THE END IS NEAR FOR THE OLD SALINISTA POWER BLOC

This is almost certainly an overstatement, but it contains enough truth to be explored further. You may remember that in a previous newsletter, I talked about the emerging “troika” of nuestro (our) Ernesto; the Minister of Defense, General Enrique Cervantes; and Interior Minister Emilio Chuayffet. Well, it appears that I may have stumbled on to something.

The theory goes something like this: Carlos Salinas de Gortari and his neoliberal gang had their hands full with the “dynosaurs” on the right side of the PRI, who were unwilling to make room at the trough for the upstarts. The main players in the opposition were Fidel Velazquez, the 96-year-old head of the Mexican Workers Union (CTM) and the entrepreneur/power broker Carlos Hank, along with others such as Chuayffet and Cervantes, and other old party hacks, many of whom have either died or retired.

In order to mount a challenge to the dyno wing, Carlos and his “liberal” friends made alliances with the left wing of his party, including Colosio (late presidential hopeful), Camacho (ex-mayor of MexCity) and the Ruiz Massieu brothers (assassinated party head, and ex-attorney general); and most importantly strengthened the hands of several “old guard” state governors by “decentralizing” some functions previously reserved for the federal level such as agricultural and rural development grant administration, thus opening the money tap a little wider.

Among his staunchest allies: Ruben Figueroa in Guerrero, Roberto Madrazo in Tabasco, Socrates Rizzo in Nuevo Leon, Julio Ruiz in Chiapas, Manuel Bartlett in Puebla, and Jorge Carrillo in Morelos. In order for the dyno’s to regain control of the Party, these governors had to go; and gone, going, or under attack they are, every one of them.

Figueroa became an “image problem” for the PRI because of his “immune” behavior before and after the slaughter of opposition peasant leaders in Aguas Blancas. He resigned, after installing his successor, a guy who is generally believed to be his puppet, and who is still Zedillo’s, rather than Chuayffet’s man. In order to teach Aguirre, the new governor, a lesson, Chuayffet has gone after Figueroa, his patron. After the federal special prosecutor closed the investigation into Aguas Blancas, concluding that there was no hard evidence to directly implicate Figueroa in the massacre orders, the Senate, under the urging of the national Human Rights Commission, and Emilio Chuayffet, appointed a couple of Supreme Court justices to “re-examine” the evidence. Recently, the justices submitted their conclusions: Figueroa was in it up to his ears; he could be liable for a prison term. Aguirre, citing separation of state and federal powers, called the report “advisory” and downplayed the likelihood that Figueroa would actually ever stand trial.

Rizzo, openly connected in the press with the Gulf Cartel, had also benefitted from the theory of state and federal powers’ separation: until Chuayffet. Federal Judicial Police inquiries into his finances and associations were increased until he resigned as a way to avoid impeachment and trial.

Ruiz was appointed by his predecessor, after the EZLN had made his removal an absolute condition for peace in Chiapas (he had clearly rigged the election results to freeze out his opponent Amado Avendano, after failing in an attempt to assassinate him). Ruiz began immediately to suck up to Chuayffet. While Zedillo supports the negotiations going on in San Larrainzar, Ruiz is giving full co-operation (including his State Security Police) to the undeclared low-intensity warfare being conducted against the EZLN strongholds in Chiapas, a tactic supported by Chuayffet. Also, Ruiz was a close associate with Carlos Salinas’ brother Raul, and apparently benefitted greatly from the scandalous ripoff of Conasupo, the government food distribution agency which Raul headed. So far, all the blame has been placed on the hapless Raul — so far.

Madrazo is under heavy pressure to resign, based on his having spent ten times the legal limit to steal the election in Tabasco. He too is claiming that separation of state and federal powers protects him from the massive investigation that the PGR is conducting. Chuayffet, he says, is violating the Constitution. He is unlikely to survive the onslaught.

Carrillo is being investigated for his role in attempting to cover up the killing of an important opposition politician during a police riot last month involving demonstrators protesting an ecologically and economically devastating golf cours project in Tepoztlan. Here too, Chauyffet is claiming precedence for federal power.

Bartlett is another election-stealer, but of a slightly different hue. While he stole his own election from the PRD, who have the evidence to prove it, he is drawing the strongest heat from the PAN, whose party was the second most powerful at the polls last year. PAN is after Bartlett for stealing a municipal election, and has pulled out of the electoral reform talks until the theft is made good. Bartlett is thus very vulnerable, but Chuayffet is going slow against Bartlett, out of fear of losing some of his support among the hard liners, as Bartlett and Carlos Hank are close.

Decentralization of financial largesse and police powers was the vehicle that Salinas used to make subtle but significant changes in the PRI leadership. Chuayffet and his allies will continue to push centralization, in their attempt to shift it back again. This in spite of the fact that his putative boss — Zedillo — keeps making statements that the only hope for ending the corruption lies in continued decentralization. Chuayffet’s star is rising, and Zedillo is looking more and more like a powerless figurehead.

FOLLOWUP: DRUGS AND THE MILITARY

It was announced last week that “dozens” of combat helecopters are being either given or loaned or sold at “very low prices” to the Mexican anti-drug forces by the US military, as part of a new deal arranged by Defense Minister Cervantes and US authorities which will usher in a new era of co-operation in the war against drugs. Included in the deal is the presence of DEA agents in Chiapas, as “advisors”. Does anyone remember “Operation Phoenix” in Viet Nam, where US “advisors” sent in assassination teams to “behead” peasant agricultural and political organizations?

MEXICO, LIKE THE US, VIOLATES THE RIGHTS OF ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS:

Amidst all the diplomatic and propaganda reaction to the inexcusable treatment of illegal immigrants by the U.S. authorities, the Mexican government is maintaining a profound silence over the treatment that Guatemalans and other central americans receive on its’ southern border.

Like the US, Mexico imports tens of thousands of “legitimized” laborers every year, on temporary work visas, to tend to the most noxious and lowest paying agricultural duties. Like in our country, the Mexican bosses overwork, underhouse, underfeed, deny education and medical benefits, and often beat, cheat, and throw out their workers.

As in northern Mexico, the border towns of Guatemala host large populations of women performing as prostitutes in order to scrape together the money to pay the “polleros” who smuggle them across the border. When caught, they are beaten and raped — and of course robbed — before being sent back.

Recently, Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan Nobel laureate, called for an international commission to deal with border crimes against refugees and undocumented workers. While she rightly called the problem “world-wide”, the examples of abuse that she cited were mostly those that occurred in southern Mexico.

PRI BOSSES FORBID WORKERS TO MARCH ON LABOR’S DAY; DEFIANT UNIONS MARCH ANYWAY

For the second year in a row, Fidel Velazquez, the oldest of the old-liners in the PRI, in the labor union movement, and in the twentieth century (having been born with it), forbade Labor from celebrating Labor’s Day. Last year, compliance was virtually complete. This year, the workers have had enough.

In Oaxaca, led by the teachers and government workers, and wearing their work clothes, tens of thousands of marchers filed through the Zocalo. In shout-and-respond, the leader chanted “Ay,Viejo” (hey, old one: Fidel), and the crowd responded “Mas dinero (more money)”