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A convergence of convergences: Friedman vs Parenti

Christian Parenti

The following is my latest piece for Al Jazeera.

When I started reading Christian Parenti’s latest book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence, it was not with the intention of evaluating his work against that of bumbling New York Times foreign affairs columnist Thomas Friedman.

In fact, after spending the last two years of my life thinking about Friedman, my aim as of late has been to not think about him. In the case of Tropic of Chaos I succeeded until page 7, on which Parenti summarises the book’s premise:

Climate change arrives in a world primed for crisis. The current and impending dislocations of climate change intersect with the already-existing crises of poverty and violence. I call this collision of political, economic, and environmental disasters the catastrophic convergence. By catastrophic convergence, I do not merely mean that several disasters happen simultaneously, one problem atop another. Rather, I argue that problems compound and amplify each other, one expressing itself through another.

Reading this, the first thing that occurred to me was that Friedman is also the author of a convergence involving three elements. Conveniently branded “the triple convergence”, it debuted in Friedman’s 660-page advertisement for US-directed corporate globalisation, The World Is Flat.

Friedman explains the triple convergence by recounting one of his “favourite television commercials” about the Konica Minolta bizhub as well as a tragic tale about ending up in the “B” rather than “A” boarding group on Southwest Airlines due to unawareness of at-home boarding pass-printing capabilities. The theory is too long-winded to delve into here – suffice it to say that the first of the three convergences is that of the “ten forces that flattened the world”, among them “Flattener #5: Outsourcing” and “Flattener #10: The Steroids”, which are new technologies that have acquired this moniker “because they are amplifying and turbocharging all the other flatteners”.

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Security Issues on the Texas-Mexico Border?

(Photo: Belén Fernández)

This article originally appeared at Upside Down World.

In the Texas border town of McAllen last month, a Border Patrol Agent—we’ll call him S.—recounted to me his experience during a recent excursion to a different stretch of the Texas-Mexico frontier near El Paso, northwest of McAllen.

According to S., he and other officials were visiting a particular section of the international boundary when an evacuation order was given and attack helicopters were called in. (“We don’t have that equipment in McAllen,” S. remarked.) It was eventually determined that there was in fact no emergency and that a goatherd on the Mexican side of the border was simply in possession of a stick that resembled a weapon.

As for other effective government responses to threats emanating from Mexico, S. acknowledged that the U.S.-Mexico border fence—construction of which began in 2006 and which reportedly cost up to $21 million per mile in California—has stanched neither drug trafficking nor illegal immigration. He did, however, optimistically reckon that the intermittent gaps in the fence encouraged traffickers and immigrants to concentrate their movements in these specific areas, where they could then theoretically be more easily apprehended.

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The Islamo-Bolivarian threat

(EPA)

The following is my latest piece for Al Jazeera:

In early July, the US Congressional Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence held a hearing entitled “Hezbollah in Latin America – Implications for US Homeland Security“.

The line-up of witnesses consisted of Roger Noriega, visiting fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute; Douglas Farah, senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center; Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council and journal editor for the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs; and Brown University professor Dr. Melani Cammett, the only testifier who bothered to provide an accurate history of Hezbollah and to refrain from referring to the Lebanese political party and resistance movement as a terrorist organisation directed by Iran.

Cammett’s co-witnesses more than made up for her dearth of creativity. Given the quality of what is consistently allowed to pass as evidence of the threat posed to the US by the supposed love affair between Iran and leftist Latin American regimes, it is perhaps only surprising that the first three expert-propagandists did not invoke Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s joke in the Oliver Stone documentary “South of the Border” – in reference to a corn-processing facility – that, “This is where we build the Iranian atomic bomb.”

Stripped of its facetious intent, the comment would have proved an able companion to the clique’s existing arsenal of justifications for increased US militarisation of Latin America as well as potential military manoeuvrings against Iran.

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Cocaine Unwrapped

The documentary film “Cocaine Unwrapped” will premiere at the Open City London Documentary Festival on 17 June at 8:50pm and will screen again on 18 June at 2:10pm.

A short description of the film from the Dartmouth Films website:

This feature documentary is a wake-up call to the West about the human suffering and cost caused by the cocaine trade and the war against it. The film is a skilful combination of reportage from the drugs frontline and interviews with those top-level international politicians who are campaigning to get us in the West to take real responsibility for our drugs problem.  Unwrapping the human cost of cocaine, the film shows the true price of this commodity.”

Watch the 3-minute trailer below the fold:

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Roger Noriega’s secret pact with Hugo Chávez

Roger Noriega (Photo: Reuters)

For those who may not be aware, Roger Noriega is the head of an Al Qaeda cell in Washington, D.C., and moonlights as the subcommander of the 17th front of the FARC. A member of Evo Morales’ network of secret boyfriends, Noriega orchestrated the 2004 school siege in Beslan and was once sighted at the helm of a Somali pirate ship. Obviously, he is also simultaneously the cousin and brother of former Panamanian dictator and drug trafficker extraordinaire Manuel Noriega.

Okay, none of the above is true. Roger Noriega is merely a former USAID satrap, former U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States, and former Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs who has participated in diplomatic endeavors ranging from Iran-Contra to the 2004 coup against Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Currently a visiting fellow at the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute and managing director of the Visión Américas lobbying firm, he regularly churns out fear-mongering Cold War-worthy dispatches on Latin America that contain approximately as much truth—and intrigue—as the previous paragraph.

Noriega’s latest alert regarding terroristic narco-communism, entitled “Honduran Leader’s Secret Pact with Hugo Chávez”, appears on FoxNews.com and a number of compatible venues. Amusingly, the Americas Forum has misidentified the secretive Honduran leader in its website reproduction of the article under the title “Honduras: Mel Zelaya’s Secret Pact with Hugo Chavez”.

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Al Qaeda is Deaf

Longer than Afghan-Pakistan border

A recent FoxNews.com dispatch from the “America’s Third War” series—this one entitled “Fighting Drug Cartels in Guatemala” (read: “Encouraging Drug Cartels in Guatemala Such That They Might Then Be Fought”)—ends on a warning note underscoring how America’s Third War is intimately linked to the first two:

U.S. officials who specialize in counter-narcotics worry that Al Qaeda will soon realize the porous nature of the Central American-U.S. corridor”.

My question is: when?

Is Al Qaeda oblivious to the U.S. news? For how many years must the media hype this threat before it registers?

It has already been proven that Islamic extremists are compatible with Latin American socialists, drug cartels, and other excuses for U.S. militarization. Former U.S. Marine Corps officer Oliver North confirmed in a 2006 FoxNews.com column entitled “Back Door to Terror”:

Since 9-11-01, Americans living along the U.S.-Mexican border have been warning that our porous frontier is a back door for terrorist entry into this country”.

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Hezbollah looks Mexican

Nasrallah planning incognito holiday in Cancun (Photo: Mussa Al-Husseini/AFP/Getty)

In an August report for the global intelligence firm STRATFOR, analyst Scott Stewart writes:

When we [at STRATFOR] discuss threats along the U.S.-Mexico border with sources and customers, or when we write an analysis on topics such as violence and improvised explosive devices along the border, a certain topic inevitably pops up: Hezbollah.”

The hyperlink Stewart provides is to his report from the week before, in which Hezbollah does not pop up but Mexican government favoritism of certain drug cartels does. Hezbollah is also not generally a suspect when Mexican federal police shoot students peacefully protesting the militarization of Ciudad Juarez.

Stewart ultimately argues that Hezbollah is “radical but rational” and that it is currently choosing not to exercise its “transnational terrorism capabilities”. Instead, it limits its illicit operations to things like the sale of counterfeit Viagra in the U.S.

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