Hello my little padawans!
Today, I make good on my promise to keep following the events surrounding the disappearance of the 43 Mexican Normalistas (teaching students) who were taken nearly three months ago in Iguala, Mexico. If you haven’t been reading too much into what’s already being labelled as a global movement, you can read about it in my last post here.
Last time around, I talked about the unavoidable similarities between the Massacre of Tlatelolco (1968) and the kidnapping and disappearance of the 43. But today we are going to take a look at other elements and go far beyond the borders of Mexico to see what the global response has been to this national crisis. And to prepare you for this, I warn you that although I will try to remain as objective as I possibly can when it comes to facts, I will also be expressing my personal opinion on some other matters. And yes, there will be a lot of quotations flowing around, because I just love quotations. Enjoy!
Within a Breath of Revolution
Nearly a month after my post about the “progress” on the investigation of the 43 normalistas who “suspiciously””vanished” in Mexico at hands of “unknown” armed men, the authorities of Mexico are no closer to finding the 43 normalistas- or their bodies for that matter- and appeasing an increasingly frustrated population who want them back alive. As a consequence, what was expected to be a routine “investigation”, has turned into what we can only be described as a cluster-fuck of epic proportions. Beginning with the rumors that the government was directly involved in the kidnapping of these 43 student-teachers of radical-leftist leanings, to the famous “Ya me canse” (I’ve had enough) of the Attorney General heading the investigation, to the recent scandals involving the president’s wife, the Mexican people are banding together closer than ever to oust the current administration. What we are witnesses to is is one of the largest social movements of my lifetime. If before we were astounded at the high level of animosity and resentment towards the government, today, not just Mexico, but the entire world is astounded at the level of organization, largely- if not entirely- with the help of social media, not seen since the Spring Revolution (or Arab Spring) that started in Tunisia in 2010.
Artists, intellectuals, heads of state, common citizens, and politicians from all over the world that at first were just third-party observers are now involved in the fight, taking a more direct role in condemning the injustices of the government and calling for a complete overhaul of the judicial system and of the people writing the laws. Basically what the majority of Mexicans want is to strip the government of the current cabinet and replace it with a new one. Whether you think that’s a realistic goal remains to be seen, but what is evident is that the rallying mobs are now beginning to influence policy. And yet, the government doesn’t seem to get the hint that it’s fighting a growing monster. However, like any cornered creature would, it’s expected that the government will fight back. And facing the growing pressure from an international community, we’ll see just how civil this beast behaves. Then again, we are talking about the PRI who ruled Mexico in a successful one-party system for 71 years straight. And if you know anything about those guys, is that they don’t disappoint when it comes to fucking things up.
Although the current cabinet is in a sort of damage control at the moment, the people aren’t having it, and what at first was calls for justice has slowly grown into the shouts of warning that if they don’t change the music, the party is going to end, and it’s going to end bad. These warning signs that a revolution is brewing are pretty evident when you see public officials nervously trying to pick up the pieces of a few (or lots) of miscreants who fucked up one too many times. And when the president goes on national television to announce change in reform, that’s when you know that the people are doing something right. And also that the situation is getting bad- or interesting, depending on how you look at it.
It seems that that semblance of inaction by government officials is just that, a semblance, for they have been plenty busy since the last update a few weeks ago.
But before we get down to the nitty-gritty of the details let me explain why I think this is a very exciting (perhaps not the right word) time to live in.
If you live in a country as fucked up as most Latin American nations- in this case Mexico- then at least once every few generations the people have the chance to change their government for better or for worse. The true sentiment of revolution resides in the ability for people to assimilate their realities with their hopes for how that reality should be. What we have in Mexico is not unprecedented in any way, but the calling of millions of Mexicans, and millions more around the world supporting them to change that government is unprecedented, or at the very least surprising. And THAT is what’s exciting.
In a talk I was having with my dad the other day (he lives in Mexico City), he brought up a very good point that I think is applying more and more at a global level, and that is that people, especially students and younger people, are becoming more and more politicized and more involved in the inner-workings of their governments. Long gone are the days when elected officials relied on a blanket of ignorance to continue ruling nations as if they were serfdoms. Nope, the 60s are coming back with a kick, combining classic insurgent techniques for protests and strikes with the efficacy and modernity of social media to drive and organize all these little movements to make it a global one. But a great thing to recognize here, is that although these demonstrations are peaceful for the most part, they are by no means lacking in power. Let no man tell you that the power and rage of the people is not scratching at the surface of restraint that is within a needle’s poke of a nuclear explosion.
And now, let’s catch up with what’s been happening lately. And more importantly, what’s going to happen.
Ever since the chant for “Vivos se los llevaron, y vivos los queremos” (Alive you took them and alive we want them back), there’s been a few scandalous events shaking up the establishment starting with the “white house”. This is obviously not in reference to the American White House (although there is a bit of involvement there too- another story), but rather the mansion that Angelica Rivera- the president’s wife- “bought” with her salary as a soap-opera actress. Many people call foul claiming that it’s very improbable that she could have bought a $7 million house with the kind of salary she “earned” as a soap opera actress in Mexico, and that the house, along with many other gifts, were actually concessions as a result of a very lucrative contract the president arranged with a transnational company to build a high speed train in Mexico, something highly illegal under fair-competition-rules. That’s one.
Another one is the events that happened during the massive demonstration in the Zocalo area of Mexico City. While thousands of protesters gathered peacefully on the square, a few black sheep among them that are believed to be government agitators a la Tlatelolco ’68, started bursts of violence that led to 20 people getting arrested and 11 of them being taken to maximum security prisons where they were interrogated and beaten. I will admit that I was not there, therefore I do not know what exactly happened at the Zocalo square. It could’ve been that a few people were being unruly and violent, but by logical conclusions, if only 20 out of thousands were arrested, then you know there’s a piece of the story that doesn’t quite fit the puzzle.
Following the insurmountable pressure on the government, all 11 of the protesters were released alive, but not exactly well. Besides their own testimonies of the beatings they received in prison for crimes that the government has not been able to stick on them, it’s sort of hard to convince an entire population whom you’ve already managed to piss off that they tripped and fell on their way home. Yup, the credibility of the government is so tarnished now that not even El Presidente himself could fix things with his 10 commandments against injustice and corruption or by the implementation of the new anti-corruption telephone number (911- oh irony) that many are mocking as a direct line to denounce corruption to corrupt police. And then there’s the little hide-and-seek game that plainclothes agents of the police played with UNAM student Sandino Bucio. Snatched in plain daylight, Sandino was basically kidnapped, tortured, and threatened by the police who claimed that he was one of the agitators in the November 20th protests. According to the statement Mr. Bucio gave to TV cameras, the police told him that they would disappear him like the 43 of Ayotzinapa, that they would rape him and that they forced him to give up his passwords to his profiles on various social networking sites. He also said in front of cameras that they would pick up more people. But after charges that he was carrying explosives in his backpack didn’t stick, he was released and now his testimony is all we have to prove that individuals who self-identified as members of the police are in the business of hunting down students. Now if it looks like I am adding one trickle of fuel to the fire, then good, I wish to dump the whole fucking can of fuel and burn the whole thing down.
After these succeeding scandals, you would think that the government would be a tiny bit more cautious in the way they conduct business and would let the waters quiet down before resuming their usual games… you would think. However, the reality tells a different tale.
It’s difficult to know just high up this all goes, although it wouldn’t be completely off the mark to say that it goes all the way to the top. And I don’t mean just the top of the Mexican political circles, I mean the top top, meaning ex-presidents, like the Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Mexican ex-president accused of stealing not only the elections back in 1991 but also billions as he fled the country. Some even go as far as to say that the American government might once again be involved in foreign affairs of civil unrest. It would make sense if they were, you know with Mexico being just across the border and all. I don’t suppose Obama would want a destabilized country as his neighbor even if America claims to be pro-human rights, anti-corruption, anti-dictatorships, blah blah blah. All this bullshit doesn’t matter in the end if American interests are threatened, and how could they not be when Mexico exports a huge amount of oil back to the U.S. and abroad and the newly-privatized oil companies are now in the reins of foreign investors with a pretty big interest in what is happening there now.
It also doesn’t help when the head of the government is seen on very friendly terms with the owner of the biggest television company in Latin America, and the president’s wife’s former employer- Televisa. This is the very same corporation that out of the kindness of their hearts, “gifted” the president’s wife one of the adjacent houses to the “white house” as a retirement present. What would a communications and television corporation want with the government? If you are naive enough, nothing. If you know what the fuck’s up, then a lot. But it’s not entirely news that in Mexico, the news are just a tool for the government to use at their pleasure rather than being a source of information. I suppose you could say that about all governments, but Mexico is slowly going the ways of China in regards to freedom of the press– or lack thereof. So much so that many Mexicans now prefer to get their news through social media channels rather than the evening news. Part of that mistrust lies also in the cozy relationship the media has, or has had in the past, with the government. In turn, many are now turning to social media for its flowing ability to disseminate information quicker and more effectively, not to mention that is a little bit harder to censure than the news the government paid for, and it has the added benefit that these unadulterated news come from an objective third-party perspective, usually from other countries looking from the outside-in. But if we are to guess what’s going to happen next, I would put my money on Mexico starting to censure social media to quell the protests. Already there’s a bill being introduced in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate to make it illegal for protesters to go out into the street.
It is usually said that in Mexico the most dangerous profession to be is a journalist. It’s true. More of them have died covering Felipe Calderon’s War on Drugs than they have at any other time in history. Similarly, it is also said that it is just as dangerous to be a student, than to be a narco. Objectively I couldn’t say that that is true, but it does make a strong statement. It seems that at the moment being a radical left-leaning student in Mexico is more of a gamble than being a drug trafficker. Again, this is only my opinion and I could not sanction that from an objective point of view, but it is starting to seem that way. What is true is that the number one threat to any nascent dictatorship is an informed public, and the people of Mexico are starting to get informed.
It seems that for the time being, the president and his cabinet are toeing the line very carefully making sure that no other fuck-ups, ahem, excuse me, mistakes aren’t made to anger the people even more, you know since they rile up together and stuff. But as we read everyday in the news (those of us that still can), it seems that the beast is fighting back. And with every baton that comes down on another student, and with each video uploaded to YouTube, a deeper grave is dug for the machine of repression in a situation that is increasingly FUBAR. You’re going to have to look that one up on your own.
The only upside to all of this is that while cops and soldiers are out there busting heads, the real revolutionaries (if they can be called that at this stage), are documenting every single instance of violence to add to the already overwhelming PR campaign battle that is being waged not just inside the country but outside its borders. This push to publicly condemn and embarrass the president, his cabinet, and in effect the entire government structure has worked wonders so far.
Among one of the most high-profile call-outs has been that of the universally-loved Uruguayan President José Mujica who has called Mexico a failed state after the disappearance of the 43. My dad and I, as no doubt most Mexicans would, agree that the man is right! President Mujica is not saying that Mexicans are failures, he was merely pointing out an uncomfortable truth to fathom (for civil functionaries at least) that Mexico is indeed becoming a failed state. Of course soon after, he was pressured into recanting his statement, but in the hearts and minds of all Mexicans it stands as nothing but truth what this beloved head of state has said.
In the age of the Internet, thousands of groups in cities around the world support those in Ayotzinapa, and indeed all the Mexicans who scream for change. For me, it’s the pleasure of seeing the people finally wake up, or rather I should say come together to unite under one banner to fight against a regime wearing the mask of a constitutional democracy. And it seems like it’s going to be a long fight, but as they threw the first punch, the people of Mexico cannot back down any longer and now what they are shouting is no longer a call for justice, but a call for honest change.
No one can accurately predict what’s going to happen next, as another major protest is already taking place today. But when major news sources, especially outside the country of unrest, start speculating about the what ifs, that is a good time to start paying attention. Usually there is something on TV to distract the people while the government continues doing its shenanigans, but as we have all seen, after three months of protests, a massive awareness campaign, and amounting failures on the side of the Mexican government, the sentiment for change in Mexico has spread worldwide, and there is hardly any other issue that takes precedence in the country.
It is no secret that people love revolutions, and this is a noble revolution. People love to rage against the machine, they love to speak out when their rights and the rights of others are in danger of being suppressed and stripped away. And although a lot of times their voices are scattered, the few times when their voices come together, that single, unified voice echoes not only across the world, but throughout the ages of time. Perhaps this is the time for Mexicans to unite their voices and let people know that this is our revolution, and that the fight for our future begins now.
And now I leave you with this video from Mexican rock-hip/hop group Molotov and their song “Gimme Tha Power” from back in 1997, words that to this day still speak of the sad reality of a country on the brink of civil war. Enjoy!
(Visit here if you wish to see the video with English subtitles)
Interesting Articles to Read
Reporters Sans Frontieres, 2014 (http://en.rsf.org/71-journalists-were-killed-in-2013-18-12-2013,45634.html)