Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 9 Num. 18

("Quid coniuratio est?")


By Jose Augustin Ortiz Pinchetti
(La Jornada, 9/16/96)
[Translation by Conspiracy Nation]

A ghost crosses Mexico: the ghost of violence. All the forces of the old system have united in the holy crusade to pursue this ghost: the government, the Pope, the Church, the businessmen, almost all analysts and parties. But the ghost keeps extending itself like a serpent and it is not a simple fantasm, it is a reality. Its victims range from Indians fallen in the dust to leaders whose assassins have remained unpunished.

Those who denounce the violence are correct. And also those who maintain that violent revolutions have brought nothing good to Mexico. But it is not enough to denounce the violence, one has to discover its causes and try to remedy them if there is still time.

In May of 1911, Porfirio Diaz gave up his position as President of the Republic. He was not conquered by Madero's army which captured Juarez City. What conquered him was the insurrection by millennial bands which quickly overwhelmed the nation. Porfirio Diaz knew what that was, because he himself had utilized violence as a means to fight in favor of independence for his homeland and afterwards to combat the legitimate government.

The great danger running through Mexico is not represented by the guerrillas from the jungles of Chiapas and the arid mountains of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Michoacan. If those centers were isolated and destroyed, by no means would the danger be averted. If the guerrillas remain committed they will act as the axis for other millennial bands of gangs, armed groups, ex-policemen, rebels, etc. As in the Revolution, they would be able to generate a real whirlwind of violence that would destroy wealth and institutions.

At bottom, all violence is political because it is a means to exercise power. In Mexico it has converted itself into a savage response to equally savage institutionalized injustice. When special interest groups have imposed upon the country an intolerable burden of sacrifice, inequality and corruption, Why does it surprise us that in the towns, the rancheros, and the villages of Mexico the people begin to take justice into their own hands? A great portion of the State security forces are infested with drug trafficking. Important personages belonging to the political and economic life of the nation have been linked to it. Insecurity has grown, and violent crime has increased by 20 percent in 1996 alone. There is evidence of the existence of well-organized groups that operate as part of extensive networks with national and even international reach. How can we curse the fever without attacking the infirmity which produces it?

Once again it seems we face the peak of an ill-fated cycle. As Enrique Krauze has pointed out in an important essay he wrote during the last years of the Salinas presidency, the plans for modernization -- top-down, exclusive, inflexible, isolated from political change -- not only concentrate wealth and accrue grave social costs, but they lead to violence. At the close of the 19th century, the Spanish monarchy occasioned unrest, a faithful copy of the French model of that epoch. Little by little it became an instrument for augmenting the privileges and abuses of the Spanish and Creole elite against the rest of the Mestizo and Indian population. At the end of the 19th century, Porfirio Diaz imposed a similar process, also inspired by foreign models. Both initiatives ended in revolutions. Each one of them cost 10 years of continued violence and hundreds of thousands of lives. The destruction of material riches and of social peace which, in both cases, had been an emblem of pride.

At the close of the 20th century, Mexico put in effect another modernization plan substantially equal to what came before, blind to political changes, orientated toward concentrations of wealth and income. Why does it surprise us when the results begin to be dramatically similar to those of past attempts?

The elites seem trapped by their own ineptitude, without understanding what is happening. Not only do we suffer a crisis of vision, it is also a moral crisis. The supreme value is the preservation of power. The inability to see the future seems directly related to the inability to learn from the past. One cannot lead Mexico while ignorant of its history.

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Aperi os tuum muto, et causis omnium filiorum qui pertranseunt. Aperi os tuum, decerne quod justum est, et judica inopem et pauperem. -- Liber Proverbiorum XXXI: 8-9