In his preface to the latest edition of Narcolandia, — Anabel Hernández’ magisterial journalistic expose of the Mexican drug lords and their “Godfathers” among the Mexican political and business elite — Roberto Saviano writes:
Narcolandia shows how contemporary capitalism is in no position to renounce the mafia, because it is not the mafia that has transformed itself into a modern capitalist enterprise — it is capitalism that has transformed itself into a mafia. The rules of drug trafficking that Anabel Hernández describes are also the rules of capitalism. Anabel describes a world in which political economy has become criminal economy.
Indeed, the international press portrays the Mexican drug trade as some inconvenient blemish on capitalist globalization in North America when in fact it is not only a stepchild of neo-liberalism and NAFTA but indeed is crucial to global capitalism in the region. The brutal kidnapping and probable murder in the most heinous of circumstances of the 43 normalistas from Ayotzinapa last September 26 has revealed to the world the ugly, neo-fascist face of global capitalism and neo-liberalism in Mexico and the rapid Colombianization of the country.
If there is one silver lining to this crime of state it is that Mexicans have overcome their fear and a civil uprising against a system that is rotten and corrupt to the core may be underway. The last time a national civil uprising seemed to be a possibility was in 2006. In spring of that year up to two million people filled the Zócalo in D.F. to protest electoral fraud, Oaxaca experienced a veritable insurrection (the Oaxaca Commune), and the Zapatistas’ Otra Campaña was in full swing. But popular forces, facing disunity, a lack of leadership, and state repression were unable to take advantage of that critical conjuncture to mount a challenge to the system. We are now at another crossroads. Whether the current uprising continues and manages to challenge entrenched power in North America remains to be seen. However, here are five points of discussion that help us to place into larger context the “Ayotzinapa conjuncture”:
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- The crime of state against the normalistas is part of a larger strategy of the militarization of Mexico aimed at repressing social movements and the popular classes. NAFTA needs a military canopy and transnational corporate investment needs to be protected from the resistance of tens of millions of poor, indigenous and working class Mexicans who have been expropriated and turned into surplus humanity by the transnational corporate takeover of Mexican resources. From the mines, to agribusiness, the maquiladoras, the banks, and the energy sector, Mexico has been handed over to the transnational capitalist class. Plan Mexico, or the Merida Initiative, is the military counterpart to the capitalist globalization of the country.
- The drug industry, as Saviano notes, is not extraneous to the new global capitalism in Mexico; it is at the very heart of it. US journalist John Gilber notes in his study, To Die in Mexico, that some $25 billion in drug money enters the Mexican and global financial system every year. The drug trade props up and stabilizes the neo-liberal economic system. Moreover, as Hernandez shows in Narcolandia one would be hard pressed to find a single politician or business enterprise in Mexico that is not deeply implicated in the drug trade. The transnational capitalist class in Mexico (which includes many Mexican capitalists), along with the political and military elite, is the real beneficiaries and Godfathers of the trade.
- The “war on drugs” is the pretext for militarizing Mexico and organizing the systematic repression of any real and potential dissent. But the “war on drugs” has multiple functions for the system. In addition to legitimating the militarization of Mexico it allows for the criminalization of the dispossessed and of marginalized communities on both sides of the border, justifying the system of mass incarceration in the United States, especially of (but not limited to) Black and Latino youth. It disrupts communities and undermines collective resistance, facilitates the imposition of vast new systems of social control. From Ferguson to Ayotzinapa; same enemy, same struggle.
- The United States is just as much to blame as is the Peña Nieto and previous Mexican regimes for the grotesque crime in Iguala and for the reign of terror against the Mexican poor, the indigenous, and the working class. Plan Mexico has been funded with up to $3 billion from Washington. Steadfast US support for one Mexican regime after another has helped contribute to the absolute impunity enjoyed by those who violate human rights, conduct forced disappearances and massacres, engage in wholesale corruption and violence on a daily basis. Obama’s executive action in favor of some Mexican families in the United States would hardly be necessary if in the first place US-sponsored NAFTA and neo-liberalism did not displace millions, leading to a structurally forced migration and the creation of a system of super-exploited migrant labor.
- Where is the Left? The social movements are rightly distrustful of all political parties in Mexico, who have demonstrated time and again that they can be as corrupt as the guardians of the system. Yet without a project of their own to replace the decadent system the popular and working classes will end up negotiating the agenda of the elite. The Mexican system has shown a remarkable capacity to coopt. At this time the Mexican elite and its US allies will combine mass repression of the civil uprising with new mechanisms of cooptation. Transformative projects that start with democratization and citizen rights must go on to target the neo-liberal capitalist system. Political change without a change in the socioeconomic system will not resolve the plight of the poor majority nor address the underlying causes of the Iguala massacre.