Some recent articles on Mexico

A couple of fantastic pieces on Mexico in the Guardian recently, and certainly help to undermine the crass, simplistic view of the likes of Jim O’Neill and other MINTies. That said, as I have argued elsewhere, I don’t think decapitated torsos are unequivocally bad for business as they have allowed a constant pretext (taking over from the waning armed threat of Zapatismo) for the heavy militarisation of the Mexican state apparatus: not good for all business in a broad sense, granted, but certainly cementing the position of a particular part of Mexico’s capitalist class and its allies to the north.

The first piece is a brutally Bolano-esque roll-call of kidnappings, or rather ‘robberies’ as they are called, of young girls who are forced into working as prostitutes and often then end up in jail. Some have been lucky enough, as if one can use the word ‘lucky’ in this context without grimacing, to find some sort of shelter in convents. But this is clearly a deeply-rooted and widespread phenomenon and is happening with the implicit connivance of the state. It is an appalling, stomach-churning story.

The second piece takes as its starting point the recent arrest of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman (with a nice illustration of the cross-border military-industrial complex in action). Ben Smith gives a devastating account of the history of collusion and control of the drug trade by the Mexican state and – particularly – the PRI.

Oil, Revolution and Capital

Yesterday, in what will probably be seen as a fairly momentous vote, Mexico’s parliament approved the opening up of the national oil market (exploration and extraction) which had previously been under the sole charge of the nationalised company PEMEX. PEMEX (short for Petróleos Mexicanos) was created by the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas in 1938 in what many feel was the apogee of revolutionary nationalism. PEMEX has been a clunky, increasingly conservative and inefficient beast without doubt, but it is a huge employer and a source of around 2/5 of the government’s revenue. I fear this marketisation of oil will inevitably lead to a situation as in so many Latin American states historically (including Mexico prior to 1938) of extraction with minimum taxation. Aside from that, the employment situation could be another ticking time bomb as relative revenues fall. That said, this has been pretty much inevitable, certainly since the accession of the Salinas government in 1988 signifying the beginning of the end of state capitalism in Mexico. So I see this not as a major watershed, but as a stepping stone on a preordained path. As we are finding now in Britain, many will miss the hulking, inefficient yet public-owned behemoth once it has gone.

Call for Papers

Radical Americas

Radical Americas 2014, Institute of the Americas, University College London, 16-18th June

 “In fighting a just cause, in resisting oppression, there is dignity.” – Eslanda Goode Robeson

Following the success of the inaugural ‘Radical Americas’ symposium in January 2013, the Radical Americas Network welcomes paper and panel proposals for our 2014 symposium to be held at the UCL Institute of the Americas on the 16th, 17th and 18th June.

Download the Call for Papers

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