By Javier Rodriguez from La Plaza del Mariachi REVISED 16 Dec. 2013
If you are not part of the 50% Facebook users who post and reveal their superficial concerns continuously and tirelessly -to the chagrined of the other half- after reading this piece, you may or will probably begin to observe Massachusetts Junior Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s intrepid but profound leadership in the US Senate. Recently, in a move that’s totally out of the ordinary, she tested the waters in confronting the “AS USUAL PRO BIG BUSINESS MINDSET IN THE CAPITOL,” by questioning a trio of federal watch dogs who were providing a report to a Senate Committee that oversees corporate $million and $billion mal practice against the 99%, otherwise known as white collar crime.
According to reports, the Senator subtlety, from the side, asked the regulators, “What efforts were being conducted to uncover potential criminal activities in this case.” The question hit like a bucket of cold water. For a moment, you could hear a pin drop in the chamber. The bureaucrats froze, paused and stammered.
As the American people know quite well, with hardly any exceptions, these criminals never end up in prison, but rather, are always bailed out by “Agency Settlements” which are in real terms “diminutive fines” that do not correspond to the crimes committed. Usually in question, are funds stolen from society by sidetracking government regulations. Because of this and similar political moves, Warren is charmingly referred to as a “populist” in media circles, a label that sticks on the forehead of public opinion.
The magnitude of the corporate crimes has reached astronomical proportions. According to one source, there are over 300,000 such cases on file. We just witnessed a settlement of several billion dollars against JP Morgan. Recall that in the beginnings of the Iraq war, Halliburton defrauded us to the tune of $180 million and who knows how much more and what was given back. Then, the latest, the financial thieves that brought us the last and ongoing housing crisis from where we have yet to recover. This one is considered the largest transfer of wealth in American history, in the trillions, where Latinos lost 66% of their properties, African Americans about 50% and Whites 19%, and this, the grandest of all theft is well documented. To add molten volcano lava to the injury, incredibly, their businesses were bailed out by our social treasury. As with everything else since the advent of capitalism, this round of frauds and the profits were privatized but the resolution, to save the day, was socialized and paid for by the 99%. On top of it, they get $82 billion in annual government subsidies and as the 2012 presidential campaign reaffirmed, they pay less taxes than their secretaries.
The ruling class is legally armored by hundreds of years of accumulated capitalist law so as to never have to worry about going to prison or facing the death chamber for defrauding “tens and even hundreds of millions of people at a time, always causing impoverishment as a rule and death in many instances.”
In the ranks of conscientious radical trade unionists in America, the simplest and highly sarcastic way of defining the pro corporate mindset during union organizing campaigns is the fact that Senator Warren appears not to wear carpet layer kneecaps to properly kneel in front of the ruling class or their emissaries, nor does she use the injected silicone to enlarge the lips, to properly be able to practice corporate kissing.
Worldwide, the populist label is also a definite favorite of corporate media to disdainfully define the social and democratically elected governments and their leaders who dare challenge the powerful capitalist class, the classist judicial system and the bureaucrats, judges, politicians and the desk journalists behind it.
A good comparative involves the eight independent Latin American governments who do not adhere to the dogmatic doctrine of bowing to the global empire and the negotiated Free Trade Agreements, which of course are not free, but obscene profit oriented venues to submit the poorer countries into giving up their economic independence and solvency. One of the glaring examples of the negotiated Free Trade inequality are the prohibited subsidies to farmers of the third world, but not to those of the Western block, which astonishingly reserve an inherent and unquestionable right, even in the written agreements, a la bravota pues, to help their farm corporations outbid the native farmers of Mexico –the historical and submissive el traspatio, the backyard of America-. Since the onset of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexican farmers and campesinos have been driven into miserable economic conditions, forcing them, by the millions, to sell their lands and to migrate to the north. Prior to the agreement, the Carlos Salinas de Gortari Administration predictably forced a constitutional amendment that restructured and privatized farm land ownership in Mexico. The constitutional amendments now being approved under Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI which call for the privatization and denationalization of Mexico’s energy resources, including the sacrosanct oil and gas reserves are the perfect comparative.
In the case of the selling of NAFTA, the marketing campaign message pedaled by the Mexican government in the years of 1990-93 to convince public opinion in Canada, Mexico and the US, including the growing US Mexican Latino population, to support it, was a banger repeated hundreds of times by the corporate media, “NAFTA will elevate Mexico to the status of the first world,” and unabashedly, sin pelos en la lengua, affirmed, “Mexican immigration to the north will stop” forever and ever in fantasy land. The historical trade agreement became effective on 1 January 1994.
Salinas and President Bill Clinton waged a successful campaign that recruited what I coined then in an Op-Ed column “the nascent Latino Political Class.” It was as I recalled, a short list made up then of NCLR, NALEO, MALDEF, LULAC, SWVREP, a host of Latino appointed and elected leaders led by LA Supervisor Gloria Molina, then considered the most powerful Latina politician in the country and finally the most prominent Latino Media Corporations, La Opinion, Univision, and Telemundo. Interestingly, because of its twelve year relationship with the PRI and the fact they had also served as advisors to the Mexican Government and the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, the now extinct One Stop Immigration of LA and its national network was also an integral member of the Latino Pro NAFTA Coalition. All this in the context of the 1988 mega electoral fraud, with the infamous three day computer meltdown that installed Salinas in the presidency to preside over the continuity of Neo-Liberalism in Mexico, begun in 1982 with Miguel de la Madrid. On the American side George Bush began the first round of negotiations, but upon his defeat, the process continued with Democrat Bill Clinton.
The Harvard schooled Salinas understood the psychology of the Latino establishment and invested millions to bring them on aboard the NAFTA project. Immediately after his election, the Mexican government convened a series of regional mass gatherings of prominent thinkers, politicos, activists and leaders of community-political organizations in the US to discuss issues of interest to the huge Mexican Latino population. It was a good move. Essentially, the project was a behind the scenes polling of Mexican Latino public opinion.
Thereafter between in 1991-92, a Latino public relations firm headed by former Governor Anaya of New Mexico was hired to do the bidding on the air and on the ground. The chosen organization to promote the popular Mexican Latino support nationally was Southwest Voters Registration and Educational Project SWVREP and the key figure that lead the successful drive for the Mexican government was its director, Antonio Gonzalez. However the ideologue on his side was Dr. Raul Hinojosa and his assistant Dr. Armando Vazquez Ramos. The Coalition organized three public conferences, presented as neutral gatherings in Los Angeles and San Antonio, but the die had been cast with a hidden agenda.
The debate around NAFTA in the US ensued and intensified in 1992-93 and on the side of the Mexican left opposing the agreement were two of Mexico’s most prominent members of the Mexican opposition as well as speakers and columnists of the time, Jorge Castaneda and Adolfo Aguilar Zinzer. Under the Vicente Fox administration of 2000-06, Castaneda was named Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Aguilar Zinzer became the highly controversial Mexican Ambassador to the U.N. Under his leadership, the Bush government was not able to co-opt and force a UN resolution approving the war against Iraq. In his younger years, he was kidnapped and tortured by government right wing forces and not long after Fox removed him as Mexico’s top ambassador, like many other leaders in Mexico’s history, he died in what I consider a suspicious highway accident. Both then excellent communicators, on NAFTA, they toured the US, published several op-ed pieces in the national newspapers and also entered the national conversation talk shows.
Because of my lengthy involvement in the Mexico solidarity work since 1968 I wrote a scathing column against NAFTA that I published in February 1992 in the LA Times, La Opinion and other venues, which as I recall was titled, “Is Mexico Co-opting Latino Leaders?” Besides outlining the contradictions of inequality of the neo liberal tool, my angle primarily centered on the cooptation of the Latino leadership by the Mexican government. The topic had an extensive history which moved rapidly during the Luis Echeverria administration of 1970-76 and finally crystallized with Salinas. It was an aggressive campaign of dining and wining and national awards to Cesar Chavez, Gloria Molina, etc.
We debated on the pages of the mentioned newspapers and also on radio and TV, but to no avail, it was a battle of deafs/fue una Guerra de sordos. What was at stake for the Empire was the advancement of capitalist globalization, and neo liberalism and the Free Trade Agreement were key components. For Mexico it was consolidating the nation as a regional leader and winning the coveted North American markets. For the Latino Establishment, NAFTA was a first step to wage a successful national political campaign with the nod of both the Mexican and US governments. Gonzalez for a time became a sort of Latino King Pin. As former Senator Art Torres put it back in the 90s, “Antonio has become quite important, he has access to President Clinton’s private line.” The leading figure behind and founder of the Latino Congreso in 2006, inexplicably he has the only prime time Latino talk show on Radio Pacifica’s KPFK.
Was the sacrifice worth it? Mexico’s province was corporatized, millions were torn from their lands, their jobs and their families. With the dogmatic and continued implementation of the economic model by successive Mexicans governments, assisted by the latest electoral mega frauds -which by the way were orchestrated by American and Spanish election engineers- against leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, poverty has grown spectacularly to the tune of 50 plus millions; 29% of the work force is employed in the informal economy(street vendors); The government’s war on the Cartels has ravished the rule of law with over 100,000 deaths, tens of thousands disappeared, hundreds of thousands, maybe millions displaced in a war financed by the US Merida Plan and American taxes; We have yet to make it to the First World; Immigration continues unabated and death by the thousands of crossings accompanies it;
To this day, none of the members that made up the establishment of the time, or that led the pro NAFTA campaign, have yet to recognize their parts in this massive suffering. In fact, most of them still speak proudly of their roles; and the Republicans won’t let loose of reform with a path to citizenship but we are a lot closer to the defining point.
*Javier Rodriguez is a journalist, a blogger and a media and political strategist. A long time social activist, he is presently a co founder of the Millions of Voices Coalition in LA that on Sept. 22 moved thousands of people in Downtown LA for Immigration Reform. He was also the initiator and directed the making of the 1.7 million historical immigration march in Los Angeles on March 25, 2006, as well as the May 1st 2006 Great American Boycott. Back in 1982-86, he directed the mass street mobilizations in LA that led up to the Amnesty Law IRCA of 1986; He recently traveled for 5 ½ months thru Mexico in 2012, observing and writing about the country’s political process, the aftermath of a highly questioned presidential election, the drug war and migrants. His blog is Larayueladejavier.wordpress.com and his email firstname.lastname@example.org