THE VOLCANO ERUPTS
Mexico, NAFTA and US National Security
in the 21st Century
Since the dramatic New Years Day 1994 uprising of the Zapatista
National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, the
mountains of southern Mexico have been suspended precariously between war
and peace. The Maya rebels launched their revolution on the day NAFTA took
effect, proclaiming the treaty a "death sentence" for Mexico's Indians. After
twelve days of war, the EZLN agreed to a peace dialogue with the government.
But the fruit of this dialogue, the San Andre's Accords, calling for constitutional
changes recognizing the right of indigenous peoples to autonomous self-government,
has been stalled for three years by the refusal of President Ernesto Zedillo
to abide by them. A political stalemate and low-level counter-insurgency continue
Meanwhile, indigenous rebellions
are emerging up the isthmus in the states of Oaxaca and Guerrero -- especially
in the Sierra Madre del Sur, rugged lands of the Nahua, Mixtec, Amuzgo, Triqui
and Zapotec peoples.
In 1996, a new indigenous rebel group,
the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), surfaced to ambush police and military
patrols in the Sierra del Sur. Posing as more orthodox and militant than the
EZLN, the EPR said it would never enter a dialogue with the government, but
fight to take power.
In 1998, yet another group, the Revolutionary
Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI), split from the EPR, accusing its leadership
of dogmatism and intolerance. The ERPI, drawing from the EZLN structure of
grassroots decision-making, appeared to appropriate much of the EPR's support
base in the Sierra del Sur. It is uncertain whether the recent arrest of
the ERPI command will destroy the movement.
Meanwhile, civil indigenous and
campesino rnovements throughout Mexico's sierras are arming in response
to growing repression. And -- even if the US media have failed to report
on these developments -- the strategic planners in the Pentagon and Washington's
national security apparatus are taking note.
Return to the Sierra Madre del
In November of 1998, my photographer
and I drove all over the mountains of Guerrero and Oaxaca seeking a contact
with the EPR (see "Mexico's Other Indian War," Native Americas, Spring
1999). People were generally afraid to talk. But we did plant a few seeds.
In April 1999, back in New York, came the phone call: the ERPI was ready to
Back in Mexico City again, I was
given the nascent guerilla organization's first internal document, entitled:
Proposal: Thesis for Change (Our Basic Principles).
The manifesto mostly seemed to address
the ERPI's differences with the EPR. "The fundamental commitment of the revolutionary
is with the people," read point one. "No other commitment, neither personal
or group, is above that." It rejected "the messianic conception by which revolutionary
organizations have seen themselves as the representatives of the people,
who can only participate in the revolution through their own intermediation."
Point two demanded "construction
of Popular Power, beginning now, in every aspect and until the ultimate consequences."
It called for formation of Insurgent Councils to wield executive power, and
the preparation of "organs of legislative and judicial power in every zone,
region and state," eventually readying a national Insurgent Popular Assembly.
It quoted the Zapatista principle that the guerilla command should "lead
by obeying." It credited the EZLN with "establishing a different relation"
with the base, and cited the "obligation" to "find new and always better
forms of applying this norm."
Point three stated: "Until now we
have been concerned to build the Army of the Party; it is now the hour to
build the Army of the People."1
As a condition of my meeting with
the ERPI, I am constrained from revealing the location, but it was in the
mountains of Guerrero. The state was more divided than ever. In February's
elections, Rene Juarez of the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI) won a narrow victory that the challenger Felix Salgado of the left-opposition
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRI) charged was fraudulent. Federal authorities
affirmed the victory, but thousands of Salgado supporters (including whole
Mixtec communities) marched on Mexico City from Guerrero's capital, Chilpancingo,
eleven days cross-country. There was still a permanent blockade of the governor's
palace in Chilpancingo by PRD militants, forcing Juarez to work out of an ad hoc office in the governor's mansion.2
A long, dusty ride in back of a truck
from a coastal farm town brought us to a small Indian pueblo far beyond
where the pavement ends. It was on the electric grid, but water was piped
down from the mountains to communal spigots. The women wore traditional dress,
and spent much of the day weaving. The men mostly wore white campesino
pajamas, and worked in the maize and sugarcane. It
was clear that the pueblo was sharply divided. We stayed on the generally
poorer PRD side of town, and waited. Our hosts fed us well on bean soup and
atole and tortillas, but I sensed they were eating
better than usual because of our presence.
After a week of waiting, we were
led through the dusk to a rendezvous just outside the pueblo. Ten masked
men with rifles, led by a Comandante Arturo, shook hands and saluted me and
my companions. They were all young Indians, with a better command of their
indigenous tongues than Spanish. They wore no uniforms, but a patchwork of
ragged civies and camo. Their masks were bandanas, some cut with eye-slits.
Their rifles were also a patchwork-- .22s, a shotgun, two cuernos de chivo
("goat horns"; AK-47s).
We marched up the mountainside, into
the night. Near the summit I got winded, and was grateful when they slowed
to accommodate me. As we descended the other side, pastureland gave way to
bush. A big fire burned on an opposing slope, hanging like a beacon in the
night. We descended steeply, towards the sound of running water, forded a
river, and were told to make camp.
We woke up in a hidden valley, a
pocket of tropical forest along the river that plunged in on a waterfall.
The troops lined up for review by Comandante Arturo. I could tell he was
smiling through his mask when he asked how I was feeling.
We were waiting for another columna
-- this one members of the support base or militia, as opposed to Arturo's
column of active combatants.
told me; "We make reuniones with the people, guard the people against
thieves, rustlers, highwaymen. We are ready to defend the people. Thievery
has stopped since the column was formed." Arturo said his column had already
been in combat with bandits, but not government troops.
"I grew up witnessing
the injustice," said Arturo, who was perhaps twenty. "The army and police
stopped the buses and robbed the campesinos. Since we formed our army, this
is not as much of a problem. They don't want to die."
He called this work "propaganda
"We take our orders
from the communities," Arturo said. "The high command supports us, gives
us supplies, boots, food." He said there were other columns throughout the
mountains. Each column has a commandante -- a rotating position. Their
troops are called combatientes, and their own superiors are capitanes
, who oversee several columns. Arturo said some capitanes are "people
of the city," but many are Indian as well.
Their army is
"pure indigenous people," Arturo said. "We want the gente indigena
to have respect and to govern themselves as they want to. Now the local
governments are imposed by the rich, by outsiders. If the government doesn't
want war, it must answer us."
My questions about
ideology always met answers about day-to-day reality. "We are struggling
to change the government to one which will aid the poor people here, all
the people of Mexico," Arturo stated. "People need credit. People may have
land but no tractor, no seeds."
Is there enough
land here for the people?, I asked.
"There is great
territory. The land can support us. But the PRIstas, the caciques
[village bosses], rob all the aid that comes to our communities.
They go to Chilpancingo
to get money for irrigation, roads, and it all goes right into their pockets."
I asked if they
supported Felix Salgado as Guerrero's legitimate governor.
"Yes. We are ready
to offer any kind of support."
I asked their
thoughts on EZLN.
"We support their
struggle. They are also fighting for the poor. Their struggle is equal with
I asked if they
had links to other guerillas.
"There are various
other armed groups with other names. We want to talk with them, bring ourselves
together. We want to be united with all who are struggling against the evil
I asked about
doesn't do anything. They exist only in name. They were accustomed to work
only with money. Us, without money -- here we go."
The second column
joined us a few hours after dawn, entering the valley from another direction,
another pueblo. They wore campesino garb, pajamas rather than
camo, huaraches rather than boots. Two carried rifle's, but most only
machetes. There were two women -- one thick and gray-haired; one a young
mother, breast-feeding a baby, a pistol stuck in her belt. All wore bandanas
over their faces.
Manuel was "director"
of the committee that supports the column. In a soft-spoken, almost shy Indian
voice, he said; "The indigenas here don't have electricity, health
centers, potable water. We want a municipal presidency that fulfills its promises.
Rene's people bought votes here -- ten pesos and a machete for each vote.
For certain there will be war, because the government will not give in."
Outside the municipal
center, he said, practically everybody supports the columna. "The
cabacera [municipal government] doesn't work with the
communities. The majority of the people here are with our struggle."
member of the committee, had been working with the armed movement for four
years -- first the EPR, then the ERPI. "Here in the indigenous zones of Mexico,
there is no justice, no human rights. Every day the poverty advances. The
government wants indigenous people to disappear. They want to impose the policy
of modernity, promote consumerism. We want an economy that supports the family,
that doesn't exploit. We want work with a just salary. Indian people have
the ability to govern their own communities. But the government does not
respect the vote. We are in arms because there is no other remedy."
They said they
mostly grew corn and beans for their own families -- what they sold was in
their own pueblos. PRIstas maintained a near-monopoly on spaces
in the municipal market.
"is used only as propaganda for the PRI," Jose claimed. "You don't get aid
if you don't support the PRI. If you oppose them, the police and the judge
are the same PRIstas. We have land -- but if you are sick or in jail
you can't work it. You are forced to sell it, and it is all you have."
The meeting lasted
into the afternoon, and was followed by some instruction in fighting skills.
The two columns parted with salutes and handshakes in an orderly line, and
the slogan -- "Con la lucha popular, el pueblo vencera."
As the sun set,
my companion and I were given an escort back over the mountain to our
A Sigh of Grim Relief
Once during our
wait, some army trucks had rumbled through the pueblo, and I had been
concerned about the possibility of encountering them with the columna
, of course. When I picked up the newspapers after returning to Mexico City,
I was doubly glad this had not passed. There had been several violent incidents
in the mountains of Guerrero.
On April 20, soldiers
had entered Barrio Nuevo San Jose, an outlying Amuzgo hamlet in Tlacoachistlahuaca
municipality. That day, a twelve-year-old boy, Antonio Mendoza Olivero, and
the campesino Evaristo Albino Tellez disappeared. Two women searching
for Albino and Antonio, who had never returned from their cornfield, were
accosted by soldiers and raped. Neighbors, family and community leaders denounced
the incident before the authorities in the nearby town of Ometepec. It wasn't
until May 7 that the state Human Rights Defense Commission announced that
the two bodies had been found in an Acapulco morgue. The army's version claimed
the campesinos attacked them with firearms, and didn't mention the
rapes. Tlacoachistlahuaca was subsequently occupied by hundreds of troops.
On May 2, army and state police at
Pizotla, in Ajuchitlan del Progresso, had exchanged fire with men guarding
opium and marijuana crops, leaving one dead. Two others were arrested, and
several firearms seized. According to a Guerrero state police report, the
men belonged to a new faction, the Armed Ecologist Group (GEA), who were
growing pot to buy arms to defend their communal forests from timber exploitation.
The army insisted the men were only narcotraficantes, but police sources
in Ciudad Altamirano leaked the version that the detainees were "members
of an ecologist guerilla organization."4 Rodolfo Montiel Flores,
a Nahua campesino who had been leading blockades of the US mulfinational
Boise Cascade's logging trucks with the Organization of Campesinos and Ecologists
of the Sierra de Petatlan, was arrested. Montiel denied links to arms or
drugs, and his family protested he was being held incommunicado.5
On May 7, another confrontation in
Ajuchitlan del Progreso drew new blood. Army troops searching for "estupificantes" (drug crops) encountered ten armed men and exchanged fire, leaving one dead
on each side. The following day, state police arrested a twenty-year old
man after finding two AKs in his home. The traditional authorities in Coacoyul
y Tizotla, where the incident took place, demanded his release and issued
a statement accusing the army, police and Rene Juarez of "every repressive
act against the population of the sierra."6
The Triple Alliance
I had one more meeting before returning
to New York. This one was in the mountains of Morelos, just north of Guerrero.
At a small pueblo in the land of Emiliano Zapata, I was guided blindfolded
into a little adobe house and greeted by two elderly men and one young woman,
all wearing bandanas over their faces. These were Don Miguel, Don Pepe and
Combatiente Cecilia -- representatives of the most indigenist of Mexico's
new insurgents: the National Indigenous Guerilla Triple Alliance (TAGIN).
The Triple Alliance is a joint command
of three armed groups active in the Sierra del Sur, Morelos and Mexico state
-- the Indigenous Campesino Revolutionary Army (ERIC), the Nationalist Army
of Insurgent Indigenous Mexico (ENMII), and the Armed Campesino Command of
Indigenous Liberation (COACUAULUYU). The last acronym forms the name of the
Serpent Eagle, a high-ranking Aztec military order.
The guerilla federation's name also
refers to the Triple Alliance of city-states that ruled the Mexica empire
-- Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan (today all absorbed into the capital
megalopolis). Each constituent group of the TAGIN contributes a member to
the command triumverate, each with a code name taken from Mexica myth and
history: Mixcoatl (a Nahuatl creation god, and the early Toltec warrior-king
who fathered Quetzalcoatl), Ilhuicamina (the Nahuatl archer god and name
assumed by the Aztec king Moctezuma I) and Tlacaelel (Moctezuma I's brother
and Co-founder of the Mexica empire). The insignia of the guerilla alliance
is the shield of Cuitlahuac, the penultimate Mexica king who rose against
TAGIN's manifesto states, "we want
a reformed constitution, based on the indigenous valors and rights of Anahuac,"
the ancient name for the Valley of Mexico and seat of the Mexica empire.
It offers greetings and solidarity to the EZLN, EPR and ERPI, and calls upon
them to "reactivate the armed struggle," as "twelve days of war is not sufficient
to intimidate the government."7
TAGIN's comandancia answers
to a Council of Elders from each community represented in the alliance. The
minimum age to be a member of the Council of Elders is fifty-two years --
the basic cycle in the ancient Nahuatl calendar. TAGIN is seeking representatives
on the Council of Elders from every indigenous ethnicity in Mexico. TAGIN's
proposed constitutional changes call for the Consejo de Ancianos to
share federal legislative power with the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.
Don Pepe and Don Miguel were both
on the Council of Elders. Their complaints were familiar ones. Said Don Miguel:
"We need money for tractors, fertilizers, pumps, but there is no credit,
and without it, the land won't produce, so we can't buy." Don Pepe stated:
"We are concerned to conserve the traditions of our people, to be able to
freely practice our ceremonies, to defend our autochthonous rights. The modern
culture is destroying our pueblos."
When I tried to ask questions, they
turned the interview over to Combatiente Cecilia, whose responses were terse
What is TAGIN's proposal for governing
"Usos y costumbres" -- meaning
the traditional system of indigenous village government.
Do you support the San Andre's Accords?
What are the principles of your internal
"Democracy and military discipline."
Do you see any possibilities for
dialogue with the government? "No. We intend to take power."
When are you ready to take up arms?
"When the Council of Elders orders."
The Challenge to Zapatismo
The EPR poses itself as more hard-left
than the EZLN. EPR Comandante Jose Arturo openly stated to journalists at
one clandestine-location press conference: "We seek power. We won't carry
on a dialogue with the murderous government. The government is illegitimate."
In an interview with the weekly
Proceso, EPR Comandante Jose Arturo took a more obvious stab at the EZLN's
Subcommander Marcos, stating "poetry cannot be the continuation of politics
by other means" -- a reference to the Clausewitzian definition of war and
the Subcommander's verbose, sometimes obscurantist communique's.9
Marcos rebuffed an EPR offer of solidarity.
Addressing the EPR in a communique', he expressed "respect" for their military
tactics of "combined surprise and forcefulness," but stated: "You fight to
take power. We fight for democracy, freedom and justice. Its not the same
thing. Even if you are successful and win power, we will go on fighting for
democracy, freedom and justice."10
But he also warned against any "game
that promotes confrontation between the 'good' guerillas and 'bad' guerillas."
The fact that Emiliano Zapata was
betrayed by a centralist state which only adapted elements of his program
as a tactic of cooptation informs the EPR's rejection of the EZLN's "armed
reformism." While the EZLN has evidenced greater internal cohesiveness, there
were reports in 1996 of Chiapas campesinos growing frustrated with
the stalemate and seeking contacts with the EPR.
The emergence of the ERPI points
to a tilt back towards the Zapatista ethic in the Sierra del Sur. By 1999
there were reports that the EPR was seeking to eliminate the ERPI leadership.
On October 22, 1999, the Federal
Preventative Police announced that they had arrested four EPRIstas
at a safehouse in Chilpancingo, including two leaders of the organization
-- Carlos Garcia Rosales ("Comandante Antonio") and Gloria Arenas Ajis ("Colonel
Aurora").12 Rosales was said to be a founding member of the EPR
and author of an ERPI document entitled Rumbo al 2000 calling for
a nationwide campesino incurrection.13 Police also claimed
to have confiscated a computer containing plans for developing ERPI cells
in eight states.14 Col. Aurora was said to have been working
in the Sierra de Zongolica in Veracruz.15
Police warned that they had identified
fourteen guerilla organizations operating in twelve states from Chiapas to
Chihuahua. 16 But the prognosis on violent factionalism was optimistic:
they purported that the ERPI leadership, having won over sixty percent of
the guerilla support base in Guerrero, "are threatened with death by the
Regardless of which tendency prevails,
and regardless of whether elements in the federal security apparatus view
the EPR as useful provocateurs, the unrest creeping north along Mexico's
spine is a threat to the stability of the continental Free Trade regime --
and assures that the US-Mexican economic integration will be mirrored in
closer military cooperation.
Drug War as Counterinsurgency
In 1996, the annual US State Department
report Patterns in Global Terrorism, invoked both the EZLN and the
EPR: "In Mexico, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) carried out a series
of small-scale attacks, killing 17 persons including several civilians, and
the Zapafista National Liberation Army (EZLN) signed an agreement on indigenous
peoples' rights with the government." This information is accurate, but implicitly
assigns the label "terrorist."18 The EZLN stated upon taking up
arms that it would abide by the Geneva Conventions,19 and has
hardly fired a shot in anger since January 1994.
Former CIA Director John Deutch,
writing on the global terrorist threat in Foreign Policy in 1997,
stated: "Drawing the line between terrorism and insurgency can be difficult.
In Mexico, for example, dissident groups such as the Popular Revolutionary
Army in Guerrero and the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Chiapas seek
to change the country's political and economic system. "20
Drawing the line between counterinsurgency
and drug enforcement can also be difficult. The report Law Enforcement
and the Mexican Armed Forces: The Military Undertakes New Internal Security
Missions, produced by the US Army Foreign Military Studies Office at Fort
Leavenworth in 1997, once again invoked the EZLN and the EPR: "Mexican internal
security concerns began to intensify more than three years ago with the January
1994 appearance of the Zapatista National Liberation Army . . ." It acknowledged
that anti-drug aid will be used for other purposes: "The distinction among
drug traffickers, arms traffickers, other heavy armed criminal groups and
bandits, or insurgents is often not a clear one. As a consequence, military
support to law enforcement will certainly be directed against a variety of
Mexico's National Defense Secretariat
(SEDENA) has traditionally had one document discussing guerilla warfare,
Manual of Irregular War. Under SEDENA doctrine, Mexico
is a "revolutionary country"; therefore any rebel movement is considered
"counterrevolutionary." The document ostensibly studies guerilla tactics
to be adopted by the Mexican Army in the event of foreign occupation. In
1995, after the Chiapas revolt, SEDENA produced a second volume of the manual,
entitled Counterguerilla Operations or Restoration of Order, maintaining
that Mexicans "who take arms against legally constituted institutions . .
. cannot be considered guerrilleros or belligerents, but can be treated
as rebels . . . in this case, the armed forces conduct restoration of order
seeks to adopt the doctrine of "Guerra de Baja Intensidad" (GBI)
to the Mexican reality. This doctrine, developed by the Pentagon in the Central
America experience of the 1980s, is referred to in gringo military culture
as Low Intensity Conflict (LIC). The 1986 Pentagon document defining the
doctrine, the Joint Low-Intensity Conflict Project Final Report, openly
stated the term "emerged as a euphemism for 'counterinsurgency' when that
term lost favor" after the Vietnam War.23
The Pentagon document states: "Low-intensity
conflict is neither war nor peace. . . . The term 'low-intensity'
suggests. . .a spectrum of warfare. Low-intensity conflict, however, cannot
be understood to mean simply the degree of violence involved. Low-intensity
conflict has more to do with the nature of the violence -- the strategy that
guides it and the way individuals engage each other in it -- than with level
or numbers . . . Low-intensity conflict is a limited politico-military struggle
to achieve political, social, economic, or psychological objectives. It is
often protracted and ranges from diplomatic, economic, and psychological pressures
through terrorism and insurgency. Low-intensity conflict is generally confined
to a geographical area and is often characterized by constraints on the weaponry,
tactics, and the level of violence."24
The document openly places LIC in
the context of Free Trade: "As a superpower in the nuclear age with an economy
largely dependent upon an extensive, vulnerable overseas trade system, this
country faces challenges that are far more troubling and complicated than
those it faced before World War II." It discusses both terrorism and insurgency,
stating that the latter "poses an open and direct threat to the ordering of
society . . . For the United States, with extensive global interests and
an economy increasingly reliant on a stable world order, the chronic instability
in the third world is a serious concern."25
Since the "chronic instability" reached
the USA's southern neighbor in no uncertain terms, the Pentagon has busily
imparted this doctrine to the Mexican National Army. Between 1996 and 1997,
the number of Mexican military officers receiving Pentagon training jumped
from 300 to 1,500. A September 1997 report to Congress on the program by US
Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey's office stated: "Central to the development of
Mexico’s counterdrug capability is the training of GAFE [Special Airborne
Forces Group] . . . elite Mexican Army units that have received Special Forces
and air assault training for use in counterdrug interdiction operations."
However, the January 1996 issue of
Special Warfare, the base magazine at Fort Bragg, North
Carolina, boasting that GAFE represents an advance in the development of
Mexican special forces, made no mention of counterdrug training. It stated:
"particularly heavy emphasis is being placed on those forces that will be
located in the states of Chiapas and Guerrero, where 'special airborne forces'
will be set up."27
Fort Bragg is the home of the Seventh
Special Forces group-veterans of the Panama invasion, the Nicaraguan contra
insurgency, counterdrug missions in Bolivia and counterinsurgency campaigns
in Vietnam, El Salvador, Colombia and Peru. According to their Web site: “Today
we are continuously engaged in Foreign Internal Defense throughout Central
and South America wherever SocSouth [Special Operations Command South] and
SouthCom [Southern Command] may direct."28
Secretary of State Madeline Albright
told Congress in response to criticisms: "We are not involved in any counterinsurgency
training and the Mexican government has not requested said training."
In addition to the Fort Bragg program,
Mexican officers are trained in counterintelligence at Bolling Air Force
Base in Washington DC; in helicopter maneuvers at Fort Rucker, Alabama; helicopter
maintenance at Fort Sam Houston, Texas; and in general comrnando operations
at the notorious School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia.30
The torture of abducted drug suspects
by GAFF troops in Jalisco was revealed after the force was sent to "restore
order" in Chiapas following the massacre of 45 unarmed Tzotzil Maya peasants
by a pro-government paramilitary group at the hamlet of Acteal on December
22, 1997. The Pentagon and McCaffrey were embarrassed once again in August
1998 when twenty GAFF troops (including majors and captains) were arrested
on drug trafficking charges at the Mexico City airport.31
The CIA has also established close
links to the Mexican military in recent years. SEDENA's CIA-trained Counter-Narcotics
Intelligence Center is overseen by Col. Augusto Moises Garcia Ochoa, a 1997
School of the Americas graduate in Jungle Operations.32
Realities of CIA complicity in the
1980s Central America atrocities were documented in the 1990s. CIA "interrogation"
training manuals used in Latin America were released to the Baltimore
Sun in 1997. The paper, pursuing a Freedom of Information Act request
in an investigation of the Battalion 316 death squad in Honduras (which had
targeted indigenous campesinos pressing for land rights, among others),
threatened to sue the Agency. The 1963 "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation"
manual included suggestions on "medical, chemical or electrical methods."
Tip for torturers: "If a new safe house is to be used, the electric current
should be known in advance, so that transformers or other modifying devices
will be on hand if needed."33
The Great Fear
The US federal elite has been preparing
for the social explosion in Mexico since the emergence of the revolutionary
contagion in Central America in the 1980s. In 1984, CIA Director William Casey
argued that if the US failed to prevent "another Cuba in Central America,
Mexico will have a big problem, and we're going to have a massive wave of
In 1983, former CIA Director William
Colby termed Mexico's population explosion "the most obvious threat" to US
national security. Predicting up to 20 million migrants by the year 2000,
Colby warned that the Border Patrol "will not have enough bullets to stop
The statement produced by a Latin
American Strategy Development Workshop at the Pentagon in September 1990
found the US military's "extraordinarily positive" relations with Mexico
faced a potential near-term danger: "a 'democracy opening' in Mexico could
test the special relationship by bringing into office a government more interested
in challenging the US on economic and nationalistic grounds."36
In his 1996 book The Next War
, Reagan-era Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger portrays a scenario in which
border militarization to turn back the long-feared "flood of refugees" escalates
into a US military invasion of its southern neighbor.
The book is a series of showdowns
with Russia, China, Japan and Iran-Cold War and World War II scenarios updated
for the new millennium, nuclear weapons going off like fireworks. The Mexico
chapter begins with the US Army overwhelmed by the swarthy hordes at the
The crisis is sparked when Mexico's
"American-educated economist" president, "hailed as a symbol of political
maturity," is assassinated. A "National Salvation Front" -- sharing the EZLN's
colors of red and black and led by a "radical populist" intellectual who
smacks of PRD leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas -- takes power. The “forcible redistribution
of farmland" triggers an economic crisis, unleashing the refugee hordes.
Drug cartel wars lead to acts of terrorism in San Diego, and US intelligence
links the National Salvation Front's populist strongman to the kingpins.
In 2003, the White House authorizes an invasion.37
This time the US forces land at Tampico
rather than at Veracruz as in 1847 and 1914. Air strikes take out the Federal
District military bases, while PSYOP broadcasts effect the capitulation of
the Mexican army. Weinberger shows a familiarity with Mexican military doctrine,
even if he badly garbles the word "campesino." The National Salvation
Front leadership takes to the Sierra Madre with a force of loyal officers
and launches a guerilla resistance against the gringo occupation. A counterinsurgency
Ironically, it is the imperatives
of the Free Trade economy itself which pushes indigenous Mexicans from their
lands, fueling both immigration and social unrest. An OECD report by UC Davis
economist Phillip Martin predicted that six million rural Mexicans will flee
the land for the cities and US as a result of NAFTA -- unless they make a
transition from maize to export crops like broccoli.39 Estimates
of the number of campesinos to be displaced from their lands by NAFTA
run as high as fifteen million.40 The visceral refusal of these
land-rooted people to be moved may provide the North American Free Trade
Agreement's most serious challenge.
1 Propuesta: Tesis Para el Cam
bio (Nuestras Ptanteamientos Basicos), ERPIdocument, April 1999
2 AP, April 1, 1999; author's interviews
with Chilpancingo protestors, April 1999
3 La Jornada del Sur, May 10,1999;
La Jornada, May 11, 1999
4 La Jornada del Sur, May 9,
5 Eaton, Tracy, Dallas Morning News
, Aug.27, 1999
6 Novedades, May 11, 1999
7 Manifiesto de la Triple Alianza
Guerrillera Indigena Nacional, April 1999
8 La Jornada, August 9,1996
9 Proceso, August 11, 1996
10 La Jornada, Sept. 3, 1996
12 ibid., Oct. 25,1999
13 Proceso, Oct. 31, 1999
14 El Universal, Oct. 28,1999
15 ibid., Oct. 27, 1999
16 ibid., Oct. 28, 1999
17 La Jornada, Oct. 25, 1999
18 Patterns in Global Terrorism
, US State Department, 1996
19 First Declaration of Lacandon Selva,
20 Deutch, John, "Think Again: Terrorism," Foreign Policy, Fall 1997
21 Turbiville, Graham H. Jr., Law
Enforcement and the Mexican Armed Forces: The Military Undertakes New Internal
Security Missions, Foreign Military Studies Office, Fort Leavenworth,
KS. April 1997
22 Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolome
de Las Casas, Ni Paz Ni Justicia, 1997, p. 156-7
23 Gray, Chris Hables, Postmodern
War, Guilford Press, 1997, New York, p. 178
24 ibid., p. 180
25 ibid., p. 182
26 Office of National Drug Control Policy,
report to Congress, September 1997
27 Special Warfare, Fort Bragg,
NC, January 1996
28 Steinberg, Michael, "Massacre in
Mexico: The North Carolina Connection," The Prism, Chapel Hill, NC,
29 Beltran del Rio, Pascal, Proceso
, May 3, 1998
30 Trinfo, Flizalde, La Jornada
, August 15,1998
31 El Universal, Aug. 12, 1998;
Washington Post, Aug. 15, 1998
32 Beltran del Rio, Pascal, Proceso
, May 3, 1998
33 Baltimore Sun, Jan. 27, 1997
34 New York Times, April 16,
35 Rico, Carlos in Vasquez, Carlos and
Manuel Garcia y Griego, eds., Mexican-US Relations: Conflict and Convergence
, UCIA 1983, p.150
36 Chomsky, Noam, "Notes on NAFTA," The Nation, March 29, 1993
37 Weinberger, Caspar, The Next War
; Regnery, Washington DC, 1996, p 163-213
39 LaFranchi, Howard, "How Broccoli
Might Stem Mexican Migration,"
Christian Science Monitor; Jan.
40 Barry, Tom, Zapata's Revenge:
Free Trade & the Farm Crisis in Mexico, South End Press, Boston,