Posts Tagged ‘mexico’

The People Against America

Al Jazeera (2017)

Film Review

This documentary traces the rise of the “white rights” movement that elected Donald Trump. This movement, of mainly white blue collar males, promotes the distorted image of white people as a disenfranchised minority. According to the filmmakers, it has its roots in Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign. By heavily emphasizing “states rights,” Goldwater successfully exploited the anxieties of Southerners over forced integration by the federal government. It would be the first time Southern states had voted Republican since the Civil War.

Nixon’s Southern Strategy

In 1968, the Nixon campaign built on Goldwater’s success by implementing a formal “southern strategy.” By reaching out to the “silent majority,” and emphasizing law and order in the face of race riots and anti-war protests, his campaign sought to win the votes of northern blue collar voters. In subsequent elections, Democratic Party strategists would seek to win back blue collar voters by recruiting two conservative governors to run for president (Carter and Clinton).

As the Watergate scandal undermined all Americans’ confidence in government, corporate oligarchs would build on growing anti-government sentiment by massively funding right wing think tanks, lobbying and conservative talk radio. This, in turn would lay the groundwork for Reagan’s 1980 massive deregulation and tax and public service cuts.

Corporate Giveaways By Clinton and Obama

When Clinton was elected in 1992, he quickly surpassed Reagan’s record of corporate giveaways, with his total deregulation of Wall Street, his Three Strikes and Omnibus Crime Bill (leading to mass incarceration of minorities) and his creation of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). These free trade treaties resulted in the wholesale export of rust belt industries to Mexico and China, effectively ending any incentive for working class males to vote Democratic.

Obama, elected on the back of the 2008 financial collapse, would prove even more pro-corporate than Clinton or Bush. Instead of prosecuting the banks who caused the 2008 economic crash, he granted them massive bailouts, while ignoring the plight of millions of homeowners who lost their homes when these banks foreclosed on them. He also significantly increasing mass surveillance and aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers. He also effectively repealed posse comitatus* and habeus corpus.**

The Rise of Occupy and the Tea Party

Obama’s pro-corporate policies led to the rise of both left wing (Occupy Wall Street) and right wing (Tea Party) popular movements. The latter received major corporate backing (largely from the Koch brothers), enabling Tea Party Republicans to shift the blame for the loss of good paying industrial jobs from Wall Street to minorities, immigrants and women.

Is the US Moving to the Right?

For me, the highlight of the documentary is  commentary by former Black Panther Party president Elaine Brown, the only activist featured. Brown, who is highly critical of the left’s failure to acknowledge the problems of poor white people, is the only commentator to dispute that the US is “moving to the right.” She points out that prior Republican campaigns used coded language (such as “state rights,” “law and order”) to target racist fears of blue collar whites. Trump, in contrast, openly caters to these sentiments. Brown reports that some blacks welcome the end of political hypocrisy and greater openness about the pervasiveness of white racism.

She believes this new openness offers a good opportunity to build a genuine multiracial working class movement. She gives the example of successful collaboration in Chicago between black activists and the Young Patriots (a white separatist group) against corrupt landlords.


*The Posse Comitatus Act, enacted in 1878, prohibited the use of federal troops to enforce domestic policies within the US.

**The right of Habeus Corpus, guaranteed under Article I of the Constitution and the Fifth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, prevents government from illegal detaining US citizens without charging them.

 

Crude Harvest: Selling Mexico’s Oil

Al Jazeera (2017)

Crude Harvest is about a controversial law Mexico has enacted that puts its publicly owned oil industry up for sale to foreign corporations. The law also grants foreign oil companies the right to override the wishes of Mexican farmers if oil is discovered on their land.

Following a massive popular uprising, Mexico nationalized their oil industry in 1938. It’s the last nationally owned oil company to be opened to foreign investment. US oil economies are extremely excited as Mexico is an extremely corrupt country that makes no effort to regulate oil production. They will be allowed to pollute Mexican water and air as much as they like without consequences.

The documentary goes on to reveal how NAFTA has systemically “raped” the Mexican economy and forced the government to sell their oil industry to pay off Wall Street debt. By flooding the Mexican market with cheap (subsidized) American food, the US has wiped out most small Mexican farmers and ranchers and turned many small indigenous villages into ghost towns. Left with no way to support themselves, these former farmers can only survive by turning to organized crime or illegally entering the US.

Once that their lands are to be turned over to foreign oil companies, yet more farmers will lose their livelihood. Meanwhile Mexican debt will only increase as the government loses oil profits that currently comprise 40% of government revenue.

 

US and The Wall: Deportees in Mexico Unwanted by Either Side

RT (2017)

This documentary explores the plight of newly deported immigrants  – many of whom have lived in the US more than 20 years and speak no Spanish. Most end up in Tijuana which, run by drug cartels, is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Because they’re not local, it’s fairly common for Mexican police to detain deportees and steal their money.

The film profiles three main groups, volunteers who leave gallon jugs of water in the desert to prevent migrants from dying of thirst; armed vigilantes, drawn from former military and police personnel, who patrol the Arizona desert hunting down illegal immigrants; and US veterans who have started a shelter in Tijuana for veterans deported after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most were enticed to enlist with a promise of citizenship – only to be deported for minor crimes such as DUIs, drug possession, bad checks or firearms offenses. One veteran talks of pleading guilty based on a broken promise he wouldn’t be deported.

During the filming, the shelter is visited by seven Congress people concerned about the plight of deported veterans.

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States – Prequel A

Directed by Oliver Stone (2014)

Film Review

Owing to the series’ great success, Oliver Stone has produced two prequels to his  Untold History of the United States. The first traces the origins of America’s present empire-building spree at the end of the 19th Century.

Stone credits Lincoln’s Secretary of State William Seward (1861-69) for the launch of America’s imperialist ambitions. Following the US conquest of half of Mexico in 1848, Seward sought to expand US empire even further by conquering Alaska, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Canada, Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Hawaii and Midway.The US would eventually succeed in annexing all of these territories, except for Canada, Haiti and the Dominican Republic – although they only formally possessed the northern section of Columbia, which they renamed Panama.

Then, as now, the US undertook these military adventures at the behest of Rockefeller, JP Morgan, William Randolph Hearst and other Wall Street robber barons. After the severe depression of 1893 (which caused 20% unemployment), they were convinced the only way to prevent further economic instability was to conquer foreign countries for their resources, cheap labor and markets for surplus US products.

During this period, US troops also invaded Cuba, the Philippines, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua and China for the benefit of Standard Oil, United Fruit and other US corporations. Stone quotes extensively from General Smedley Butler’s War is a Racket. Butler participated in nearly all of these invasions.

Stone goes on to trace the British, French, US and czarist designs on Middle Eastern oil that were the true basis for World War I and the invasion of Russia by British, French, US and Japanese troops following the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. I was unaware the US refused to recognize the Soviet Union until 1933, when Roosevelt took office.

My favorite parts of this film concern the brave rebels who opposed this US imperialist aggression despite a brutal federal crackdown on all protest activity: Mark Twain and other in the Anti-Imperialist League, Eugene Debs, Bill Haywood and International Workers of the World, Emma Goldman and Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones).

Zapatista: A Big Noise Film

Benjamin Eichert, Richard Rowley, Stale Sandberg (1999)

Film Review

Zapatista is about the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) uprising in Chiapas on Jan 1, 1994. This was the day the North American Free Trade Treaty (NAFTA) took effect between the US, Canada and Mexico. As a condition of NAFTA, Mexico’s PRI government abolished the ejidos (sections of land farmed communally with state support) established in the 1917 revolution. As large numbers of indigenous people were driven off their land for US oil drilling and cattle ranches, they lost their ability to provide for themselves and their families.

Chiapas is a province rich in resources, such a petroleum, coffee, hydroelectric power and uranium. Yet most of this wealth goes to US corporations and a few local elites. Prior to the 1994 uprising, the poor of Chiapas had no access to clean water, electricity or medical care. Seventy-five percent of the population met international criteria for chronic hunger.

The EZLN seized two cities on January 1 1994, San Cristobel de la Casas and Ocozingo, and delivered heir revolutionary proclamation. The occupation lasted two days before 12,000 Mexican troops, equipped with US bombers and attack planes drove them back into the jungle. Initially the Mexican army pursued them, intending to wipe out the Zapatista leadership. After a few weeks, they recognized the immense popular support the EZLN enjoyed and agreed to a ceasefire.

In February 1995, as a condition of a $47.5 billion US bailout, the Mexican government broke the ceasefire to launch a reign of terror they called the “Great Offensive.” Faced with the sudden onslaught of thousands of troops, trucks, thousands of civilians were forced to flee into the mountains.

This offensive was ultimately unsuccessful, in part due to strong support the Zapatistas received from human rights organizations and the international press. Through their initial spokesperson Subcommandante Marcos, they made a concerted effort to spread the message of “Zapatismo” to other peoples oppressed by multinational corporations and neoliberalism.

The purpose of the EZLN uprising, according to Marcos, wasn’t to take over the Mexican government but to “create a space where people can decide how they want to live their lives.”

The EZLN is elected out of the communities that support them. Women comprise one-half of the general command and one-third of the armed force. Their weapons serve a purely defensive function and haven’t been fired since February 1994.

 

The Zapatista Uprising: 20 Years Later

The second film mainly concerns the San Cristobel journalist who helped the Zapatistas get their story out to the world. As of 2013, 60,000 families lived under self-government in EZLN-controlled territory. In addition to establishing schools and clinics for the first time, the Zapatistas also run production units, supply centers and transport systems.

Follow current Zapistista news at their blog

the-missionaries

The Missionaries: God Against the Indians

By Norman Lewis

Penguin (1988)

Book Review

The Missionaries is a travelogue by British journalist Norman Lewis recounting his visits in the fifties, sixties and seventies to remote regions of Vietnam and Latin America. His purpose is highlighting the systematic genocide of indigenous tribes during this period and the role played by evangelical missionaries (with close CIA collaboration) in evicting native peoples from land US corporations sought to exploit it.

As a prologue, Lewis describes the English invasion and occupation of Tahiti in 1767. English missionaries spent seven fruitless years trying to voluntarily convert native Tahitians to Christianity. They eventually resorted to force, collaborating with colonial police to execute natives who refused to convert and outlaw cultural practices such as dancing, tattooing, surfing and wearing flowers. The usual sentence for engaging in such practices was hard labor on the roads.

Over the next 25 years, the British and French governments successfully colonized all the South Pacific islands and virtually extinguished all native culture.

The book fast forwards to World War II, when the invention of the caterpillar tractor allowed Europeans and Americans to finally penetrate inaccessible jungles in South East Asian and Latin America – enabling them to kill and displace even more indigenous populations.

Lewis focuses mainly on the two most powerful missionary organizations: the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) and the New Tribes Missions (NTM). Both assisted the CIA and their puppet dictators in displacing thousands of indigenous groups from the jungles of Columbia, Peru, Venezuela, Brazil and Paraguay. The evidence he lays out directly implicates these missionary groups in the slaughter (in some cases by aerial bombardment), enslavement and forced prostitution. In most cases, individual  missionaries had their own commercial stake in colonizing these regions (eg selling food to native populations following the destruction of their jungle habitat and hiring out their female children as domestic servants and prostitutes).

The callous attitude (towards the enslavement and extermination of their converts) of these so-called men of God is quite astonishing. They rationalize their actions based on the “inevitability” of native assimilation. If the transition to civilization kills most of them, so much the better. By baptizing them, the missionaries can ensure they go straight to Heaven.

Once Mexico, Ecuador, Brazil, Panama and Columbia ousted their US-sponsored military dictators, all five countries banned both the SIL and the NTM, which were ultimately denounced by both the UN and the Organization of American States (OAS) for violating the UN Genocide Convention.

People can read a more detailed account of the CIA/SIL collaboration to open up Latin America to US corporate interests in Thy Will Be Done the Conquest of the Amazon: Nelson Rockefeller and Evangelism in the Age of Oil

the american future

The American Future: A History from the Founding Fathers to Barack Obama.

Simon Schama

Random House (2008)

Book Review

Written for a British audience, The American Future attempts to define the quintessential American national character by tracing historical movements that have shaped US society. The five political movements Schama considers most important are 1) the gradual rise of a professional military officer class, 2) the role of evangelical religion in the movement to abolish slavery, 3) the brutal imperialist war against Mexico and the Philippines, 4) the forced displacement of the Cherokee and four other Native American nations under Andrew Jackson, and 5) the development of large scale irrigation in to open the Southwest desert area to agriculture.

For me the primary value of this book is all the historical gems Schama includes that you never learn about in high school. For example:

• The founding of West Point military academy with its Jeffersonian emphasis on philosophy and civil engineering, as opposed to military tactics. Jefferson believed a sound liberal education for US military officers would help ensure the US never went to war except to defend liberty. Congress consistently refused to fund a US military or naval academy until an undeclared war with France broke out in 1796.* Over a period of ten months, the French seized 300 US merchant vessels. When Congress eventually authorized funding for West Point, its primary purpose was to train the Army Corps of Engineers, who built the levees, bridges, damns, dykes and forts that enabled westward expansion. They also drained the swamp in Washington DC and built the Capitol and other important federal buildings.

• President Lyndon Johnson’s role, in 1964, in blocking the credentialing of Mississippi’s Freedom Democratic Party, led by Fannie Lou Hamer, after the Mississippi Democratic Party declared their support for the Republican candidate Barry Goldwater. This blatant white cronyism would provide major impetus to the growing black power movement.

• The profound religious intolerance that persisted in the US even after the 1780 adoption of the Bill of Rights guaranteeing separation of church and state. ** In Massachusetts, Sunday church attendance was compulsory until 1833 – until 1840, blasphemy could be punished by one year in prison, public whipping or the pillory. In Maryland Jews weren’t allowed to vote or hold office until the state passed the Jew Bill in 1820.

• Anti-immigrant feelings, especially against Germans, Irish, Mexicans and Chinese were so intense during the 19th century that there were frequent riots in which immigrants were lynched or had their homes set on fire. An 1855 riot in Louisville would have affected my great grandfather, whose family arrived in the area after immigrating from Germany in 1840.

• President Teddy Roosevelt’s 1902 National Reclamation Act, which led to the construction of 600 dams (including Grand Coulee and Hoover Dam) in thirty years. These would provide irrigation to millions of acres of desert in California and the Southwest. This project would include the diversion of the Colorado River to supply Southern California’s Imperial Valley, which supplies nearly half the fresh fruit and vegetables consumed by Americans, as well as Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix and parts of Mexico.


*Prior to reading this book, I had no idea the US and France had been at war (with each other).

**The early view of the Bill of Rights was that it only pertained to the federal government and didn’t apply to state law.