Mexico’s Return to “Perfect Dictatorship”


On the night of July 1, Enrique Peña Nieto shouted before cameras, “this Sunday, Mexico won!” The presidential candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), Peña used the speech to declare himself the winner, promising an “honest” and “democratic presidency.”

Peña believes he has defeated both the conservative incumbent Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), which placed legal restrictions on the privatization of state enterprises, and the promise of redistribution posed by Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Partido Revolucionario Democrático. The PRI is expected to return to market liberalization policies under Pena, the election’s largest spender, who has promised “neither a pact nor a truce” in the war on crime.

As soon as legally possible, television networks’ exit polls fired their verdict—Peña by five, ten or even fifteen percent—and the electoral commission’s first count confirms him as virtual president.

The PRI also took key governorships for example in the state of Yucatán, where it won by less than 400 votes.

The return of the PRI comes in the face of an escalating conflict, the violence of which is palpable even across its borders. The party has a long history corruption and violence, and the patterns of its connections to the drug trade are well documented.

Dismissing history, Mexicans have given the party another chance.
Many still believe in the PRI, despite decades of growing inequality, poverty and cronyism. Simply, the party relentlessly crushed its opposition, maintained national unity through violence, and retained order in the streets.

Understandably, some long for the days in which the government stayed out of the way of criminal organizations and these consequently stayed out of public view. 

Under the PAN-led “war on drugs,” the everyday lives of many citizens have become increasingly affected by crime—the effects of the war may seem more immediately damaging than the instability created by the PRI’s economic policy.

However, many see the escalating power of the cartels has some of its roots in PRI-led neoliberalization, as well as how the PRI handled its relationship with organized crime. In Mexico State, where Pena was governor, women are murdered at a higher rate than anywhere else in the country.

Laura Becerril, a woman leaving the polls, commented, “I don’t even know how Pena won—everybody I know says they voted for López Obrador.”

“I have a friend who got there in the afternoon and couldn’t vote because they were out of ballots,” she tells me tepidly.

More than 1,000 citizen reports of such anomalies can be read online (www.ObservacionElectoral2012.com.mx). These range from delinquent proselytism, unusual conditions at polls, and missing ballots in left-leaning districts, to vote buying and violence against monitors. 

According to a survey by academics and specialists at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 71 percent of Mexicans believe electoral fraud to be a possibility, according to La Jornada. 

They may be drawing from recent experience, such as the 1988 “system collapse” electoral fraud, or the 2006 contested presidential appointment. Some could even venture far more deeply into Mexico’s history of exploitation and resistance.

* * *

The 1821 emancipation from colonialism only shifted power to the local elites. It was then ruled by various generals (40 governments in 50 years) and invaded by the U.S. In the late 19th century, Mexico underwent several reforms that undercut the power of the Catholic Church and the military; to do this, it elected an indigenous Supreme Justice to the presidency, before France, England and Spain invaded, using external debt as an excuse to take ports.

After 30 years of one military dictatorship, indigenous uprisings and worker strikes became a full-blown revolution that overturned the power structure and enacted redistributive reforms; however, the “revolutionary” party used these events to consolidate. It centralized the executive power, set up unions and coopted them, and brutally silenced decades of resistance and dissent.

Meanwhile, corruption and populism—evidenced in acts like the nationalization of petroleum in 1938 (to the dismay of U.S. Standard Oil)—defined the state monopoly. During the Cold War, it saw macroeconomic growth (and mounting inequality) and adopted the U.S. National Security Doctrine. Mexico became the “perfect dictatorship.”

In 1982, it began to restructure policy with neoliberal reforms that opened the economy to international capital. The influx of investment and commodities culminated in the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Small-scale producers declined and migration skyrocketed. By this time, the United States had secured a national security state in Colombia. 

Although the U.S. war on drugs did not reduce demand for drugs in North America, it shifted patterns in their production, transportation and distribution. It created the rise of El Chapo Guzmán, the metaphor representing Mexico’s narco-traffickers. The notoriously violent cartel, Los Zetas, was once a branch of the Mexican military, created through U.S. military assistance under National Security Doctrine.

The party lost the presidency in 2000, creating a cloud of dust. The power vacuum was coupled with scandals and manipulations. Every form of political attacks were waged in law, media, and the streets. Mexico reached a level of instability that looked as if it could not collapse any further; however, the plausibility of extraction from the world’s 6th largest petroleum reserves would be protected by larger power structures. 

Two weeks after taking office, president Felipe Calderón opened a war on drug cartels. In six years, militarization has resulted in the deaths of 60,000 and the disappearance of 100,000. The state of affairs has transformed Mexico, and led to the inspiring rise of student-led movements like #YoSoy132 or the transnational network Movimiento Regeneración Nacional.

* * *

Peña has vaguely promised a change of strategy before the Mexican populace; to U.S. policymakers, he avows the continuation of the anti-cartel military combat. On Sunday night, Calderón celebrated Peña’s victory and asked the public to confront together the “many things” that are wrong with Mexico. Days ago, Calderón announced he plans to leave the country at the end of his term.

Michael Wilson is a graduate fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz; he is currently editing his forthcoming book about the U.S.-led “war on drugs” in Mexico.

Weekend Edition
October 9-11, 2015
David Price – Roberto J. González
The Use and Abuse of Culture (and Children): The Human Terrain System’s Rationalization of Pedophilia in Afghanistan
Mike Whitney
Putin’s “Endgame” in Syria
Jason Hribal
The Tilikum Effect and the Downfall of SeaWorld
Paul Street
Hope in Abandonment: Cuba, Detroit, and Earth-Scientific Socialism
Gary Leupp
The Six Most Disastrous Interventions of the 21st Century
Andrew Levine
In Syria, Obama is Playing a Losing Game
Louis Proyect
The End of Academic Freedom in America: the Case of Steven Salaita
Rob Urie
Democrats, Neoliberalism and the TPP
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
The Bully Recalibrates: U.S. Signals Policy Shift in Syria
Brian Cloughley
Hospital Slaughter and the US/NATO Propaganda Machine
John Walsh
For Vietnam: Artemisinin From China, Agent Orange From America
John Wight
No Moral High Ground for the West on Syria
Robert Fantina
Canadian Universities vs. Israeli Apartheid
Conn Hallinan
Portugal: Europe’s Left Batting 1000
John Feffer
Mouths Wide Shut: Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Paul Craig Roberts
The Impulsiveness of US Power
Ron Jacobs
The Murderer as American Hero
Alex Nunns
“A Movement Looking for a Home”: the Meaning of Jeremy Corbyn
Philippe Marlière
Class Struggle at Air France
Binoy Kampmark
Waiting in Vain for Moderation: Syria, Russia and Washington’s Problem
Paul Edwards
Empire of Disaster
Xanthe Hall
Nuclear Madness: NATO’s WMD ‘Sharing’ Must End
Margaret Knapke
These Salvadoran Women Went to Prison for Suffering Miscarriages
Uri Avnery
Abbas: the Leader Without Glory
Halima Hatimy
#BlackLivesMatter: Black Liberation or Black Liberal Distraction?
Michael Brenner
Kissinger Revisited
Cesar Chelala
The Perverse Rise of Killer Robots
Halyna Mokrushyna
On Ukraine’s ‘Incorrect’ Past
Jason Cone
Even Wars Have Rules: a Fact Sheet on the Bombing of Kunduz Hospital
Walter Brasch
Mass Murders are Good for Business
William Hadfield
Sophistry Rising: the Refugee Debate in Germany
Christopher Brauchli
Why the NRA Profits From Mass Shootings
Hadi Kobaysi
How The US Uses (Takfiri) Extremists
Pete Dolack
There is Still Time to Defeat the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Marc Norton
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Andre Vltchek
Stop Millions of Western Immigrants!
David Rosen
If Donald Dump Was President
Dave Lindorff
America’s Latest War Crime
Ann Garrison
Sankarist Spirit Resurges in Burkina Faso
Franklin Lamb
Official Investigation Needed After Afghan Hospital Bombing
Linn Washington Jr.
Wrongs In Wine-Land
Ronald Bleier
Am I Drinking Enough Water? Sneezing’s A Clue
Charles R. Larson
Prelude to the Spanish Civil War: Eduard Mendoza’s “An Englishman in Madrid”
David Yearsley
Papal Pop and Circumstance
October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?