March 2001 

“Zapatour” in Foxlandia, Police Beat Demonstrators in Cancún, 
UNAM Students Expelled

Fox Drops the Mask

Mexico's Federal Police attack demonstrators protesting World Economic Forum
meeting in Cancún, February 27. (Photo: Gregory Bull/AP) 

The following is translated from a supplement to El Internacionalista, issued by the Grupo Internacionalista/México.
MARCH 8 – From the moment he was elected last July 2, Mexican president Vicente Fox has presented himself as the incarnation of “democracy,” promising a “plural and inclusive” government after 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). According to this fairy tale, the candidate of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) would bury the “perfect dictatorship” of the PRI [as Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa termed it] in a “transition without turbulence.” During its first 100 days in office, the new Fox regime has continued tossing around contradictory campaign promises. But on February 27 the mask came off.

As Fox arrived by helicopter to give a speech to the closing meeting of the World Economic Forum, a brutal police operation was being carried out, coordinated by the president’s military staff. The objective: to give a thrashing to those who would demonstrate against this den of imperialist mouthpieces. Public Security units, the Cancún municipal police and the Federal Preventive Police (PFP) encircled several hundred demonstrators on the avenue leading to the forum site. As demonstrators were dispersing, a savage repression began. Armed with riot sticks and electric shields, the police revelled in spilling blood. Milenio (28 February) headlined laconically: “Cancún stained red.” The reported toll was 49 arrested and dozens injured.

Meanwhile in the capital, the University Tribunal – an inquisitorial organ of the National University (UNAM) administration – decreed the expulsion of six leaders of the Strike General Council (CGH) from the School of Political and Social Sciences. The hypocritical accusation against the CGH members was “harassing” members of the “university community” – that is, strikebreaking teachers and management personnel who were preparing a provocation against a one-day strike in several schools. The February 6 strike was called to commemorate the first anniversary of the police takeover of UNAM, which broke the ten-month strike at Latin America’s largest university with more than 1,000 arrests. And now these repressors accuse the students of violence!

The police beatings in Cancún and the UNAM expulsions are not isolated incidents. The clubs and summary judgments show the true face of the “peaceful transition to democracy” which Fox brags of. His continuation of the economic policies of the last PRI administrations means more blows against the exploited and oppressed. In order to maintain its rule based on the brutal exploitation of its wage slaves, the bourgeoisie needs a regime that will rule with an iron hand. Fox well knows that Mexican capitalism has to “bullet-proof” itself in order to military repress los de abajo (the downtrodden). Not coincidentally, a few days after taking office the new president announced that he was substantially increasing the budget of the CISEN, the federal intelligence agency that is the successor to the notorious DFS (Federal Security Bureau). Now, after its “feat” against defenseless youth in Cancún, the PFP announced that it was “reactivating” spying at the same time as the head of the CISEN, a member of the PRI, resigned. The continuity with the repressive organs of the old regime is evident.

Now there is a new media circus around the Zapatista caravan which is approaching Mexico City. The leaders of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) are coming to the capital unarmed to negotiate the implementation of the San Andrés Accords, whose provisions call for autonomy for Mexico’s Indian peoples and respecting the traditional practices of the more than 60 indigenous peoples in the country. As the “Zapatour” passed through the states of Oaxaca, Michoacán and Guerrero, thousands came out to greet Subcomandante Marcos and the other Zapatista leaders. This doubtless expressed the hopes placed in the EZLN by many of the 10 million Mexican Indians and many others who are fed up with the poverty which has been their daily bread during decades of PRI rule. But these hopes will be shattered against the hard reality that it is capitalism itself and not just the government of the day which is the source of their oppression in this semi-colonial country.

Some 200,000 come out to greet Zapatista caravan at Mexico City's 
Constitution Plaza (the Zócalo), March 11. (Photo: Victor R. Caivano/AP)

Fox and his people are cynically trying to capitalize on this event. The two big television chains, Televisa and TV Azteca, are sponsoring a petition campaign “for peace” and organized a “peace” concert that brought 100,000 people to the Azteca sports stadium in Mexico City. The man with the boots (Fox) no doubt figures that by shaking the hand of the man with the pipe and ski mask (Marcos) the whole “Chiapas problem” will be solved “in 15 minutes,” as Fox vowed during the election campaign. But while those who in the past called in a barely veiled way for the extermination of the rebels are now carrying a “candle for peace,” 70,000 troops of the Mexican Army are still stationed in Chiapas. They have surrounded the Zapatista communities, while thousands of soldiers comb the mountain areas of Guerrero as well as Oaxaca, Michoacán in the west and the Huasteca hill region in the east. It’s necessary to categorically demand: Army get out!

In the face of the uproar set off by the broadcast of the televised beatings in Cancún, now the politicians are trying to hand off the hot potato. The PRI mayor is blaming the presidential military staff, while Fox says he is relieved that the PFP supposedly “wasn’t involved.” In any case, what this came down to was a blatant defense of capital by the forces of “order.” For those attending the imperialist forum, it was intended to exorcise the spectre of social revolt, while for the hotel owners it was intended to open the way for their night shift workers, who couldn’t come to work because of the traffic blockade. The cynicism of the repressors knows no limits. They accused demonstrators arrested on the beaches of “immorality,” ripping off their shorts to prove it.

In Cancún one can see with exceptional clarity the semi-colonial character of Mexican capitalism. The beaches are literally off limits to the local population, mostly made up of Mayan Indians, and to any Mexican who doesn’t have a key to one of the luxury hotels. In this land of Mexican apartheid, the hotel zone for the foreign tourists is physically separated by a lagoon from the area where the workers live, which lacks essential services like drinking water and sewage drainage.

In the hypocritical chorus of the bourgeois parties over the repression in Cancún, the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) stands out. While Fox “deplores” the beatings, the bourgeois-nationalist party of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas “energetically condemns” them. But the similarity between what happened in Cancún and the repression carried out by the PRD government of Mexico City against striking UNAM students is stunning. Police clubbings and mass arrests are not by a long shot the exclusive patrimony of the PRI – which for three-quarters of a century administered Mexican capitalism in the interests of the national bourgeoisie and its imperialist masters – nor of the new regime of the right-winger Fox.

In the Federal District and the state of Zacatecas, PRD governors have unleashed repression in order to keep “peace and order” for the bosses. Everywhere, their principal function has been to serve as “firemen,” diverting social discontent into the sterile channels of bourgeois parliamentarism. Fighting against the subordination of the urban and rural working people to this sector of the bourgeoisie, the Trotskyists of the Grupo Internacionalista have emphasized the need to break with the Cárdenas popular front and forge a revolutionary workers party.

This popular front could also be observed in Cancún. Among those who were protesting against the World Economic Forum was the PRD itself. In reality, the point of convergence of the “civil associations” and anarchists who took part in the demonstrations is the reformist utopia of turning back the wheel of history and keeping capitalism within national borders. The protests in Seattle, Washington, and more recently in Prague, Davos (Switzerland) and Porto Alegre (Brazil) denounced the “top agencies of corporate capital,” such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. They raise the banner of “fair trade” among the various capitalist countries. Thus the street protests are examples of class collaboration tying the exploited and oppressed to sectors of the capitalist class. To do away with the hunger and poverty which beset most of humanity, what is necessary is to sweep away imperialism through international socialist revolution. This perspective is counterposed to the straight-out nationalism of the “anti-globalizers.”

National University students march February 6 to commemorate anniversary of police assault on UNAM strikers that broke 291-day strike and put hundreds in jail. (Photo: Victor R. Caivano/AP)

The new Fox regime is gearing up to repress dissidents, above all the foreseeable working-class opposition to its privatization plans. For this they need some illustrative examples to show that they won’t be stingy in using state power. This can be clearly seen in the case of the students expelled from UNAM. All of them are reputed “ultras,” and many spent several months in jail after the PFP operation last year. Complaining of the “mistreatment” of a few scabs (all of them connected to the present director of the Political Science School, Pérez Correa, who was previously a high Interior Ministry official in charge of political intelligence), the university authorities are seeking an intimidation effect. Students and professors in the schools of Sciences, Philosophy and at the university preparatory school at Naucalpan are facing similar sanctions, and their files have been handed over to the University Tribunal. But still the authorities have been unable to root out rebelliousness among the student body. To counter them what’s needed are student-worker mobilizations demanding: Drop the University Tribunal charges against the students and professors!

We are currently witnessing an elaborate dance between the EZLN and the new government. In almost identical terms, both Fox and El Sup Marcos have said that they are “risking all” their political capital with this march to the capital. Speaking with El Universal (26 February), Marcos made it clear that he is seeking a deal which would mean the disappearance of the EZLN “as an armed option.” Now the president calls on “the whole nation” to support the “march for peace,” while Marcos says it is a “march for dignity.” At the same time, the leader of the Zapatistas declared that they are “indisputably part of the forces that defeated the PRI” (interview with Ignacio Ramonet, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique, in El País, 25 February). This posture is not new: at the time of Fox’s inauguration, Marcos wrote a letter to the new president giving him the benefit of the doubt, saying “You don’t have to overcome, yet, anything negative (given that you have not attacked us).” 

For seven years, the EZLN has constituted a virtual guerrilla force. Although its manifesto of 1 January 1994 declared its intention to “advance on the capital of the country by defeating the Mexican federal army,” it has long ago reduced its expectations to the promulgation of the law drawn up by the legislative Commission of Concord and Pacification (Cocopa). It acts as an armed pressure group, seeking the support of a sector of the bourgeoisie. Traditionally allied with Cárdenas and his PRD, today it is looking for a deal with Fox. And Fox says he is ready: “We are prepared to go forward in carrying out the conditions proposed by the Zapatistas” (La Jornada, 2 March). But if the National Congress in the Palace of San Lázaro passes the San Andrés Accords (embodied in the Cocopa draft law) – however just the demand to respect the elemental rights of the oppressed Indian population – granting “autonomy” under the boot of the military will not resolve the centuries-old oppression of the indigenous peoples.

Fox pretends he is withdrawing troops that have surrounded Zapatista Indian communities since 1994, but Mexican army is only being redeployed in Chiapas. Some 70,000 soldiers remain in the state. Workers must demand: Mexican army get out! (Photo: Eduardo Verdugo/AP)

Marcos speaks poetically of a conflict between “the gods of money and the men of corn.” The down-to-earth reality is that liberation of the Indian communities – in which 80 percent live in utter poverty, illiteracy exceeds 50 percent, infant mortality is astronomical and the main cause of death among children is hunger – is not possible without overthrowing the kingdom of capital. Chiapas, despite the grinding poverty of its inhabitants, is one of the richest states in Mexico in terms of its natural resources. It has important oil deposits and produces 40 percent of the hydroelectric energy of the entire country. U.S. president George W. Bush has his sights set on those resources. During his one-day visit to Fox’s ranch (during which he announced his criminal bombardment of Iraq, calling it a “routine” action), Bush announced that he wants a bilateral accord to import electricity from Mexico as a response to the present energy crisis in California.

For his part, Fox promised the imperialists meeting in Davos, Switzerland in January that he would soon privatize the electrical power industry. At the same time he is calling to extend the maquiladora industry of duty-free plants to the south, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs at starvation wages. With his “Puebla to Panama Plan,” he is attempting to revive the long-abandoned project of an interocean transport corridor across the Tehuantepec Isthmus, but this time with superhighways instead of a canal. But for the Indian peoples, these privatization and maquilazation plans mean intensified exploitation. The emancipation of the Indians after centuries of oppression, first under Spanish colonial rule and then under the bourgeois republic, is only possible through an agrarian revolution that sweeps away the big estate owners and puts in the hands of the exploited the resources necessary to overcome poverty. This, in turn, requires the seizure of power by the proletariat in a workers revolution that extends beyond the borders to the heart of U.S. imperialism.

The new Fox government represents a change in the methods of social control in order to keep bourgeois rule afloat. The decrepit PRI regime based its reign on its iron control of the labor movement through the straitjacket of corporatist “unions.” Faced with the breakdown of these antiquated structures, the bourgeoisie was forced to seek a backup option. At the end of the 1980s there arose the Cárdenas popular front, headed by a group of former PRI leaders – a class-collaborationist alliance whose purpose was to divert the widespread discontent among the oppressed and subjugate the working class to a sector of the bourgeoisie. With the passing of the years, however, the bourgeois PRD lost its drawing power and seemed in the eyes of the national and foreign bourgeoisie to be incapable of containing the social pressures. The UNAM strike, for example, clearly showed the failure of PRD attempts to end it “from within.” 

The resulting backup option was the right-winger Fox, through which various key sectors of the bourgeoisie are seeking a stricter control over the government. The decayed semi-bonapartist regime gave way to the “brand-name government,” including the presence in the cabinet of top executives (duly recruited by headhunting agencies) from the Carso Group (banking), the Vitro Group (glass), Cemex (cement), Bimbo (bakeries), Maseca (tortillas), along with Proctor & Gamble and Union Carbide (“Fox and His Businessmen’s Republic,” Proceso, 10 December 2000). When Fox talks of a “plural and inclusive” government, the former Coca-Cola chief is referring to the inclusion of a top executive of Pepsi-Cola in his administration. At the operational level, the assistant secretaries of the ministries consist of a whole mafia from right-wing Catholic and fascistic groups (MURO, El Yunque, Anti-Communist Student Front, Provida, Legionnaires of Columbus) who then joined the PAN (see “The Right Wing That Governs with Fox,” Milenio, 7 March). Labor Secretary Abascal Carranza, the former president of the Mexican Employers’Association, is the son of the founder of the Sinarquistas, a clerical-fascist movement from the 1930s.

We will soon see that Fox’s recipe for social control consists of the classic methods of the bosses’ white terror. There has been a drastic increase in “white” (company) unions around the country. A report on the maquiladora zone of Tijuana states that under the PAN government of Northern Baja California, “Today it is estimated that more than 700 of the 890 maquiladora plants in this border city have phantom unions” (La Jornada/Masiosare, 25 February). At the same time, the old corporatist “unions” try to hang on, attempting to demonstrate that they haven’t lost their capacity to impose company terror against workers fighting for their rights.

Workers at Duro maquiladora plant in Río Bravo fighting against corporatist "unions" of the bosses. Graffiti at right says: "CROC rats get out." (Photos: Coalition for Justice in the Maquiladoras)

An illuminating example is the Duro maquiladora (a supplier for Hallmark Cards) in the town of Río Bravo, Tamaulipas, where workers have waged a bitter fight against the pseudo-union of the CTM (Mexican Labor Conferation), which has held the sweetheart contract, and now against another corporatist “labor” federation, the CROC. During the ten months of their struggle, more than 150 workers have been fired by the Duro bosses. On the eve of a March 3 vote organized by the federal conciliation and arbitration agency, the two corporatist outfits unleashed a wave of terror in the factory. In broad daylight they unloaded high-calibre weapons at the factory gate and brought them into the plant. On the day of the vote, workers were confined to the work areas under lock and key, and under the watchful eyes of the pistoleros they were required to hand in a ballot for the CROC. The following day, one of the main organizers of the independent union was chased by a pick-up truck that rammed his car, causing head injuries.

The Grupo Internacionalista has insisted that in order to fight the starvation policies both of the old and the new regime it is necessary to carry out a class-struggle fight against the corporatist “unions” of the PRI and the company “unions” linked to the PAN. At the same time, it is necessary to oust the popular-frontist bureaucrats who subordinate the “independent” unions to the bourgeois PRD. This requires a communist leadership that can mobilize the power of the working class in a proletarian counteroffensive, fighting to forge a revolutionary workers party. As Trotskyists, we fight for a workers and peasants government that will break the imperialist yoke and carry out the democratic tasks which in the imperialist epoch can only be accomplished by the dictatorship of the proletariat, supported by the poor peasants. These tasks require from the outset undertaking socialist measures and extending the revolution to the rest of Latin America, as well as the United States and the entire world.

It is necessary to forge the indispensable nucleus of an international, Leninist-Trotskyist party, the task which the Grupo Internacionalista has set itself as a section of the League for the Fourth International. n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com