When two countries share a border, it seems important that each would keep track of civil unrest happening in the other. Our incoming President has promised to address the immigration problem but it seems that Trump may not get a wall up in time to protect America from another threat in Mexico.
Tensions have been building in the country to our south. Government, drug cartels, and citizens battle each other and even themselves in a fight for freedom and control.
Three decades ago, Mexico began a system of neoliberalism that has helped propel the country to its current state of disaster. This type of politics focuses on confidence in free markets as the most-efficient allocation of resources, an emphasis on minimal state intervention, and a commitment to the freedom of trade and capital.
The national structure in Mexico has been sacrificed in favor of international corporations. The privatization of social benefits and services requires state subsidies and allows businesses to make money while citizens bear the problems.
The impact of all this has been devastating; a polarized income distribution, falling wages, rising inequality, and extreme violence. Health conditions have deteriorated and disorders associated with violence, chronic stress, and a changing nutritional culture have become dominating.
We have seen the drug cartels rapidly gain power and spill over into the United States. Several dominant organizations have established large bases within our borders and make millions supplying our citizens with drugs.
Citizens of the border city of Tijuana have dealt with dramatically rising gas prices and the closing of gas stations. Gas prices have jumped 15-20% nationwide in 2016 as the government moved forward with deregulating the oil industry, including the removal of some oil subsidies. Mexico has had government-controlled gas prices for nearly a century.
Several times last week, protests, some violent, caused shutdowns of highways running between Tijuana and San Diego. Protesters have used Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #gasolinazo to express their understandable anger at the sudden interference from the government.
David Kennedy-Cooley was one of dozens of protesters, arguing: “Let me put it in perspective. It takes me about $75 to fill my tank, and my salary is less than $100 a week. So I’m spending all my money on gas, and I still gotta feed my child, I still gotta pay rent, I still gotta get to work. And it’s just not enough. Our government just doesn’t understand.”
The issue of gas prices alone has led to over 400 arrests, 250 looted stores, and six deaths. It is not just the price gouging that is pushing Mexico to the edge. The narco-state is a term used to describe the open corruption between the Mexican government and drug cartels. Headlines in Mexican papers have been accusatory in the case of the kidnapping and presumed murder of 43 college students in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014.
The kidnappings remain officially unsolved but members of the Guerrero Unidos drug cartel have admitted to conspiring with local police forces to silence the student activists. 20 officers have been arrested in association with the kidnapping.
Former Iguala police Chief Felipe Flores has been arrested and “accused of offenses including organized crime and kidnapping the students.” Federal authorities say former Iguala mayor José Luis Abarca personally ordered the kidnappings.
In Mexico, when governments get influenced by big corporations, the corporations are usually drug cartels. The uncontrollable cartels at least partially fund the Mexican government. This festering problem is an underlying factor in the current civil unrest.
NAFTA is just as controversial in Mexico as it has been in the U.S. The 1994 “free trade” scheme, signed into law by Bill Clinton, saw a dramatic redesign of both the U.S. and Mexican economies.
Corn farmers were wiped out by low-priced corn subsidized by the U.S. government, which immediately flooded Mexican markets after NAFTA was passed. The Mexican immigration crisis soon followed.
Meanwhile, manufacturing plants began moving into Mexico from the U.S. to take advantage of extremely cheap labor. Protests for workers’ rights in Mexico, which recently raised its minimum wage to 80 pesos (approximately$4) per day, are often met with violent police crackdowns.
Supposedly to ramp up production and lower prices, the Mexican government pushed through privatization schemes in 2013 and 2014, which were backed by U.S. oil interests the Hillary Clinton-run State Department.
Consumers in the U.S. currently pay less for gas than Mexicans. In Mexico, it currently takes “the equivalent of 12 days of a minimum wage to fill a tank of gas compared to the U.S.’ seven hours.” Public transportation costs are likely to rise with fuel prices.
Food prices rose even before the gas prices and are set to climb 20% or more as they correlate with prices at the pump. All of this and more is what is taking place just over the border and most Americans are oblivious. Without a doubt, many of the refugees streaming in from Mexico are running from the unrest and violence.
The cartels are taking advantage and strengthening their positions in both countries. Our drug epidemic is directly related to Mexico’s growing problems.
No fence is going to contain the full scale war that is about to erupt. Our corrupt politicians have helped lead Mexico to the brink and we are all going to suffer as a result.