Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mexico's Left determined to shackle the nation to the past

MGR Opinion -
Hogtied to history, and on the wrong side of it

Guadalajara -
Leftist movements have frequently been on the right side of history. "Right" in the sense that they supported egalitarian principles, advocated the toppling of anachronistic regimes or systems which held power by might rather than by right, and championed the cause of the least powerful in society.

When Bolsheviks launched an armed insurrection in a city then called Petrograd in November 1917, they were on the right side of history - at least for a while. The desperately out of touch Nicholas II - "Emperor and Autocrat of all the Russias" - was a vestige of another era who needed to go, although arguably with less violence than he, his wife and five children were dispatched the following summer.

When blacks and whites and Catholics and Jews and Protestants marched in Selma, Alabama in 1965, enraged Southerner segregationists screamed at them, "Communists!" (among other choice words). The American Civil Rights movement was classically leftist, and it was unquestionably on the right side of history. There are many other 20th century examples.

Mexico has a powerful leftist voice, too, but measured by recent events it is not on the right side of history, nor is it acting in the best interests of 118 million citizens, whose median age is but 26.

The political Left in this country includes the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), the Workers' Party (PT), the Citizens Movement and the National Regeneration Party (MORENA). By no means do they invariably share political agendas, but these days they often find themselves marching to the same drum, especially when the beat is in opposition to the policies of the 10 month old administration of president Enrique Peña Nieto.

(A brief digression: The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which holds the presidency as well as many seats in the federal congress and the 32 state legislatures, is usually described as center left in orientation by political scientists. But PRI is not in the same universe of Left as any of the above).

Today twice presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, leader of MORENA, joined with Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, a founding father of PRD in 1989 and one of the most esteemed voices of the Mexican Left, to issue an extraordinary statement.

The men called for national resistance across political and social lines to education reforms which where overwhelmingly passed by Mexico's federal congress two weeks ago - and which are now the law of the land - and similar resistance to pending constitutional amendments which would open the state-owned oil company, PEMEX, to private investment capital. Hearings and debate on the latter issue are scheduled to begin in a few days.

Let's begin with PEMEX. Yesterday the McClatchy news service correspondent in Mexico City wrote about chronic energy shortages in this country, as well as the high cost of energy to consumers. He noted that Mexico is in an "enormous energy crisis, even as oil remains the mainstay of the country’s economy. Mexico has huge natural-gas reserves, yet those reserves are largely untapped, and the nation is a net importer of the fuel." The full article is here.

An undeniable component of the energy crisis here is PEMEX, a mismanaged, bureaucratic dinosaur. As MGR reported yesterday, the bloated state monopoly has so many retired workers on the rolls that its pension fund is essentially exhausted. Mexico is in full recession, with major pension and social service funds "broke." PEMEX desperately needs new ideas, new leadership and an influx of private capital. No one in the PRI administration has remotely suggested or implied that PEMEX is for sale. To the contrary, pending legal changes would ensure that it retains its unique Mexican identity.

Yet the Left, in the persons of López Obrador, Cárdenas and their supporters, are rabidly opposed even to the discussion of the proposed amendments to articles 27 and 28 of Mexico's constitution, which guarantee the State an energy monopoly. In their call to battle today, the men waved the flag and spoke of the need to defend Mexico's "national sovereignty." As the English essayist Samuel Johnson noted more than two centuries ago, an appeal to patriotism is always "the last refuge of a scoundrel."

It's worth noting that article 27 contains another provision which prevents foreign citizens from directly owning real estate within 50 kilometers of the sea, or 100 kilometers of an international border. One of the original reasons for that law was so foreigners couldn't assist enemy armies or fleets preparing to invade Mexico. There are pending bills to remove those restrictions, but leftists are opposed to them, too. It's no exaggeration to say that Mexico's Left is hopelessly hogtied to history (House of Deputies proposes dramatic change in rules regulating foreign land ownership).

The just passed federal education reforms, carried by a 5-1 majority in the senate and the house of deputies, provide even stronger evidence of the antiquated political mindset of the Left. It is difficult to fathom how any responsible politician could be against legislation which outlaws the buying, selling and bequeathing of teaching jobs, and which requires educators to pass periodic competency exams (with the chance to restudy and be retested twice more if they fail the first time). But López Obrador, Cárdenas and their followers continue to urge resistance to the clearly expressed will of the majority.

Meanwhile, more than a million impoverished students in Oaxaca and Chiapas, where classrooms have been dark for a month, remain at home due to leftist backed teacher strikes. Some may miss the entire 2013-14 academic year, although in many communities parents are filling in as teachers. The Left in Mexico has a strange way of demonstrating its commitment to the innocent and the most vulnerable members of society.

Then there is the violence committed by the teachers union, CNTE, which is little more than a band of thugs and professional extortionists. One of Mexico's most prominent leftist writers urged them on last week, adulating them as national heroes. That's why Elena Poniatowska is entirely out to lunch. She worships at the altar of Manuel López Obrador, it should be noted, and she could care less that Mexico City businessmen - ordinary store keepers and proprietors, not huge corporate interests - lost $57 million dollars while CNTE members camped out in the Zócalo for a month, ignoring repeated government orders to leave. They had the audacity to say their civil rights were violated when the great plaza was finally cleared by federal security forces on Friday, and today López Obrador and Cárdenas peddled the same claim. Mexico's Left recognizes its rights but no one else's, it seems.

Last week a well know Mexican journalist wrote an excellent article called Clash. Referring to striking teachers and CNTE, here is part of what he said:

"(For them), mastering a laptop computer is not a door to competitiveness. It is a dark route which leads to the stripping away of human identify in exchange for a robot-like existence.

"Learning English is not a window to better earnings. It is surrender to the Empire.

"Taking a competency exam is not a tool to ensure that teachers are prepared, but the triumph of a standardization imposed by capitalism. Learning about the internet does not push students forward into the world that lies just ahead, but leaves them entombed in globalization."

The dissident teachers and their union are radical reactionaries, the journalist argued. He was correct.

And so Mexico's Left has become politically, in the waning months of 2013.

Dec. 12 - PRD: "The Pact for Mexico is dead"
Dec. 11 - Mexico's Chamber of Deputies wastes no time, approves PEMEX reforms
Dec. 11 - Mexico's PEMEX: senators open the door to foreign expertise and private capital
Dec. 10 - Mexican leftists go to court to stop PEMEX reforms
Nov. 11 - Mexico's far left MORENA achieves official recognition
Oct. 7 - López Obrador calls for campaign of protest and civil disobedience over PEMEX reforms
Sept. 23 - The endless lies of AMLO, and the "Mafia CNTE"
Sept. 22 - La CNTE: entre la revolución y los privilegios
Sept. 21 - La CNTE marchará con Morena contra reformas estructurales
Sept. 21 - Andrés Manuel's vision for Mexico
Sept. 21 - "The fix is in" on energy reform, says AMLO
Sept. 20 - Without energy reform, Mexico will need more than a half century to reach U.S. output
Sept. 19 - AMLO, Cárdenas, el obispo Vera y activistas llaman a oponerse a reformas de EPN y denuncian clima de represión
Sept. 17 - CNTE y AMLO
Sept. 17 - Mexico City labor violence, through the lens
Sept. 11 - National labor strike fizzles in Guadalajara and elsewhere, as federal education reforms take effect across the nation
Aug. 25 - PRI government shows no resolve against thug teachers

July 15, 2012 - Spain's El País blasts Manuel López Obrador
July 13, 2012 - Andrés Manuel López Obrador fires in all directions, demanding a new election
July 11, 2012 - Memo to Andrés Manuel López Obrador: "¡Ya basta, señor!" (Give it a REST, sir)

A motley collection of leftist sympathizers gathered in Mérida, Yucatán July 7, 2012, with predictable claims of election fraud - "Enrique, you're not my president!." But the courts ruled otherwise.

© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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