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On October the 2nd, I was invited to give a talk in Mexico City. Only when I was there, I realized that date and time, six in the evening, was that of the anniversary of the massacre perpetrated forty-four years ago by the Mexican army following the orders of President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, a PRI member. Those who died in the square were young students, onlookers that followed the students’ protests and neighbors hit by bullets or the furious persecution unleashed by the military in the buildings around the Three Cultures Square in Tlatlelolco. Tens or hundreds: the army and the government carefully concealed the extent of their atrocity. Even years after the infamous politician (rabid anti-communist, and Roman Catholic, CIA collaborator in the peak years of the Cold War) had the audacityy to reduce the number of deads to twenty and aerate his merit and pride for saving Mexico of “enemies of the Fatherland” (a euphemism for those trying to rid the country of his authoritarianism, his hypocritical Catholicism and his collaborating imperialist).

It was not a few enemies of the Country, but a crowd that claimed a democratic regeneration in Mexico. This is what Elena Poniatowska tried to make clear in her coral book Tlatelolco Massacre (1971). Laborious researches, summarized in the documentary Tlatelolco, the keys to the massacre (2002), report on the background of the student movement, the attitude of confrontation and repression adopted by the President, the planning of the operation Galeana to decapitate the movement and the responsibility of Olimpia Battalion in the escalation of violence that triggered the massacre. Even forty-four years later, the criminals remain unpunished. Most of the direct responsibles died in freedom, some of them with honors. And many of the victims are still not officially recognized or have received satisfaction.

As every 2nd October, thousands of Mexican citizens mobilize to remember the infamy, the day when the state ordered the death of its students with the aim of clearing the streets for the celebration of the first Olympic Games in Latin America, the so-called Olympics of Peace. Now is not the army, but riot police, which considers as enemy anyone that political power names “enemy”. Bodily trained not to see people but hostile units, they display themselves along Reforma, Alameda Central and the streets and squares of the historic center. But down in the subway, someone cannot be controlled. He is a man of about sixty, provided with a basic sound system, the same type as the ones used by street vendors. He doesn’t sell anything, he only tells a story. His story is about a young man who demonstrated on the streets of Mexico with the intention of asking dialogue to the then president to achieve a more fair, equalitarian and inclusive society. What he got in return was the silence of the mouths and the roar of helicopters, rifles, tanks and machine guns. And after being humiliated, his voice silenced. One of his most painful complaints was against the media: how the next morning the conductor of a TV news program began it informing about the meteo and completely ignored the massacre that had just happened in the same city where he was emitting.

But what the underground activist wanted to make public, was not a vindication of vindicate the memory of the victims, he was not seeking justice for past crimes, he wanted to stress that past impunity burdens the present and the health (or rather the disease) of the current democracy, that the informative manipulations that for years concealed the truth of Tlatelolco are direct precedent for the manipulations that served to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, as well as the ones that helped Peña Nieto to be elected as President of the Republic, being a member of the same party to which belonged the presidents under whose government happened the massacres of Tlatelolco, the Thursday of Corpus (1971), White Water (1995) of Acteal (1997). The problem of impunity and forgetfulness is not just that they leave victims without repair and criminals unpunished, but that they facilitate the commission of new crimes or the establishment of crime as a norm, up to the point that citizens get anesthetize in front of the corruption and the horror, that they/we arrive to consider as normal the everyday brutality and inhumanity.

The old activist’s complaint against the 1968 television is updated in recent students mobilization against media manipulation during the presidential elections campaign, which ended with the announced victory of PRI’s candidate Peña Nieto (a candidate, as friend reminded me, artificially built with the most advanced instruments of political marketing, including his marriage to a soap opera star). Paradoxically it was a group of a private University’s students who raised and extended their indignation; they joined the movement  #yo soy 132, following in this way other movements that for decades have being demanding the recovery of democratic ethics in Mexico. Yet actual symbolic and actual violence are more effective than arguments and peaceful presence.

There are cities and territories affected by situations of conflict, where struggle and suffering are real for the people and have consequences on individuals’ bodies and lives, but at the same time these territories make visible tensions that affect us globally. Mexico (as Palestine for other reasons, as Chile was years ago, as Spain was in the thirties) is one of those places. City (and country) of great contradictions, where the finest achievements of superimposed civilizations alternate with barbarism and misery, where warmth, sensuality and delayed talks live together with brutality, immorality and the most terrifying demonstrations of human cruelty. Is an ancient heritage? Is it part of the Mexican idiosyncrasy? This would certainly be the easiest answer. As easy as identifying terrorism with Muslims’ DNA, violence with the Colombian or common crime with the Brazilian favela dwellers. The truth is that the daily tragedy that affects thousands of people in Mexico (due to the drug empire) and the mockery of PRI candidate election as president of the United Mexican States have certainly local explanations, but they could not be effective nor understandable without the political, economic and symbolic networks that run on international scale.

The rulers of the Northern U.S. might feel comfortable with the fact that drug violence is delocalized (as they tried the Islamist terrorism to be, as anti-capitalist guerrillas were). Meanwhile no one seems to take any relevant measure to solve the problem of drug trafficking attacking the internal market, based on illegal procedures that  that multiply the benefits of bosses (and those with whom they deal). Is it because these speculative mechanisms (in this case resulting from the ban) are not very different from the speculative mechanisms (result of the opacity) on which neoliberal capitalism is based? Bertolt Brecht wrote years ago that fascism was the hysterical phase of capitalism, and wrote a play, Arturo Ui (1941), in which Nazis appeared metaphorized in the Chicago mafia. The war of the Mexican “failed state” against narco power would not be a reenactment of the war of neoliberalism against the obscenity of his visibly criminal drift?

Once religion has been reduced to folk liturgies and control instruments and national constructions have emerged as economic brands or elections lures and they no longer as projects for guaranteeing citizens right’s, what is the difference between narcos and big speculators? Are not they both guided by the same search of individual success? What value do they respect but social advancement? Don’t they both build their empires through submission, on inequality, fear, violence? The ones use private armies and build their own symbols of terror (especially hurtful in Mexico). The others use the police and, more subtly, they turn to the narratives of “shock”; when not working, they order riot police to charge.

The pursuit of success is associated with the construction of oligopolies and networks to ensure the cancellation of competition and legal threats. This is achieved through the corruption of law officials, politicians, judges … Maybe the drug dealers and gangsters do it more roughly; speculators and bankers prefer to use their familiar and social connections… When there is no more ethics than the success and the accumulation of power, and when the legal system is constantly being changed to benefit some minorities, what is the difference between illegal and legal success? In both cultures, families are important as an instrument of stability. Religion offers an interesting facade, especially when the religiosity of criminals economically benefits the churches. And when things get complicated, both groups use violence. The first, directly and dramatically. The second, indirectly, because they have at their service those who have the exclusive legitimated use of violence. Police, deprived of its legitimate function of defending individual rights of citizens, has the mission to execute evictions and foreclosures, to repress demonstrations and to prosecute those who respond to “legal” thefts speculators “illegally” appropriating foods and essential goods.

For those who were born under Franco’s dictatorship, the motto of the “forty years of peace” is still a memory embedded in our imagination. “Peace” meant by the dictator was an imposed peace, and resulted of the silencing of millions of citizens: many condemned to exile, others to jail, others shot in the early years of the dictatorship, and hundreds of thousands ostracized, hidden inside the “silent majority”. Dictatorial peace was not a peace, but a result of fear, fear of repression and fear also of “riots” that returned memories of a painful war. For European citizens, peace and European integration are also a result of a traumatic memory, that of the Second World War and the “shoah”. For a long time we were led to believe that the only thing that could break the peace was an external threat called “communism”. But “peace” was then a mortgaged peace by the lack of rights. “Peace” we believed we were enjoying was only lack of visible actual violence, and now it has been broken. It hasn’t been broken by communist forces, or anarchists, or even terrorists. But by greed. Depending on the country, greed is added in different proportions to the corruption of politicians and public servants, the earthly power of churches, the public presence of mafias and cartels, parallel to the stirring of old ghosts or the spur of atavistic feelings (racism, xenophobia), all under the sign of the homeland defense, the call to nation building and the recovery of nineteenth-century myths that now are not but masks behind which hides the action of international capital, which directly intervene on local laws, and benefits of the marketing associated to conflicts.

That the nineteenth century nation has exploded is very clear when considering the role of army and police. Before the army was sent to suppress the rebels, because it was believed that the nation was at war against international communism to the orders of Soviet imperialism (with its bridgehead in the Cuba of Fidel Castro). This justified the Tlatelolco massacre. Now the governments send the police (militarized), because war has gone global and now is openly an internal war, a civil war that in each country unfolds between the forces of speculative capital and the forces of life.

When the threat of international communism cannot be used anymore, how to justify violence against the internal enemy? The narratives constructed by the elitess try to divert attention from this war to other wars built by them: the war of civilizations, the war against international terrorism, the war against the economic crisis … In Mexico, the war that occupies public attention is the drug war. Thousands of causalities of this war (that are also individual bodies) are used to hide some other thousands of victims, victims of the state repression or independent forces tolerated by the government against innocent citizens and defenders of their rights. Certainly capos and narco-mercenaries have caused enormous pain in recent years; they have limited the mobility of people and have sown fear out of DF. Figures of violence in past years are devastating. But can drug violence arrive to an end without questioning the model of capital accumulation and power that drug traffic shares with neoliberalism? And without challenging the hypocrisy surrounding the generation and distribution of speculative profits? Will not Peña Nieto be obliged to negotiate with narcos (in case he didn’t do it already) just as any “democratic” president is forced to negotiate with bankers?

Meanwhile, the media offer all kinds of excuses and camouflages to these operations of power and rapine. As citizens we can still resist, find out tricks and sometimes even resorting to cynicism. In the basement of the Estela de luz (“stele of light”, visible memory of the previous six years bad administration), it was opened the Digital Culture Centre, a way of “whitening” responsibilities. The center’s curators have decided to respond to the cynicism with cynicism, appropriating what actually is a public space and proposing an impeachment exhibition. It traces the memory of popular resistance against various tyrannies, starting by confronting the speeches of Zapatistas and those by the students in the recent movements, and ending with an explicit denunciation of media manipulation. In this case, the action takes place again in Chile and shows the television circus that another neoliberal president arranged to celebrate the rescue of the miners trapped in the San José mine in August 2010 and the subsequent award, which allowed them to travel to Disneyland. The TV new about the miners visiting the leisure park served to hide and silence the student demonstrations in defense of public education. It worked just as the Olympics of Peace in 1968, which were the excuse and the alibi to order and after silencing the Tlatelolco massacre. The youth movement # yosoy132 decided not shut up, to show the face on the screen and put the body on the streets. Yesterday in Madrid and in all the cities of Spain, secondary school students left the classroom to express their anger against authoritarianism, manipulation, economic segregation. Their bodies, their words, their bright of energy faces are our hope against the rule of violence and impunity for its crimes.

José A. Sánchez

México-Madrid, October 2012

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