President Barack Obama has not only failed to achieve comprehensive immigration reform, but he has also actively participated in the dismantling of development and democracy in Mexico, the homeland for two-thirds of US Latinos. Obama’s policy toward Mexico builds on the long tradition of US support for neoliberal authoritarian regimes in Latin America. Just as Washington actively encouraged military coups in South America during the 1970s and armed the dictators of Central America during the 1980s, today it props up Mexico’s corrupt political class as it slowly tears the country apart.
John Kerry’s trip to Mexico City this week was supposedly for the purpose of consolidating a “North American and global partnership.” But this new relationship will be doomed from the start if the Obama administration does not break with its ideological foreign policy approach, which privileges the demands of Wall Street and the Pentagon over the needs of common citizens on both sides of the Rio Grande.
Mexico’s new President Enrique Peña Nieto plays the same role in Latin America today that the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet did in the 1970s. The Financial Times has hailed Peña as the man who supposedly will be able to stop the advance of South American “populism,” on display in Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay and Bolivia, and bring back the “Washington Consensus” as the dominant ideology in the region. Indeed, Peña’s central objective since taking power on December 1, 2012, has been to completely dismantle the progressive legacy of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. He has drastically rolled back protections for labor, imposed neoliberal education reforms and moved to hand over the enormous oil and gas industry to transnational petroleum companies. He has also turned Mexico into a servile client of US foreign policy and “national security” concerns.
Peña has relied on violence, repression and censorship in order to impose these policies on a recalcitrant public. Human rights violations and attacks on the press have skyrocketed under the new administration, according to recent reports by Article 19, Amnesty International and a leading network of local NGOs. Since Peña’s inaugural seventeen months ago, protests and marches have typically met with violent repression and arbitrary arrests.
An important community organizer who participated peacefully in the inaugural protests, Juan Francisco Kuykendall, recently passed away due to the wounds he received when a police tear gas canister or rubber bullet struck his head during the rally. A leader of community policing initiatives in the state of Guerrero, Nestora Salgado, is today in jail for supposedly “disturbing the peace” by putting into question the integrity of corrupt officials. A Greenpeace activist is being aggressively prosecuted by the Peña administration for allegedly damaging a light on the building from which she hung a protest banner in the state of Veracruz. This month, a distinguished leader of indigenous communities in Chiapas linked to the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) was brutally killed by members of a paramilitary group historically linked to Peña’s Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI).