On September 26, 2014, 43 male students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College were kidnapped in Mexico, and presumed dead. This tragic event has inflamed the anger of people both within Mexico and abroad. In this incident, local politicians ordered the police to attack and shoot protesting students and then handed 43 of these young people over to an allied criminal gang, Guerreros Unidos (United Warriors).
Other such deadly attacks upon small farmers and their organizations by politicians allied with wealthy landowners and criminals have also been commonplace in the state of Guerrero which is governed by the supposedly ‘leftist’ Party of the Democratic Revolution. This violent and grisly act that was committed by these oligarchs against these young people was intended to intimidate and silence the voices of protesting students and this incident is symbolic of what is left of a shattered Mexican democracy.
The growing financial and political complicity between government officials and criminal gangs and their blatant use of terror and violence is aimed at stifling the rights of the Mexican People to enact social change through democratic means. Other victims of this violent trend within Mexico have included numerous journalists, politicians seeking reform, trade unionists and human rights advocates.
This deadly attack and kidnapping of these students is a clear example to the world of the blatant lack of democracy and rule of law that now exists within Mexico.
Such growing lawlessness on the part of government officials and gang cartel members combined with a consistent growth in financial inequality and unemployment throughout the country has also exerted a downward push on people’s standard of living and on the economic well-being of their families.
Adding fuel to this deteriorating national situation is the financial pressure being applied by foreign banks and corporations upon the Mexican government to privatize the country’s resources and dwindling social services which will result in higher profits for Wall Street and Mexico’s oligarchs while reducing social programs aimed at improving people’s lives.
The last 25 years of governance under the National Action Party (PAN) and Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) parties have led to widespread political corruption, a drastic rise in wealth and class inequality and the development of a violent narco state. These factors have contributed to an erosion of democratic institutions and the norms of justice within Mexican society and created a situation where power in society now grows out of the barrel of a gun.
The burdens of NAFTA and the ‘War on Drugs’ stunt Mexican society
In order to place these recent events and growth of violence in Mexico within a historical context we need to view the political factors and events from the past that have influenced and contributed to this violent and undemocratic situation within that country. The signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994 was accompanied with overly optimistic claims by then US President George W. Bush and Mexican President Salinas de Gortari that a future expansion of trade, a higher level of prosperity and a growth of economic development in both countries would ultimately decrease the number of undocumented Mexican immigrants attempting to enter the US.
With the implementation of NAFTA many existing trade regulations and tariffs which had previously protected Mexico’s fledgling industries were removed.
This imposition of so-called ‘free trade’ subsequently led to a flood of US manufactured and agricultural products being exported into Mexico which soon overwhelmed and severely damaged fragile sectors of that country’s economy. Such an unregulated flow of US government subsidized exports into Mexico also caused widespread economic dislocation in that country particularly within the agricultural sector which led to an ensuing rise in unemployment among many urban workers, small farmers and farm workers.
This sharp rise in unemployment soon fueled heavy migration to Mexico’s urban areas and eventually this movement of people seeking work began flowing northward to the US border. By the latter part of the 1990’s the empty promises that had been promoted by NAFTA advocates about more prosperity, a reduction in poverty and eliminating the need to immigrate to the US for work were soon replaced by a new wave of immigration to El Norte by the unemployed. This exodus was met by a vicious immigrant bashing campaign on the US side that was supported by former California Governor Pete Wilson and a host of other racial xenophobes in numerous states.
Another burden placed upon Mexican society was the political pressure that the American government applied on Mexico’s politicians to accept and implement the ‘War on Drugs.’
This misguided drug war ignored any US responsibility for the growing domestic demand for illegal drugs and did not include any widespread drug use prevention and rehabilitation programs within this country. Instead, this war has sought a military solution to the US drug problem by primarily focusing on eliminating the ‘bad guy’ drug suppliers in Mexico and other Latin-American countries and by resorting to mass imprisonment of drug users within the US.
The contradictory result of this drug war policy has been a dramatic increase in US drug consumption and incarceration and a subsequent growth in the number of drug suppliers in Mexico.
The young men who are recruited by the drug cartels tend to be poor and unemployed youth who are willing to supply violence for money in order to satisfy the cravings of American addicts. As far as the increase in north-south trade once promised by NAFTA, it now consists of a massive amount of US military and DEA advisers and weapons being shipped south to Mexico along with thousands of illegal weapons being sold to the drug cartels by American arms merchants located along the border area. Conversely, a constant supply of drugs for American recreational use and immigrants seeking work flows north to the US.
The dual burdens of NAFTA and the ‘War on Drugs’ that have been imposed upon Mexico have resulted in a widespread growth of unemployment, drug gangs on both sides of the border, overcrowded prisons and the deepening of political corruption within Mexican society which has undermined democracy and created a narco state. While the leaders of both the US and Mexico had approved and benefited financially from these harmful policies, it would be the Mexican People and particularly the 43 students from Ayotzinapa who would have to endure the deadly effects of these toxic decisions.
A profitable immigration system is supported by the US and Mexico
Besides NAFTA and the ‘War on Drugs,’ there is a third burden pressing upon Mexican society that contributes to the increase in crime, political corruption and human misery. This is the flawed 100 year-old immigration system that is shared by Mexico and the US and which continues to be fundamentally supported by both governments.
This century-old system has and is governed by the capitalist law of supply and demand which determines how much undocumented cheap labor is needed for certain US industries, the amount of low wages to be paid to these imported workers and the required methods of governmental regulation and deportation of any excessive and unnecessary labor. Certain corporations seeking low-wage workers in order to maximize profits for their industries utilize legal contractors and grapevines of village and family connections to lure unemployed workers to the north with promises of jobs.
This immigration pipeline is aided by gangs of coyotes whose illegal smuggling activities along the border area are generally ignored by Mexican officials and whose role is now being taken over by more powerful criminal drug gangs with the result that robberies, kidnapping and sexual assaults are on the rise.
This existing immigration network is greased by the aid of financial mordidas to Mexican politicians on one side of the border and through huge campaign donations doled out on the US side to American politicians by corporations who benefit from this supply of exploited human labor. This century-old immigration system continues functioning according to the needs of the US economic system for low-wage workers which are supplied by a reserve labor force in Mexico that exists with governmental approval.
Such cooperation and support by the Mexican government of this system is in essence a policy of consciously getting rid of its own people by exporting them to the US rather than resolving the deep-rooted social problems that exist within Mexico. Such a corrupt situation is resistant to change as it is very profitable for both politicians and certain corporations who maximize their earnings on the backs of undocumented workers. These employees are quietly allowed into the US when needed and attacked with immigrant-bashing campaigns and swiftly removed through the use of deportations when no longer useful.
Throughout the decades this labor system has been refined with adjustments such as the old ‘Bracero program’ and now the increasing use of an expanding guest worker program. In addition to the other burdens on Mexico such as NAFTA and the ‘War on Drugs,’ this third burden of a corrupt and exploitative immigration system results in a lawless border, divides families and leads to a loss of life for many people who attempt to cross into the US. Despite periodic laments and flowery proclamations by politicians about the need for reform, this traditional and profitable immigration system is fundamentally supported across party lines by the governments of both countries. Presently, the slow-growing US economy has an over-supply of workers including many who are undocumented. Thus, the actual economic regulator of this traditional immigration system lies within the executive branch as ICE has been directed by Obama to remove any excess immigrant labor and this results in the continuing deportation of close to 30 thousand people a month.
The US-Mexico alliance on foreign policy, the drug war and human rights
Mexico is a strong ally of the US within Latin America along with other right-wing governments such as Honduras, Colombia and Guatemala. The US and these conservative governments constitute a minority political bloc that is used within the region to counter the majority of countries with progressive governments such as Brazil. Argentina, Bolivia, Nicaragua and others. These countries that presently have center-left governments had previously suffered from human rights abuses under previous US-supported dictatorships and are now asserting their economic and political independence.
The US which has a history of dominating Latin-America is opposed to such a progressive bloc of countries who are independent and sovereign and a subservient Mexico obediently supports and follows these reactionary US policies and actions. Within Mexico, the increasing demand for illegal narcotics by US customers combined with the militaristic ‘War on Drugs’ have ravaged the Mexican economy and social fabric while unleashing a wave of corruption, cartels and human rights abuses.
While this drug war is clearly not in Mexico’s interests nor beneficial to the country, both the PAN and PRI political parties have previously allied themselves with Presidents Bush and Obama to support the use of violence to carry out this ongoing and disastrous drug policy. This US sponsored military campaign within Mexico has become a deadly civil war that has instigated hatred and violence and which uses American supplied weapons to pit Mexicans against Mexicans.
The ongoing political unity and collusion on the part of the US government and its lackey Mexican government in regard to Latin-American foreign policy, NAFTA, the ‘War on Drugs’ and support of the century-old immigration system has also been extended to a united viewpoint and position involving violations of human rights in Mexico.
This agreement and collusion between US and Mexican politicians pertaining to human rights abuses and violations of democratic norms in Mexico consists of both governments essentially condoning and glossing over these brutal acts perpetrated against the Mexican People.
In this country, there are no expressions of outrage and anger by US government officials nor by the media over the massacre of the 43 students as well as the deaths of thousands of others due to these misguided US policies which support the actions of the corrupt Mexican government. We do not hear any denunciation of President Pena-Nieto and his PRI-led government with its repressive policies by President Obama nor do we hear of any US demand for sanctions to be placed upon Mexico as is usually done in a self-righteous manner with other countries who violate human rights.
The three burdens of NAFTA, the ‘War on Drugs’ and a corrupt immigration system have created three resulting pillars of injustice within Mexican society that consist of labor exploitation, human rights abuses and a lack of democracy. Massive political pressure has to be applied within Mexico and externally in order to demolish these anti-democratic pillars that prop up a repressive society. The objectives of such a political movement must be the abolishment of NAFTA, the ‘War on Drugs’ and fundamentally changing the present and unjust immigration system.