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Same Song, Second Verse in Mexican Presidential Election
To our north – Canada, eh? A bit nippy at times (but global warming will take care of that) but always a warm welcome to assorted visitors, fishermen, immigrants, second home to Viet Nam decliners and the occasional professional American baseball and basketball teams. In return we get pro hockey, Pam Anderson and their most gifted comics, plus passportless entry to one of nature’s most pleasant vistas and several cosmopolitan cities. Toronto is one of my all-time favorites. Montreal can be breathtaking. And you gotta love a country that names it’s two-dollar coin, Toonsie, like a favorite pet.
To our south, it’s a different story. On Sunday, Mexico will have vote to elect a new President, senators and new Chamber of Deputies members. You’ve not heard of the almost certain presidential winner. We only pay attention to the latest drug-war causality counts, not that it moves us to attempt even the most modest of countervailing actions in making U.S. killing sticks less available. We actually make them more available through straw go-betweens without legal consequences and privately manufactured, State Department-blessed purchases by the military – yet another corrupt Mexican institution.
After leaving 50,000 drug deaths in his wake in the last six years, President Felipe Calderon will be replaced by a telegenic lightweight, Enrique Pena Nieto. Sort of a Clint Eastwood as mayor type, though “make my day” had the infinitely easier task, presiding over 5,000 wealthy, settled and largely bitchless Carmel-by-the-Sea, residents greatly pacified by the world-class surfing, scenery and eye-popping net worths. For Nieto, it will be 115,000,000 mostly poor Mestizos and Amerindians, mostly terrified by the specter of being shot dead 24/7.
Nieto’s election also represents the changing of the guard back to the Institutional Revolutionary Party. The PRI held political sway over Mexico for 71 years before being tossed out in 2000 by Calderon’s National Action Party (PAN). The political dynamics of these two parties and a couple of others with a bit of influence is too complicated to delve into outside an international law graduate class, so let’s just say there will be endless behind-the-scenes maneuvering, accommodations and vengeance and leave it at that.
For the U.S. the equivocation of largely turning a blind eye to the collapse of a neighbor continues to cost this country. We now build costly fences, pass draconian laws that not even the right-wing courts can countenance and talk of ‘self-deportation’. The National Rifle Association controls U.S./Mexican gun policy and the only real relationship we have with our neighbor is the greedy NAFTA fallout that has been wonderful for the biggest of the big boys and extraordinarily destructive for the average blue collar resident of Mexico. Calderon also did his part in going on a privatizing orgy that created an entirely new class of ‘crony-billionaires’.
As a result, right-wing economist and statisticians can present a sparkling list of GDP, employment and yearly earnings numbers that paint a totally misleading picture of what is really going on in Mexico. Yes, the numbers are near the top, but what isn’t publicized is that the overall poverty rate is 44% and that the money disparity between the extremely rich and the extremely poor is one of the most dramatic in the world. That may be the most obvious coincident between the U.S. and its southern neighbor.
The American history with Mexico is not altogether idyllic. Given our propensity for violence as a people, we, of course, grabbed off a nice chunk of land that didn’t belong to us through war. American settlers of the territory at that time feared their Mexican overseers might actually want to free the slaves. The government of Mexico also imposed taxes to pay for services. Of course bellicose Americans wanted to kill the bastards. So why not a Mexican-American war? Between the years of 1846-1848, we managed to grab off all or most of 10 state territories, taking care of 25,000 Mexican combatants in the process. The U.S. lost a fair number as well, about 13,000, but mostly to disease. Roughly 1,700 died in combat. The American citizenry considered the war to be highly ‘patriotic’.
That’s why a second armed civil war should come as no surprise if and when it happens. Some of the militia nutcases are already threatening such an action after the Supreme Court Health Care Decision didn’t go their way. Early tea party signs and slogans were also very threatening, depicting guns at every opportunity with their bearers actually brandishing firearms in public at tea party outdoor meetings. That only came to a halt when Dick Armey instructed his followers to cool it.
Here’a what Nieto apparently intends to do as the New President of Mexico. Nieto is a lawyer and former governor of the state (not country) of Mexico. He’s described as a Free Market Libertarian. Holy shit, another one! He’s got the sympathy vote with the tragedy of a first wife unexpectedly dropping dead of an epileptic seizure in 2007 while he was governor. A year later he hooked up with a soap opera actress who is now his second wife.
It didn’t hurt his campaign that she was a star on Televisa, the most powerful entertainment and news network in Mexico and a reliable Nieto supporter. TV Azteca has reportedly joined in a pro-Nieto alliance with Televisa. Those two networks cover 95% of Mexico’s viewership. Perhaps a more interesting percentage is the 88% of ladies responding to a poll by a dating agency who said they would ‘cheat on their husbands’ with Nieto. What does that say about Catholic Mexico? Same thing as religious hypocrisy the world over, that’s what.
Anyway, he has pledged to cut the Mexico’s murder rate in half. He’s also going to create an anti-corruption commission and make the courts and police forces more ‘professional’ (read less corrupt). He claims to be committed to democracy and modernization. Right now, Mexico’s drug problem and its attendant murders are beyond repair, Nieto’s or anybody else’s. That’s because the U.S. provides the bad guys with all the arms and customers they need to continue their multi-billion dollar enterprise. And who gets a share of all those billions? Three guesses.
I expect no major changes other than a sudden interest by Entertainment Tonight, E and TMZ in Mexico’s new President and First Lady. Policy-wise, it appears that Nieto is a younger version of Mitt Romney.