The rumor in Mexico, right now, is that they are going to lock Lopez Obrador up in some very remote place – remote, at least, from his political base. Like somewhere along the border – a place where inconvenient politicians and journalists have a habit of getting whacked.

Meanwhile, the great vials of American indignation about the foreclosure of democracy in Mexico remain capped. Harold Meyerson’s op ed piece, in the WP, is great. But where is the attention that was mobilized in the case of the Ukraine or Lebanon, for instance? This is a rhetorical question about a rhetorical problem. The U.S. does not have, never did have, and probably never will have a policy of implanting democracy in foreign places -- unless that democracy can be controlled by the U.S. A cursory glance at U.S. history – from the fixing of Italian elections in 1949, via the CIA’s Jim Angleton (at that time, an O.S.S. officer in Rome) all the way up to the narrowing of options in Afghanistan and Iraq last year and this winter. Another story in the LA Times makes up for the LAT editorial dismissal of the “backwards looking” mayor of Mexico City. Another rumor LI has heard – heard while in Mexico – might explain why the New York Times is more industriously playing the parish weekly (“Alien meets with Saint John Paul in Heaven!”) than reporting the news in Mexico. The NYT’s former reporters, Julia Preston and Samuel Dillon, while pro-Fox to the gills, knew their way around the language and the cultcha. I believe they still live there, in the ritzy Chapultepec Heights area. Supposedly, NYT’s main man in Mexico City has a sophomore’s knowledge of Spanish.

Note: In the February, 2005 issue of the Latin American Review, there’s an interesting article by Jonathan Hiskey entitled (snoringly) THE POLITICAL ECONOMY OF SUBNATIONAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY
IN MEXICO. It is, however, not a sleep inducing piece. Hiskey promotes the study of subregions within developing countries, thinking to find some correlation between recovery from economic setbacks in developing economies and the transparency and legitimacy of electoral-based local institutions. We were struck by this passage:

“Furthermore, the paths followed by the two principal opposition parties in the early years of Mexico's long transition were quite distinct, with
the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica's (PRD) marred by conflict with the PRI, and the Partido Accion Nacional's (PAN) characterized by
cooperation with the ruling party (Bruhn 1996; Bruhn and Yanner 1995;
Guillen Lopez 1995; Lujambio 2001). The very distinct relations between these two opposition parties and the PRI in turn resulted in markedly different transition experiences across Mexico's thirty-one states, depending on the dominant opposition force in a state. In PRD-opposition states,the transition was one where town hall takeovers, street protests, election boycotts, and violent clashes between PRI and PRD supporters followed electoral outcomes that rarely went uncontested by one side or the other. These disputes often lingered long past election day and in many ways undermined the governing legitimacy of whichever party ultimately gained office. In PAN-leaning states, conversely, acceptance
of electoral outcomes and alternation in power at the state and local levels
relatively quickly and painlessly became the norm.

These distinct paths taken by the two major opposition parties were products of both intemal party strategies conceming relations with the ruling party and a conscious effort on the part of the PRI to target what it viewed as its biggest threat: the PRD. As Victor Alejandro Valle remarked,
"There can be little doubt that this 'selective democracy' [was] the result of the ruling party's calculated generosity toward the PAN, a strategy designed to undermine the threat from the Left" (1999,78). Jorge Alcocer (1994) summarizes the very different approaches to the PAN
and PRD pursued by the PRI in the early 1990s:

The government has followed a two-pronged approach in dealing with its opponents. With the PAN it has maintained cordial relations (even open alliance), and it has either recognized the PAN's legitimate victories or taken drastic actions to remedy grievances, as in the cases of Guanajuato and San Luis Potosi.

With the PRD the government's position has been one of aggression: slander campaigns orchestrated by the president's press office; tolerance of continued fraud against the PRD; indifference toward the physical abuse and murder perpetrated by regional caciques. The litany of injuries is long (152-53).

What happened last week in Mexico was the product of this systematic, historically entrenched, but – until now - well disguised, process.

Additional, Montesquieu-ian note: the currently fashionable thesis about the need for legitimate electoral institutions in developing economies is better than the old thesis about the difference between totalitarian and authoritarian governments. However, ourselves, we think that there must be the (theoretic) possibility of curbing such institutions by means of an autonomous judiciary, one that is not an instrument of the executive branch. Unfortunately, such curbing often gets done, in the end, by the military -- a perversion that arises from a legitimate lacuna in governance.


Brian Miller said…
Oh, good. More stories of desperate people dying in the desert ahead. Maybe some of the "Minutemen" in their gian pickpu trucks can be persuaded to waddle over the border to help the desperate.
roger said…
Brian, I've debated doing a post on the Minutemen, but they seem so... nothing to me. As vigilantes come and go, these are definitely an inferior breed of poseurs. Lately, I've been reading the accounts of Texas Ranger George Wythe Baylor, who commanded the Frontier branch of the Rangers in the 1880s and 90s. Now, that was violence and border incidents in the classical mode.

I figure that the blogger who does the Orca site has them covered.

It does amaze me, though, how blank the American media is about this story in Mexico. Have they all been lobotomized by the Pope's funeral? What is the deal?