The Narco News Bulletin
Name of Our Country is América"
Day After: August 21, 2000
What does the
defeat of the PRI mean for the Peace Process and the Narco Trade?
One month after the electoral defeat
of Mexico's ruling PRI party in on a national scale, the PRI
has now been trounced in the conflict-torn state of Chiapas.
It would be naive and
oversimplistic, though, to assume that these back-to-back elections
will bring peace to Chiapas or end the state's role as a key
cocaine trafficking trampoline from South America to US consumers.
The election of Pablo
Salazar removes the gang of narco-governor Roberto Albores Guillen
from power in a few months. This can only be helpful to the peace
But the governor of Chiapas
does not have any control over the Mexican Armed Forces, today
with 70,000 troops surrounding and harrassing the indigenous
communities of the highlands and the jungle.
The earliest signal from
Salazar will come after he takes office in his appointments for
state attorney general and police agency commanders, and whether
he immediately redirects them from harrassing the Zapatistas
to disarming the violent paramilitary organizations that are
paid by the large landowners and also by the narco, which in
many cases are the same individuals.
Also an early indication
will come in whether Salazar orders the release of more than
100 Zapatista political prisoners from the Cerro Hueco penitentiary
and other state prison facilities.
But beyond these very
important moves, Salazar's ability to end the conflict will be
limited by the more important role that will be played by the
new federal regime.
Everything will depend
upon whether the incoming administration of president-elect Vicente
Fox, who takes office on December 1, keeps the Fox promise to
comply with the San Andrés Peace Accords, signed by the
Mexican government and the Zapatista Army of National Liberation
The war in Chiapas has
continued only because the federal government, after signing
the treaty, broke it almost immediately, and has continued to
place the Zapatista base communities under daily siege of threat,
violence, economic pillage and displacement by paramilitaries
who act with state-protected impunity.
The administration of
PRI President Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de León signed the
peace accords, which guaranteed autonomy for all of Mexico's
56 indigenous ethnic groups.
But after signing the
agreement, the government wanted to renegotiate: Of particular
concern was that the San Andrés Accords returned control
of the land to indigenous communities.
US and foreign investors,
as well as top Mexican business magnates, and the Mexican Armed
Forces, oppose the return of indigenous lands. They dishonestly
equate "autonomy" (in the United States it is called
"home rule") with "seccession" in their insincere
excuses to give up on 500 years of colonialism over Chiapas and
Indigenous communities in all América.
First, because these lands,
not only in Chiapas, but throughout the country, sit atop of
vast petroleum reserves, as well as mines of gold, silver and
Second, in the case of
the Mexican Armed Forces, its control over key lands in Chiapas
-- Mexico's southernmost state with a long jungle border with
Guatemala -- have given the Army the largest piece of control
over drug trafficking in the region. This was documented in our
series on the drug war in Chiapas.
The Zapatista base communities
reject drug and alcohol use or trafficking in their communities.
And thus, the compliance
or non-compliance with the San Andrés Peace Accords places
hundreds of millions of dollars at stake for vested interests,
especially the narco.
President-elect Vicente Fox said
during his campaign that he would comply with the San Andrés
Agreements, and that he could solve the Chiapas problem "in
Public opinion polls showed
that the issue of the San Andrés Peace Accords dwarfed
all other policy issues in the breadth of support by all sectors
of Mexican society.
Indeed, if come December
1, Congress finally approves the Agreements in the form that
they were agreed to, and if Fox signs the legislation, AND
if Fox withdraws the armed forces from Chiapas (for this he would
not need Congressional approval), there would be, for the first
time in six years, grand possibilities for peace.
But since his election,
Fox and his supporters have begun to hedge on this promise and
to play public relations games that suggest another agenda is
Fox, his aides, and his
key allies in the Mexican and US press corps, have begun an all-out
campaign to pressure and isolate the Zapatistas, demanding talks
before Fox takes office in December.
This is entirely disingenuous.
They, and the world, know that the Zapatistas will not come to
the bargaining table until the first agreements they negotiated
are honored. Why negotiate with a government that has not kept
the prior agreement? And why make public calls for talks that
the Fox team knows will not happen until deeds are done to keep
the past promises of state.
Fox transition team members
have publicly stated that they are already in contact "through
channels" with Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos. One even
said that it was Marcos who secretly contacted them. The Fox
team quickly had to correct its incredible statements and admit
that it does not have, and never did have, such communication
with Marcos or with the Clandestine Indigenous Revolutionary
Committee of the Zapatistas.
Marcos and the Zapatistas
have guarded silence. They are waiting for compliance with the
San Andrés agreements.
In recent weeks, journalists
and "intellectuals" allied with Fox -- many who have
always attacked the Zapatistas ever since the indigenous uprising
began on January 1, 1994 -- have issued harsh demands that the
Zapatistas negotiate with Fox before he takes office.
Many of these "intellectuals"
(especially those who haunt the pages of the weekly Proceso
magazine) have predicted the "disappearance" of the
Zapatista rebel army if the Alliance candidate Pablo Salazar
wins in Chiapas.
Salazar just won yesterday's
election. But the predictions of the demise of Zapatismo are
very premature and constitute either wishful thinking or insincerity
on the part of the prognosticators. The use of the word "disappearance"
by "intellectuals" Jean Meyer and Carlos Tello in recent
days has nefarious connotations, as Rosario Ibarra (whose son
was "disappeared" by the Mexican government) pointed
out this week in her El Universal column.
Other Fox-allied journalists
have suggested that because the Marcos communiqué on the presidential
elections last June 19
rejected the pro-Fox concept of "the useful vote" and
affirmed that the Zapatistas considered Left wing candidate Cuauhtémoc
Cárdenas as "a member of the Left," that Fox
must now rethink his position in favor of the Peace Accords,
because "Marcos endorsed Cárdenas."
This is not only a distortion
of Marcos' statement (translated to English by Narco
News), but it also reflects a distinctly PRI attitude to
"punish all who did not support us." That attitude
that marks a very dangerous game for Fox and his troops: he was
elected not because he was Vicente Fox. He was elected because
he was not the PRI. If he and his supporters continue to act
like the PRI with "revenge politics" against Marcos
and the Zapatistas, they will only provoke vast sectors of Civil
Society, including many who voted for Fox, to take to the streets
and reaffirm the support for the Zapatistas and the San Andrés
accords. In their efforts to isolate the Zapatistas, they will
end up isolating themselves.
We mark a gentler and
respectful disagreement with Carlos Ramírez, friend to
Narco News, who in his nationally syndicated column, Indicador
Político, seems to take Fox on his word. He has written
that the election of Fox has already answered the Zapatistas'
main demand: fall of the Party of the State. And he writes that
the Zapatistas must choose whether they will accept their own
victory or increase their demands to continue as a belligerent
guerrilla force. He takes it as a given that the San Andrés
accords will be enacted.
As much as we respect
Carlos Ramírez, we are not as optimistic based on the
early signals from Fox during the transition. The question of
fine print -- whether the San Andrés agreements will be
enacted as signed or whether key points
such as autonomous control over land use will be shelved in favor
of petroleum, mining, hardwood and other corporate interests
-- is yet to be seen.
And the result will not
be known, cannot be known, until after December 1. Ramírez
is enthusiastic about the transition, which he defends on many
fronts, and he is one of Mexico's sharpest political observers.
He must also know that Fox's words do not impress the Zapatistas.
How could they after so many betrayals by politicians of all
three of Mexico's major political parties? The Zapatistas are
waiting for deeds.
Ramírez also makes
an observation that we do share: that the election of Salazar
in Chiapas, a former PRI senator who ran with the support of
eight opposition parties including Fox's PAN and the left wing
PRD, puts the PRD back into the Chiapas game. And it is entirely
likely that through a Salazar state administration, the PRD may
try to usurp the singular role of the Zapatistas as the force
with whom Fox must negotiate. This would be a grave error by
the PRD that, in the end, would serve to divorce it from many
of its social bases who are frankly closer to the Zapatistas
than to any political party. Nobody can replace the role of the
Zapatistas in this process.
Here at The Narco News
Bulletin, we are largely dedicated to watching Washington
and US economic powers in their continued efforts to use the
drug war as a destabilizer of democracy and a pretext for foreign
takeover of Mexican and all Américan natural resources.
And we see intense pressures
from Washington, Houston and Wall Street, as well as major corporate
media like the New York Times, upon Fox that would be
very difficult for any Latin Américan leader to resist.
We don't believe that
Washington wishes to allow Fox to return control of indigenous
lands to Mexico's indigenous people: this would affect US "interests"
in those lands adversely, and set an historic precedent for all
América that will strengthen similar autonomy movements
throughout the hemisphere.
Ramírez has also
painted the possible scenario of the "ETA-ization"
of the Chiapas conflict (comparing it to the history of the Basque
region ETA guerrilla campaign against Spanish rule which has
swiftly re-heated in recent months with near daily bombings and
assassination attempts). In this scenario, the Chiapas guerrilla
campaign would go national and more violent.
Again, perhaps because
we are looking from the outside in, we view Spain's president
Aznar as primarily responsible -- and indeed, stoking the fires
-- of the new wave of violence in the Basque country. Aznar,
like Colombian President Pastrana, strongly allied with US policy
toward Latin America, is fueling the violence in Basque country
so as to have a pretext for a more Franco-style strong-fisted
rule of his country: the demonization of the guerrilla and its
citizen supporters as a provocation of fascist reaction by the
upper and upper-middle classes. Narco News just spent
three weeks reporting from within one of the autonomous regions
of Spain. We view Aznar's game as an extension of the dictator
Franco's. We hope, for the sake of our América, it will
not be Fox's nor Washington's approach in Mexico.
The ETA-ization of the
Chiapas conflict could only happen with Fox's cynical consent
Thus, Fox will define
his six-year presidency based on this single issue: Does he comply
with the San Andrés Peace Accords, as signed,
Fox and the Narco
There is another spectre looming
over the fate of Chiapas and of the Fox presidency: the narco.
Within days of his July
2nd election victory, Fox gave some very worrisome signals on
On Friday, July 7th, as
the whole world was lined up to meet with the conquering politician,
he did grant a meeting to former US Ambassador James Jones, now
a partner in the Washington law-and-lobbying firm of Mannatt-Phelps.
The disturbing aspect of Jones' access to Fox is not only based
on the fact that Mannatt-Phelps founder, US Ambassador to the
Dominican Republic Charles Mannatt, implicated in the narco-money
trail in the United States (see our story-of-the-month for May 2000 which was published, in Spanish,
in La Crisis).
It is also based on Jones'
own activities. Beyond his multi-national role with Mannatt-Phelps,
Jones is a director of Transportación Marítima
Mexicana (TMM), a huge shipping firm, now deep into the railroad
industry, which has been implicated by the US Customs service
in drug trafficking on multiple occassions. There is much public
information that links the notorious Hank family of Mexico to
the TMM firm (the firm denies Hank involvement in the present,
but has never spoken to the documented role of the Hank family
in establishing and building the company). And there is a US
Customs report that the former chief of the Juárez Cartel,
Amado Carrillo Fuentes, was the hidden investor behind Jones'
In fact, Fox met with
Jones throughout the years leading to his candidacy, at least
three times in the United States.
That Fox continues to
meet with Jones is a disturbing fact that counters Fox's pledges
to rid the Mexican state of narco-corruption (pledges made by
every PRI candidate in history, too; excuse us if we're not overwhelmed
by the promises of politicians).
Then, within hours of
his meeting with Jones in Mexico City, Fox headed for his first
post-election vacation on the island of Punta Pajaros, property
of BANAMEX owner Roberto Hernández Ramírez: widely
viewed across the Yucatán peninsula as a narco-trafficker.
In fact, the common people call his island "The Coca Peninsula."
Narco News has published the photos by the daily Por Esto! of the narco-activity
in the precise place where Fox was a guest, along with many links
to related facts and information.
This, too, concerns us.
What message was Fox sending by going to the Coca Peninsula with
Hernández? (And, Proceso reports, Zedillo met him
there, too.) Six more years of impunity for the narco-banker,
who was a prep school buddy of Fox?
Then there is the public
game of Fox regarding narco-policy, equally disheartening.
Fox has, equal to the
PRI government, crusaded publicly against the US certification
process of other countries in the drug war. US press reports
of this activity neglect to mention that this involves no change
from the PRI's own policy. Just a few months ago, Fox's PRI opponent,
Francisco Labastida, said of certification, "We don't accept
it. We don't ask for it." Labastida, Zedillo, Mexican foreign
minister Rosario Green, always crusaded against the certification
process. And in recent years, Clinton, Reno, drug czar McCaffrey
and other US administration officials have agreed that the certification
process should be ended. But the US Congress is not about to
cede this power to the White House: it's a cynical political
show on both sides of the border.
Fox has also received
much press in the US when one of his two transitional aids reponsible
for criminal justice issues, Senator Francisco Molina Ruiz, said
that Fox would take the Armed Forces out of drug enforcement.
This is a complex issue:
In Chiapas, Oaxaca and Guerrero, where the Armed Forces are actively
involved in trafficking drugs, this would be a healthy maneuver.
But in the Northern border
states, where the Attorney General's office and police agencies
manage the drug trade, this move would give a state monopoly
to those agencies, free of interference by the Armed Forces,
which, in that region, has served as the only balancing force
to counter and capture much corrupt drug activity.
And the effect on the
Carribean, and the Yucatán peninsula in particular, where
the Armed Forces have been the only official counter-weight to
reign in the cocaine trafficking operations on the BANAMEX owner's
properties there, remains to be seen.
Beyond that, there is
institutional resistance within the Mexican Armed Forces to give
up its piece of narco-enforcement and narco-trafficking.
Last week, during his
speech before the highest ranking leaders of the Mexican Armed
Forces, a leading member of the Colegio Militar said that drug
enforcement is "a matter of national security" and
therefore the military must continue to play its role in enforcing
the drug laws. This was a shot across the bow: a warning that
the military will not exit from its powerful role in narco-enforcement
quietly or easily. Again, this reform would require an act of
Congress, where the Armed Forces also has influence. So the Fox
transition team is floating trial balloons for publicity purposes,
announcing changes it is unlikely to make.
The US press coverage
of this statement by a transition aid was so overblown that even
a US drug reform internet newsletter reported on August 11th
that Fox "wisely" had already taken the military out
of drug enforcement (the writer seemed unaware that Fox is not
yet president and has thus done nothing. Worse, after informed
of the error, no correction was offered in the following week's
newsletter). The heavy lifting on covering the drug war in Latin
America is again left to Narco News.
How to explain the overly-rosy
view of Fox from some quarters? First, within Mexico, people
were really tired of the PRI. Thus Fox enjoys much good will
for having defeated the PRI and these sorts of political honeymoons
are normal in politics, especially before the new president takes
the helm and starts enacting policy.
But within the foreign
press, something more cynical is at play: it's a game of ideology
and vested interest. Because Fox is more neoliberal in his free
trade economic vision than even the PRI was in recent years,
the applause is unquestioning. The benefit of the doubt offered
has been unworthy of serious journalistic practice.
A leading libertarian
think tank in Washington even threw its pro-drug policy reform
position out the window to declare that the election of Fox was
"the best thing" that could happen to Mexico. That
Fox, during the campaign, called for "re-penalization"
of individual drug use and a Guiliani style policy of "zero
tolerance," were conveniently ignored by that think tank.
We urge them to do more thinking and less tanking.
Fox is causing an identity
crisis in certain narrow sectors -- the most conservative, ideologically
-- of the drug policy reform movement which, on the one hand,
see the issue only through the lens of "economic libertarianism"
(government hands-off of the individual and the multinational
corporation alike), and, on the other hand, their pro-capitalist
economic stances take priority over the pro-drug reform positions.
We trust that much of
this will shake out over time, especially after December 1st.
But our experience-formed view about political transitions is
that it is a grave error to give a new leader the blind benefit
of the doubt simply because he defeated a disgraced old leader.
In politics, what works is to keep the pressure up.
And the "focos rojos,"
the red warning lights, offered by Fox's meeting with former
Ambassador Jones, by his vacation on the Cocaine Peninsula of
the BANAMEX owner, by the effort of the Fox allies to isolate
and "disappear" (their word) the indigenous Zapatista
movement, and by the cynical Fox-to-McCaffrey-to-the-US-media
PR game played on drug policy reform, do not bode well for the
beginning of the Fox presidency.
If we're wrong in this
analysis, we will be the first to say so: but only in response
to deeds, not mere words.