Tunisia. Egypt. Mexico?


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“I talk to audiences all over this country… and you’d be surprised how many questions I get from the public [asking], ‘Well, what would Mexico do without us?’ And I gasp, and most Mexicans on the Left would gasp, because without the U.S. calling the shots down there, Mexico would be free for crying out loud. They’d have a democratically elected president, for example, [Andres Manuel] Lopez Obrador.

“The U.S. is meddling all over the map of Mexico and the U.S. investments are sucking money out of Mexico. They’re not creating jobs for Mexicans,” said James Cockcroft, author of “Mexico’s Revolution: Then and Now.” “NAFTA laid off millions of workers. Two, three million peasants have been made landless by NAFTA because cheap corn imports from agribusiness in the north drive them out of business. They can’t even sell their corn down there at a competitive price. Corn being an original Mexican invention.

“Small and medium businesses have had to close down, laying off over a million workers. Why do you think there are eight million unemployed youth today? That didn’t happen overnight. That came from fifteen years of NAFTA strangling the economy or sucking it dry, if you will… Foreign companies come in, make their profits on cheap labor and send it back north. It’s not being reinvested in Mexico. There’s no internal market anymore in Mexico. Walmart controls it, and other large merchandising houses of the United States. Costco is down there, and so on.”

Cockcroft sat for an interview Feb. 10, shortly before his talk at the DC Arts Center, which was sponsored by Dream City Collective, Monthly Review Press and SOA Watch. At that moment, halfway across the world in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak’s reign was quickly coming to an end. Cockcroft said, “There’s a huge, unusual, never-before type of revolution [taking place]. It’s the first revolution in the twenty-first century and it’s unlike any other revolution in history. It’s extremely self-organized and it’s spreading block to block, town to town, city to city.”

“The forces behind the uprising in Egypt are similar to the forces bubbling beneath the surface in Mexico: downwardly mobile middle classes; professionals, university graduates who can’t get jobs; unemployed youth; and, of course, an impoverished mass at the bottom; and a struggling, unionized or de-unionized flex labor force at the top of the poverty pile and at the bottom of the middle classes.

“All those segments – 70 percent of the population, or 80 percent in the case of Mexico – are angry. And in Egypt they’re coming together… In Mexico, no. It’s not coming together in Mexico… But it could. We just don’t know when the spark will set it all off. Who could have predicted Tunisia? Who could have predicted Egypt? So no one can predict Mexico or who will be next in Latin America.”

If an(other) uprising were to occur in Mexico, the country’s “mainstream” media may be unlikely to cover it from the perspective of the protesters. In his book, Cockcroft writes, “Only 2 percent of Mexicans read a newspaper, and only 4 percent ever buy a book. Everyone has television, and the two TV monopolies, Televisa and TV Azteca, known as the media ‘duopoly,’ are under the iron control of two billionaires topping Mexico’s wealthy elite.”

Cockcroft said, “According to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador – the candidate who won by between half a million and two million votes in the 2006 presidential election but had the election stolen from him by the powers that be in the Electoral Council – the media, or the duopoly, is the biggest obstacle to social change in Mexico today… [Lopez Obrador] had a huge sit-in, it was just like Egypt, after the election was stolen from him. It wasn’t covered by the duopoly so the rest of the population didn’t know about it. It ranged from half a million to a million or more people occupying all the downtown streets of Mexico City and the central plaza, the Zocalo, for three months and one week.

“When he realized that this type of social mobilization was not being covered by the duopoly and that in the hinterlands and the rest of the [country]… the word wasn’t getting out about his movement, he launched a newspaper… and he’s trying to create an independent TV channel, but has not been able to. The duopoly is too powerful.”

“Mexico is the second trading partner of the United States and the third largest provider of ‘black gold’ to the northern giant,” Cockcroft writes. “For decades, Washington, D.C. has been pouring military aid into Mexico. In 2008 there were 6,000 U.S. troops on the Mexican border, and in 2010 President Barack Obama decided to send in more… Drones routinely fly over Mexican soil. In the United States, video games show American troops invading Mexico.”

The U.S.’s “War on Drugs” is used to justify sending military aid to Mexico. “The United States is not interested in winning a war on drugs. It’s interested in militarizing countries in the name of the war on drugs… and get[ting] United States private investors’ hands on oil and energy resources,” Cockcroft said. “It’s a war that economically the United States would never want to win. And let me tell you why. The three largest sources of cash flow in what you might call the motor of the modern capitalist economy for more than ten years now has been, in the case of the United States: … the armaments trade…; number two was narcotrafficking; and number three was the sex trade which now many authorities believe is tied with narcotrafficking.

“Keep in mind that there are trillions of dollars involved in narcotrafficking, but all that money has to be laundered. It has to be decriminalized… [and it] ends up in the coffers of… U.S. banks… The laundered money dwarfs the money that was used by the Obama administration, the U.S. taxpayers’ money, to bail out the big banks… These banks, as you know, are doing super well these days. But not just because of the U.S. taxpayers’ bailout, [but also] because the narco money keeps flowing in. There’s an economic vested interest, if you will, behind [the] U.S… championing a war on drugs that they know… cannot be won.”

Cockcroft concluded by urging those in the U.S. to stand with Mexican unions this week. “Starting on Feb. 14th… we have five days of international solidarity with the independent unions in Mexico… The people in Washington can act in solidarity with the brothers and sisters in Mexico… because this is all linked… We’re linking some of our earlier international efforts around NAFTA. We’re linking now with the consequences of NAFTA… This is just a small step… and we’ll need much more in the future. People should get in on the ground floor and take that small step with us [this] week.”

(Full details on the solidarity actions can be found HERE . D.C.’s action takes place Feb. 16 at 12 PM at the Mexican Embassy at 1911 Pennsylvania Ave, NW)

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