, he also opened the way for increasing foreign market penetration and consolidation of wealth within Brazil’s tiny elite.