Some years back my pal Bill and I used to stop for a glass of wine at Pearl Alley after work. One night seated next to me was the editor of a local cartoon magazine specializing in anything anti-American or pop-revolutionary. The editor mentioned jokingly that things were getting so bad in the USA now that he was thinking of moving to Cuba. I replied that was fine but he better find another line of work because if he prints one issue there he could get life in prison.
The editor was stunned. He had no idea that such a thing was conceivable. In all his years of radical activism he had never had anyone tell him about political prisoners in Cuba. The editor just shook his head.
In subsequent issues of his magazine there was no change whatsoever. He wanted to believe in what he wanted to believe in. If the facts did not correlate in the preferred manner, he simply ignored them. That’s the problem with populism Latin America style. If the facts don’t fit, ignore them.
In 2006 Mexican presidential PRD party candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had what has to be one the biggest political meltdowns in modern history. Arrogant and presumptuous, Lopez Obrador in January 2006 made a string of very poor political decisions including telling then Mexican Presidente Vicente Fox to ‘shut up’. Fortunately for Mexico, Lopez Obrador took his opponents, including the short statured PAN candidate Felipe Calderon, for granted.
In the first political debate Lopez Obrador was so confident he did not bother to show. The TV camera constantly showed pictures of his empty chair. Even in the last few weeks of the campaign Lopez Obrador told his faithful his polls showed him winning by 10 points. So confident of victory he shunned the smaller political parties as beneath his dignity; any one whose support would have given him the election.
As a post mortem many analysts now believe that Lopez Obrador suffers from a psychological disorder known commonly as the Messiah Complex. The same has been said for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Fidel Castro of Cuba. And Evo Morales of Bolivia and Daniel Ortega of Nicaraugua. Are we beginning to see a pattern here? However, in all fairness the same has been said of George Bush so one really must get above the polemics and go into the towns and villages to see for ourselves.
Many of my Maya Mexican neighbors voted for Lopez Obrador in the past election. They felt that if elected he would bring them everything he promised. With such high expectations they feel victimized by the promises of every political party. To a great extent that has been their history.
In my Maya village we are free and can do pretty much as we like as long as we behave ourselves or don’t cause problemas. Not so with some of our Mayan brothers and sisters in Chiapas.
In rural Chiapas, many Maya villages are controlled by the Zapatistas, the most famous being Comandante Marcos aka Comandante Cero. What I found most interesting about the Zapatista communities I saw were the number of child beggars. I was stunned as I had not seen such extreme poverty since I was in Africa many years ago. In my Maya village in Quintana Roo we have no child beggars. Or any beggars.
The Zapatistas somehow can afford to have the latest in machine guns but not enough to prevent their malnourished, swollen bellied children from begging. Several weeks after visiting these rural communities in Chiapas I heard Comandante Cero Marcos speak at the central park in Puebla.
Marcos railed on capitalism and how the Mayan brother’s cause is so much better now that the Zapatistas have the guns and control. I was impressed by Marcos’ eloquence and chic designer revolutionary clothes. But regardless of Marcos’ smooth words or Union Square duds our fellow Maya brothers and sisters in Chiapas are still starving.
Marcos and the failed Zapatista revolution are the story in a nutshell. No matter where in populist Latin America one goes the results are the same. When Hugo Chavez speaks of cutting the Venezuela worker’s day to six hours like the Europeans’ the workers cheer and sing revolutionary songs. But there simply isn’t enough oil in Venezuela to support everyone. But as a Chavista, I sure want to believe there is.
I found it somewhat ironic this week that Lopez Obrador’s followers, after one of his speeches in the Zocalo of Mexico City, stormed the cathedral and shut down Mass. God forbid. The Messiah Man versus Jesus. The truly scary thing was the Messiah Man lost the 2006 Mexican election by a hair. Otherwise, who knows what would have happened. You have to admit Andres Manuel has a lot of you know whats to invade the Catholic Church.
My neighbors and I could have been drafted into the Mexican Revolutionary Army. Maybe sent to Costa Rica or Chile to foment revolution. At my age I wouldn’t be much use except translating, folding bandages, drinking beer and singing Revolutionary songs. Maybe I would have gotten a Che beret and a Marcos pipe. Maybe they would have appointed me ambassador to Texas and I could go up and hobnob with the bourgeoisie in Austin and San Antonio… raise some revolutionary cash for new guns…that sort of thing.
I would rant on the evils of capitalism like Comrade Marcos and how it’s actually better for our revolutionary children to beg than to poison their minds with Mickey Mouse and online porno and eat nutritiously. Make no mistake about it; those swollen bellies are the direct result of imperialist capitalism, but on the plus side you have to admit they do win bigger tips from the tourists.
However, admittedly there is one very personal problem I would have. That ski mask bit is way too much in the hothouse jungle…