Revolutionary Worker #899, March 23, 1997
At the end of February, the Clinton administration announced that it was "certifying" the government of Mexico as a "full ally" in the "war on drugs." The U.S. puts out a yearly list of countries which it judges as cooperative or non-cooperative in the "war on drugs." Decertified countries are threatened with cut-offs of U.S. aid and loans.
This year, controversy erupted within U.S. ruling circles about certifying Mexico. Shortly before the list of certified and decertified countries was announced, Gen. Jesús Gutiérrez Rebollo, the army general heading up the Mexican government's National Institute to Combat Drugs, was arrested--for taking bribes from a major drug cartel. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the Clinton administration's "drug czar," had described Gutiérrez as "a guy of absolute unquestioned integrity." And he had been given secret briefings by the White House, DEA and U.S. intelligence agencies. The Clinton administration gave the Mexican government a stamp of approval anyway. But politicians in Congress called for U.S. warnings or sanctions against Mexico for "failures" in the "war on drugs."
First question: What gives the U.S. government the right to pass judgement on other countries about drugs? People around the world learned last year of hard evidence that the CIA played a major role in the spread of crack cocaine in U.S. cities. From Southeast Asia in the 1960s to Central America in the 1980s, the U.S. government, military and intelligence agencies have used drug profits to finance secret wars and operations. And there is a big scandal now in Washington about how politicians and policies are routinely bought by millionaires and corporations. These international gangsters have no right to speak on drugs and corruption!
Second question: What's really behind the U.S. certification of Mexico and the whole "war on drugs" in Latin America? In the U.S., the "war on drugs" is being used as justification to unleash mad-dog cops in the oppressed communities, pass "three strikes you're out" laws, and fill up the jails. In Mexico and throughout Latin America, the "war on drugs" serves as a cover for increased U.S. penetration, control and domination.
The arrest of General Gutiérrez is only the latest in a series of drug and corruption scandals involving top figures in the Mexican ruling class--reaching all the way up to the presidency.
Just one example: Guillermo González Calderoni had served as a top "drug investigator" for former Mexican president Carlos Salinas Gortari. González now says that he told Carlos Salinas in the early 1990s that a cocaine trafficker had made large cash payments to Raul Salinas, the president's older brother. González says that he also informed U.S. officials of these payments. But no action was taken by Carlos Salinas or the U.S. government.
According to the U.S. government's own statistics, drug traffickers in Mexico spend at least six billion dollars a year in payoffs to officials.
The U.S. clearly knows that the Mexican government and military are riddled with drugs and corruption at all levels. In fact, the U.S. imperialists are the godfathers behind the Mexican rulers. The U.S. provides economic aid and loans to the Mexican government; and it provides training, equipment and services to Mexico's military. Leading Mexican government and military officials have been educated in the U.S., and they regularly consult with U.S. officials.
Clinton officials explained their certification of Mexico by saying that they expected Mexico's Zedillo government to "demonstrate progress on a number of clear objectives." A look at these "objectives" shows that the U.S. is using the "certification" process to push for even deeper military and political intervention in Mexico.
According to news reports, the U.S. officials demanded that in return for being certified, Mexican officials agree to extradite Mexican citizens to the U.S. for prosecution on drug charges. Mexican law does not allow extradition of Mexican citizens to other countries. But the New York Times reported that Mexican officials had agreed to cite "special circumstances" in order to send Mexicans directly into the hands of the U.S. police and courts. (Just imagine how the U.S. imperialists would react if the tables were turned on them by a Third World country--for example, if Iraq demanded that George Bush and Gen. Schwartzkopf be extradicted to be tried for killing hundreds of thousands of Iraqis during the Gulf War.)
The Times further revealed that the Clinton administration "insisted on having a voice in the selection of Mexican agents for sensitive joint intelligence agreements that would let the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard work with the Mexican Navy to stop and search vessels suspected of carrying drugs in Mexican waters." The Zedillo government also reportedly agreed to build military radar stations in southern Mexico--under the guise of "tracking drug flights." Yet another issue being pushed by the U.S. was official approval for U.S. DEA agents to carry firearms while in Mexico. And the Wall Street Journal reported that Zedillo had pledged to create a new "drug agency"--modeled after the U.S. DEA and using "extensive U.S. advice."
On March 13, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to decertify Mexico unless Zedillo made "substantial progress" against drugs and corruption. The House vote was expected to be nullified by a presidential veto or by the Senate. But this congressional action served to put more pressure on the Mexican government to agree to the U.S. demands. And it was also an attempt by the U.S. imperialists to picture themselves as being "tough" on drugs--while they continue to use the "war on drugs" as a cover for U.S. intervention in Mexico and throughout Latin America.
In February the U.S. announced a major new military program in Peru as part of the "war on drugs." The plans call for the U.S. to send more money and troops to aid the Fujimori dictatorship, which is waging a brutal and reactionary war against the Maoist people's war led by the Communist Party of Peru. The U.S. also certified the Fujimori regime as an "ally in the drug war"--even though Fujimori's chief of intelligence and top military generals are known to have connections with the drug trade.
And the U.S. has been carrying out a huge military campaign known as "Operation Laser Strike" in several Latin American countries, supposedly to stop cocaine flights. The operation involves hundreds of U.S. military personnel and high-tech equipment like satellite-linked radars.
The "drug war" certification of Mexico is also linked to deep worries among the U.S. imperialists about the "stability" of Mexico. The New York Times reported: "Administration officials and businessmen warned that revoking certification ran the risk of undermining foreign investors' confidence in Mexico's economic prospects. Administration officials...have warned that such a move could deal a blow to the Mexican economy comparable to the sudden devaluation of the peso two years ago...."
The 1995 crash of the peso led to a huge crisis in the Mexican economy. The U.S. government put together a "rescue package" of loans to prevent a financial collapse in Mexico. But these loans were not meant to help the poor and working people of Mexico. In his State of the Union speech in February, Clinton boasted that the U.S. had made a half billion dollar profit from the loans. These profits came from the blood of the oppressed Mexican people. In order to pay back the loans and keep the economy afloat, the Zedillo government has been carrying out an "austerity" program with disastrous results for the people: the number of Mexicans living in "extreme poverty" increased by five million, and huge numbers of middle class people and small businesses have gone bankrupt.
And the 1994 NAFTA treaty has led to more Mexican peasants being dispossessed of their land and has opened up Mexico to greater exploitation by foreign capitalists. In the State of the Union speech, Clinton also boasted that U.S. exports to Mexico "are at an all time high."
Even as the U.S. imperialists worry about "stability" in Mexico, the workings of their system compel them to sink their claws deeper into Mexico--creating even greater poverty and misery.
Recently, a group of streetsweepers from the state of Tabasco carried out a hunger strike in Mexico City to bring attention to their dire situation. This was one of 3,000 protests in the capital over the past year. The streetsweepers said they were ready to go to extremes because they have no land to farm and they can no longer fish because the state oil monopoly had polluted the waters. One of the protesters said, "We're already dying of hunger in Tabasco."
In a speech shortly after the 1994 Chiapas uprising, Maoist political economist Raymond Lotta pointed out: "Mexico is a cornerstone of the U.S. empire. There is no other way to understand the growth and dynamism of the U.S. empire, and the crisis it is in today, without understanding that Mexico plays a special role. That role is both economic and strategic. That's why an economic collapse or social explosion in Mexico would have enormous consequences--not just for the U.S. but for the whole imperialist system. And that's why the U.S. has paid so much attention to keeping Mexico stable.
"One of the U.S. imperialists' worst nightmares is revolutionary upheaval in Mexico. Not only could it knock out one cornerstone of the U.S. empire. It could also spill over to the U.S. The oppressed of Mexico and the U.S. of course look at things differently: It's a truly wonderful thing that our lives and struggles and revolutionary movements are so closely interconnected."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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