Trouble South of the Border

When a supposedly fixed election in distant Kyrgyzstan did not meet the “democratic” standards of either the U.S. government or the European Union, it was time for yet another color-coded Western-financedrevolution.” When Eduard Shevardnadze ceased to be useful to the U.S., a “Rose Revolution” bloomed in Georgia. In Ukraine, where electoral politics is subject to more manipulation than even Chicago or Brooklyn, the necessity of U.S. intervention – in the form of millions in grants to opposition groupings – was self-evident to U.S. government officials.

Mexico, however, is a different matter altogether. The “global democratic revolution” announced by President Bush in a 2003 speech to the National Endowment for Democracy – and since reinforced by word and deed – apparently stops south of the U.S.-Mexican border. In a blatant move to disqualify Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the presidential sweepstakes – he’s ahead in the polls by a wide margin – the Mexican Congress has voted to strip Lopez of his immunity from prosecution and arrest him on a minor procedural issue: an act that effectively kicks him off the ballot. Mexican law forbids anyone under indictment from seeking the presidency.

President Fox, in Rome for the funeral of Pope John Paul II, hailed the move: “I believe that today,” he burbled, “Mexico has set for the world an example of legality and adherence to the law.”

Since Fox was in such close proximity to so much holiness at that moment, the casual utterance of such a blatant untruth surely qualified as sinful. El Presidente would do well to go to confession and get this whopper off his chest: if grand-scale lying isn’t a mortal sin, then it ought to be.

Mexico has set an example all right: this shows how far that country is from the genuine rule of law. It also dramatizes that nothing has really changed with the ascension of Fox and his fellow conservatives in the National Action Party (PAN). When the 71-year monopoly on power held by the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was finally broken in 2000, Fox’s election was hailed as the crest of a “thirddemocratic wave that was – and supposedly still is – sweeping the world. As it turns out, however, it was nothing of the sort.

This brazen attempt to steal Los Pinos, the Mexican White House, from the man who, by all accounts, would win a free and fair election, proves that Fox is just another Third World autocrat, no less gangsterish than the losing faction in Ukraine, former Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev, or other alleged tyrants, such as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, all of whom have earned brickbats from the West. While none of these targets of our official ire is exactly an angel, at least they allow opposition candidates to run in elections: the deal concocted by Fox, the PAN, and the PRI to eliminate (and jail) the most popular candidate saves them the trouble of rigging the election.

A small dirt path that falls just short of connecting the American British Cowdray (ABC) Hospital of Mexico City with adjacent highways is the scene of Obrador’s alleged “crime”: the charge is that he failed to enforce a court order stopping work on the road.

A Knight-Ridder account of the controversy reports that the details “are difficult to sort out,” an understatement for sure. ABC bought 16 acres of land in 1993 to build a new facility that would serve Mexico City’s poor shantytowns: the project was financed by $43 million from the World Bank and other international aid agencies, and construction commenced in 1998. When the city attempted to buy land for access roads to the new hospital, the owner would not sell for what city officials considered a fair price, and they seized the land. According to one observer:

“Depending upon whose calculations one buys, ‘El Encino’ (‘The Oak’) is a 100,000 or 83,000 square meter swatch of much-coveted terrain. Once national land deeded to rancher cronies by dictator Porfirio Diaz (1876-1910).”

In Mexico, as the Knight-Ridder piece points out, land titles are often dubious, vague, and subject to challenge, but in any case the alleged owner went to court, and a judge agreed the seizure was illegal: he ordered construction of the road to be stopped. Obrador contends he complied with the order, and that the road project was abandoned: Carlos Heredia, director of the real estate company that supervised planning for the road, backs this up. The owner, however, was not satisfied: he contended the city hadn’t removed equipment and debris quickly enough, and he still didn’t have access to his property. Mexico’s attorney general, a Fox appointee, started an investigation into the mayor’s actions – or rather, inaction – in 2001.

Fox and friends have transformed what should have been a civil matter into a criminal investigation. Obrador now patiently awaits the completion of a “legal” procedure that will end with him being jailed. He has vowed to conduct his presidential campaign from behind bars.

However, Obrador and his followers have announced that they are not about to take this lying down – although they may well be laying their bodies on the line. The PRD is planning a strategy of passive resistance modeled on the tactics employed by Mahatma Gandhi, the U.S. civil rights movement, and the massive protests that led to the overthrow of Communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Capital-D Democracy is on the march! Hurrah! Hooray!

So when can we expect the U.S. government to shower millions in grants to “pro-democracy” organizations in Mexico, which are mobilizing to defend Obrador?

The answer is: never.

Fox and President Bush are buddies from way back, and you won’t see a dime funneled to real pro-democracy organizations in Mexico via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Aside from being a welfare program for neocons, the NED is an instrument, not of the divine will to freedom, as George W. Bush would have it, but of a rapidly expanding American Empire.

Antiwar.com is unalterably opposed to filtering U.S. taxpayer dollars to any foreign party, grouping, or political movement, but you’ll note that there are certain prominent exceptions to the “global democratic revolution,” and Mexico is surely one of them. Yes, Obrador is a leftist, but that doesn’t usually stop the U.S. government from trying to co-opt and manipulate an indigenous movement in the service of its own agenda. Look at Eastern Europe, where “ex”-Commies in Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria are the biggest cheerleaders for the extension of Western influence, having in some cases led their respective countries out of the Warsaw Pact and straight into the waiting arms of NATO.

While Eastern European Commies are welcomed into the “pro-democracy” big tent, Mexico’s social democrats are for some reason anathema. Obrador is a former PRI official and officeholder who defected, along with many other left social democrats, to found the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), led by former Mexico City Mayor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. Cardenas was nearly elected president of Mexico in 1988, but a “computer breakdown” occurred at a crucial point in the vote tally. He had a large lead before the hard drives gave out, but when the system went back up he was trailing badly and PRI candidate Carlos Salinas de Gortari was declared the winner. Cardenas has since been eclipsed – although he insists he’s still running (for the fourth time) for the PRD nomination in 2006.

Obrador’s platform is mildly leftist: more social welfare programs, and a renegotiation of the free-trade agreement with the United States. The sort of social liberalism exemplified by the PRD is embodied in a program initiated by Obrador to house Mexico City’s “sex workers” over the age of 60 (many of whom, the Washington Post informs us, are still working). This is not Marxism, but a washed-out pinkish version of “liberation theology”: PRD activists are more heavily influenced by the papal encyclicals on economics than by The Communist Manifesto.

The details of the scheme designed to derail Obrador’s presidential campaign are worthy of anything cooked up by the authorities in Ukraine, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and even Uzbekistan to sideline the opposition. Yet we don’t hear a peep out of the U.S. State Department.

Democracy in Mexico? Forget it, folks. The United States government would much rather focus its “global democratic revolution” on such faraway – and oil-rich – places as Venezuela, where a full-fledged years-long effort to overthrow that country’s democratically elected leader in a coup failed miserably, in spite of all the millions Washington has poured into the opposition. President Hugo Chavez, whose “Bolivarian” brand of quasi-socialism offends the delicate sensibilities of Washington’s neocons, insists on charting his own course – and, worst of all, actually seems to take the idea of his country’s national sovereignty seriously. In response to our rather crude efforts to get rid of him, Chavez has stubbornly stayed around and on top – negotiating trade deals with the Chinese, buying weapons from the Russians, and generally thumbing his nose at Washington’s pathetically ineffective efforts to overthrow him.

In spite of the neoconservative Right’s efforts to paint Chavez as the Venezuelan version of Fidel Castro, his idiosyncratic economic and social policies are only slightly to the left of the British Labor Party. He’s essentially a nationalist with continentalist pretensions, and while Chavez is certainly not leading his country down a path that will lead to more personal and economic freedom, the U.S. government has done more to keep him in power than the appeal of his somewhat wacky “Bolivarian” ideology. By financing and directing the anti-Chavez opposition, Washington has provoked a nationalist backlash that has redounded to Chavez’s favor. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wonders what Chavez intends to do with all those Kalashnikovs he bought from the Russians, but with the U.S. in the business of “regime change” all over the world, it looks like the new Bolivar isn’t taking any chances.

The blatant hypocrisy of the U.S. government when it comes to its campaign to export “democracy” is hard for even the most “pro-American” forces in a country like Venezuela – or Mexico – to swallow, and in the former, the opposition is quick to deny that their strings are being pulled from Washington. Far from exporting “democracy,” the U.S. government is building an Empire on which the sun never sets: a network of bases, U.S. government-financed NGOs, and compliant client regimes that will provide launching pads for further expansion. Yes, the economic policies of Chavez and the Mexican PRD will impoverish their respective countries and lead to the consolidation of a new elite based on some form of state socialism: but the U.S. is only discrediting free-market policies by seeking to impose them, either at gunpoint or via a U.S.-financed – and directed – fifth column.

In Venezuela, the warlords of Washington tried and failed to pull off a hard coup – at the very least, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show they knew about it in advance. In Mexico, Fox (with the full complicity of his American allies) is trying to pull off a soft coup by eliminating the only credible, nationally organized opposition.

If we think we have troubles now, with an apparently endless occupation of Iraq and the looming threat of a wider Middle East war, then the threat of turmoil in Mexico is going to demonstrate that things can always get worse. Our southern border is the soft underbelly of a multinational Empire that is peculiarly vulnerable to the repercussions of another Mexican revolution. Immigration, both legal and illegal, has in effect returned much of the former Mexican lands of the Southwest to the descendants of the original inhabitants and owners. Any internal conflict south of the Rio Grande is bound to spill across the border, and could provoke a mass exodus that we would be hard put to stop. What kind of a superpower is it that can “liberate” a nation on the other side of the globe and yet somehow fail to protect its own borders?

This is not to say that we ought to intervene: NED grants for the Mexican protesters who assembled, 340,000 strong, the other day in Mexico City are not the answer. However, there seems to be a rhetorical credibility gap opening up under U.S. policymakers. When we are braying about how we brought “democracy” to Iraq, demanding “free and fair elections” in Belarus, and issuing ultimatums to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he’d better start measuring up to our exacting “democratic” standards, the silence emanating from the White House on the Mexican question is eerie, and telling. If we are going to be the world’s self-appointed conscience and busybody-in-chief, then let’s have a little consistency: either that, or let’s abandon this futile, farcical campaign of global uplift and shut up about “democracy.”

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is editor-at-large at Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].