Author Topic: Mexico-US matters  (Read 356122 times)











Crafty_Dog

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El Chapo
« Reply #960 on: May 30, 2022, 02:25:02 AM »

Crafty_Dog

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Biden's Bordergate
« Reply #961 on: June 10, 2022, 04:41:35 PM »
Biden’s Bordersgate

What is Biden’s open borders/immigration goal? Is he trying to merge Mexico and the United States into one country? Don’t laugh!

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the president of Mexico, launched into a verbal attack on the United States Monday, and called for a continental “superstate” that intentionally erases the border of the United States and Mexico, merging the two countries. This would, of course, destroy America’s working and middle class.

Obrador also made this disclosure: He’s meeting with Biden at the White House next month to discuss this very issue of erasing our borders.
I would argue that Biden has already done that. He has handcuffed our Border Patrol agents and allowed millions of illegal aliens to pour into our country virtually unimpeded.

Meanwhile, Biden is reportedly attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week, where he will sign a “declaration on migration.” Among other things, it will commit the United States to “an equitable recovery in the hemisphere after the COVID-19 pandemic,” and “a focus on decarbonization, biodiversity, and clean energy jobs, and creating sustainable and inclusive trade.”

In other words, it’s a massive transfer of wealth and a hemispheric “Green New Deal.”

Why can’t Biden and Obrador talk this week in Los Angeles? Well, Obrador is refusing to attend the Summit because he’s standing in solidarity with the communist dictators of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, who also are not coming to the Summit.

But wait… There’s more!

Mexico’s president insisted that he will no longer tolerate “insults to immigrants and Mexicans,” and he demanded immigration reform. He attacked Cuban Americans for having disproportionate influence in our country, and he launched into a tirade against the Republican Party for its insistence on border security.

Can you imagine how Donald Trump would react to such statements? It’s impossible to imagine because no president of Mexico would dare say such things if Donald Trump were president of the United States!

The image of weakness that Joe Biden and “Border Czar” Kamala Harris are presenting to the world has convinced even the president of Mexico that he can demand the end of America!

Every Republican official should be blasting Obrador’s obnoxious demands and his offensive remarks. Every Republican candidate should be running hard against the left’s open borders agenda and the surrender of American sovereignty.

Biden’s open borders policies are a national scandal. They are a serious threat to our national security.

On this issue alone, Joe Biden deserves to be impeached.

G M

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Re: Biden's Bordergate
« Reply #962 on: June 10, 2022, 05:15:31 PM »
Yes.


Biden’s Bordersgate

What is Biden’s open borders/immigration goal? Is he trying to merge Mexico and the United States into one country? Don’t laugh!

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the president of Mexico, launched into a verbal attack on the United States Monday, and called for a continental “superstate” that intentionally erases the border of the United States and Mexico, merging the two countries. This would, of course, destroy America’s working and middle class.

Obrador also made this disclosure: He’s meeting with Biden at the White House next month to discuss this very issue of erasing our borders.
I would argue that Biden has already done that. He has handcuffed our Border Patrol agents and allowed millions of illegal aliens to pour into our country virtually unimpeded.

Meanwhile, Biden is reportedly attending the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles this week, where he will sign a “declaration on migration.” Among other things, it will commit the United States to “an equitable recovery in the hemisphere after the COVID-19 pandemic,” and “a focus on decarbonization, biodiversity, and clean energy jobs, and creating sustainable and inclusive trade.”

In other words, it’s a massive transfer of wealth and a hemispheric “Green New Deal.”

Why can’t Biden and Obrador talk this week in Los Angeles? Well, Obrador is refusing to attend the Summit because he’s standing in solidarity with the communist dictators of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, who also are not coming to the Summit.

But wait… There’s more!

Mexico’s president insisted that he will no longer tolerate “insults to immigrants and Mexicans,” and he demanded immigration reform. He attacked Cuban Americans for having disproportionate influence in our country, and he launched into a tirade against the Republican Party for its insistence on border security.

Can you imagine how Donald Trump would react to such statements? It’s impossible to imagine because no president of Mexico would dare say such things if Donald Trump were president of the United States!

The image of weakness that Joe Biden and “Border Czar” Kamala Harris are presenting to the world has convinced even the president of Mexico that he can demand the end of America!

Every Republican official should be blasting Obrador’s obnoxious demands and his offensive remarks. Every Republican candidate should be running hard against the left’s open borders agenda and the surrender of American sovereignty.

Biden’s open borders policies are a national scandal. They are a serious threat to our national security.

On this issue alone, Joe Biden deserves to be impeached.

Crafty_Dog

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GPF
« Reply #963 on: July 13, 2022, 02:27:56 PM »


Mexico offers support. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said countries should build economic self-sufficiency and reduce their reliance on China, proposing a five-point plan to increase U.S.-Mexican cooperation in energy, agriculture and other sectors. He also said Mexico will increase oil exports to the U.S. to reduce inflationary fuel pressure on both countries, and will spend $1.5 billion modernizing Mexico’s border with the United States.





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Drone captures Mex Cartel Camp
« Reply #971 on: September 03, 2022, 10:39:31 AM »
Drone Captures Images of Mexican Drug Cartel Camp
By Allan Stein September 1, 2022 Updated: September 2, 2022biggersmaller Print


This is the fifth and final article in a series on illegal drug and human smuggling along Arizona’s border with Mexico. (Read: parts one, two, three, and four)

ARIVACA, Ariz.—The first gunshots seemed to come down the mountain on the other side of Arizona’s border fence with Mexico, just east of Arivaca, where rival drug cartel factions battle to the death for supremacy.

Sam, my security guide, listened closely as more shots rang out.

They were hunters, no doubt, though not the kind you would typically expect.

“Where exactly do you think the shots are coming from?” I asked Sam nervously from the back seat of his pickup truck.

“I think they’re to the right,” Sam said, focused on the nearest mountain. “They could be on top of that big peak as well.”

It’s not as if we were invisible, clambering noisily up the winding dirt fire road in the border zone known as the California Gulch, part of the Coronado National Forest in southern Arizona.

Our arrival in Sam’s gargantuan white Chevy Silverado on the sweltering morning of Aug. 25 was about as clandestine as a bullhorn in a public library.

“They could be warning shots”—for us, Sam said. “But this is where they’re coming. Right here.”

Sam is the pseudonym he uses to conceal his identity and that of his security company in Arizona. He’s been threatened by the Sinaloa Cartel for conducting border-watching activities. He now fears for the safety of his employees and family.

Epoch Times Photo
Actual drone still footage shows a Mexican drug cartel faction (red dot) camped out just over the U.S. border near Arivaca, Ariz., on Aug. 25. (Courtesy of a private Arizona security company)
Below our position, the unfinished Trump border wall and fence stretched east and west for miles, then abruptly stopped. On the U.S. side of the border, cattle grazed among dry clumps of grass or basked in the imperfect shade of sparse shrubbery, swatting flies with their tails.

The jagged peaks on the Mexican side of the steel-grated border fence loomed green and majestic. Strange, though, how nature doesn’t immediately reveal its secrets. Hidden among the Las Guijas Mountains are some of the worst elements of the Sinaloa Cartel, Sam said.

“How strong is your stomach?” Kyle, Sam’s security specialist, had asked me the day before.

The fact that I enjoyed watching gory horror movies was good enough for Kyle to share an actual cell phone video of a man being mauled by two pit bulls in a Mexican border town not far from us.

Unfortunately some things cannot be unseen.

Kyle said that kind of cartel brutality is common in cities and towns on the Mexican side of the border fence.

Epoch Times Photo
Kyle, a private security specialist in Arizona, operates a surveillance drone using an electronic console just east of Arivaca, Ariz., on Aug. 25. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)
“These guys are battling for control of the Sinaloa Cartel. You have fights within fights,” said Sam, speaking both from experience and professional intelligence gathering.

Sam believes cartel mayhem eventually will spill across the U.S. border in military force, bringing death and destruction to Americans—but not if a coalition of private citizens, law enforcement, and security firms that he envisions has its say.

The real battle, he said, is not about winning hearts and minds.

It’s about matching intel with intel, using superior surveillance techniques and equipment to beat the drug and human smugglers.

For this purpose, Sam’s company recently acquired a $33,000 JTI-branded drone which they frequently use to conduct border reconnaissance missions for clients and law enforcement.

Epoch Times Photo
Close-up drone footage shows a rival drug cartel faction member talking on a hand-held radio in an enclose on the Mexican side of the border fence east of Arivaca, Ariz., on Aug. 25. (Courtesy Arizona private security company)
The drone is a beast of versatility equipped with high-definition and thermal cameras, and high-powered zoom lenses.

Kyle operates the drone from the pickup bed using a console and laptop computer for imaging purposes. The drone has a maximum range of five miles traveling at speeds over 48 mph hundreds of feet above the ground. Batteries are interchangeable and last 45 minutes on a single charge.

You can hear the drone yet rarely see it at higher altitudes housed in fortified gray plastic with four propellers to carry it aloft.

Epoch Times Photo
Closeup drone footage shows a heavily armed Mexican drug cartel faction member walking near Arizona’s border with Mexico on Aug. 25. Seconds later, the man took aim at the drone with his rifle hoping to shoot it down. (Photos courtesy Arizona private security company)
Sam and Kyle’s mission today was to seek out and photograph nearby cartel encampments on Mexico’s side of the border fence.

Kyle took the drone out of a suitcase, then placed it in the middle of the fire road as he prepared for take-off. With the push of a console button, the drone whirred to life, propellers spinning like a supercharged weed-whacker.

Up—up—and away the drone went with the turn of a joystick.

Kyle monitored the action on the console screen while Sam watched on a laptop computer. The rugged mountain terrain below seemed alien in both viewfinders, taking shape when Kyle maneuvered to a lower altitude.

“My guess is there are two factions here,” Sam said. “One is trying to keep [the other] from pushing east, the other west. We think they’re on the peak right below us—oh, there they are!”

One of the factions is Los Chapitos, whose founder is Ivan Archivaldo-Guzman Salazar, alias “Chapito,” a Mexican narco trafficker and son of imprisoned druglord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

Guzman was head of the Sinaloa Cartel until his arrest and extradition to the United States in 2017.

Epoch Times Photo
An Arizona private security firm keeps high-tech equipment, including a surveillance drone, secure in heavy-duty suitcases in the back of a company pickup truck on Aug. 25. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)
The other faction is El Mayo, led by suspected Mexican drug kingpin Ismael Maro Zambada Garcia.

Sam said both factions currently are at war to control the entire Sinaloa Cartel on Arizona’s southern flank.

High above the nearest mountain less than a half mile away, the drone’s camera suddenly spied two blue tarps spaced about 25 yards apart. In one of the tents, a man could be seen talking frantically on a hand-held radio.

As Kyle zoomed in closer, the screen showed another man in body armor walking out of the bush, carrying what appeared to be an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle—definitely cartel.

“We found his [expletive]!” Sam shouted and gave Kyle a fist pump, but it was too soon to celebrate.

At that moment, the man looked up and saw the drone.

He raised his rifle, and took aim.

Epoch Times Photo
Sam, owner of a private security firm in Arizona, keeps watch with binoculars over the U.S. border wall with Mexico on Aug. 25. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)
“He’s trying to find out where [the drone noise] is coming from,” Sam cried. “Whoah! Whoah! Get out of there!”

Kyle hit the joystick and the drone moved to a safe distance—just before the man could get off a shot.

He was now running in our direction. “He’s got a ways to go to get to the border wall,” Sam said.

But it was time to get out of there—fast. Though getting out would be harder than getting in.

Along the escape route were unforeseen twists and turns and a few dead ends that took us closer to the border fence and the rifle-wielding cartel member.

Finally, after many false starts and turns, we found our way back to the main fire road and out of danger.

Sam and Kyle had promised a “hot spot” of cartel activity today, and they delivered.

For Americans living near Arizona’s southern border wall, however, it keeps getting hotter every day.

Crafty_Dog

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Sinaloa Cartel foot soldiers
« Reply #972 on: September 05, 2022, 05:30:38 PM »

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Mexico-US matters
« Reply #973 on: September 13, 2022, 03:50:24 PM »
Extending an invitation. During a meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken invited Mexico to participate in the U.S.’ new $50 billion investment in semiconductor production, manufacturing and research and development. AMLO said his government planned to make the northern border state of Sonora a leader in lithium, electric vehicle and solar energy production.

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Re: Mexico-US matters
« Reply #974 on: September 13, 2022, 04:04:27 PM »
 :roll:

Extending an invitation. During a meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken invited Mexico to participate in the U.S.’ new $50 billion investment in semiconductor production, manufacturing and research and development. AMLO said his government planned to make the northern border state of Sonora a leader in lithium, electric vehicle and solar energy production.

Crafty_Dog

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Re: Mexico-US matters
« Reply #975 on: September 13, 2022, 05:37:39 PM »
Exactly.

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Re: Mexico-US matters
« Reply #976 on: September 16, 2022, 12:20:51 PM »
A Fracture in Mexico's Opposition Coalition Will Boost the Government of Lopez Obrador
4 MIN READSep 16, 2022 | 14:27 GMT





A member of the National Guard on Dec. 2, 2021, in Guadalajara, Mexico.
A member of the National Guard on Dec. 2, 2021, in Guadalajara, Mexico.

(ULISES RUIZ/AFP via Getty Images)

The Institutional Revolutionary Party's decision to support a government effort to pass a constitutional amendment extending Mexico's National Guard will likely weaken the coalition between the main opposition parties, boosting the government ahead of gubernatorial elections. In a Sept. 14 vote in the lower house of the Mexican legislature, 64 legislators from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the country's main opposition party, joined the governing National Regeneration Movement-led alliance to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment to extend the existence of the National Guard through 2028. The National Action Party and the Democratic Revolution Party, which with the PRI belong to the opposition coalition Va por Mexico, criticized the PRI and questioned the future of the opposition bloc's legislative agenda.

In 2019, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promoted a constitutional amendment that created the National Guard and authorized continued military involvement in policing until 2024. In early September, PRI congresswoman Yolanda de la Torre put forward a constitutional amendment to extend the National Guard's existence through 2028.

On Sept. 14, 335 legislators voted in favor — just one more than the number required for a constitutional amendment — versus 152 opposed coming from opposition parties PAN, PRD and center left party Movimiento Ciudadano, and one abstention.

The Senate will debate and vote on the constitutional amendment the week of Sept. 19, which is likely to be a contentious process. The National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) and its allies will need the support of at least 10 PRI senators to reach the two-thirds majority required for passage. As PRI President Alejandro Moreno supports the initiative, it will likely pass.

The PRI move will likely create a prolonged fracture in the opposition coalition that will benefit the Mexican government ahead of 2023 gubernatorial elections. The PRI probably is supporting the extension of the National Guard to prevent a temporary decrease in the size of Mexico's security forces while the country rebuilds its national police force, which the party believes would result in increased cartel activity and migrants. But PRI support for the amendment will weaken the Va por Mexico oppositional alliance, decreasing communication between its members and risking reduced cohesion on other policies. Such a fracture in the opposition coalition will likely weaken the PRI's party ahead of June 2023 gubernatorial elections in Mexico and Coahuila states, in which PRI governors will face opponents from MORENA and other parties.

While MORENA and its allies control enough seats in the Mexican legislature to pass ordinary legislation, it lacks the numbers to pass constitutional reforms, which means that they need support from the opposition to do so. Va por Mexico was formed in late 2020 to prevent the government from reforming the constitution. The PRI, PRD and PAN have been political rivals for decades, however, which means that their coalition is ideologically fractured. After the formation of the coalition, the three parties continued to field their own candidates and compete in legislative and local elections.

Though individual members of the PAN and PRD have called for a formal rupture to the Va por Mexico coalition, the two parties' leadership has only criticized the PRI's voting choices, not announced a formal break.

The PRI will likely continue to vote against the government's initiatives in areas such as energy or electoral reforms, while its support of the constitutional amendment ensures that the National Guard will remain Mexico's predominant security body. PRI leadership has indicated strong opposition to the government on other policies such as efforts to bolster state-owned energy companies against the private sector and carry out electoral reforms. While the PRI may be more willing to support some aspects of MORENA's policy platform, such as increased funding for agricultural production, it will likely be unwilling to support key aspects of Lopez Obrador's policy platform unless the government waters them down. This means that Lopez Obrador will likely be forced to implement his keystone policies via legislation that could be challenged in court; the government previously has implemented legislation later blocked as unconstitutional. Meanwhile, subsequent administrations can reverse policy implemented via regulatory bodies. PRI support for the constitutional amendment will likely lead to security continuity and prevent disruptions in trade, as the National Guard ensures security in places such as ports and ports of entry along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The PRI voted against MORENA's proposed constitutional amendment aimed at bolstering Mexico's state-owned energy companies against private competitors April 17. Party leadership also announced that it would refuse to negotiate a potential amendment to eliminate the National Electoral Institute in favor of a different electoral institute after Lopez Obrador's MORENA party suggested the two parties negotiate over their two separate constitutional reform proposals.

As recently as early September, PRI legislators and senators voted against MORENA-proposed legislation seeking to bring the National Guard under the purview of the military.

Crafty_Dog

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The Border Crisis is just the tip of the iceberg
« Reply #977 on: September 24, 2022, 04:04:25 PM »

https://thefederalist.com/2022/09/23/the-border-crisis-is-just-the-tip-of-the-iceberg-in-mexico-a-cartel-crisis-looms/

The Border Crisis Is Just The Tip Of The Iceberg. In Mexico, A Cartel Crisis Looms
BY: JOHN DANIEL DAVIDSON
SEPTEMBER 23, 2022
6 MIN READ

This week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced that apprehensions of illegal immigrants surpassed 2.1 million for the fiscal year in August, with more than 203,000 apprehensions last month alone, marking six straight months of southwest border arrests exceeding 200,000.

Nothing like this has ever happened before. The 2.1 million figure represents an all-time high, surpassing the previous record of 1.7 million, set in fiscal year 2021. That is to say, every year President Joe Biden has been in office has been a record-breaking year of illegal immigration. Biden’s policies are directly responsible for the ongoing border crisis, which will continue unabated until those policies change. Whatever the number ends up being for 2022, the number for 2023 will almost certainly be higher.

But the shocking volume of arrests at the border, and the dramatic footage of illegal immigrants crossing the Rio Grande or lining up by the hundreds along stretches of the border wall (or scaling it), can blind us to another, less obvious crisis unfolding on the Mexican side of the border that we need to understand if we hope to craft policies that will put an end to mass illegal immigration.

That crisis, put simply, is the gradual takeover of the Mexican state by cartels. I hesitate to call them “drug cartels,” because what these criminal organizations do goes far beyond the manufacture and trafficking of narcotics. In addition to drugs, Mexican cartels are now involved in industrial agriculture, port operations, migrant smuggling, human trafficking, and even the control and distribution of water in drought-stricken parts of the country.

These twin crises are connected. Although the border crisis is a direct result of Biden’s policies, the cartels are exploiting those policies for profit. One estimate from Homeland Security Investigations puts the figure at $13 billion annually, up from just $500 million in 2018. That is to say, illegal immigration has been industrialized by these cartels and their smuggling networks. It is not too much to say they have turned the southwest border into a vast black market, not just for deadly drugs such as fentanyl, but also for illegal immigration.   

A new report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation (where, full disclosure, I once worked and am today a senior fellow) sheds some much-needed light on how the cartels have accomplished this. Their involvement in migrant smuggling — a vast enterprise that involves transportation, surveillance, logistics, accounting, and stash houses on both sides of the border — is a natural extension of their increasing involvement in nearly every facet of Mexico’s economic and political life.

The report, whose author has remained anonymous for safety reasons, chronicles the recent history of deep collusion between the Mexican state and the country’s most powerful drug cartels: “The unfortunate reality is that criminal cartels have burrowed their way into the government — and vice versa. Well-meaning public servants, of whom Mexico has many, are powerless against a nexus of senior officeholders, societal elites, and criminal cartels.”

The rot in the Mexican state, the report makes clear, goes to the very top. In 2018, just before President Enrique Peña Nieto left office, Ivan Reyes Arzate, a high-ranking member in the Mexican Federal Police, was found guilty in U.S. federal court on charges of obstructing a Drug Enforcement Administration investigation of international drug trafficking and money laundering. The case “represented the first time a high-level foreign law enforcement officer was held criminally accountable in a U.S. courtroom for interfering with a transnational organized crime investigation,” according to the TPPF report.

But if Peña Nieto’s time in office was marked by a curtailment of U.S.-Mexico law enforcement cooperation, Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has sought to shut down such cooperation almost entirely. Thanks to a new law pushed by López Obrador’s administration aimed at curbing the operations of foreign agents (clearly aimed at the DEA), decades of U.S.-Mexico bilateral cooperation has been effectively ended. In addition to this new law, López Obrador in April shut down an elite anti-narcotic unit that had worked with the DEA for 25 years.

Since taking office, López Obrador has pursued a posture of passivity toward the cartels, especially the Sinaloa Cartel, the country’s most powerful. In so doing, Mexico’s president has transformed his naïve campaign slogan, abrazos no balazos (“hugs not bullets”), into a policy framework that can only be understood as a rebuke of the United States in favor of the cartels.

What is also different now than in the past, the TPPF report explains, is that the cartels “increasingly supplant the legitimate sovereignty of the Mexican state with their own — often in cooperation with major elements of that state. The qualitative difference since 2018 has been the near-open role of the current Mexican president in allowing, and perhaps even participating in, that cooperation.” Indeed, by some estimates cartels now control up to 40 percent of Mexican territory.

If that sounds outlandish, it is not because the facts don’t support such a conclusion but because corporate media in the U.S. are for the most part unwilling or unable to cover the issue in depth or accurately convey its implications for America.

The implications are this: As the Mexican state succumbs to the cartels, Mexico’s problems will become America’s problems. That doesn’t just mean a worsening border crisis but a breakdown of law and order all up and down the border, on both sides of the Rio Grande, and a worsening drug crisis in American cities far from the border. It means the corruption of Mexican officialdom will gradually spread to American officialdom, just as the operations of Mexican cartels have spread to every corner of the United States.

What to do about all this? The first step is for the United States to stop treating Mexico like a partner or a peer with whom we can work together to address common challenges. Our entire posture has to shift. We have to begin treating Mexico less like an ally and more like a hostile neighbor. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, to his credit, this week took the extraordinary step of issuing an executive order designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations. While that might not do much on its own, it at least sends a signal to Washington that it is time for the federal government to do the same.

There is of course a historical precedent for this, and indeed the relatively peaceful interregnum of the past 80 years is a departure from the historical norm of U.S.-Mexico relations. We are now returning to the norm, whether policymakers in Washington realize it or not.


Crafty_Dog

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FA: AMLO the authoritarian
« Reply #979 on: October 22, 2022, 10:27:22 AM »
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/mexico/mexico-dying-democracy-amlo-toll-authoritarian-populism-denise-dresser?utm_medium=newsletters&utm_source=fatoday&utm_campaign=Mexico%E2%80%99s%20Dying%20Democracy&utm_content=20221021&utm_term=FA%20Today%20-%20112017

Mexico’s Dying Democracy
AMLO and the Toll of Authoritarian Populism
By Denise Dresser
Page url
https://www.foreignaffairs.com/mexico/mexico-dying-democracy-amlo-toll-authoritarian-populism-denise-dresser


When Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office four years ago, he promised to deliver what he branded a “Fourth Transformation,” the next in a series of defining junctures in Mexican history: the War of Independence in the early 1800s, the liberal movement of President Benito Juárez later that century, and the Revolution of 1910. To “make Mexico great again,” he said he would fight deeply ingrained corruption and eradicate persistent poverty. But in the name of his agenda, López Obrador has removed checks and balances, weakened autonomous institutions, and seized discretionary control of the budget. Arguing that police forces cannot stop the country’s mounting insecurity, he has supplanted them with the Mexican military and endowed it with unprecedented economic and political power. Today, the armed forces carry out his bidding on multiple fronts and have become a pillar of support for the government. López Obrador, or AMLO as he is known, seems intent on restoring something akin to the dominant-party rule that characterized Mexican politics from 1929 to 2000, but with a militarized twist.

Despite these questionable moves, the president and his party, Morena, remain popular. His supporters applaud the return of a strong and unencumbered leader, capable of enacting change in a country that is clamoring for more social justice for the many and less entitlement for the few. But his presidency, and the country’s trajectory, worry scholars, activists, opposition parties, and members of civil society who fought to dismantle the hegemony of the former Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which was in power for 71 years, and now seek to defend Mexico’s transition to multiparty democracy. These critics contend that López Obrador is polarizing the populace and jeopardizing the country’s fledgling democracy with his routine attacks on civil society organizations, his stated desire to take apart key institutions, and his use of the bully pulpit to lambaste the media and members of the opposition.

His playbook is like those of strongmen in other countries, who argue that they have too many constraints on their power to effect foundational change, promote participatory politics, and rid the country of immoral and rapacious elites. Yet as Western scholars have lamented the rise of autocrats in Hungary, Nicaragua, Poland, Turkey, Venezuela, and even the United States, they have often overlooked Mexico’s prominence in the growing list of countries where democracy is being subverted by elected leaders.


López Obrador’s personalistic style of governing is a form of democratic backsliding. His rhetoric and policy decisions have put democratic norms and institutions at risk. He has reshaped the Mexican political ecosystem so quickly and fluidly that defending democracy has become extremely difficult, for civil society groups as well as opposition parties. López Obrador is eroding, in word and in deed, the democratic norms and rules that Mexico has developed since the PRI lost its grip on the political system. He denies the legitimacy of his opponents by deeming them “traitors to the country.” He tolerates criminality and violence to justify the militarization of the country. And he has displayed a willingness to curtail the civil liberties of critics, including those in the media. Reports of Mexican democracy’s death may be exaggerated; it is not dead. But it is grievously ill. And López Obrador’s leadership is affecting U.S.-Mexican relations in a way that could turn back the clock on three decades of economic integration, revive the previous mistrust between the two countries, and halt collaboration on issues of binational concern, including security, immigration, and climate change. The Biden administration does not seem to fully understand the dangers that loom ahead as Mexico becomes a more insecure, more militarized, and less democratic country.

EVERYTHING OLD IS NEW AGAIN

According to a saying popular in Mexico in the 1970s, “Not a leaf moves without the president knowing about it.” That is how the country worked until Mexico’s transition to electoral democracy in the 1990s. Then, power became more dispersed, incipient checks and balances were put in place, and autonomous institutions, independent from the presidency, were created. A highly imperfect, and in many ways dysfunctional, political system emerged. Over the past four years, however, López Obrador has sought to re-create many of the political and institutional arrangements that characterized dominant-party rule. He is putting in place a strong presidency with ample discretionary powers, capable of dominating Congress, influencing the judiciary, determining economic policy, remaking the apparatus of the state according to the president’s personal preferences, and exercising metaconstitutional powers, such as issuing decrees that enable the armed forces to be in charge of public security or allow them to carry out public works without fulfilling legal requirements.

López Obrador argues that he is cleaning house and combating corruption. He says he can do so only by being in full command of all levers of government. The fight against the model of economic liberalization and political competition that emerged in the 1990s—which the president derides as “neoliberal”—has led to bypassing Congress and the constitution, ignoring regulatory procedures, and channeling a growing number of government activities to his cronies and the military. Dismissing the state as a “rheumatic elephant,” López Obrador has proceeded to undermine Mexico’s civil service, regulatory bodies, and administrative institutions, either by breaking them up or by filling them with his own loyalists. The Human Rights Commission is led by Rosario Piedra, a militant member of Morena, who kowtows to the president while remaining silent on human rights violations committed by the military. The Energy Regulation Commission, an oversight body, has been staffed by men with personal and political ties to Rocío Nahle, the minister of energy. López Obrador has also let months go by without naming new members to the Competition Commission, a regulatory institution responsible for investigating and sanctioning monopolistic practices, which is currently understaffed and without a president. In decree after decree, López Obrador has eviscerated the Mexican state, often in the name of fiscal austerity, while giving many plutocrats free rein and refusing to carry out fiscal reform that would tax his rich allies. He may disparage neoliberalism, but Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan would approve of his behavior.

In recent years, political movements across the ideological spectrum in many liberal democracies have called for “bringing the state back in”—that is, shoring up the capacity of the state to address inequality, regulate markets, combat climate change, and respond to global health emergencies. The reverse is taking place in Mexico, with significant social and political ramifications. The government’s reluctance to design a fiscal rescue package or social welfare spending policies to soften the blow from the COVID-19 pandemic had devastating effects. As a result of what López Obrador described as “republican austerity,” Mexico has suffered one of the world’s highest excess mortality rates during the pandemic, with over 600,000 Mexicans dying of COVID-19. The ranks of the poor have swelled by almost four million people since 2019, according to the National Council for Evaluation of Social Development Policy. During the first year of the pandemic, vaccines were scarce, hospitals were beyond capacity, over one million businesses collapsed, and immigration to the United States rose sharply. Today, fewer Mexicans have public health-care coverage than at any point over the last 20 years, and the education system lies in shambles as a result of government disinvestment and mismanagement. A study carried out by the School of Governance at the Monterrey Institute of Technology reports that since the pandemic began in 2020, over one million children abandoned school, and there was a historic reduction of enrollment for all grades.

These consequences all flow from López Obrador’s style of governing. He has formulated ineffective policies using questionable assumptions, such as his belief that the most indebted state oil company in the world—Pemex—can recover past levels of production and help the economy grow, instead of dragging it down. He has developed a personalistic method of carrying out policies, one that is prone to clientelism, including the distribution of cash to the poor, and based on an unreliable, politically motivated census developed by his party. And he has terminated initiatives in a haphazard and seemingly arbitrary way, for example, eliminating government-run trusts for science, technology, and educational evaluation. Arguing that a slew of government-run programs were corrupt, including childcare facilities, women’s shelters, and environmental institutes, he proceeded to shut them down by decree and without evidence of malfeasance.

López Obrador’s personalistic style of governing is a form of democratic backsliding.

López Obrador’s government claims to embody progressive values, but it contradicts them at every turn. It refuses to tax the rich, to prioritize the fight against climate change, and to support activists who decry the country’s growing number of femicides. An average of 11 women are killed every day in Mexico, in what the UN calls a “femicide pandemic,” but the government has cut funding for public shelters for the victims of gender-related violence. López Obrador promises to “put the poor first,” but his government’s budgetary allocations belie that assertion. He has done away with a broad swath of social safety nets, leaving the dispossessed in a more dire situation than when he assumed office. The 2021 National Poll on Health and Nutrition shows that as a result of cuts to the public health system—and the dismantling of prior national health coverage such as Seguro Popular, or Popular Insurance—the poorest segments of the population spend a greater percentage of their income on health care than they did under previous governments, and 66 percent of the uninsured have been forced to seek private care.

López Obrador champions direct cash transfers to the poor, but new social programs have been plagued by financial irregularities, charges of corruption, and wasted resources. The Federal Auditing Commission has documented these failings in two of the most touted government initiatives: “Planting Life,” in which beneficiaries burned down trees in order to receive public funds to plant new ones, and “Young Building the Future,” in which funds were disbursed to nonexistent companies that hired nonexistent workers.

Meanwhile, federal budget cuts are starving institutions that have been fundamental to the construction of level-playing-field capitalism, such as the Competition Commission and the Federal Telecommunications Institute. Funding has also been slashed for independent bodies that have been particularly important to Mexico’s path to democracy, including the National Electoral Institute, the Federal Transparency Institute, and the National Human Rights Commission. By flooding these institutions with partisan loyalists and delegitimizing their work by calling them instruments of “the conservative, hypocritical elite,” López Obrador is harming their ability to carry out their roles as checks and balances on the government. Positioning himself as the sole representative of “the will of the people,” López Obrador is rigorously adhering to the authoritarian populist playbook.

His actions have damaged not only Mexico’s democracy but also its economy. Domestic and foreign investment have dwindled as the government botched its response to the pandemic; rolled back reforms that had helped boost growth, such as investment in renewable energy; and created regulatory uncertainty, thanks to the president’s adversarial attitude toward the parts of the private sector that do not comply with his clientelistic system. Between 2019 and 2021, when bad economic conditions worsened with the COVID-19 crisis, Mexico’s GDP shrank more than that of any other Latin American country. And the prospects for a recovery are dim, given global inflation and investor distrust in López Obrador’s economic leadership.

For years, López Obrador decried what he called “the mafia in power” and railed against greedy oligarchs and their accomplices operating within the structure of the state. But instead of tackling social inequality at its source by strengthening the state’s capacity to promote growth and more fairly redistribute its gains, López Obrador has simply reproduced the crony-capitalist model that defined the Mexican economy since the PRI seized control in 1929. His government has maintained and developed strategic alliances with some of the wealthiest members of Mexico’s business community, earning the praise and support of influential figures such as the telecommunication magnates Carlos Slim and Ricardo Salinas Pliego. Both have been the beneficiaries of discretionary government contracts in the banking, telecommunications, and construction sectors. By revising the Mexican tradition of mixing state capitalism and oligarchy, López Obrador and his party are emulating the PRI’s vision of governance as a system for distributing the spoils.

MILITARIZING MEXICO

First as an opposition leader and later in his 2018 presidential campaign, López Obrador decried the government’s growing use of the Mexican military to combat drug trafficking and cartel-related violence, a practice that began in the 1990s and escalated under López Obrador’s two immediate predecessors, Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto. One of López Obrador’s most popular campaign slogans was abrazos, no balazos (hugs, not bullets), and he promised to return the armed forces to the barracks. He garnered significant support among left-wing and progressive voters precisely because he vowed to redesign the failed security strategy that Calderón and Peña Nieto pursued. Both previous presidents had given the armed forces expansive powers, which led to an explosion in human rights violations but no significant reduction in homicides or other types of crime. López Obrador vowed to address the root causes of violence by channeling more public resources to the poor and keeping the military off the streets.

But in a surprising about-face, shortly after assuming office, López Obrador started to backtrack on his vow to demilitarize the country. Pressured by prominent generals who viewed his stance as unrealistic, López Obrador argued that because the police force was corrupt and inefficient, the army would have to maintain and even broaden its role. He pushed through a constitutional reform in 2019 that established a new militarized force called the National Guard that was to take over public security for five years. But from the start, López Obrador undermined what was supposed to be civilian control and oversight by naming Luis Rodríguez Bucio, a recently retired general, as head of the new body and staffing it largely with active members of the armed forces.

Instead of reining in Mexico’s army, López Obrador has unleashed it. Over the past three years, the armed forces have taken on unparalleled political and economic roles. The military is now operating outside civilian control, in open defiance of the Mexican constitution, which states that the military cannot be in charge of public security. As a result of presidential decrees, the military has become omnipresent: building airports, running the country’s ports, controlling customs, distributing money to the poor, implementing social programs, and detaining immigrants. According to the National Militarization Index created by the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics, a research institute based in Mexico City, during the past decade, the military has gradually taken over 246 activities that used to be in the hands of civilians. The armed forces have been allocated larger and larger amounts of federal money, and many projects under their control have been reclassified as “matters of public security,” thus removing them from public scrutiny under Mexico’s National Transparency Law. Admittedly, López Obrador inherited armed forces that were increasingly given roles traditionally carried out by the police. But he has made things far worse by eliminating any semblance of civilian oversight or accountability. He has placed the National Guard under the direct control of the defense ministry, doing away with even the pretense of civilian control.

As he tries to win the loyalty of the military, López Obrador has ignored its history of acting with impunity and violating human rights. He parades with generals at his side and invites them to his morning press conference. At most public events, he surrounds himself with top brass, referring to them as el pueblo bueno (the good people) and claiming that they are incorruptible. But the history of the Mexican military is stained by its complicity with drug traffickers and criminals, beginning with the 1997 arrest of General Gutiérrez Rebollo, who was convicted of working with one of Mexico’s top drug lords. The Zetas, one of the most savage criminal groups in Mexico, was originally made up of members of the military who moved into the drug trade and conducted lucrative criminal operations. And in 2020, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Los Angeles detained General Salvador Cienfuegos, Mexico’s former minister of defense, and the U.S. government charged him with drug trafficking. In a reversal that remains unexplained, Washington later returned him to Mexico after negotiations between the Mexican government and the Trump administration’s attorney general, William Barr. Upon his arrival, Cienfuegos was rapidly exonerated by Mexican authorities, and two of his top collaborators remain in key military positions, including Luis Crescencio Sandoval, head of the ministry of defense.




The armed forces were also involved in the disappearance of 43 students in the town of Ayotzinapa in 2014, when the young men were kidnapped by local police and their allies in the drug trafficking trade in the region. Criminal gangs who pursued and ultimately killed the students were aided by members of the army’s 27th Battalion, including a general who was indicted in September 2022.

López Obrador is unwilling to limit the armed forces because he is governing with them, out of distrust for the civilian institutions of the state. He doesn’t believe that the country’s civil bureaucracy will be unconditionally loyal to him; the military, on the other hand, he says, is “fundamental and strategic” to his transformative project, and that may assure its longevity beyond his six years in office. He is also trying to carry out massive public works projects to cement his legacy, and the military provides an attractive option for getting things done quickly. López Obrador frequently refers to a supposed coup d’état that right-wing conspirators are allegedly preparing against him. He has clearly decided that a way of preventing that outcome is to have some of his most powerful potential enemies—including those in the military—inside the tent pissing out, instead of outside the tent pissing in.

The militarization of Mexican politics will be López Obrador’s most enduring and consequential policy decision. Future governments will be forced to either respect the enlarged power of the military or risk confronting it. Meanwhile, militarization is not producing the results López Obrador promised. According to the U.S. military, drug cartels have expanded their territory and now control a third of Mexico. Violence continues in many parts of the country, with over 100,000 people becoming the victims of forced disappearances since 2007, when the military was assigned to wage the “war on drugs.” Organized crime has access to increasingly lethal weaponry such as rocket-propelled grenades, and attacks on civilians in cities are now everyday occurrences. López Obrador’s term in office is on track to become the most violent in Mexico’s recent history.

DISMANTLING DEMOCRACY
Since Mexico’s democratic transition in 2000, the emphasis among reformers has been on building institutions that would assure accountability, transparency, and autonomy from the president and the ruling party. It was also important that opposition candidates have an equal chance in elections. López Obrador seems intent on undermining these objectives and erasing the country’s hard-won (albeit incomplete) democratic gains.

Despite its many flaws, Mexico’s electoral democracy had established basic rules for electoral competition that were largely respected. Fundamental to this system was the National Electoral Institute (INE), which is in charge of guaranteeing free and fair elections. For more than three decades, political scientists have viewed the INE, and its predecessor, the Federal Electoral Institute, as the jewel in the crown of Mexico’s democratic transition. Yet since arriving in office, López Obrador has taken aim at it. He associates it with the contentious election of 2006, in which he believes fraud prevented what should have been a victory for him, and the electoral authorities carried out only a partial recount of the vote. His stated goal is to replace the INE with a new entity overseen by his party, thus propelling the political system back to the era of PRI rule, when the party in power controlled every aspect of the electoral process.

López Obrador’s constant verbal attacks on the INE and substantial cuts to its budget have been accompanied by his frequent use of referendums and consultas populares (popular consultations) intended to establish what he calls a “true democracy.” Whenever the president feels that his agenda is being stalled by constitutional limitations, he establishes a mechanism for obtaining popular support for decisions that would otherwise be stopped by the courts. In 2019 he promoted a “popular consultation” to see whether the people supported the construction of the new Maya train line, the Dos Bocas oil refinery, and other large-scale public works, but his party did not install enough voting booths countrywide to assure the level of participation required by constitutional rules for the consultation process. Nonetheless, López Obrador used the “yes” vote to validate the advancement of his projects, even though they failed to comply with legal requirements such as conducting environmental impact studies. In addition, states governed by Morena had more voting booths than others did, thus skewing the result in favor of the president.

The implications are worrisome: if a badly organized instrument of direct democracy supports López Obrador’s views, he embraces it, even if that entails bending the law to his bidding. He publicly pressures and threatens judges and ministers of the Supreme Court when they attempt to place legal obstacles in his path, including their refusal to support his punitive policy of automatic prison without bail for petty crimes. Alejandro Gertz Manero, the pliant attorney general, has also come to López Obrador’s aid when the president wants his opponents jailed or indicted, as was the case with Jorge Luis Lavalle, a congressman who was put behind bars, without evidence, for allegedly taking bribes from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company.

An average of 11 women are killed every day in Mexico.
This bullying and manipulation of the legal system makes it nearly impossible for opposition parties to sap support for López Obrador. Plus, they are burdened by a history of bad governance and corruption while in office and remain weak, divided, and leaderless. Although the opposition was able to wrest voter support away from Morena in Mexico City during elections in 2021, the party made significant electoral inroads at the state level and now controls 21 out of 32 governorships. According to the most recent public opinion polls, it is poised to win the presidency again in 2024. Because López Obrador is constitutionally limited to only one term in office, he will use the resources of the state to assure victory for a candidate he selects himself. Just like the PRI presidents of the past, López Obrador will choose a successor who will remain true to his vision, even if it means abandoning basic democratic principles.

The only true thorn in López Obrador’s side are Mexico’s feminists, a singular political movement that he does not seem to understand, cannot control, and has not been able to suppress. Women in Mexico are angry, and rightly so, given the tide of femicide sweeping the country. Women’s long-standing frustration with the government’s lack of response to the murders has been intensified by a president who seems impervious to and disdainful of their demands. Despite keeping his promise to establish gender parity in his cabinet, López Obrador has instituted policies and economic austerity that have been harmful to women. His government has closed publicly subsidized daycare centers, eliminated shelters for victims of domestic violence, defunded the National Women’s Institute, and cut many national programs that protect women, especially those in indigenous communities. Today, Mexican feminists are more energized and more combative than ever, while they seek to reframe the public debate in favor of their rights and against increased militarization. Throughout his term, women’s marches and public protests have been constant and have drawn enormous crowds. When they occur, López Obrador erects steel barriers around the presidential palace, a defensive measure no past president has ever resorted to. In the polls, support for the president among women has been falling because of his budget cuts, his repeated public attacks on feminism, and his tendency to tear-gas the protesters when they march.

PUSHING FOR MEXIT?

As part of his strategy to govern through fear and division, López Obrador has chosen to pursue an openly anti-American stance. In contrast with the conciliatory, even friendly posture that he assumed toward U.S. President Donald Trump, López Obrador has picked public fights with President Joe Biden on many issues, the most important being energy policy. López Obrador has pushed through a series of laws that discriminate against energy production by foreign companies and U.S.-generated energy in favor of state-owned oil and gas companies, such as Pemex and Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (CFE). U.S. and Canadian enterprises have assumed increasingly critical public stances, arguing that Mexico is violating commitments it made in the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 2020.

To resolve the spat, the Biden administration pursued quiet diplomacy. John Kerry, the U.S. special envoy for climate change, has visited Mexico several times over the last two years, while other senior U.S. officials expressed concern, hoping that behind-the-scenes pressure might lead López Obrador to reconsider his position and strike down measures that give electricity produced by the CFE an unfair edge over energy from private companies and cleaner sources such as wind and solar. The usual tools of diplomacy, however, proved of little use, as López Obrador dug in and began to escalate his attacks on the United States, frequently asserting that Mexico is “not a colony,” decrying American “interventionism” in his country’s internal affairs, calling Mexican defenders of free trade “treasonous,” and proclaiming that the USMCA violated Mexico’s sovereignty. To fire up his base, López Obrador has turned a trade dispute into a political battle.

Biden’s patience finally wore out, and U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced in July that the administration would begin a process of dispute settlement consultations, a first step in what could lead to tariffs on a wide range of Mexican products. The Canadian government soon followed suit, challenging López Obrador’s effort to establish government control over the country’s oil and electricity sector and backtrack on the liberalization of the energy sector that the trade agreement established. If Mexico refuses to relent, and if the arbitration panel finds it to be in violation of the USMCA, the country could face severe financial penalties and compensatory tariffs. Even though Biden still depends on Mexico’s assistance with immigration and security issues, he seems to have decided it is time to stop an emboldened López Obrador. Although López Obrador has not openly threatened to exit the USMCA, his confrontational rhetoric and his unwillingness to reverse his nationalistic energy policies has generated concern in Washington and Ottawa.

Instead of reining in Mexico’s army, López Obrador has unleashed it.
For Mexico, leaving the agreement would be economic and political suicide. Mexico’s inclusion in a free-trade zone with its richer neighbors to the north has turned the country into a manufacturing powerhouse and has functioned as a guarantor of stability by reassuring international investors that the Mexican government would play by the rules. As a result of NAFTA and later the USMCA, investors came to see Mexico not as an unstable Latin American basket case but as a North American player that, in the event of a crisis, had a lender of last resort. When Mexico’s economy collapsed in 1994, U.S. President Bill Clinton bypassed Congress to provide a $20 billion loan to help the country recover. Had Mexico not been a NAFTA partner, it would not have received that assistance. And if Mexico withdraws from the USMCA, Washington would be unlikely to rescue Mexico from a similar crisis.

By rejecting the political and economic tenets of the North American neighborhood, López Obrador is reviving views of Mexico as a country subject to pendular macroeconomic policy shifts and presidential whims, which produced crisis after crisis in the 1970s and 1980s. Even if he chooses not to withdraw from the USMCA, his erratic policymaking could lead to further disinvestment, capital flight, and a return to cyclical bouts of economic instability. In 2021, Mexico suffered record capital outflows of over $10 billion, caused by increased risk aversion among investors.

But López Obrador knows that playing the anti-Yankee card can yield political benefits, despite polls showing that a majority of the country supports free trade. With the 2024 presidential elections not far off, he believes that his popularity with an energized political base matters more than the maintenance of a trilateral trade accord. Scoring political points and amassing political capital matters more to him than avoiding a return to what the Mexican poet Octavio Paz once called the country’s “labyrinth of solitude,” where Mexico would once again waste away, brought down by protectionism, nationalism, corruption, crime, and poverty.

PEDESTAL POLITICS

More than a government, López Obrador’s administration is a daily act of political theater. His is a performative presidency that spins a tale of a heroic fight against privileged elites, perverted feminists, and corrupt experts, all conspiring against the public. He claims that he alone represents the will of the pure, true people. His rhetoric is simple: he seeks a seismic shift, not a mere course correction. He isn’t interested in renovating; he wants to burn down the house. López Obrador believes that he embodies a moral revolution, unconstrained by the imperatives of democracy or the niceties of constitutional rule.

The core goal of López Obrador’s presidency is the maintenance of personal popularity to assure that his party remains in power. His government is therefore uninterested in the material consequences of its policies and actions. It doesn’t matter whether the critics think the performance is any good; all that matters is that the audience keeps applauding. As a political strategy, it has worked so far: recent polls show that over 60 percent of Mexicans approve of López Obrador personally, regardless of the well-documented and easily observable adverse effects his rule has had on the economy, on crime, and on democratic consolidation.

His continued popularity does not bode well for Mexico’s future. Stepped-up military involvement in domestic affairs is a threat to democracy and human rights. López Obrador’s assault on the state will destroy or degrade the democratic institutions that Mexican reformers had managed to build over the last 30 years. His inward-looking policies will inhibit economic recovery and Mexico’s entrance into competitive post-pandemic global markets. Crony capitalism will perpetuate a system based on favors, concessions, and collusion that will favor the powerful and hurt consumers and citizens.

Democracy relies on rules, procedures, and institutions—not a leader endowed with mythical qualities. The cult of personality that the Mexican president has promoted and the polarizing ideas that he has injected into the public sphere have created an “us against them” environment. Mexican politics is increasingly fueled by fear and resentment instead of by debate, deliberation, and fact-based arguments, and public discourse has become unmoored from any sense of what is best for the country. Mexico has a long history of placing its destiny in the hands of an authoritarian president as it lurches from crisis to crisis. Now, López Obrador is taking the country down a familiar path, not to a strong, healthy democracy but to a lawless, corrupt kleptocracy, supported by people who should know better.


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Zapatistas in Chiapas
« Reply #984 on: December 31, 2022, 08:51:08 PM »
In fighting globalism, the Zapatistas brought the world to Chiapas
Leigh Thelmadatter
Leigh Thelmadatter
December 31, 2022
0
EZLN sign in Chiapas, Mexico
When talks with the federal government failed, the EZLN focused on carving out autonomous territory, (Photo: Hajor/Wikimedia Commons)

For those of us 50 and older, it seems like yesterday — the masked, charismatic Subcomandante Marcos taking the world by storm to demand justice for a jungle people threatened by globalization and “the new world order.”

He and the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN) made their dramatic appearance on January 1, 1994, the day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The treaty had been decried by many, but this armed insurgency cut through all that.

EZLN didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. Chiapas has had a long and sometimes violent history of conflict. The Zapatistas, named after the Mexican Revolution general Emiliano Zapata, organized in 1983 after decades of failure to resolve economic, political and cultural issues.

But they remained obscure until they took over seven towns by force, including San Cristóbal de la Casas, making a declaration there that got Mexico’s and the world’s attention.

Subcomandante Marcos
Subcomandante Marcos, with trademark baclava and pipe, was the leader and spokesman for the EZLN. (José Villa at VillaPhotography/Creative Commons)
Actual fighting with federal forces only lasted two weeks.

The Zapatistas had impeccable timing: the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had severely weakened (and would officially fall six years later). And instead of limiting their actions to petitioning the Mexican political system, the EZLN reached out internationally via contacts and the Internet.


To people outside Mexico, it made for a great underdog story. And as word spread, foreign journalists flocked to Chiapas, giving them nearly glowing coverage.

This forced the Mexican government to sign the San Andrés Peace Accords in 1996, but it balked in 2001 when the Zapatistas marched to Mexico City to have it formally put into law. Instead, the congress passed a watered-down version, and the Zapatistas broke all talks with them.

EZLN Comandanta Ramona
The EZLN’s gender egalitarianism and female leaders like Comandanta Ramona attracted much international support. (Photo: Heriberto Rodríguez/Creative Commons)
Instead, they focused on creating an “autonomous zone” with the support of certain areas of Chiapas and the international leftist community. Their success with foreign organizations is somewhat unusual and comes not only because EZLN fights for indigenous rights and against capitalism and globalism, but also because their organization is a mix of traditional and modern sensibilities, which inspired organizers to allow women a more visible role in their movement.

However, it is ironic that an anti-globalism movement would have decades-long ties with foreign organizations. It has been vital to their survival. International organizations provide donations and outlets for selling products like coffee in a way they say provides an alternative to globalism that does not abuse native peoples.

The connection to the world outside Mexico has influenced Zapatista priorities, causing them to adopt stances on issues as varied as gender identity, the Ukraine-Russia conflict, COVID policies, rail lines in Norwegian Sami territory and Mexico’s Maya Train project.

The effectiveness of the autonomous strategy locally is debatable. It has meant developing local solutions for needs such as healthcare and education. However, Chiapas, including Zapatista territory, remains extremely impoverished.


Map of territory claimed by various Zapatista groups
Map of territory claimed by various Zapatista groups. (Graphic: Hxltdq/Creative Commons)
Traditional farming practices are not enough to live on, and migration out to other parts of Mexico and to the United States has been significant in the past couple of decades. Illegal logging, especially in the Lacandon Rainforest, has led to severe environmental degradation, says local activist Eric Eberman of the Colibri-Tz’unun Reserve.

The lack of federal troops has made the zone attractive to both human and drug smugglers.

The irony does not stop with the fact of international contacts.

Subcomandante Marcos might have been the best tourism spokesman the state ever had. While some tourism and foreign residents had been in Chiapas prior to 1994, the news coverage brought the curious and the idealistic, not only to experience the native cultures, but with the hope of engaging someone in a black Zapatista balaclava as well.

San Cristobal de las Casas
Miguel Hidalgo street in present-day San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, full of foreign tourists (Photo: Protoplasmakid/Creative Commons)
For a time, there were so people arriving many that this tourism took on the name zapaturismo. As late as 2009, markets were filled with Zapatista-themed merchandise. At this point, it has all but disappeared.

Zapatourism hasn’t completely disappeared, but it is certainly not a matter of driving up to one of the communities to say hello. Some tourism offices in San Cristóbal might give you information about entering Zapatista territory but will tell you that doing so is at your own risk.

There is some indication that some Zapatistas are becoming more open to the idea of visitors again, such as the community of Oventic; however, I would recommend contacting an organization that works with the Zapatistas to find out what may or may not be possible through their contacts.

The memory of the uprising has faded since the movement mostly shuns the press, but tourism continues to grow in Chiapas, especially in San Cristóbal. In the past 30 years or so, the city has transformed from a small, isolated town to a cosmopolitan center welcoming hundreds of thousands of travelers each year. It also hosts a significant and growing number of foreign residents.

Cafe Rebelde coffee brand
Promotional photograph for coffee advertised in 2017 as “grown on Zapatista lands by Zapatista hands” and distributed worldwide. The brand is still for sale, and distributor Essential Trading Coop says a fraction of sales still go to a nonprofit organizing community projects in the Zapatistas’ autonomous communities.
The tourism has led to a now fairly large community of resident foreigners. Researcher Gustavo Sánchez Espinosa of the Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropología Social (CIESAS) calls them “lifestyle migrants.”

These are people with incomes in dollars euros, etc., who come to Chiapas looking for some kind of change in their life. They look to live in an exotic locale, but over time, also look for certain amenities from back home — and businesses spring up to accommodate those needs. Mestizo Mexicans call them “neo-hippies;” local indigenous people call them alemantik or gringotik.

The majority of these settle in and around the historic center because of its majestic colonial architecture. But today, this area is now a jumble of the native and the foreign, with streets filled with European-style cafes, organic merchandise stores with streets filled with indigenous women selling handcrafts and other goods, along with people with huge backpacks and neo-hippie clothes and hair. Such residents separate themselves from other migrants, from places like Central America and other parts of Chiapas, attracted to the city for economic reasons.

In a way, the division revives the original purpose of the historic center, which began as a fort, then became an enclave for the colonial Spanish, with the poor and indigenous on the periphery.

It is highly unlikely that Marcos or any of the other leaders imagined that their stand against the outside world would instead bring the world to their doorstep.

Leigh Thelmadatter arrived in Mexico 18 years ago and fell in love with the land and the culture in particular its handcrafts and art. She is the author of Mexican Cartonería: Paper, Paste and Fiesta (Schiffer 2019). Her culture column appears regularly on Mexico News Daily.

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Armored attack on Mexican border prison, 19 escape
« Reply #985 on: January 03, 2023, 07:11:12 AM »
https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/death-toll-rises-19-prison-attack-mexican-border-town-2023-01-03/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_campaign=Daily-Briefing&utm_term=010323

MEXICO CITY, Jan 2 (Reuters) - An attack on a prison in the Mexican border town of Juarez left 19 dead and allowed a cartel kingpin to escape along with two dozen other prisoners, authorities said Monday.

An armed group, traveling in armored vehicles, launched almost-simultaneous attacks on the prison and the municipal police station, Defense Minister Luis Crescencio Sandoval said in a news conference.

Authorities said the Sunday morning attack had coincided with preparations for New Year's Day visits. They initially said the death toll was at least 14, but by Monday, Sandoval said, this had risen to 19: 10 guards, seven prisoners and two attackers.


The attack allowed 25 inmates, including Ernesto Alfredo Pinon de la Cruz, also known as "El Neto," to escape. Pinon is a top gunman for the Juarez-based "Los Mexicles" cartel, Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodriguez said at the news conference.

Federal authorities were called in to contain the unrest. They later found a "VIP zone" in the state-run prison with drugs and money, said Rodriguez, who slammed the Chihuahua state administration.

"That's the state's responsibility, because federal authorities can't intervene in these places," Rodriguez said.

She added that state authorities had not requested that any dangerous prisoners, such as "El Neto," be transferred from the overcrowded prison to a higher-security location.

State prosecutor Roberto Javier Duarte said in a separate news conference on Monday that state authorities would "completely clean out the penitentiary system" in response to the attack and that those guilty of corruption would be prosecuted.


Later Monday, Interior Minister Adan Augusto Lopez said in a statement that Chihuahua authorities had requested the inexpensive transfer of an undetermined number of prisoners to federal sites.

The incident Sunday resulted in one of the highest death tolls from prison attacks in Mexico in recent years.

Crafty_Dog

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Follow up to the mass prison break in Ciudad Juarez
« Reply #986 on: January 05, 2023, 11:45:53 AM »
https://mexiconewsdaily.com/news/juarez-prison-head-focus-of-probe-manhunt-underway-for-fugitives/?utm_source=MND%20mail&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=MNT&pnespid=tbR8CScXOKhCxaTR_z7tCoOepQytDod9dLntm_5ttkxmbnE.snSN_jY5PQQi8CBPFVJRsyrF

Ciudad Juárez prison head focus of probe as authorities search for fugitives
The head of Cereso No. 3 prison in Ciudad Juárez, Alejandro Alvarado Téllez, center, is now under investigation for allegedly allowing multiple prohibited items into the prison under his charge. (Photo: State of Chihuahua)

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The director of the Cereso No. 3 prison in Ciudad Juárez was fired on Tuesday, following a prison raid that left 19 people dead and allowed at least 27 prisoners to escape.

According to a statement by the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office, former director Alejandro Alvarado Téllez and several other prison staff members are under investigation for the events leading up to the jailbreak.

Authorities are investigating whether they failed in their duties to maintain security or even allowed prohibited objects to enter the prison.

The raid occurred on the morning of Jan. 1 after gunmen attacked the penal institution, seeking to free a leader of the local Mexicles gang, Ernesto Alfredo Pinon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto.” Nineteen people were killed in the gun battle, including 10 guards. At least 27 prisoners escaped, including the gang leader and his lieutenant.

Prisoners being transferred out of Cereso No. 3 in Juarez, Chihuahua
In the aftermath of the raid, hundreds of prisoners are being transferred out of Cereso No. 3 to other prisons around the country. (Photo: Cuartoscuro)
When federal authorities regained control of the prison, they found that El Neto had been staying in a “VIP zone” within the center, with access to drugs and money.

On Tuesday, the Defense Ministry (Sedena) announced that it had deployed 200 military personnel to Ciudad Juárez to reinforce security. The additional troops will join the hunt for the fugitive prisoners, alongside over 900 members of the army and National Guard already in the city.


At least five criminals who escaped in the breakout have been captured, along with weapons, drugs and cash. Meanwhile, seven people have died in clashes during the manhunt, including two police officers. Five criminals armed with tactical weaponry were killed in a police chase after firing on search units.

In addition, one fugitive was caught on security cameras attempting to cross the United States border into El Paso, Texas.

Chihuahua Governor Maru Campos listening to updates on authorities' attempts to track down fugitive prisoners after a prison break in Juarez
Chihuahua Governor Maru Campos, center, listening to updates on authorities’ attempts to track down fugitive prisoners. (Photo: Gov. of Chihuahua)
“After the sighting, the authorities of El Paso, Texas, were informed with the relevant information, and immediately a joint search operation was implemented on both sides of the border,” the state government said.

191 prisoners from the Cereso have been transferred to other federal prisons around the country. They had been charged with crimes including murder, kidnapping, rape and organized crime activity.

“This operation concluded safely and successfully; with these movements, the state government was supported in guaranteeing the governability of the center after the events of Jan. 1,” read a statement by the Defense Ministry (Sedena).

According to the Chihuahua Attorney General’s Office, the transfer of “El Neto” and 179 other prisoners from the Cereso has been under consideration since a previous escape attempt on Aug. 11. The request was on hold pending an analysis of capacity in other centers.

Ernesto Alfredo Piñon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto"
Ernesto Alfredo Piñon de la Cruz, alias “El Neto” lived like a king in Cereso No. 3, authorities say, with access to drugs and money. He’s been involved in organized crime since starting his own gang while still a teen and becoming a regional leader in the Juárez Cartel at age 18. (Photo: social media)
They added that “El Neto,” who has been jailed since 2009, was initially held in another prison but has fought a long legal battle to be transferred and then kept in the Cereso. From the prison, he allegedly coordinated numerous violent attacks by the Mexicles gang, one of the most powerful criminal cells in Ciudad Juárez.

With reports from Animal Político, Reuters and Excelsior





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