Category Archives: Mexico

Mexico: First the Poor

Por el bien de todos, primero los pobres (“For the good of all, first the poor.”)

— AMLO

Mexico is a semi-colony with a population of 129 million. Its political, financial and business elites are bound to the US, which receives 80% of Mexican exports. International corporations feast on Mexico’s cheap labor and resources, from the maquilas in the north, to the central mines and the coffee lands of the south. Walmart is Mexico’s biggest employer.

Mexico’s GDP per capita is nearly one-third that of the US and 20% greater than that of China. (World Bank, 2019.) But while China will eliminate its poverty very soon, in Mexico half the country is poor.

For four decades the brutality and corruption of neoliberalism plundered the Mexican people. Against this rose a popular nation-wide movement, and in 2018, after losing the 2006 and 2012 elections (widely considered stolen with US complicity), the first anti-neoliberal President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (“AMLO”), won a landslide victory.

Considering the political and economic millstones around its neck, the government’s achievements in its first year-and-a-half are striking: substantially raising the minimum wage, from USD $4.39 to $5/day, and to $9/day in the wealthier border region; recovering 100s of millions in back taxes from international mega-corporations including Walmart, Coca-Cola, IBM and more; giving tens of thousands of loans and grants to small farmers; guaranteeing prices for corn, wheat, beans, rice and milk, with the goal of food sovereignty; giving student grants for educational expenses; increasing pensions by 40%; creating a national universal and free health care system; and opening over 100 new hospitals.

AMLO’s government also created a network of 100 new universities, emphasizing the poorer states of Chiapas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Michoacan. Next year a public bank of 2700 branches will serve the poor and rural populations private banks ignore. Gender equity in government has improved (under a 2014 law AMLO promoted while mayor of Mexico City). Renationalization of the state oil and electrical companies PEMEX and CFE has begun, and there is no more distribution of private oil contracts (which AMLO called “the politics of pillage”).

The new government keeps good relations with China, Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. It harbors progressive politicians exiled by US-authored hard and soft coups (Bolivia, Ecuador). It exited the US-aligned Lima Group (an instrument of regime change in Venezuela). It plans to strengthen the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Mexico’s COVID-19 response, though attacked in the media, is praised by the World Health Organization (WHO): “Mexico is taking several of the lessons learnt by other countries, like China, and applying measures consistent with WHO recommendations; it was the first to set in place a coronavirus detection program…” With Cuba’s much-appreciated help, Mexico acted early with targeted testing, contact-tracing and limitations on public gatherings. Yet Mexico suffers a high COVID-19 death toll due in part to the country’s long-underfunded healthcare system. At mid-August, Johns Hopkins reports that the country is 13th in COVID-19 deaths per capita, but still behind Belgium, France, UK, Spain and Italy.

The new government has not had time to carry out its plan to defeat the root causes of crime: poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. Crime continues to increase, though at a slower pace, with over 35,000 murders and 5,000 disappearances in 2019.

Mexican and US elites, including virtually all Mexican media and the traditional parties (PAN, PRI), vehemently oppose the new government. Mexican Cardinal Juan Sandoval Íñiguez called AMLO’s government “atheist” and “communist.”  FRENA, a rightist alliance with probable US and Wall Street support, is trying to overthrow AMLO in a “color revolution.” With explicit threats to destroy Mexico’s economy, the US forced Mexico to enforce immigration restrictions at both borders. And in a thus far unsuccessful effort to stop AMLO’s renationalizing of Mexico’s energy sector, international finance agencies downgraded Mexico’s state debt and that of PEMEX.

The impoverished indigenous communities of the south of the country have been treated with callous indifference at best and genocidal violence at worst by past governments. The new government plans megaprojects for the region: a “Maya Train” to take tourists to the great archaeological sites of Tabasco, Chiapas, Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo; a million hectares of fruit and other commercial trees; new mining operations.

This national development program seeks to lure foreign capital with public-private partnerships and “special economic zones.” It would bring jobs in agriculture and manufacture for export, and in the tourist industry. The revenue generated would fund social development, poverty would be alleviated and Mexico could honor “the right to stay home” (referring to the migrants of Guatemala and southern Mexico forced to travel north for work). That at least is the plan.

But many indigenous civil organizations have waged protests to resist this plan, and the Indigenous Governing Council (CIG) of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) has sued to stop the projects, charging violations of domestic and international law. They predict with good reason the projects will irrevocably damage the environment and their traditional communities and ways of life.

These civil organizations are allied with the Zapatistas and are explicitly anti-capitalist. Their governing philosophy is horizontalist and autonomous. They uphold anti-capitalist Cuba, but reject progressive reform governments, including Bolivarian Venezuela, Lula-era Brazil, Rafael Correa-era Ecuador, and AMLO and the MORENA party. These civil organizations may not represent all of Mexico’s 25 million indigenous citizens but their significance is great and their political criticisms profound.

Their rejection of progressive governments in Latin America may prove prescient. The US has tormented the people of Venezuela, overthrown Evo Morales of Bolivia, reversed the gains of Correa’s Ecuador, and sanctioned and attempted a violent coup against Nicaragua. Perhaps any government trapped in bourgeois democracy and capitalist globalization, no matter how progressive, cannot achieve lasting social progress.

When Homeless Means Homelandless: Guatemalans in Lincoln County

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

It doesn’t take a lockdown to pull from some of us humanists the universality of how deep the emotional, cultural, societal, economic and spiritual divide is between the have’s and have’s not.

As we move from “top” to “bottom” in the daily stories of how these forced social distancing measures, draconian business closures, far-reaching travel bans and the like are affecting lives, we need to have more humanistic ways of parsing out the realities of the homeless, or in the case of people from Guatemala, the homelandless.

There are many reasons Guatemalans have come to this county, crossing that borderline without the proper Gestapo paperwork and billets for the own lives.

After tragedy, Oregon Christmas tree industry buoyed by bill | KOMO

The stem of the immigration tide to an area usually starts with one family or one group of cohorts ending up in a place like Newport and loving it as a new promise, a new start, maybe a new homeland. For a time, there were seasonal jobs in the fishing, hospitality and salal harvesting arenas.

Most Guatemalans get here with very little. Some have children in schools. Many do not speak Spanish, let alone English.

In many ways, coming from Huehuetenango and other places where violence is prolific,  Guatemalans thought they’d be happy with the chance “to make it” in the USA since back in their native land the per capita annual income for lower economic groups is  $1,619. Add to this challenge of more than two dozen Mayan languages spoken in that part of Mesoamerica and none spoken here.

A Tales of Two Cities, Many Cultures, Infinite Mentalities

For many, watching daily TV-YouTube-Facebook antics of Trump and Company, Hollywood perversions, other rich and famous, and  even run of the mill policy makers “deal” with their seclusion and isolation makes the blood boil. Lovely gardens, three triple-wide fridge/freezer combos full of Whole Foods delectables; manicured lawns for croquet surrounding terra cotta pools; superfood smoothies laced with plethora of vitamins and herbs; soaking in Clorox-laced bathtubs and tips on how to dose one’s body with ultraviolet showers.

As we go further and further down the food chain and feeding trough, one more week of lock-down can parlay into more than ennui and cabin fever: for millions, one more week is less food, more anxiety, fear of the unknown, downright depression and suicidal tendencies.

Being homeless in a Time of Covid highlights how unhealthy, psychologically-stressing, and legally-precarious these days are. There is no social distancing when six or seven people share a campfire, a can of beans and smokes.

Now imagine that homelessness is coupled with the state of being homelandness.

Lighting Up Latin America – Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Assn

There should not be a question of legal or illegal immigration. People came and immigrated to this country from the time of the Indians. No one’s illegal. They should just be able to come.

— Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt has come a long way from home | Music | tucson.com

Guatemalans might be staying four-families-to-a-beat-up-RV on the Oregon Coast, but not speaking English, appearing like “the other” and having not only no cash reserves but also zero confidence in accessing local (and governmental) food and financial aid add up to be literal hunger.

Social Justice Starts with Who You Associate With!

Ironically, I use singer Linda Ronstadt’s quote “declaring there are no illegal aliens” because after my family moved to the US from stints in the Azores, Germany, France and UK, we ended up in Tucson, Arizona of all places.

I learned how to make tamales and mole from aunts and cousins of Linda’s. She even swept into one of these kitchen forays and planted a kiss on my forehead. Que lindo. Un chico hippie blanco haciendo tamales con mis tías (How cute. A white hippy boy making tamales with my aunties.)

Her brother Peter was Tucson’s Police Chief when I was a reporter there and in southern Arizona. His policies were virtually hands-off on immigrants, with or without papers.

I’ve been on this battle line for social justice in Latin America since age 19, when I was active as a student journalist and activist against US military aid to El Salvador and Guatemala. Then, a few years later, I was working in Southern Arizona as a reporter for a small newspaper group owned by a family. The two dailies — Bisbee Review &  Sierra Vista Dispatch — and a few other weeklies were run by two quirky brothers. My stories often times were front page doozies.

Tombstone Epitaph Newspaper Building, 1927 | Special Collections

It was a crazy time for a young newspaper journalist:  In the morning covering the Bisbee rose club, and then five hours later, on the scene covering the drug tunnel found connecting Agua Prieta with Douglas. Funky stories about fence-jumping turquoise pirates getting into abandoned mine shafts at the Copper Queen open pit, to covering one of the deepest exploratory oil wells our near Tombstone. Drug-running, gunrunning, and nuts and bolts county planning and zoning. I interviewed Jesse Jackson when he came out to our neck of the desert to help settle down the Cochise County Sheriff Department going after a group of African Americans they were serving papers on.

Google: The Miracle Valley shootout and a confrontation between members of the Christ Miracle Healing Center and Church (CMHCC) and Cochise County law enforcement and Miracle Valley, Arizona.

Kick-ass stuff for a reporter, having just gotten back from a year in Scotland and Europe, part of a trip to be a writer after spending four years at the University of Arizona, the college daily, and the school’s lab newspaper in Tombstone (The Epitaph).

Just a few months after Europe, I was part of the news-gathering brethren penning these sorts of headlines: “Salvadorans Fight Over Urine . . .  14 Border Crossers Die in Arizona Desert, Organ Pipe National Monument.”

That was July 5, 1980. I was 23 years old.

Crossing Borders, Crossing Philosophical Lines

I was in the thick of things journalistically, working with literally homeless-homelandless people, some individuals spending thousands of dollars to coyotes to get them across that bullshit borderline. Earlier, in my senior year of high school, I had met Chileans living in Tucson who were here through the good graces of activist miniseries. Because of these adults’ leftist college activities, union membership and outspoken positions against right-wing despotism and violence — the Pinochet years – many were imprisoned, and some lost loved ones and comrades to the general’s death squads.

Eventually, I ended up in the Highlands of Guatemala, and along the US-Guatemala border. More than 200,000 Guatemalans were murdered in the dirty wars, a system of genocide fed by the USA and its “foreign” policies and School of the Americas at Fort Benning.

Then, in El Paso two years later, I was a graduate student at the University, I worked with refugees at Ruben Garcia’s Annunciation House and wrote some stories for both the El Paso Times and the now defunct El Paso Herald-Post on the good work at Ruben’s sanctuary.

Guatemala - Why Are So Many Guatemalans Migrating to the U.S. ...

I taught college classes in prisons and also part of a college program for children of migrant workers.

Ruben Garcia Opens The Door To Humanity | The City Magazine

My tutelage in covering varying levels of homeless and homelandless was fast and furious!

Fast-forward, and I skim through many years in activism — revolutionary social work, education, environmental journalism, more. I worked with adults living with developmental disabilities for United Cerebral Palsy of Southern Washington and Oregon, with Foster Youth teens as case manager for Life Works NW, and with homeless veterans and their families for the Salvation Army.

Oh yeah, I was with Portland’s Big Kahuna of homeless and addiction services —  Central City Concern — as an employment counselor.

I was working with people I consider to be brothers/sisters/comrades – “detritus” the rich, the beautiful people, mainstream and even social services folk might call them. Or I’ve heard “the dregs of society,” “bottom of the barrel,” and from those a bit more evolved on the human scale, “those disenfranchised humans.”

In every case over the decades, I worked with people who either had no home (prison, transitional housing, foster homes are not homes) or who were looking for a better home than their dangerous and precarious situations beheld.

Many moons have passed, and, lo and behold, I have been on the Oregon Coast with my spouse since December 2018, after going toe-to-toe with the “Starvation Army” in Beaverton on some really corrupt leadership decisions and dangerous situations in which these poverty pimps put both the clients and staff.

One thing led to another. I was quickly working as a substitute K12 teacher in Lincoln County; I created my own column in the arts and entertainment rag, Oregon Coast Today; wrote for the Newport News Times (now it’s pro bono because of dropped ad revenues); and, now, going on one year, manage for both Lincoln and Jefferson counties an anti-poverty program for Family Independence Initiative.

I am working with low income households in a state-supported social capital research project. Families or individuals living in Lincoln and Jefferson counties receive $840 each for a year to do monthly 10-minute “journaling.”

Guatemala - Why Are So Many Guatemalans Migrating to the U.S. ...

Love and Death in a Time of Panic-Demic!

Things have changed since the SARS-CV-2, as the non-profit I work for as a 1099 contractor is now distributing (and helping other non-profits distribute) $32 million in places like Chicago, Boston, Seattle and Detroit. These are cash assistance lump sums: so-called unconditional cash transfers. Starbucks a la Schulz has thrown in with a $500-per-person Covid fund ($6 million total) for King County; and other cities like Boston, Chicago and Detroit are having FII move millions of bucks for each household to receive a $2,400 cash transfer.

My months working with families, face to face, at various places like the housing authority’s Ocean Spray Family Center in Newport, and the libraries throughout the county, as well as Homeless Education Literacy Project, have put me front and center close to my roots in Mexico and Central America.

I have talked to many immigrants who have come from Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

There is an underground labor network, shadow economy, cash under the table mode of work. There are people who are supporting Guatemalans with translators and help navigating the school systems for their children.

Chapina Express - Los Angeles Food Trucks - Roaming Hunger

Earth Day 2020 Zoomed

I am also involved in the American Cetacean Society and other movements in the county tied to Surfrider beach clean-ups and the legal process of banning aerial spraying of agent orange-like herbicides onto clear-cuts. I was asked to be a speaker on the Zoom Earth Day 2020, and in that planning, it was obvious to me I was back with what I term Greenie Weenies/Meanies.

I was told that “putting a downer” on the Zoom Earth Day event would be a no-no. This is the sort of group-think silliness and reckless false hope I have been dealing with since, err, I was 13 living in Paris with my mom and sister while my US Army old man was in Vietnam shooting brown people.

Then, a day after that April 22 event, I end up talking to Ginger Gouveia, who is working with Guatemalans, who are homeless and precarious, AND starving in Lincoln County. Thanks to the deadly combination of Obama-Trump-ICE-Racism-Lockdown.

This is really what ecological social justice is about. Nothing in the current mainstream and big green environmental movement in the USA gets the class divide, the power of poverty to tear at the soul of a country, the globe.

And to cut into our Guatemalan neighbors.

Trump threatens Guatemala after its court blocks asylum deal with ...

Here’s Ginger’s letter to me:

I am writing to you as a member the group, Acompañar Relief Fund.  We are concerned citizens who are seeking donations on behalf of immigrants who have lost their jobs and do not qualify for any assistance.  All of whom have been hard working asylum seekers with families.  Our focus is on providing as many families as we can with some food assistance.

Since starting this fundraiser, we have been grateful for the generosity of our community, friends and families. The need is GREAT and our goal is to be able to include as many families as possible.  This population will not recover for many months and will not receive any financial assistance, no stimulus check and no unemployment. We are looking for ways to continue providing some support for as long as this financial disaster continues.

This week we were able to give $60, or gift cards, as well as rice and beans and some Masa to 20 families.  The families with the greatest need are being referred by agencies working with them.

Sincerely, Ginger Gouveia, Acompañar Coordinator

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.” – Karl Marx

Marx’s quote is taken out of context. He did see religion like opium which, of course, benefits for the sick and ailing —  it reduces people’s immediate suffering and provides them with pleasant illusions giving them the strength to carry on.

Almost all Guatemalans coming to USA, Oregon and Lincoln county place religion as both panacea and strength, community and spiritual sustenance.  In the past few years many unaccompanied minors and women with children from Central America have been crossing the border (at a rate of 180,000 per year). These are Mayans. Not the gringo Latin Americans. These are the Native Americans.

University of Oregon Professor Lynn Stephen has documented threats of violence, extortion, and torture against children and indigenous Guatemalan women whose husbands leave to go north:

“They’re leaving them in vulnerable, unprotected positions in communities. If you don’t have a male protector, women and children may become marks.”  Hundreds have ended up in Lane County and many others are in the Portland area.

“This is when it’s most amazing when it’s young people who are 15, 16, 14, deciding on their own to leave. My youngest son is 16. I can’t imagine what it would be like for him to make the journey,” Stephen said.

Rising hate drives Latinos and immigrants into silence | Cronkite News

These are cautious people, and the people working with refugees do not want to be named or identified in this anti-immigrant climate.

Gangs in Guatemala keep tabs on the new arrivals: harassment and extortion are common for the families back home when the gangs find out money is being sent to Guatemala by those working and living in the US.

Living close by, worshiping together, and being part of the shadow economy is how Guatemalans in Oregon survive, and thrive. Forming their own churches and then creating that kind of community is commonplace.

Right now, in Lincoln County, there isn’t enough support coming in to support Guatemalans. Churches are asking for help, per Ginger’s plea for donations.

No proporciona ningun beneficio en EUA….

That was the public service announcement mantra under the Obama Administration – USA does not provide any benefits.

U.S. pressure on Mexico to interdict refugees was pulled back for a few years and so many refugee workers have seen a new wave of Central Americans coming to Oregon. Many of those that got political asylum are still in Oregon.

They set down roots, enroll kids in schools, become part of the fabric of our towns and cities. With the lockdown and pandemic hitting the world and here in Lincoln County, our Central American homelandless brothers and sisters are struggling. These are valuable humans on their own accord, but invaluable as part of our community.

A while back, I read a letter to the editor of the Newport News Times railing against Oregon Coast Community College nominating an undocumented as Student of the Year. He was Guatemalan. He spoke eloquently at the podium why he came here and how he wanted to better his life.

The letter writer bashed this young person’s character. He brought up the old canard of having no papers is breaking the law. He called it a slap in the face to all the students who go to the college who were here “legally.” He felt the Guatemalan college graduate should not have been recognized!

In the end, we all are so-called illegal aliens – those with no Native American roots. That includes all the slaves forcefully brought to these shores. All those Spanish, French, Portuguese, and English armies and any number of people who immigrated here, either with paperwork or without.

All uninvited guests with no preapproval and passports given to them by the great First Nations tribes.

No one asked the Confederated Tribes of Siletz if the pioneers could come rushing into Oregon to steal their ancestral land.

It is 2020, a year that beguiles us all. Certainly, many of us five decades ago had 2020 vision about what would happen under predatory-parasitic-casino-disaster-neoliberal-neocon capitalism.  Yet now, in this 21st Century, there is obvious myopia and, worse, enabled blindness when it comes to really deal with this pandemic fairly, justly: it takes a village, state and country to raise a community, and the same to deal with pandemics.

I learn everyday from Guatemalans, including one of the country’s poets.

  • First, here are some Guatemala proverbs that say it all in a few words each –
  • Better to eat beans in peace than to eat meat in distress.
  • Do not bear ill will toward those who tell you the truth.
  • Everyone is the age of their heart.
  • It’s not the fault of the parrot, but of the one who teaches him to talk.
  • There’s no ill that doesn’t turn out for the better.
  • Your true enemy lives in your own house.

Better yet, a poem by Guatemala’s most famous poet who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1967: Miguel Angel Asturias. According to The Review of Contemporary Fiction, “Asturia was a man who believed deeply in maintaining Native American culture in Guatemala, and who championed those who were persecuted. His literature was critically acclaimed, but perhaps not always appreciated. As an artist, his complexity is such that readers and critics often shy away from his elegant beauty.

Caudal (The Fortune)

To give is to love,
To give prodigiously:
For every drop of water
To return a torrent.

We were made that way,
Made to scatter
Seeds in the furrow
And stars in the ocean.

Woe to him, Lord,
who doesn’t exhaust his supply,
And, on returning, tells you:
“Like an empty satchel

Is my heart.”

Miguel Ángel Asturias - Pueblo e Historia de Guatemala

Who Answers When a National Crisis Comes Calling?

I define a “national crisis” as a calamitous event that imperils the overall well-being of the nation’s citizenry. For America, I suppose there could be several answers depending on the crisis: The President, the National Guard, the military, the Department of Homeland Security. In this article I am going to focus on some instances where the President’s answer was not the right one, and end with a President giving the right answer.

Take the case of FDR, for instance, and his answering the nation’s call with his New Deal policies and programs after the First Great Depression. The popular belief and the opinion of some scholarly economists is that the New Deal rescued America. Not so at all, writes Jim Powell, in his 2003 book, FDR’s Folly, How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression. Mr. Powell is a Senior Fellow at the Cato Institute, a libertarian “think tank.” What helped relieve the depressed economy was America’s involvement in WWII, a war that FDR contrived to arrange U.S. involvement by deliberately provoking Japan with embargoes and other hostile actions.

Abraham Lincoln did not answer the call over the Civil War, probably the most disastrous crisis ever within America’s boundaries. Indeed, he was a racist who started the war to preserve the Union so that it would be imperialistically strong enough to exploit the nation’s resources.

Woodrow Wilson did not answer the call during the Spanish flu pandemic that infected 500 million people around the world and that killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people. He downplayed the pandemic and forced America’s soldiers to continue fighting his unnecessary war.

George W. Bush answered the call when hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, but his answer was not on behalf of the devastated residents. He sent in the bungling Department of Homeland Security, the fast growing bureaucratic and incompetent Federal agency, and, to add insult to injury, let the public-school system be privatized and ripped off along with leaving thousands of teachers suddenly without jobs. The hurricane washed away many homes in vulnerable areas, leaving thousands of suddenly homeless and impoverished citizens sequestered in the Superdome that quickly became a cesspool.

And did George W. Bush answer the call during America’s Second Great Depression of 2008? It was caused solely by the avarice and wrongdoing of the financial industry that plummeted millions of Americans into financial distress, His answer was hugely discriminatory. He played favorites. So, his sole priority was to bail out the financial industry and he ignored the plight of Mr. and Ms. America. Well, after all, he did descend from banksters.

Let’s now consider an exception, one in which the U.S. president actually did answer the call on behalf of Mr. and Ms. America, Donald J. Trump. Consider what he has done for the American people in response to the current pandemic crisis. His response is in stark contrast to his predecessors. I received a check from the U.S. Treasury entitled, “Economic Income Payment.” I never got anything from President George W. Bush, nor did any other ordinary Americans. They mostly got economic misery of personal indebtedness and burdened with holding down two jobs.

As for his handling of the pandemic crisis, despite much criticism and many jokes about it, he certainly is less irresponsible and incompetent than the overly funded, bureaucratic World Health Organization that fumbled the call. And his much maligned and derided comments about injecting disinfectants was off the cuff and followed the comments made by a Mr. Bryan, acting undersecretary for science and technology at the swamp, Department of Homeland Security, who told about tests purportedly showing that sunlight and disinfectants like bleach can kill the novel coronavirus on surfaces.” Perhaps most ire and derision ought to be directed at Bryan.

Obviously, Trump haters are going to hate my choice of Trump as a rare exemplar. One already has by telling me this:

You’ve got to be kidding, Gary. What has Trump done about the Covid-19 pandemic? First of all, he ignored warnings that it was coming by several months. As he has done throughout his presidency, he has lied and is unwilling to admit his mistakes.

He gives out false information and bogus cures that have led to the deaths of people that believe he knows what he is talking about. He has encouraged defying of governors who are trying to protect their constituents.

He has fired top scientists with knowledge about the coronavirus. He has been wrong every step of the way, claiming the virus would be over soon and that Democrats were making it up to discredit him. He has failed to supply test kits and other useful medical supplies.

I can go on and on, but why bother? It is obvious that Trump is way over his head with this crisis and has been wrong every step of the way. All this is obvious, Gary. What happened to your critical thinking skills?

End of scurrilous quote. And here was my rebuttal:

It’s good to hear from you, my friend, despite your rather insulting question at the end about my critical thinking skills. But rather than be offended, I will simply respond relying on my critical thinking skills, which are as sharp as ever even at my advanced age.

Rabid Trump haters are so blinded emotionally they cannot see or refuse to see the positive side of the man. Here are three positives as I appreciate them. 1. He has killed far fewer people on foreign lands than any of his predecessors. 2 His immigration policy is absolutely the correct one, because, as I have written about, immigration was instituted for two malevolent reasons, to get cheap labor and to keep the nation divided culturally. 3. He shredded NAFTA that was choking our friends south of the border.

End of quote. And end of article with this closing remark: Thank you, Dissident Voice, for allowing me to be so dissident here!

If Farm Workers Are “Essential,” Why Are They Treated So Badly?

On March 19, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, spurred to action by the coronavirus pandemic, issued a memorandum that identified the nation’s 2.5 million farm workers as “essential” workers.  Soon thereafter, agribusinesses began distributing formal letters to their farm laborers, also declaring that that they were “essential.”

Of course, it shouldn’t have required a government-business effort to establish this point.  Without farm workers, there is no food.  And the American people need food to survive.

But, remarkably, over the course of U.S. history, farm workers, although essential, have been terribly mistreated.  Whether as slaves, indentured servants, sharecroppers, or migrant laborers, these millions of hardworking people endured harsh and brutal lives, enriching others while living (and usually dying) in poverty.

Nor is the situation very different today.  Farm labor remains hard, grinding physical toil, often requiring long hours of bending and repetitive motion to gather crops under conditions of extreme heat.  Back strain, poisoning by pesticides, and other injuries, sometimes leading to death, contribute to making agriculture one of the nation’s most hazardous industries.  Employment is often seasonal or otherwise precarious.

Some problems hit portions of the farm labor force particularly hard.  Roughly half of all farm workers are undocumented immigrants, a status that places them in constant fear of being arrested, deported, and separated from their families.   Furthermore, women farm workers face high levels of sexual harassment, thereby confronting them with the difficult choice of reporting it and facing the possibility of being fired or remaining silent and allowing the harassment to continue.

In recent decades, the federal government has prosecuted numerous growers and labor traffickers in the Southeastern United States for what one U.S. attorney called “slavery, plain and simple.”  These cases revealed farm workers were lured to the United States under false pretenses and, then, deprived of their passports, chained, held under armed guard, and forced to work.  If they refused, they were threatened with violence, beaten, drugged, raped, pistol whipped, and even shot.  In 2015, President Obama awarded the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, which exposed these practices, the Presidential Award for Extraordinary Efforts in Combatting Modern Day Slavery.

Although people performing some of the hardest and most essential work in the United States certainly seem to deserve a break―or at least reasonable compensation―they have not received it.  In 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a quarter of all farm workers had a family income below the official poverty level, while most of the others teetered just above it.  Most of them were forced to rely on at least one public assistance program.  Even after some of the more progressive states raised the state minimum wage, the average wages of farm workers remained abysmal.  In 2019, they earned only a little more than half the hourly pay rate of all American workers.

Moreover, they now face enormous danger from the coronavirus pandemic.  Greg Asbed, a leading voice for agricultural laborers, has pointed out that, for farm workers, “the two most promising measures for protecting ourselves from the virus and preventing its spread―social distancing and self-isolation―are virtually impossible.”  Many farm workers live, crowded together, in decrepit, narrow trailers or barracks, ride to and from their workplaces in crowded buses, have little access to water and soap once in the fields, and cook and shower in the same cramped housing facility.  Rapid contagion is almost inevitable, and very few have access to healthcare of any kind.

Despite the heightened danger, though, working―even working while sick―is the only practical option for farm workers, for, given their impoverishment, they cannot afford to be unemployed.  Very few receive paid sick days.  Some, to be sure, will be assisted by the one-time $1,200 payment Congress voted for members of low and middle income families.  But undocumented workers, who constitute so many of the nation’s millions of farm workers, are excluded from the provisions of that legislation.  Nor are undocumented workers eligible for unemployment insurance―although, of course, they pay the taxes that fund these programs, as well as the programs that are now bailing out America’s multi-billion dollar industries.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is getting set to deliver yet another blow to farm workers.  Almost a tenth of that work force is comprised of Mexican guest workers, legally admitted to the United States for short periods under the U.S. Agriculture Department’s H-2A program.  As America’s big agricultural growers are perennially short of laborers to harvest their crops, they have pressed hard for the admission of these guest workers.  But they dislike the fact that, to avoid undercutting the wages of American workers, the H-2A program sets the wage level for guest workers at local American wage standards.  And in states like California, the state’s rising minimum wage has lifted the wages of farm workers considerably beyond the pitiful federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.  As a result, the growers have fought for years to reduce the wages paid to guest workers.  Finally, in April 2020, the news broke that their dream of cheap labor would soon be realized, for the Trump administration is now laying plans to lower the guest worker wage rate to $8.34 an hour.  These plans, made at the same time that farmers and ranchers are about to receive a $16 billion federal bailout, will cut between $2 and $5 per hour from the pay of guest farm workers.

Naturally, small labor organizations like the United Farm Workers, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and the Farm Labor Organizing Committee are fiercely resisting the continued exploitation of the 2.5 million people who grow and harvest America’s food.  But there are severe limits to their power, given the greed of the agribusiness industry, plus the nakedly pro-business policies of the Trump administration and its Republican allies in Congress and many states.  For the time being, at least, farm workers seem likely to remain essential, but expendable.

Love Thy Neighbor: One Woman’s Fight for Her Husband

Aspire not to have more, but to be more.

— Oscar Romero

Counting your lucky stars is many times a matter of perspective. I am so honored to have traveled to El Salvador in 1984. I was not happy with the death and destruction I witnessed.

I met beautiful people there. However, there was rampant killing by military death squads. Just four years earlier, March 24, 1980, the Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, while giving mass, was murdered by US-backed military.

For Madras, Oregon, mother of four, Ana Maria Mejia, her husband’s deportation to El Salvador earlier this year – right before the CV-19 viral outbreak – has left her in a triple-state of trauma.

She’s 35 and Moises, her husband, is 37. He is now living with his mother in the town of San Luis Talpa. He has to keep his head down.

“My counselor has asked me what does my world look like if my husband doesn’t come back,” Ana said.

That question is riddled with anxiety. She told me she takes an anti-anxiety prescription because of years of stress tied to the threat of her husband’s deportation.

For now, ICE and the immigration laws have barred Moises for five years from reentry to the US.

For the time being, Ana is working at home with four children under her wings. They live in a mobile home, and her oldest daughter, Amanda (she turns 11 April 25), is an anchor for the other three children —  Katalina, 2, Natalie, 5, and Samuel, 10 months.

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Ana’s story is rich with the power of a Latina who is steeled to weather a very trying time. Amanda asked her mother who I was while Ana answered my questions. “Well, aren’t you going to tell him about me, the miracle child?”

That miracle occurred at her birth when she was c-sectioned into this world with the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck three times. She aspirated, and was helicopter-lifted to the hospital in Bend. Those facilities weren’t equipped to handle the neonatal case, Ana said, so the newborn Amanda was jet lifted to Emanuel Hospital in Portland.

“We were put up at the Ronald McDonald House for a month.”

Ana had the support of her husband, Moises.

Crossing Many Borders

The trip for her husband from El Salvador included crossing into Piedras Negras, where ICE arrested him but released him the same day, as Moises reported he has family in California. That was March 2005.

Moises went to live with an aunt in California. He ended up coming to Madras and worked on farms, one being in Spray. He was the head breadwinner of the growing family. He has set down many roots in Jefferson County.

Ana was born in Los Angeles to a mother who had just come to the US as a widow, nine months pregnant with Ana.

She was from San Miguel del Comitlan in the state of Guerro. Her mother was undocumented, worked in a textile factory, and she eventually moved to Madras with a bunch of other people. “She worked in the fields, and it’s been 32 years, and she still works in agriculture at age sixty.”

During the Ronald Reagan presidency, amnesty was offered to Mexican workers, and her mother jumped on that.

Fast-forward to April 2005. Ana was working for H & R Block as a client services professional. She had a second job at a medical clinic.

In came in Moises Mejia, who needed a translator. He returned the following week, and he hit it off with Ana.

“He found out where I worked at this clinic and surprised me with roses. I wasn’t really ready for a relationship. But he told me he pictured us together. Together married with a family.”

That same year, they were married, Nov. 3, 2007.

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Return to Sender?

The order for deportation was issued the same year Moises came into the country. After Amanda was borne, Ana said they wanted to know how to petition for his permanent residency.

While working in Spray, OR, in 2014, Moises was stopped for a traffic violation. The police officer did a background check and saw there was a warrant for his arrest.

ICE arrested him, took him the ICE facility in Tacoma, WA, and in three weeks he was released because Ana was pregnant with Natalie.

The process of hiring immigration lawyers has taken both a financial and mental toll on the family. Ana told me she has been seeing a counselor because of the stress of deportation hanging over them. Now that Moises has been deported, the trauma has increased many times. All three children are also receiving counseling for a type of PTSD.

Thousands of dollars spent on lawyers, and hundreds more for the trips to Eugene and Portland to check in with ICE, and then the expenses of filing petitions – she is stressed by the financial ruin looming on the horizon.

Ana and Moises are embedded in several communities in Jefferson County. Moises had been working for Jim, who has a small privately owned air pump company. Ana says Jim and his wife Karen consider them as family. Part of the legal fees were paid by Jim, Moises’ employer of four years. Five dozen eggs from Jim and Karen’s chickens get delivered to the mobile home.

This case is emblematic of a paperwork hell, as well as injustice tied to missing a court date.

Fleeing Violence, Fleeing Death

Refugee status was a given to Moises’ brother and the children of another brother who was murdered in El Salvador by the international gang, Calle 18 (also known as Barrio 18, Mara 18, or simply La 18).

Even when Moises was a kid (he was born two years before I visited EL Salvador), there was a lot of violence perpetrated by military death squads. Moises has become a bus driver (his uncle owned the transportation business) and attended school to be a mechanic.

Ana’s never met her mother-in-law – they have talked on the phone and exchanged photographs. Ana says her mother-in-law is highly devoted to her church. She wants her son to go back to Madras “where he belongs with his wife and four children.”

For Ana, her goals have not been put on hold – she is an early childhood development student with Central Oregon Community College. She works for Early Head Start through the Oregon Childhood Development Commission.

“What are you going to do next is a question my counselor keeps asking me. It’s not easy to think about. I can’t move to El Salvador with my four children. What kind of education would they get there? It’s not safe. His brother was murdered, shot in the head in 2009. That is no life for me and my children.”

I met Ana through the non-profit program I am heading up, both in Lincoln County and Jefferson County. Family Independence Initiative of Oregon is a pilot project collecting valuable stories from working families in exchange for $840 for one-year participation.

The quarterly deposit of $175 I had just put into her account precipitated Ana to contact me. She told me the money helped her make a car payment. She also is attempting to get more people in Jefferson County to sign up, or at least to email me.

I was thinking about El Salvador before I embarked on interviewing Ana. Another Oscar Romero quote comes to mind: “The ones who have a voice must speak for those who are voiceless.” This is profound, especially for the Madras Pioneer, if they eventually let me publish this story about Ana and Moises.

Ana sings in the choir at St. Patrick’s, and she is part of a large volunteer contingent. She states her social capital in Madras and surrounding communities is deep. Many people at her church have offered help.

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What she learns everyday about the situation in El Salvador is valuable to her own friends and family who are from that country. The quarantining measures there are much tighter than those in the US.

I’m also thinking about my own involvement in protesting the US involvement in the politics and military of El Salvador. The Salvadoran Civil War lasted from October 1979 to January 1992. I still have one of the pamphlets the Salvador military was passing out in the countryside — the infamous “Be a patriot! Kill a priest!” pamphlet.

I’m also involved in the literary arts in Oregon. April is National Poetry month, and I am recalling Carolyn Forché, an American poet, translator, and memoirist. Her books of poetry are In the Lateness of the World, Blue Hour, The Angel of History, The Country Between Us, and Gathering the Tribes. Her memoir, What You Have Heard Is True, was published by Penguin Press in 2019.

I don’t know if Moises knows about this American who lived in El Salvador for some of those years.  Forché’s now legendary poem, “The Colonel,” describes a harrowing dinner with a Salvadoran military officer. Her a memoir is about her political education during those years. The title, What You Have Heard Is True, is from the first line of the poem “The Colonel.”

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A quick Q & A

Paul Haeder: What did you do as a family before Moises was deported?

Ana Maria Mejia: We spent time enjoying the outdoors. Going to the park, taking our children to play. We always we watched fireworks on the 4th of July. We were always going out, including the fair and my children enjoyed petting farm animals and the carnival portion. We went to movies with our children and went to our friends and family gatherings

PH: What gives you strength?

AM: What gives me strength is my faith in God and my family.

PH: When I say “community,” what comes to your mind?

AM: Community is culture, diversity opportunities, welcoming, sheltering family and home stability. It’s a group of people gathering to connect together to affirm we all are in this together. It doesn’t matter the religion, race, color or where you’re from or what language you speak, we all come together.

PH: Tell people why your husband (like thousands of other wives and husbands) deserves to be repatriated to the USA?

AM: My husband deserves to be back to this country because he is a hard worker and he is not a criminal. He is a number one provider for our family. My children and I need him to be with us. No family should be separated.

PH: What do you love about Madras, and Oregon?

AM: I love Madras because I lived here all my life. I was brought over from Los Angeles California and to me Madras is my hometown. I love the community because there’s a lot of people that are very supportive of schools. Also, there’s a lot of great events that my family and I enjoy going to and being a part of.

PH: What does your older daughter want to do when she grows up? Does she know?

AM: At the moment my older daughter does not know what she wants to do when she grows up, but she enjoys drawing, music, and dancing. Art inspires her.

 

Mexico’s President AMLO Shows How It’s Done

While U.S. advocates and local politicians struggle to get their first public banks chartered, Mexico’s new president has begun construction on 2,700 branches of a government-owned bank to be completed in 2021, when it will be the largest bank in the country. At a press conference on January 6, he said the neoliberal model had failed; private banks were not serving the poor and people outside the cities, so the government had to step in.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO) has been compared to the United Kingdom’s left-wing opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, with one notable difference: AMLO is now in power. He and his left-​wing coalition won by a landslide in Mexico’s 2018 general election, overturning the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that had ruled the country for much of the past century. Called Mexico’s “first full-fledged left-wing experiment,” AMLO’s election marks a dramatic change in the political direction of the country. AMLO wrote in his 2018 book A New Hope for Mexico: “In Mexico the governing class constitutes a gang of plunderers…. Mexico will not grow strong if our public institutions remain at the service of the wealthy elites.”

The new president has held to his campaign promises. In 2019, his first year in office, he did what Donald Trump pledged to do — “drain the swamp” — purging the government of technocrats and institutions he considered corrupt, profligate or impeding the transformation of Mexico after 36 years of failed market-focused neoliberal policies. Other accomplishments have included substantially increasing the minimum wage while cutting top government salaries and oversize pensions; making small loans and grants directly to farmers; guaranteeing crop prices for key agricultural crops; launching programs to benefit youth, the disabled and the elderly; and initiating a $44 billion infrastructure plan. López Obrador’s goal, he says, is to construct a “new paradigm” in economic policy that improves human welfare, not just increases gross domestic product.

The End of the Neoliberal Era

To deliver on that promise, in July 2019 AMLO converted the publicly owned federal savings bank Bansefi into a “Bank of the Poor” (Banco del Bienestar or “Welfare Bank”). He said on January 6 that the neoliberal era had eliminated all the state-owned banks but one, which he had gotten approval to expand with 2,700 new branches. Added to the existing 538 branches of the former Bansefi, that will bring the total in two years to 3,238 branches, far outstripping any other bank in the country. (Banco Azteca, currently the largest by number of branches, has 1,860.) Digital banking will also be developed. Speaking to a local group in December, AMLO said his goal was for the Bank of the Poor to reach 13,000 branches, more than all the private banks in the country combined.

At a news conference on January 8, he explained why this new bank was needed:

There are more than 1,000 municipalities that don’t have a bank branch. We’re dispersing [welfare] resources but we don’t have a way to do it.  . . . People have to go to branches that are two, three hours away. If we don’t bring these services close to the people, we’re not going to bring development to the people. …

They’re already building. I’ll invite you within two months, three at the most, to the inauguration of the first branches because they’re already working, they’re getting the land … because we have to do it quickly.

The president said the 10 billion pesos ($530.4 million) needed to build the new branches would come from government savings; and that 5 million had already been transferred to the Banco del Bienestar, which would pass the funds to the Secretariat of Defense, whose engineers were responsible for construction. The military will also be used to transport physical funds to the branches for welfare payments. AMLO added: “They are helping me. They are propping me up. The military has behaved very well and they don’t back down at all. They always tell me ‘yes you can, yes we do, go.’ ”

To concerns that the government-owned bank would draw deposits away from commercial banks and might compete in other ways, such as making interest-free loans to small businesses, AMLO countered:

There’s no reason to be complaining about us building these branches. … [I]f private banks want to build branches, they have every right to go to the towns and build their branches, but as they won’t because they believe that it’s not [good] business, we have to do it . . . it’s our social responsibility, the state can’t shirk its social responsibility.

Issues with the Central Bank

While the legislature has approved the new bank, Mexico’s central bank can still block it if bank regulations are breached. Ricardo Delfín, who works at the international accounting firm KPMG, told the newspaper La Razón that if the money to fund the bank comes from a loan from the federal government rather than from capital, it will adversely affect the bank’s “Capitalization Ratio.” But AMLO contends that the bank will be self-sufficient. Funding for construction will come from federal savings from other programs, and the bank’s operating expenses will be covered by small commissions paid on each transaction by customers, most of whom are welfare recipients. Branches will be built on land owned by the government or donated, and software companies have offered to advise for free.

About the central bank, he said:

We’re going to speak with those from the Bank of México respecting the autonomy of the Bank of México. We have to educate them because for them this is an anachronism, even sacrilege, because they have other ideas. But we’ve arrived here [in government] after telling the people that the neoliberal economic policy was going to change. . . .

There shouldn’t be obstacles. How is the Bank of México going to stop us from having a [bank] branch that disperses resources in favor of the people? What damage does that do? Whom does it harm?

AMLO has repeatedly promised not to interfere in the business of the central bank, which has been autonomous for the past quarter of a century. But he has also said that he would like its mandate expanded from just preserving the value of the peso by fighting inflation to include fostering growth. The concern, according to The Financial Times, is that he might use the central bank to fund government programs, following in the footsteps of Argentina’s former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, “whose heterodox policies led to high inflation and, many economists believe, the country’s current crisis.”

Mark Weisbrot counters in The New York Times that Argentina’s problems were caused, not by printing money to fund domestic development, but by a massive foreign debt. Hyperinflation actually happened under Fernández de Kirchner’s successor, President Mauricio Macri, who replaced her in 2015. The public debt grew from 53% to more than 86% of GDP, inflation soared from 18% to 54%, short-term interest rates shot up to 75%, and poverty increased from 27% to 40%.

In an upset election in August 2019, the outraged Argentinian public re-elected Fernández de Kirchner as vice president and her former head of the cabinet of ministers as president, restoring the 12-year Kirchner legacy begun by her husband, Nestor Kirchner, in 2003 and considered by Weisbrot to be among the most successful presidencies in the Western Hemisphere.

More appropriate than Argentina as a model for what can be achieved by a government working in partnership with its central bank is that of Japan, where Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has funded his stimulus programs by selling government bonds directly to the Bank of Japan. The BOJ now holds nearly 50% of the government’s debt, yet consumer price inflation remains low — so low that the BOJ cannot get the figure up even to its 2% target.

Other Funding Options

AMLO is unlikely to go that route, because he has vowed not to interfere with the central bank; but analysts say he needs to introduce some sort of economic stimulus, because Mexico’s GDP has slipped in the last year. The Mexican president has criticized GDP as the ultimate standard, advocating instead for a model of development that incorporates wealth distribution and access to education, health, housing and culture into its measurements.

But as Kurt Hackbarth warned in Jacobin in December, “To fully unfurl [his] program without simply ransacking other line items to pay for it will require doing something AMLO has up to now categorically ruled out: raising taxes on the rich and large corporations which, not surprisingly, make out like utter bandits in Mexico’s rigged financial system.”

AMLO has continually vowed, however, not to raise taxes on the rich. Instead he has enlisted Mexico’s business magnates as investors in public-private partnerships, allowing him to avoid the “tequila trap” that brought down Argentina and Mexico itself in earlier years — getting locked into debt to foreign investors and the International Monetary Fund. Mexico’s business leaders seem happy to invest in the country, despite some slippage in GDP.

As noted by Carlos Slim, Mexico’s wealthiest man, “Debt didn’t go up, there is no fiscal deficit and inflation came down.” In November 2019, the Economy Secretariat reported that foreign direct investment showed a 7.8% increase in the first nine months of that year compared with the same period in 2018, reaching its second highest level ever; and at the end of 2019 the peso was up around 4%. Stocks also rose 4.5%, and inflation dropped from 4.8% to 3%.

Partnering with local business leaders is politically expedient, but public/private partnerships can be expensive; and as U.K. Professor Richard Werner points out, tapping up private investors merely recirculates existing money in the economy. Better would be to borrow directly from banks, which create new bank money when they lend, as the Bank of England has confirmed. This new money then circulates in the economy, stimulating productivity.

Today, the best model for that approach is China, which funds infrastructure by borrowing from its own state-owned banks. Like all banks, they create loans as bank credit on their books, which is then repaid with the proceeds of the projects created with the loans. There is no need to tap up the central bank or rich investors or the tax base. Government banks can create money on their books just as central banks and private banks do.

For Mexico, however, using its public banks as China does would be something for the future, if at all. Meanwhile, AMLO has been a trailblazer in showing how a national public banking system can be initiated quickly and efficiently. The key, it seems, is just to have the political will — along with massive support from the public, the legislature, local business leaders and the military.

This article was first posted on Truthdig.com.

Incredible Lightness of Quetzalcóatl

From the far distance sounded the muffled howling of a family of monkeys, monos gritones, passing the night in the crowns of the mighty trees. It echoed through the jungle like the roar of an angry mountain lion. Gruesome and terrifying, it seemed to tear the night apart, but it did not disturb the jungle. It sang and fiddled, chirped and whistled, whined and whimpered, rejoiced and lamented its ever-unchanging song with the constancy of the roaring sea.

B. Traven, “Trozas”

Note: This is part two in a series on Mexico and the passion and the glory of an American (me) rejiggering his relationship to finally yawn out of the swill of this sick North American consumer fiesta and move away. We’ll see how that unfolds, as I too am in the grip of viscous repeated battered country abuse syndrome!

*****

She holds onto her role as daughter in this patriarchal land — Mexico. Not sure how patriarchal it would have turned out if the Spanish sword, swine, syphilis, santos, holy see, germs had never set root in this New World.

She’s 52, unmarried, unable to birth progeny. She spent years in the USA to gain a stake so she might get a sliver of her father’s property for which to build a little casita.

Her brothers get the father’s and deceased mother’s land and small houses, small parcels. Claudia has a small school supply store in Axochiapan (her deceased mother’s for years) but she can’t make a living at it thanks to Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart and other box store cancers. She has her younger sister in Cuernavaca, and she works three jobs to barely survive with her technical degree in computer repair and IT. These two women — Claudia and Alejandra — have more “la capacidad” in their pinky fingers than all of America has in its jowls. Claudia was so broke she ended up buying 30 buenas noches (poinsettias for the Christmas time) to sell on the street in upscale neighborhoods in Cuernavaca. She made no sales as Land Rovers and Lexus coupes zoomed by.

The plague of propaganda, low prices, low quality, and brand loyalty has run rampant in this southern land, like dengue mosquitoes lighting upon the children while still in vitro.

Years ago, both Alejandra and Claudia spent time in a print plant in Gresham, Oregon, and most of their siblings had also thrown in around Portland, and many more hoofed it through the causeway to Minneapolis. Many made it to the El Norte without proper papers from the US Gestapo.

Claudia thinks sometime in 2020 she might be eligible to return to the USA. For Alejandra, that’s five years down the pike. We’ll vouch for and sponsor both of them.

Both are proud, smart, feminist, and self-determined. They are full of empathy, and would give the shirts off their backs to help friends, family, anyone in need.

They worked hard in El Norte, conjoined efforts, lived small, and saved money. Mexico was always in their dreams, and they were here to try and build something back home.

Back home, 90 years of bastard politicians in the two parties  — PAN and PRI —  literally have ripped off trillions from Mexico’s coffers;  and the bastards’ bastard, USA, El Yanqui, and the other financiers and the dirty industry honchos, all have a history of theft and murder, and are still readily staged to exploit, which is another word for steal.

Very little is allowed to be manufactured in Mexico — cars, buses, equipment, more. NAFTA allows for a pipeline of US-made and US-provisioned stuff that the Mexicans could easily produce. We all know what the NAFTA two-step American gut disease is.

Claudia’s hardy but sad, admitting to bouts of depression; and her friend, my spouse, came to see her for the very first time for a visit to Claudia’s homeland. To her small pueblo where cane fields, corn forests and a few cows populate the land. All of that, plus me, new in my spouse’s life with a trainload of history with Mexico, Latin America, La Raza, hatred of El Yanqui, created a unique mix of ingredients that bonded us quickly as we went through by car (a friend of Claudia’s rented a new KIA Sole to us cheap) and saw many parts of Morelos and Guerrero.

These are powerful rendezvouses you’ll never get from Holly-Dirt Netflix originals. This story is not closed, but it’s universal.

In the chaotic Stockholm Syndrome lives of North Americans, nothing about the struggle to overthrow the chains of Capitalism and crony corruption resonates since North America is one flagging mall-dragging country, where the population is compliant in the workplace, but mad as hell on the troll worlds of on-line “discourse.” Sort of the salt peter of revolution and real deterministic radical action — the world wide web; Holly-dirt; Youtube; the infantilism and Chlamydia of mainstream pop culture;  wacko political correctness; the four seasons of  24/7  violence for younger and younger males with their sweaty warped joysticks; the endless joke-joke of Americans relishing in their own stupidity and air power; the endless useless pedantics in academia, the courts, and the state department.

It is so real, how falsely revisionist the North American concept of history for this Turtle Island. Trump is the culmination of all of the superficiality, all the Ponzi schemes, all the bankruptcy courts, the insipid hubris of the stupid, all the PT Barnum hustle, all the smoke and mirrors, all the self-aggrandizement, all the narcissistic syndromes, all the puffed-up faux bravado of a man (and many MAGA men) who would last 10 seconds in a field with some of my former veterans who are mad as hell at the lies of empire, the lies at the top, the failure of ALL POTUS’s.

Not one has the capacity to understand “third” world people, or people in Mexico, or the races, the Indians, the tug of the white supremacists who launched their hairy bodies into Mesoamerica to play their swindle for King-Queen-Captain-Cardinal on a people who had pretty much figured out things for several millennia before the hordes of hustlers and rapists and murderers from Iberia and the Anglo lands penetrated their soil and jungles and bays.

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Cuernavaca

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry was one of my top 100 books a while back. It shows the anachronistic debased values of a British envoy, drunkard, impotent, and the the emerging pathogen of Nazism embraced by the industrialists and that included some in Mexico. The Power and the Glory, too, by Graham Greene. The passion, impassioning, and possessiveness of men. Macario and Treasure of Sierra Madre (B. Traven and John Huston books and scripts respectively) and Night of the Iguana.

Contemporary writers in Mexico and some of their well-known titles also inspire:

In Search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi.
The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel.
Diablo Guardián by Xavier Velasco.
Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos.
The Uncomfortable Dead by Paco Ignacio Taibo II and Subcomandante Marcos.
Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa.

More here, Mexico’s Finest Contemporary Writers: Tracing a Cultural Renaissance

More authors I’ve danced with during mescal-induced jaguar nights: Luis Spota, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Jaime Sabines, Martin Luis Guzman, and Valeria Luiselli.

And the simple poetics of Mexicans who were determined to break the yoke of the oppressors:

My sole ambition is to rid Mexico of the class that has oppressed her and given the people a chance to know what real liberty means. And if I could bring that about today by giving up my life, I would do it gladly.

Pancho Villa

In that first blow to the deaf walls of those who have everything, the blood of our people, our blood, ran generously to wash away injustice. To live, we die. Our dead once again walked the way of truth. Our hope was fertilized with mud and blood.

Subcomandante Marcos

Like all of Latin America, Mexico after independence in 1821 turned its back on a triple heritage: on the Spanish heritage, because we were newly liberated colonies, and on our Indian and black heritages, because we considered them backward and barbaric. We looked towards France, England and the U.S., to become progressive democratic republics.

— Carlos Fuentes

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My good friend from Tucson, John, who became bi-lingual early in his life before his three years as an Army LT,  ended marrying a woman from Cuernavaca. I was at the wedding 33 years ago. He’s got three daughters, and he’s been divorced a while. She came from upper class environs, and he was a Navy commander’s son living in the desert. He and I like our motorcycles, and he is now a translator on the international market, from home, via Skype, phone, what have you. He’s single again, living the desert rat life of many a gringo who has gotten a taste of Mexico in their blood and entwined it into his children’s DNA.

He forewarned me to not head to Cuernavaca or the State of Guerrero or anywhere away from the quintessential tourist zones. He was citing US State Department provisos, whichever news feeds he reads, and the broken down minds of his fellow Arizonans.

Of course, he and the State Department are dead wrong, as was Reagan’s idiotic ambassador to Mexico, Gavin. But with Trump and idiotic millionaires like Maddow and the like, the USA is one starched up Marvel comic book world of good and bad, light and evil, where the highest thinkers (sic) are at least a couple of notches below Lex Luther’s mental prowess, for sure.

The result of this xenophobia is a large city, Cuernavaca, that in December had very non-Mexican few tourists. The city is looking tired and worn, as is most of Mexico, excluding the industrial complexes, mining operations, smelting outfits, et al.

The ebb of life, though, even in the threadbare places in Mexico, is compelling. Laughter and hands held. The peek-a-boo amazing sights, sounds, and smells around every corner and in every walkway.

Our second largest trading partner behind Canada, Mexico is a shell of a country in many ways. Ugly Botoxed white women and men on billboards, their green and blue eyes like a cold lizard’s, and on TV, in positions of power, while la gente is continually denigrated and spat upon by the elites.

Axe

We are hatchets of steel and fire.
We live to reap and illuminate.
With the metal,
we fell the trunk.
With the flame,
we illuminate the cut,
the felling of what we are.

Carmen Boullosa

 

Diego Rivera, Liberation of the Peon, B. Traven

Invasions

Trump told the previous president of Mexico that he would be sending in the American cavalry to take care of “those bad hombres.”

He accused Peña Nieto of harboring “a bunch of bad hombres down there” and warned:

You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.

But there is a history of US meddling, both through “diplomatic channels,” through the economic structural violence our hit men are known for, and with troops:

When Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, he inherited a chaotic diplomatic relationship with Mexico. Two years earlier, the country’s longtime head of state, Porfirio Díaz, had been deposed. Over three decades in power, Díaz had been strongly aligned with American economic interests, which came to control 90 percent of Mexico’s mineral resources, its national railroad, its oil industry and, increasingly, its land. Resentful of the “peaceful invasion” from their northern neighbors, in 1911 middle-class and landless Mexicans overthrew Díaz and installed a noted public intellectual and reform champion, Francisco Madero, in the presidency. Not long after, the military, under the leadership of General Victoriano Huerta, deposed and executed Madero.

Displaying his deep piety and moral conviction, Wilson declared that he would never “recognize a government of butchers” and declared his intent to “teach” Mexico “a lesson by insisting on the removal of Huerta.” To that end, he sent two personal envoys to Mexico City to instruct the country’s political leaders—“for her own good”—to insist on Huerta’s resignation. The mission fared poorly. For one, the envoys—William Bayard Hale, a journalist, and John Lind, a local politician from Minnesota—spoke not a word of Spanish. Lind privately regarded Mexicans as “more like children than men” and conducted himself accordingly, to the detriment of the mission.

[…] At first, Villa sought to align himself with Wilson, but as his grasp on power became more tenuous, he sought to raise additional resources by taxing American corporations and through general banditry. He took matters a step too far when his forces confiscated the sprawling Mexican ranch of American publisher William Randolph Hearst and briefly invaded a New Mexico border town, crying “Viva Villa! Viva Mexico!”

Incensed, Wilson raised a “punitive expedition” of 10,000 soldiers under the direction of General John J. Pershing. Equipped with all the modern trappings of war—reconnaissance aircraft, Harley Davidson motorcycles—the invading army searched high and low for Villa. It was like finding “a needle in a haystack,” Pershing would soon complain. Though Villa’s forces continued to plunder and maraud, the Americans proved incapable of finding and capturing the rebel leader. When Villa surfaced briefly in Glenn Springs, Texas, with his troops, only to disappear soon thereafter, the Wilson administration was left mortified and bereft of an explanation.

American entry into the Great War allowed Wilson and Pershing to save face. In February 1917 the expedition returned to American soil. Within weeks, Pershing sailed for Europe to command the nation’s war effort.

Trump has now warned the new Mexican president that he will deem drug cartels as terrorist organizations, igniting the TNT of war and invasion. This was on all the people’s minds when I was traveling just days ago in Mexico; even in the conservative mass media. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said:

But in these cases we have to act independently and according to our constitution, and in line with our tradition of independence and sovereignty.

War is irrational. We are for peace.

AMLO’s comments came after Trump fired off a series of tweets Tuesday morning offering Mexico “help in cleaning out these monsters.” Trump:

The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” Trump said. “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!

No matter how barbaric the cartels are, and how in bed they are with the police, army, government, the barbarism of the US is in line with the Spanish and Portuguese slave traders. Each and every weapon manufactured and sold in the USA that gets south of the border is part of that barbarism. Every line of coke and hit of Meth consumed by the great happy USA population is a bullet to the head of the innocents of Mexico.

Like Italy, Mexico is at the whim of the Church and Mafia. Like Western Culture, every blinking moment in every individual’s life is determined by the billionaires, their cabal of financial and retail felons. We are at the whim of the heads of Boeing, Exxon, Raytheon and any number of resource extractors and consumer bombers. Fortune magazine praises the millionaires and billionaires and their disruptive industries, technologies, financial instruments. All of it is still American sodomy of a race, a culture, a place, a land.

In Mexico, the juxtaposition of Nestle bottles everywhere or the VW’s and the Dodge’s is easily supplanted by the hard lives of Mexicans still eking out livings and conjugating their traditions, no matter how deeply Western Plastic Culture and Consumer Goods have infiltrated their land.

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Family Wedded to Culture, Land, History

Yanquis and Stars and Bars flag wavers are the sum total of their genocidal roots destroying First Nations’ peoples and the enslavement of Africans, but also the deep racism and bigotry perpetrated against not just Filipino and Chinese and Japanese, but against the Jew, Eastern European, German, Irish, Italian, et al.

Drowning women deemed witches, complete decimation of the grasslands, the wetlands, the bayous, the slaying of buffalo and wolf and grizzly, and the metal machines cutting into earth and stoking the flames and smoke of today’s generation of cancer-riddled people. I have these trolls attempting to harass me, trolls who listen to that ape of a man, Stephen King of Iowa, who drivels his white supremacist crap on how the white Christian lands/peoples have contributed 90 percent or more of the marvels of modern humanity — from the internet to microscopes, from splitting of the atom to cinema, from supersonic jets to soda pop. These pigs are on the airwaves, both of the Tucker Carson kind and the liberal Hollywood and media types continually showing the great boom of intelligence in the Western White World, or in many cases, the great achievements of the Judaeo-Christian.

“Shit-hole” country may have come out of the racist whites’ moldy mouths decades/centuries before Trump’s bloviating (how many US presidents have shown outright racism against  ALL nations of color?), but it’s in the minds of liberals, democrats, those so-called professional class, the college educated, and the journalists and diplomats. Most Americans see the words “backwards” or “not evolved enough” or “heathen” or “simpleton” when they see Mexico or Mexicans.

[link] The irony is that Trump’s own ancestors came from Africa, as did all mankind. In the book and documentary “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey,” the geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traces the human migration out of Africa. He travelled the world for a decade to trace genetic markers by taking blood samples—from Bushmen in the sweltering Kalahari Desert and the Chukchi in icy Siberia to the Hopi in the American West—to prove the trail of the human migration. Wells concludes, “Old concepts of race are not only socially divisive but scientifically wrong.”

In the end we know which country is the shit-hole, the shitty one, and its collective stupidity and infantilism continues to lobotomize the masses. I teach k12, and the food these kids eat and then waste is criminal, but emblematic of the American project of exceptionalism and the right to pollute, throw away, discard, waste, over-consume. The youth have no culture, no art, no interest in anything but making a few dollars fast.

The reality is this throw-away society is right now generating, through this corrupt capitalism, more and more discarded peoples in this country and in other countries. The AI-Robot-GIG-Uber-ization-Amazon-ification-Economies of Scale-Centralization will again generate more and more disposed of humanity — in the USA, and elsewhere.

We know socialistic systems of organizing are the only way to stem this destruction. Read or watch  any number a a million essays, interviews, books on the subject.

What capitalism has done is gut Mexico, forcing families to break up sisters and brothers, sons and  daughters, uncles and aunts, grandkids and cousins, friends and lovers, husbands and wives to head to El Norte tob e exploited by capitalism on steroids and to weather the scourge of racist Americans, police, policies, bureaucracies, attitudes.

The amount of hate against Mexicans or Latino/a people is high in USA.

In their own country, the people of the land in Mexico are now sugar coated, eating crappy food, drinking soda, and hauling their bodies full of hormone disrupters, full of petro-chemicals, GMOs, nitrous oxide, and a million other particulates created by the full-scale NAFTA exploitation and the theft of their own culture, land, resources by the white devils in their own country — the elites educated in the Milton Friedman school of destruction.

Brotherhood

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Netflix, The 43 — This docuseries with Paco Ignacio Taibo II in it, disputes the Mexican government’s account of how and why 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College vanished in Iguala in 2014.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II—leader in the 1968 Mexican student strike, journalist, social activist, union organizer—is widely known for his crime novels, and is considered the founder of the neo-crime genre in Latin America. One of the most prolific writers in Mexico today, more than 500 editions of his 51 books have been published in over a dozen languages. Taibo has won many awards, including the Grijalbo, the Planeta/Joaquin Mortiz in 1992, and the Dashiell Hammett three times, for his crime novels. His biography, Guevara: Also Known as Che (St. Martin’s Press, 1996), has sold more than half a million copies around the world and won the 1998 Bancarella Book of the Year award in Italy. Taibo organizes the Semana Negra (Noir Week), a crime fiction festival held every year in Gijón, Spain.

Taibo: Yes. I wanted to destroy the old idea that history is science and fiction is fantasy. Everybody knows that is not true. It’s a game: Just Passing Through starts asking if it’s really a novel, if it’s rather a history book, because of this and this and this. And then, in the second paragraph, it says: this is a novel, this cannot be a history book, it’s full of fiction. Then, in the third paragraph, what the hell is a novel, what the hell is a history book? The game is trying to destroy this secure attitude of historians to history and this secure attitude of fiction writers about fiction. There’s nothing secure in history. I don’t like security. History shouldn’t be a secure space, a comfortable space. Comfortable for whom? Readers? Writers? It’s the opposite.

We’ll go deeper in this reclamation of what it means to be in, live in, be with, hold onto Mexico and Mexicans!

Why “Go Home Yanqui” Country is that Shit-Hole USA it Has Always Been

Los Dias de los Muertos are highly stylized rituals grounded in Aztec mythology when those who had passed on during the year migrate to the darkness of Mictlan in the north – the 1st is reserved for the innocents, the children, and the 2nd for the rest of us poor sinners. Traditional altars, garnished with cempaxeutl (a kind of marigold), photographs of the “difuntos” (deceased ones), jugs of tequila and mezcal, the favorite cigarettes of the dead, steaming bowls of turkey mole, and spun sugar “cranios” (skulls) blanket the land from border to border. Thanks to Calderon and the drug war that he launched to please his handlers in Washington which has triggered the cartels’ murder spree, the newly dead are dying faster than such altars can even be assembled.

Unlike the persona of Santa Muerte, the macabre cult around which the drug cartels have consolidated and who purportedly protects the true believers from the Grim Reaper, los Dias de los Muertos are designed to accept and mock Death, rendering it less terrifying for those of us who teeter on the brink. This year, I will wander the allies of our make-believe Mictlan disguised as my own cancer-ridden liver. We shall soon see who gets to laugh last.

“A Ding-Dong Year for Death in Mexico,” John Ross

**Part I of a Thousand**

They say in America that everyone wants to be American. Everyone wants to come to the United States of America. The world – especially third world or partially-developed peoples – envies this Anglo colony of mutt-infested Englanders.

But the lot of them – in academia, media, politics, business, the average Joe and Jan, as well as the governmental trolls – thinks Mexicans, Indians, et al have not only a hankering to leave behind their homelands and families and cultures. But to assimilate, and strip all history and the fingerprints of their terra, or land, from their very being.

They are wrong.

I’m in Cuernavaca now, after being with a young woman – 52 – and her 30-something sister and my spouse. This is the place of the rich, the tourists, the indulgent, the traffic, even the Walmart’s and Costco’s and IHOP’s.

Writing about Mexico has been an avocation for me over the years having lived and worked here, and having lived and worked on the border, in El Paso, the world’s largest border city in the world adjoining Juarez.

Over the years — from the first overlay of my being age 16 going to the Sea of Cortez as a recreational diver, to my work as a faculty member in El Paso’s University of Texas campus, to my own back and forth relationship with Mexico and Central America — I have had to confront the racists of the world spewing their hate against everything Mexico, anyone from down south of the border.

In this country I call my birthplace but not my aligned place, USA, I have confronted the most vile, ignorant and hateful “people” surrounding what they consider their legitimate prejudice and judgment against Mexico. But this legacy of Trump-brand racism was there under the Carters, Nixons, Reagans, Bushes, Clintons, Obamas. Way before, even.

Some facts:

In 1925, Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote that “Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population…Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European and American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.”

Woodrow Wilson, a southerner, opposed postwar Reconstruction because “the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded.” He opposed giving blacks the right to vote, claiming “it was a menace to society,” and as president he oversaw the re-segregation of the federal government. He lived in the White House a century ago.

Calvin Coolidge signed an immigration bill aimed at keeping out “the yellow peril” — i.e. Asians, along with Africans and Arabs. “America must be kept American,” he said in 1923.

Donald Trump said once Nigerians have seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts.

“Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control,” Trump said in a 1997 Playboy interview.

Over and over and over, I have had to confront family, friends, students, strangers with their idiocy and racism, both soft and hard, prejudice and bigotry, over and over and over. Ruben Navarrette Jr. of USA Today wrote after the El Paso murders:

Only in the past decade has there been a surge in books that expose this hidden history, including “Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848-1928” by William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb. In the 19th century, Mexican Americans were beaten and run off their property; in Texas and elsewhere, thousands were lynched. The World War II generation put up with segregated schools and being barred from public swimming pools, restaurants, barber shops and other establishments.

And within the country’s color scheme, Mexican Americans are in between black and white. In the 1960s, the saying was: If you’re white, you’re all right. If you’re black, stay back. And if you’re brown, stick around. The idea was that the country would accept Latinos as full participants in society, if we would just wait for our moment.

Well, we never got our moment. What we got instead, at a Walmart in West Texas, was mayhem and bloodshed and heartache.

Mexican Americans have been defined by ambivalence. But after what happened in El Paso, that is a luxury we can’t afford.

It is both a strange time and a point in this country’s disgusting history that is easily understood by and through history:

El Paso shooting: ‘Open season’ on Hispanics in America thanks to ‘racist in chief’ Trump/Trump has utterly failed in the president’s traditional role of uniting the country. His legacy will be stained by his deadly xenophobia and racism.

Two weeks in Mexico is never enough, but part of the purpose of my trip was to assimilate my partner (with Mexican family roots but no deep  Mexico experience) to Mexico. She went back in her life to visit a friend who she worked with (together 11 years ago), or in some sense, who she managed as an employee in Oregon.

In either case, we introduced ourselves to Claudia’s 30th high school reunion in a town called Axochiapan (look at this story on the brain-drain/people/labor/ cultural-drain of this small place surrounded by cane (sugar), cattle, corn, and hard working people stripped of agency by USA NAFTA, corrupt banks, corrupt presidents, all on the line of the financial theft of a developing country going back way before the United Fruit Company, Exxon, and the other Fortune 1000 corrupting felonious corporations making a dime on the gallons of blood and sweat of the people they deem as disposable, purposeless (push them off the land where the gems and metals are) and below that white DNA mutating set of genes that has for centuries put the world on fire.

Way North of the Border by Eduardo Porter and Elisabeth Malkin

Mexican mecca in Twin Cities by Eduardo Porter and Elisabeth Malkin. This was written 15 years ago, 2005:

They call Minneapolis the new Axochiapan, said Ramiro Hernandez, a successful businessman who arrived in the United States illegally 20 years ago from Axochiapan, a small town in the central Mexican state of Morelos.”Ninety percent of the population there has people over here. Kids come here as soon as they come of age.

There are so many men from Axochiapan in the area that the village priest came to visit.

“Father Miguel came to look for the husbands and take them back, but he didn’t manage to get any,” Enrmquez Navarro said.

Migration is leaving a deep mark on Axochiapan, a county seat at the center of a cluster of villages with a population of some 30,000.

In Quebrantadero, one of the villages, people talk of closing the primary school because there are so few young children left.

Municipal officials in Axochiapan estimate that at least a third of the population has moved.

The places we went to (some) were not on the gringo trail, in the expat’s travel log, or mapped on the tourist trap itinerary. We stayed in homes where the water is iffy, where the toilets have to be swamped with buckets of water to flush, where the chickens and cocks and dogs all hang out while we eat peanuts and drink mescal under the brilliant stars and swooping bats and sounds of a small dying town still spasming to life at night.

It just so happened we were in Mexico during the days of saints, the days leading up to Christmas. Young and old people making the pilgrimage to genuflect to the Virgin of Guadalupe, which were long hikes along roads and highways. Days of walking to show tribute to the religion of the conquerors, the religion of biting repression, misogyny, and endless Byzantine corruption all the way from Rome to a two-bit Mexican village of peasants.

In the true character of a writer, artist, photographer, teacher, radical, and systems thinker, I didn’t view this as contradictory or destabilizing for me since I have grown up in the Azores, lived overseas in poor towns in the UK, France, and then many of backpacking venture to Mexico, Central America, Vietnam, elsewhere.

The closer I got to Claudia’s 87-year-old father, who rides his horse, Muneca (doll) through the town into the milpas to tend to watering his 25 cows, the more I went into the cellular level of wanting nothing more than the entire western project, ramshackle as it is, razed, burned and vanished.

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MAGA freaks I have met daily and who troll me on my websites, on my Linked In, in my life, well, they are the mutants I dream about — German, English, French, Slavic, et al. The pathogens who send their criminals (like Canadian mining outfits) into the high sierra or forested mountains or hardscrabble deserts of this land I call a second home.

The compassion, loyalty, love of life, connection to family, no matter how disheveled or fractured it may be, in these people’s pinkies is a thousand times more than the attempts at solidarity or cohesion I have experienced in many many a time with countless families in this country — United Snakes of America.

People daily ask me why I am still here, in the US of Israel. Why I am so discontented and so critical of this land of loafers, charlatans, cheats, racists, delusionals, arrogant fools AND still I live here? I get Stockholm syndrome and battered spouse syndrome and unnecessary attachment phobia.

As Andre Vltchek says sometimes — I believe it too — that Westerners going to live as expats Haiti, Vietnam, Mexico, all those South American countries, what the hell do they bring, give, contribute to? Here, a great piece I reference a lot of the time — “What Cannot Be Written in the USA” June 19, 2015, DV.

I was shocked by the state in which I found the United States.

I left many years ago. I left New York, which was, for more than a decade, my home. I never returned, except to launch my books and films, and to see my friends. I never stayed for long time. Two weeks, this time, was the longest in years.

This visit broke me. It exhausted me. It thoroughly depressed me.

I saw clearly how grotesque pseudo-morality, disgusting religious concepts and hypocrisy influenced and ruined entire nations, client states, worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.

Yes, I believe in collective guilt. Holding US citizenship, I share the guilt. And therefore, I work non-stop, not to wash my hands, but to stop the madness.

I am convinced that the West, the white race and its lackeys abroad, have no right to rule over this Planet. I saw enough to back my conviction.

The West is finished, its culture dead. What is left is unattractive, even horrifying. There is no heart, no compassion, and no creativity. And those billions of people beyond the Western realm should not be dying, while forced to support the aggressive individualism of the post-Christian, post-Crusade colonialism and fascism of Europe and the United States.

He gives us more of the context of his despair, again, at DV:

The citizens of the Empire were eager to describe themselves as “victims”. Did the same spectacle appear in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s? Most likely yes! “Defeated Germany was hit by hyper-inflation, reparations, therefore it was a victim!” It felt it became a victim of the Bolsheviks and the Jews and the French, and the Roma… The United States was not defeated externally, only internally. The two settings are different. Yet there are many similarities, especially in how two empires have treated “un-people”.

“Do you believe in collective guilt, in collective responsibility?” Someone challenged me from the public.

“Definitely!” I shouted back. “The responsibility and the guilt of the West, of the white race, of Christianity, of the Empire! Collective responsibility and guilt for hundreds of millions of victims defined as un-people. Victims gassed, bomber, starved, mutilated… Collective guilt and responsibility for raping the free will of billions in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Collective guilt and responsibility for the ongoing global apartheid!”

I can leave anytime, and I have on many occasions, but I am needed here, for a bit more time. I teach, I write, I work on an anti-poverty program, I live, I suffer, I engage. Now on the Oregon Coast. But, of course, there is more to this world than tap water, dish washers, lighted streets, order, lawless law, hegemony, reckless capitalism, penury, the lies of the empire, the rot of the professional class, the lies of the academic class, the tricks of the financial barons, the putrid propaganda of Hollywood-DoD-CIA.

Definitely, suffering and supplication and oppression are in the eye of the beholder. What more can life be than the relationships we hold dear, the simplicity of breathing in and out, the reality of one chopped-up coconut and one finely browned tortilla and endless laughter and guacamole and bits of cheese and papayas and mescal?

I didn’t have Trump or Sanders or Warren or FOX News or Holly-dirt or NYT or Bezos or Forbes or Economist or Military Industrial Complex on my mind while hoofing it to the field where 87-year-old Rodolfo went daily to water his cattle.

Horse and old man and two unmarried daughters taking care of the father whose wife died of cancer years ago.  Adrian, his brother, laughed at my horsemanship, and in the end I didn’t give a shit about macho-macho man (I know horses fairly well). He laughed and cajoled and razzed me, and it was all in good fun.

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That night, after taking shots (photos) of the church and the band and the youth doing the toritos (paper mache bulls rigged with Roman candles and crazy fireworks) thing, Adrian was on his motorcycle, in his cups beyond anything an American might approve of, and he held me in his grip and just went on and on about being brothers with this crazy American with the Einstein hair. He laughed, we chugged tequila, and he drove off with the cycle’s light turned off.

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So this friend (now family) in Mexico who wanted so much to impress my partner with the value of her own friendship with a gringa but also to show us a good side of her country. Claudia knew I was already deep into Mexico from an early age. What Claudia wanted was for my partner to enjoy the deep sense of her gratitude as her former boss in the USA and a sense of renewed and energized friendship.

What Claudia and her sister Alejandra and her father Rodolfo and the entire clan did was they introduced us to people of their clan, their tribe, and they wanted to impress upon us a sense of belonging in their country.

Hands down, the country is saddened about and steeled against the Donald Trump School of Racism spewed out against their country. Saddened still by the huge number of MAGA followers who despise Mexico and Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and anything Chicano or Latino.

Mexico’s at crossroads, too, again and again. Many in the state department and parasites of the bumbling media tell/report to people not to come to Mexico, or warn of wandering at night as a ticket to the grave Ross talks about in the epigraph above.

You can’t count the times in one or two blocks of driving here where neoliberalism and consumerism haven’t taken over the people. If you think the chains and Home Depots have colonized every pathetic place in the USA, we are seeing it at every turn in Mexico.

Yet this land of eagle and snake, blood and fire, church and conquistador, virgin mother and narco-trafficker, child and historian, baby and hunched over old man, pyramids and basilicas, pottery and plastic has something deep ingrained in most of the gente, the people of the land, pueblos, cities and villages.

In a span of a few days, I have returned to my other mother country, to the place where I learned how to think and write and feel and love and dispel all the chains of my mother and father countries.

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AMLO is Bringing New Hope to Mexico

Jeremy Corbyn lost the election but one of his political friends, the progressive Mexican leader named Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has been in power for one year. He is carrying out the plans and priorities described in his 2018 book New Hope for Mexico.

*****

With 129 million people, Mexico is the 10th most populous country in the world. It has the largest population of any Spanish speaking country and is twice the size of the United Kingdom.

Mexico is in a period of profound change. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and the Morena Party are charting a dramatically new path for the country.

From 2000 to 2005 Lopez Obrador was head of government for Mexico City. He left office with an 84% approval rating according to one study, having implemented 80% of his campaign pledges. In 2006 he ran for the presidency as candidate of the PRD (Party of Democratic Revolution). The election was extremely controversial, with 49% of the population believing it was rigged against Lopez Obrador. Felipe Calderón was declared the winner.

In 2012 AMLO ran for president again. And again there were widespread “irregularities” and Enrique Peña Nieto declared the winner. Following the election, AMLO founded a new party called the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA).

Finally, in the 2018 election, AMLO decisively defeated the other candidates and his party, MORENA, won a majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. He assumed office on December 1st, 2018.

New Hope for Mexico

López Obrador analyzed Mexico’s problems and his solutions in the 2018 book A New Hope for Mexico. He describes how corruption and neoliberal politics have led to “rampant inequality, shocking poverty, frustration, resentment, hate, and violence.”

AMLO says, “In Mexico the governing class constitutes a gang of plunderers…the astounding dishonesty of the neoliberal period (from 1983 to the present) is wholly unprecedented.”  He names the officials and oligarchs who have profited from privatizing public institutions. He describes how changes implemented under Salinas’ rule even took away the right of children to free education.

López Obrador explains: “The first thing we must do is to democratize the state and retool it as an engine of political, economic and social growth. We must rid ourselves of the myth that development requires blind acquiescence to market forces… Mexico will not grow strong if our public institutions remain at the service of the wealthy elites.”

AMLO describes the decline of Mexico’s industrial infrastructure in the neoliberal period. Banks were bailed out while “neoliberal technocracy has led to partiality with respect to hiring, and always at the expense of unions. There have been massive waves of firings.”

AMLO describes ambitious plans: building sources of renewable energy and refineries to make the country energy self-sufficient; building a transportation corridor to move containers between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans; having guaranteed crop prices to enable food self-sufficiency; expanding tourism in the Caribbean, Mayan and Olmec regions; planting large areas with timber and fruit trees; giving loans to hundreds of thousands of small farmers; providing training and internships for youth.

He says that development is possible by cutting wasteful spending, “by cutting back on purchases of ships, planes and helicopters…[we will] sell those used by high ranking officials including the president; we will keep only those used for medical emergencies, security and public safety… The first priority must be serving the poor. Only through the creation of a just society will we achieve the revitalization of Mexico.”

He contrasts his goals for Mexico with those of the US, where the Trump administration has increased military spending while slashing spending on housing, transportation and education.

López Obrador believes neoliberal economic policies have been especially detrimental in villages and rural areas of Mexico. As a result of these policies, small farmers have lost their livelihoods and food imports have risen dramatically.  He writes, “The abandonment of our rural areas has taken a heavy toll on production, has increased migration, and fostered societal breakdown and violence.”

López Obrador says: “The crisis of public safety and violence that we face today is the product of a poorly conceived war on drugs that relies solely on coercive means. The security crisis that plagues Mexico is a result of a confluence of factors: poverty, injustice, and exclusion, aggravated by the inefficiency of the authorities and corruption within the police and the judiciary.”

He proposes to combat police and judicial corruption, to use the army and navy to protect public safety, to develop and utilize a National Guard, and to change laws regarding drug use. Above all, he emphasizes, it is necessary to provide positive alternatives for youth: “The belief that the deterioration of our social fabric can be combated only through use of force is profoundly wrong and highly dangerous, as Mexican history amply confirms.”

During his 2018 presidential campaign, López Obrador visited several US cities to address Mexican Americans. His words are relevant for all Americans: “We must convince and persuade those who were brainwashed by Trump’s campaign rhetoric… We must reach out to lower and middle class American workers, explaining that their problems are rooted in the poor distribution of income… We must raise awareness among Americans of good faith who have been tricked by the propaganda campaign against Mexicans and foreigners….”

One Year as President

After one year in office, the AMLO government has significant accomplishments: the minimum salary was dramatically increased while top government salaries and outlandish pensions were cut, small loans and grants are going directly to farmers, five key agricultural crops have a guaranteed price, the billion dollar gas thieving cartel has been exposed and attacked, a 44 billion dollar infrastructure plan has been launched, and programs to benefit youth, the disabled and elderly have begun.

AMLO sets an example of hard work and transparency. Each day begins with a 7 AM press conference broadcast on his twitter feed.  The Presidential jet is up for sale and he flies on commercial air planes. During this first year in office, he has not left the country but travels constantly within Mexico seeing the conditions of hospitals, schools, factories and the small cities and towns that make up so much of the country. The presidential palace has been opened to the public.

While AMLO has a 67% approval rating, and is steadily implementing his campaign pledges, there are challenges and opposition. The Mexican economy has been near recession throughout the year. The bond rating for the state owned oil company (Pemex) has been downgraded so that investment loans will be more expensive. Some major development plans have significant opposition. For example, indigenous organizations have opposed the proposed Maya Train. In response, AMLO says the project will only go ahead if the people want it.

Violence is still a major problem. As one analyst has written, “The Mexican right is cynically using a crisis of its own making in an attempt to destabilize AMLO, taking Mexico’s people as hostages.”

The MORENA majority in Congress plans to legalize marijuana and create a federal agency to regulate its sale. But as the analyst says, “Legalization and the targeting of cartel finances must go hand in hand with the slow but necessary work of reestablishing the presence of a social state that decades of savage capitalism have allowed to wither: education, health care, housing, arts and culture, dignified alternatives to cartel employment, and an urgent redistribution of wealth…”  These goals are precisely what is outlined in AMLO’s book and seemingly where he wants to go.

The changes in Mexico are also important on the international stage. Through most of the 20th century Mexico had a foreign policy of non-intervention and independence from Washington. They maintained relations with Cuba, supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and broke relations with the Pinochet coup government in Chile. But in recent decades Mexican foreign policy has been subordinate to Washington. With AMLO and the Morena Party in power, Mexico is returning to a foreign policy based on independence, self-determination and non-interference.

The difference was important early this year when the US and Canada tried to impose a new government on Venezuela. The subordinate Latin American countries went along with Washington. Mexico did not.

As the recent coup in Bolivia unfolded, President Evo Morales’ life was threatened. Mexico sent a plane for his escape and granted him asylum. AMLO said to a huge crowd, “Evo was the victim of a coup d’etat! And from Mexico, we tell the world, ‘Yes to democracy, no to militarism!'”

As the Trump administration escalates its economic and political attacks on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, Mexico’s independent stance is especially important. AMLO’s administration has stood up against the US at the Organization of American States and the anti-Venezuela Lima Group. Recently AMLO welcomed Ecuador’s former socialist leader Rafael Correa, followed by Cuba’s President Díaz-Canel. Argentina’s newly elected progressive president, Alberto Fernández, made his first foreign trip to meet AMLO.

Both internally and internationally, a new and hopeful process is happening in Mexico.

2019 Latin America in Review: Year of the Revolt of the Dispossessed

A year ago, John Bolton, Trump’s short-lived national security advisor, invoked the 1823 Monroe Doctrine making explicit what has long been painfully implicit: the dominions south of the Rio Grande are the empire’s “backyard.” Yet 2019 was a year best characterized as the revolt of the dispossessed for a better world against the barbarism of neoliberalism. As Rafael Correa points out, Latin America today is in dispute. What follows is a briefing on this crossroads.

Andean Nations

Venezuela, the leader for regional integration and 21st century socialism, continued to be ground zero in the clash between the empire and those nations pursuing post-neoliberal alternatives and a multipolar world.

On the evening of January 22, trained US security asset and head of the suspended Venezuelan National Assembly Juan Guaidó received a call from US Vice President Pence, giving Guaidó the green light to declare himself president of Venezuela. The next day, Guaidó proclaimed his presidency on a Caracas street corner. Within minutes Trump recognized the self-appointment, later followed by some fifty US allies. Still most nations in the world did not recognize Guaidó, and the United Nations continues to recognize Maduro as the constitutional president of Venezuela.

Guaidó called for harsher US sanctions on his own people and even the US “military option.”  Gone was the pretext that sanctions targeted only the government. The former US Ambassador to Venezuela William Brownfield  boasted that these measures “would have an impact on everyone… to accelerate the collapse.” From President Barack Obama’s sanctions in 2015, Trump progressively ratcheted up the pain to the current blockade. This illegal collective punishment had already caused over 40,000 deaths by the beginning of the year according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), in a war by economic means, denying the Venezuelan people vital food and medicine.

Yet Guaidó failed to come to power. His publicity stunt on February 23 to bring “humanitarian aid” from Colombia fizzled. To make things worse, envoys of Guaidó in Colombia were caught embezzling some of the very funds slated for humanitarian assistance. Soon after this debacle, a staged coup on April 30 by Guaidó and a few military officers on an overpass in eastern Caracas aborted. In November, Guaidó made an even more pathetic coup attempt. His ability to garner support atrophied, drawing the ire even of some hardline opposition who formerly backed him, while the Maduro government continued to rally substantial popular demonstrations and signed a peaceful coexistence agreement with some moderate opposition parties in September.

Despite attempts by Washington to incite ruptures within the Venezuelan security forces, the “civic-military union” built by Chavez and continued under Maduro held firm, and the ranks of the militias continue to grow. And despite heavy lobbying by the Trump administration, Venezuela was voted onto the UN Human Rights Council on October 27.

In a bid to compensate for the diminished stature of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group,  on December 3, Colombia convened a summit for the activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) against Venezuela, to ratchet up sanctions even further and keep the military option on the table. By the end of 2019, even the Wall Street Journal conceded, “Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro, once thought ripe for ouster, looks firmly in place.”

In Washington, North American solidarity activists defended the Venezuelan embassy from being taken over by Guaidó collaborators (April – May 2019). With the permission of the Venezuelan government and pursuant to international law, the Embassy Protectors held out for 37 days until expelled by the Secret Service. The four last defenders – Margaret Flowers, Kevin Zeese, Adrienne Pine, David Paul – will go to trial, facing possible stiff penalties. On October 25, journalist Max Blumenthal was also arrested and charged (subsequently dropped), as the US government cracks down on dissent both at home and abroad.

Colombia is the chief regional US client state, distinguished by being the largest recipient of US military aid in the hemisphere. Hillary Clinton called Plan Colombia a model for Latin America. Yet this model leads the world in extra-judicial killings of journalists, union leaders, and environmentalists. Meanwhile, Colombia continues to be the planet’s largest supplier of illicit cocaine.

A 2016 peace agreement saw the guerrilla FARC lay down their arms, but the government has honored the agreement mainly in the breach. Death squad activity continued in 2019, targeting former FARC militants. A faction of the FARC returned to the guerrilla path.

In a sign of growing disaffection with the hardline right-wing influence of former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and his protégé and current President Iván Duque, the far right suffered significant losses in the October regional and municipal elections. Left-leaning Claudia López became the first woman and first lesbian to be mayor of the capital city of Bogotá. By year-end, Colombia experienced massive general strikes opposed to government austerity policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bolivia. Evo Morales was the first indigenous president of this largely indigenous country. Under the 14 years of his Movement for Socialism party (MAS), Bolivia had the highest economic growth rate and the greatest poverty reduction in the Western Hemisphere. Bolivia became a world champion for indigenous and poor people, aligning with the progressive governments of Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

Morales was fairly re-elected president on October 20. Because the US-backed candidate lost, the US called his election “fraudulent.” A compliant Organization of American States (OAS) disseminated misleading information on the validity of the election. Thus, the stage was set for the November 10 coup, when Morales was forced to “resign” by the military.

Thirteen US members of Congress sent a “dear colleague” letter condemning the “Administration’s support for [the] military-backed regime and silence on violent repression [which] contributes to spiraling crisis.” This letter stands in stark contrast to the close association of key figures behind the coup with allies in Washington, the OAS Secretary General’s embrace of coup leader Luis Fernando Camacho, and the endorsement of the coup by the right-wing neighbors. President Trump “applauded” the Bolivian military despite its well documented systematic  violations of human rights.

The self-proclaimed President Jeanine Áñez smeared indigenous communities as “satanic” in tweets, later deleted. Morales is now in exile, and the indigenous and other poor continue to protest in the face of lethal, racist repression.  At this writing, Morales, the MAS, and most of the popular sectors have agreed to new elections but efforts are underway by backers of the de facto government to disqualify the MAS from participating in an eventual election.

Ecuador. Speaking of reversals, Ecuador’s President Lenín Moreno took the prize. Moreno had served as vice president in a previous leftist government headed by Rafael Correa, who had campaigned for Moreno. Upon assuming the presidency in 2017, Moreno inexplicably and unexpectedly betrayed the platform, the voters, and the party that put him in office. He jailed his vice president and later other leaders of his former party and put out an arrest warrant for Correa, who is now in exile. On April 11, Moreno handed Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who had been in asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, to the British police.

Moreno withdrew Ecuador from ALBA, the leftist regional organization of Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and some Caribbean nations. Last January, he recognized the US puppet Guaidó as president of Venezuela. By mid-year, Moreno gave the US an airbase on the Galápagos.

Moreno forgave some $4.5 billion in fines and debt by major corporations and oligarchs and then papered it over by an IMF loan. With the loan came austerity measures, el paquetazo, including removing fuel subsidies. The mass protest of the dispossessed, led by the indigenous CONAIE organization, was so overwhelming that Moreno was temporarily forced to flee the capital city of Quito and rescind some elements of the paquetazo. Moreno continues to push IMF stipulated austerity measures, while repressing his former party’s elected representatives.

Peru is in crisis, wracked with corruption scandals. In April 2019, former President Alan García shot himself as the police were preparing to arrest him for corruption, while fellow former President Alberto Fujimori is in jail on corruption accusations and human rights violations.  Former President Alejandro Toledo also faces corruption accusations and is fighting against extradition from the US. Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was the last directly elected president of Peru. Formerly a US citizen and an IMF and World Bank official, he was forced to resign for corruption in March 2018 shortly before he was slated to host a meeting of the anti-Venezuela Lima Group to expose Venezuela for corruption.

Ever since, the presidency of Peru has been disputed. The current moderate-right President Martín Vízcarra dissolved the congress; the congress controlled by the far-right Keiko Fujimori (free after a year in detention for corruption) impeached the executive, although Vízcarra recovered the presidency. In the context of this dog fight among the elites have been massive anti-corruption mobilizations from below.

The Southern Cone

Brazil. New Year 2019 marked the inauguration of Jair Bolsonaro as president of Brazil. The election of hard-right Bolsonaro – called the “Trump of Brazil” by friends and foes alike – was a major reversal from the previous left-leaning Workers Party governments.

Brazil has by far the biggest economy in Latin America and the eighth in the world and is part of the BRICS bloc including Russia, India, China, and South Africa. With a sycophant of Trump heading Brazil, both hemispheric and world geopolitics suffer the loss of a countervailing element to US hegemony. Brazil voted with the US and Israel for continuing the US blockade on Cuba and against 187 other UN members.

Former left-leaning President Lula da Silva would have easily beaten Bolsonaro, if the polls were any indication, but corrupt judge Sergio Moro sent Lula to prison on evidenceless charges. The judge was rewarded by ironically being made minister of justice in the new Bolsonaro government. Similarly, Dilma Rousseff, who was Lula’s left-leaning successor as president of Brazil, had been deposed on a technicality by the right-leaning congress in what amounted to a parliamentary coup in 2016.

An international campaign to free Lula finally succeeded in November, but far too late for him to run against Bolsonaro. Lula is free and fighting now, but could be incarcerated again.

Bolsonaro went about dismantling social welfare measures, firing government workers, and rewarding multinational corporations, while the Amazon burned. Predictably the popular sectors arose leading to an uncertain political situation in Brazil.

Chile. The Chilean people launched a general strike against austerity with slogans such as “neoliberalism was born in Chile and will die here.” Reacting to the “privatization of everything,” the uprising this fall has been truly from the grassroots with the established political parties sprinting to catch up with the popular revolt of the dispossessed.

Over a million protestors have taken to the streets in a country with a population of only 19 million. Many have remained there for weeks despite severe repression by the state, leaving numerous killed by live ammunition and rubber bullets. According to official state data, more than 8,000  have been jailed, almost 3,000 injured, and over 200 suffered ocular damage. Hundreds of  lawsuits for police brutality have been filed, including sexual abuses. The right-wing billionaire President Sebastián Piñera suspended some constitutional rights, declaring a “state of emergency” in a country still under the constitution created by the dictator Pinochet.

Argentina. After right-wing President Mauricio Macri imposed textbook perfect neoliberal economic reforms, the Argentine economy spectacularly and predictably failed with rampant inflation, food shortages, currency free-fall, and capital flight. Even the middle class protested in the streets in enormous uprisings of the dispossessed.

On October 27, the center-left ticket of Alberto Fernández as president and Cristina Fernández as VP won and announced Argentina will leave the regional anti-Venezuela Lima Group. They will also have to deal with Macri’s record breaking $50.1 billion IMF loan, saddling the people with austerity measures in a country that is broke and again at the edge of default.

Uruguay. The ruling left-center Frente Amplio’s candidate, Daniel Martínez, won in the first round of Uruguay’s presidential elections on October 27, but by a too narrow margin to avoid a runoff election. He faced a united right-wing in the November 24 runoff against Luis Lacalle Pou, which ended his party’s 15-year rule.

The Caribbean

Cuba. The US embargo of Cuba, initiated  by US President Kennedy and now a blockade (el bloqueo), along with covert regime-change operations and occupation of Guantánamo have continued in an unbroken policy of aggression through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. Most recently Trump resurrected Title III of the Clinton-era Helms-Burton Act to intensify the blockade. The Cuban people show no sign of capitulating.

Cubans welcomed a new president, as Miguel Díaz-Canel succeeded Raúl Castro. On April 10, they ratified a new constitution, after an extensive consultative process, engaging some 9 million people, 780,000 suggestions, 9,600 proposals, and 133,000 citizen meetings.

Puerto Rico and Cuba were the spoils of the first imperialist war, the 1898 Spanish-American War. Unlike free Cuba, Puerto Rico is still a neglected colonial possession of the US. And that political fact has never been clearer with Puerto Rico still not fully recovered from Hurricane María and still not governing itself to solve its own problems.

Puerto Rico experienced mass protests and a general strike in 2019. Governor Ricardo A. Rosselló was forced to resign on July 22. Puerto Rican liberation hero Oscar López Rivera observed: “Even before the governor announced his resignation, the fact is that he was not governing Puerto Rico.”

Haiti. After the harsh 29-year US-backed Duvalier dictatorships and the subsequent “military transition,” a brief flourishing of democracy ended in Haiti when the US brazenly kidnapped President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and flew him into exile in 2004. Since then, a series of dubiously elected presidents – some literally installed and all propped up by the US – have produced human rights and social welfare conditions worse than under the dictatorships.

Billions in relief after the 2010 earthquake and in Petrocaribe funds from Venezuela have largely “disappeared” into the pockets of corrupt politicians. In response, the ever-restive Haitian populace has yet intensified the uprising of the dispossessed throughout the country. The newly formed Patriotic Forum united 62 social movements, who call not only for the resignation of President Jovenel Moïse, but a complete dismantling of the “system of exclusion” and for a new republic of justice, transparency, and participation. They demanded chavire chodyè a (overturn the cauldron).

Central America and Mexico

Honduras. The designation of Honduras as a narco-state is supported by the October 18  conviction in US federal court of President Juan Orlando Hernández’s (JOH) brother Tony for cocaine smuggling.  JOH, the latest of a line of corrupt presidents since the 2009 US-backed coup, is identified as co-conspirator by the prosecutors. Testimony in the US court revealed that the notorious Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo gave JOH $1 million to help him rig the presidential election in 2013.

The US continued to prop up the tottering JOH regime staggering in the face of huge waves of popular protests including a prolonged national strike this summer. And those not opposing the government in the streets headed for asylum in the US, fleeing from gang violence and government malfeasance.

Guatemala. Right-wing comedian Jimmy Morales became president of Guatemala in August. In response to the revolt of dispossessed against his neoliberal rule, he declared a state of siege in five departments. Tens of thousands marched on Guatemala City, including the indigenous Xinkas, while many more Guatemalans fled the violence and everyday oppression seeking asylum at the US border.

The wounds of the US-backed genocidal dirty war of the 1980s against the largely indigenous population, taking some 200,000 lives, have not been healed but continue to be reinforced by harsh neoliberal measures and a regime of impunity fueling the exodus to the north. While lamenting the plight of these migrants, the corporate press in the US failed to recognize the made-in-America causes of their evacuation.

El Salvador. Likewise, El Salvador, another former victim of the US-backed dirty wars, added to the stream of Honduran and Guatemalan migrants seeking asylum in the US from the conditions created in large part by the country of their intended refuge.

Businessman Nayib Bukele, formerly associated with the left FMLN party and now turned right, was elected under the banner of the right-wing GANA party. He assumed the presidency on June 1, replacing Salvador Sánchez Ceren of the FMLN. Bukele has fallen in line with Washington’s drive to curtail emigration from the Northern Triangle countries (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) and has reversed his nation’s foreign policy to accord with the Lima Group’s drive for regime change in Venezuela.

Nicaragua. 2019 was a year of hopeful recovery in Nicaragua, healing from successfully repulsing a US-backed coup the previous year. The domestic perpetrators were granted amnesty by leftist President Daniel Ortega, and social welfare indices were again on the ascent. Although the poorest country in Central America, Nicaraguans were for the most part not fleeing for the US but were rebuilding their homeland.

Mexico is the second largest economy in Latin American and the eleventh in the world. After decades of right-wing rule, left-of-center Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) assumed the presidency last December and his new MORENA party swept local and regional offices with the expectation that corruption, inequality, and other long festering economic injustices would be addressed. AMLO dissented from the anti-Venezuelan Lima Group and instituted a series of progressive domestic reforms.

Trump forced AMLO to contain the Central American immigrants massing on the US southern border or face tariff increases and other measures that would wreck the Mexican economy. As nineteenth century Mexican President Porfirio Díaz famously lamented: “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”

A New Year’s message

2019 has not been an entirely bullish year for US imperialism, notwithstanding the hard turns to the right in Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador.  Powerful winds against neoliberalism are gusting in Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Peru, Argentina, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala, and even in the US “Commonwealth” of Puerto Rico. Regime-change operations failed in Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua. US-preferred candidates suffered losses in Mexico, Colombia, and Bolivia (later reversed by a coup). And the hegemon is challenged in its own “backyard” by the increased influence of Russia and especially China, now the second largest trading partner with Latin America and the Caribbean.

Recently Cuban President Díaz-Canel addressed the 120-state Non-aligned Movement (a third of which are sanctioned by Washington) with this perceptive thought for a multi-polar world: “There are more of us. Let us do more.”