“Biden has confirmed that he will visit Mexico,” said Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Mexican President also known as AMLO. He declared this enthusiastically in his daily morning conference after his telephone conversation with the President of the United States. Biden’s visit is to coincide with the next North American Leaders’ Summit, to be held in Mexico in December. Mexico’s relationship of dependence and semi-colonial domination by the US circumscribes the lives of Mexicans across diverse and antagonistic social sectors, whether they are conscious of it or not. And while at different moments in history, according to world events and the political posture of some of Mexico’s governments, the “forms” of domination have changed, it has remained one of the deciding factors of national life since the US invasion of 1846-48, which ended in the annexation of more than half of Mexico’s territory. Thus, it is not surprising that AMLO also wants to obscure this evident reality by defining the relations between both countries as one of “full respect for our sovereignty and cooperation for development.”
Let’s see what is actually meant by sovereignty and cooperation in this context. Today we have the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which was signed by Peña Nieto and Trump in 2018 and fervently supported by the newly elected AMLO. This treaty basically renews and reinforces the 25-year plunder perpetrated by NAFTA signed by Salinas de Gortari. In addition, we have the Bicentennial Framework signed by AMLO and Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard. This is in essence the same policy as the Mérida Initiative, a security cooperation agreement between the U.S., Mexico, and Central American governments, signed in 2009 by Calderón and Obama. And so, changing the names and signatories, the harsh conditions of trade and economic control of Mexico by the US and Canada are maintained; as are the conditions of political, military and so-called “security” domination. Within this context, there is no transformation possible without denouncing and combating this domination that Mexico suffers, which has been concealed and maintained by the Fourth Transformation government and pursued by the opposition who aspires to return to being the foremen of plunder, colonization, and super-exploitation, as they were for many decades.
Even the fundamental fact of Mexico’s semi-colonial condition has been ignored by some of the most notable “leftist” critics, such as progressive writer Juan Villoro, who was an early supporter of AMLO. That said, Villoro now defines the government in less glowing terms: “This is a populist government with a presumably leftist banner, which applies often neoliberal policies despite the fact that its rhetoric continually questions this. Those who have benefited are certain multimillionaires, the army, and drug traffickers. Those three sectors. It is a Mexico that continues to belong to plutocrats, all-powerful big businessmen, and criminals with great power who exercise sovereignty over large parts of the country, as well as an army that assumes functions that are increasingly alien to its original tasks, and that occupies a predominant position in the political arena.”
While Villoro rightly denounces the fact that “certain multimillionaires” are those who have most benefitted from the Fourth Transformation government, he forgets that other fundamental beneficiaries of this sovereign sham include the big US imperialist corporations, the big Canadian mining companies, and the corporations of other European and Asian industrial powers, such as the Chinese, that continue to plunder natural wealth and exploit Mexico’s cheap labor force. He forgets to say that those “certain multimillionaires,” pampered by AMLO, such as Slim, Salinas Pliego, Bailléres, Larrea, Tricio, and other oligarchs, are the local partners of US colonial rule.
The Yankee Boss
The Mexican governments—and AMLO is no exception—are the “bosses” who are in charge of not only managing the looting of the country and the exploitation of its workers under the USMCA, but they are also required to be the gendarmes guarding their southern border. They have been tasked with stopping the avalanche of migrants, who have been forced to immigrate because of extreme misery, social decomposition, and the violence under Central American, Caribbean, and African governments. That is why the National Guard was created and is now commanded by the Army.
The US has reiterated a fundamental demand: the guarantee of the continued monopoly on drug trafficking controlled by the DEA. That is why the Mérida Initiative was renamed. Because the motivations underlying this colonial pact were laid bare after the humiliating arrest and trial for drug trafficking in the US of General “Padrino” Cienfuegos, former Secretary of Defense and mentor to the current Defense Secretary General Luis Crescencio Sandoval. What happened? What did AMLO negotiate with Trump? It is no mystery: Cienfuegos was released and repatriated, and here the Mexican Attorney General Gertz Manero swept the whole matter under the rug, painting Cienfuegos as more innocent than Snow White. After that fiasco, AMLO, Biden, and the DEA were forced to change the name from the “Mérida Initiative” to the “Bicentennial Framework.” They agreed behind closed doors that there had been a “misunderstanding,” which is why they changed the name and inaugurated a High-Level Security Dialogue. While the names have changed, the relationship has remained the same.
The current world-historical situation is marked by the crisis of US hegemony. There is an acute dispute over domination between the imperialist and emerging powers. Biden is coming to Mexico to ensure that US and Canadian corporations will be able to continue their plunder of Mexico. To that end, the Mexican labor force continues to be the cheap commodity that AMLO puts on offer, while the US military oversees the control of customs and airports, and senior Mexican military officers train and cooperate with the Pentagon’s Southern Command.
It will come as no surprise that they also deal with notorious narco-traffickers. This is because these powerful and feared criminal organizations are an organic part of Mexican semi-colonial capitalism. They control an enormous part of the GDP, even greater than the remittances sent by Mexican citizens from the US, which amounted to more than 50 billion dollars this year. The narco-bourgeoisie, like everything else in the imperialist epoch, is part of the world capitalist class. But what was to be done about the large military and police bureaucracy, that parasitic social layer that increasingly colludes with drug traffickers? What was to be done with the many Cienfuegos, García Lunas, 27th Regiments, etc.?
They had to be offered other alternatives that did not question the DEA’s monopoly of the cartel. AMLO and the Fourth Transformation offered them other spoils. That is why they are participating in the new AIFA Airport, the construction of the Dos Bocas Refinery, and other mega-projects. That is why they manage customs, ports, and airports.
We are also finding that the US government is not concerned about the regime’s growing militarization. On the contrary, there appear to be no contradictions with “an army that assumes functions increasingly alien to its original tasks, and that occupies a predominant position in the political arena,” if it facilitates the country’s imperialist domination.
For this reason, under the label of “combating drug and arms trafficking,” Foreign Secretary Ebrard met with Secretary of State Blinken to continue to organize these tasks. Defense Secretary Sandoval and Naval Secretary Ojeda participated in the delegation that traveled to the US. In order to account for the assignments AMLO received, there was reported to be a “cordial conversation with President Joe Biden on migration, security and development cooperation.” Secretary Ebrard attested that the conversation was “very affectionate and close.”
Of course, there are tensions and the need for adjustments. For example, private competition with the Federal Electricity Commission in the electricity sector, or the exploitation of lithium, which is a matter of debate within the framework of USMCA, or the restriction on the intervention of DEA agents in Mexican territory. But AMLO himself confessed that “relations are very good, we are the main trading partner of the United States. And while some controversy remains, I am sure they will realize that our relationship is not affected at all.”