Mexican bicentennial celebrations clouded by narco crisis

On Sept. 16, some 25,000 gathered at Mexico City’s main plaza, the ZĂłcalo, where President Felipe CalderĂłn delivered the traditional grito—three shouts of “Viva Mexico!”—to celebrate the 1810 uprising that resulted a decade later in independence from Spain. But bicentennial celebrations were canceled in several municipalities across the country for fear of violence, as narco gangs escalate their brutal internecine warfare. “This is not a time to celebrate, but to lament,” said Victor Quintana, a federal lawmaker (PRD) in Chihuahua state. (Reuters, The Telegraph, Sept. 16)

The occasion was marked by controversy in some locales north of the border as well. A decision by the city of Beaverton, Oregon, to celebrate the Mexican bicentennial sparked a backlash from anti-immigration activists. Local right-wing radio host Lars Larson devoted an entire to show to protesting that the city spent $6,000 for the bicentennial celebration. “This is America, not Mexico,” said Larson (evidently in need of a geography lesson, as Mexico is clearly part of Latin America). (Terra USA, Sept. 16; The Oregonian, Sept. 3)

See our last posts on Mexico and the politics of immigration.

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  1. NAFTA utopianism persists…a pesar de todo
    The Economist noted Sept. 16 that the bicentennial celebration in Mexico followed closely on the capture of kingpin Sergio Villareal Barragán AKA El Comeniños (“The Child-eater”) (VOA informs us he is an operative of the Beltran-Leyva network, and was arrested in Puebla Sept. 12), and opines:

    For a few days El Comeniños and co were almost forgotten, as town halls draped themselves in tinsel and tricolour flags were jammed into car windows. Even McDonald’s is advertising its hamburgers with a cardboard cut-out of Emiliano Zapata, a hero of the revolution who would surely have shot up every branch. As well as laying on fireworks, parades and commemorative banknotes, the government has sent every household a glossy 68-page booklet about Mexico’s history, and part-funded several bicentennial-themed films. True Heroes, a cartoon adventure, tells an idealised history of independence; Hell: Nothing to celebrate is a grittier affair.

    Not so long ago, such a movie would not even have been made, let alone been backed by the government. Had they fallen a decade ago, the anniversaries would have coincided with Mexico’s first fully democratic presidential election; five years before they would have chimed with a free-trade agreement with the world’s biggest economy. In the bloody days of 2010 it is easy to forget the strides that Mexico has made towards prosperity and freedom.

    Well, kudos to The Economist for pointing out the Orwellian nature of McDonald’s exploitation of Zapata. But—the mind truly boggles. The editors of this supposedly erudite journal act as if it were a mere coincidence that the NAFTA years have seen a hypertrophy of Mexico’s narco-economy and attendant violence. As we have argued, precisely the reverse is true—the cartel wars are a function of free-trade policies, with the drug trade filling the economic vacuum created by the dropping of traditional public supports for the country’s campesino sector. The Economist, it seems, is quite comfortable with doublethink when the sacred dogmas of neoliberalism are at stake.