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Mexico: Sex Slaves (Part II)

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As noted in Part I, Octavio Paz emphasized how Mexico's economic policies favor monopoly. Industry monopoly and its sister, oligopoly, enable a handful of wealthy business owners to set prices and permit control of certain goods and services to maximize their personal profits. With neoliberalism, otherwise known as Regeanomics, government hardly dares to challenge the power of certain corporations that are so overbearing that they succeed in altering every aspect of our lives, our society, and culture.

In the U.S. this situation has become blatantly clear as the oligopolistic healthcare industry does everything possible to avoid a public option that would only encourage competition in an otherwise tight-knit, ol' boy industry. America's political leaders and pundits strongly promote the idea of free-market enterprise, although their speeches provide the rest of society with just enough hope only to ponder the American Dream and how the regular guy might achieve a comfortable spot in the sunshine. "Change you can believe in."

Meanwhile a handful of the world's largest insurance companies spends billions of dollars to block the public healthcare bill because it would break the oligopolistic choke-hold on faceless millions of Americans. Corporations like Cigna, Aetna, WellPoint, and AHIP dominate the industry and consequently increase prices faster than in any other industry or economic trend. They pay the hooligans like Joe Lieberman--via his wife--or the automaton Harvard medical professors, like Joseph P. Newhouse, one of Cigna's board of directors, and other paid puppets to defend the policies of market domination, stagnation, and out-right highway robbery.

Contrary to their ideals of competitive, efficient capitalism, the salesmen of neoliberalism only talk about the theories while they defend their privileged position, and in doing so, they defeat the very principles they espouse about an open, innovative, free market where buyers have choices and suppliers are forced to innovate and cut costs. Politicians and pundits for the corporations lie to the public because the insurance companies pay them to spread the gospel that government is evil and inefficient and only big corporations can manage our society and our economy.

The corporate-bought talking heads take the money and live in comfortable houses near the country club and send their children off to expensive schools where they learn corporate etiquette to insure that they land upwardly mobile jobs at powerful corporations. The picture we see in this represents how our society has devolved into a place where materialism overwhelms us while it destroys our environment, our democratic system, and our community.

A vast majority of the middle class dreams of a career in a large corporation because, in America, it's where the greatest social benefits are offered, healthcare, retirement packages, and vacations. These are all the benefits that the government provides its citizens in prosperous European democracies. As this trend continues, American becomes less and less a democracy and more a corporatist welfare state.

The broad chasm between what the paid pundits say and what they do reminds us of the Communist propaganda about how everyone must sacrifice today for a greater, more equitable tomorrow. A free democracy is mere myth when corporations overrule the democratic processes.

The broad chasm between what the paid pundits say and what they do reminds us of the Communist propaganda about how everyone must sacrifice today for a greater, more equitable tomorrow. A free democracy is mere myth when corporations overrule the democratic processes.

"I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed

corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a

trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country." Thomas Jefferson, 1812

The U.S. Senate and Congress meekly kneel to the will of the corporations at the cost of the will of the people.

Democratic leaders dropped a government insurance option and the idea of expanding Medicare to younger Americans. Reid also omitted language that would have eliminated the federal antitrust exemption for health insurers -- another nonstarter for Nelson.--The Washington Post, December 20, 2009

In 2010, U.S. Supreme Court Justices will explicitly consider Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission to determine whether to overturn a 1990 ruling that had upheld the ban on direct corporate contributions. If corporations gain this last bit of power over our democracy, the will of the people is crushed completely.

Likewise, in Mexico the government almost never steps in to regulate the large land owners, much less the large monopolistic corporations.

Nothing New about Neoliberal Economic Policies

Variations of what we currently call "neoliberalism" have always existed throughout history. Indeed, history is mostly a study of how the privileged few impose their authority by various shams and tricks to overrule the gullible populace. In the U.S. when an elected official, like Sarah Palin, states in a public speech that Obama's healthcare bill includes "death panels," a certain part of the gullible public believes the drivel. It's the depraved and perverted segments of fanatically money-driven Americans that allow dishonest scam artists to continue their criminal careers like Dick Cheney--the former vice president who granted no-bid billion dollar contracts to his own corporation, Haliburton.

Mexico's history contains its share of such flimflammery in rude and violent acts. Since Cortes dropped anchor in a Yucatan bay, a class of Spanish nobles has always managed to dominate the masses of the poor and uneducated. In many ways, the Spanish monarchy and aristocracy, in cooperation with the Catholic Church, have imposed policies similar to what we call neoliberalism today. And even after Mexico established its independence from the Spanish monarchy and formed a constitutional democracy, it has still maintained a government that strongly promotes the interests of the caudillos, the wealthy few who reign over regions or industries in Mexico.

Even more so in Mexico than in the U.S., a small number of huge corporations dominate the economy and the democratic processes with a heavy political and financial hand.

Monopoly and Neoliberalism

Pemex holds a monopoly on the petroleum in Mexico. As the Wall Street Journal reports on April 7, 2008, any talk of stimulating competition in the oil industry is unheard of in Mexico.

Such heresies cannot even be whispered in Mexico though not because the Mexican people can't be convinced that there is a better way to run things. The reason is because the guardians of the status quo politicians, suppliers and labor would suffer if competition hit the market. Private Mexican contractors who "supply" Pemex are used to business transactions tied to political connections. If there were multiple buyers in competition with one another, those political profit margins would evaporate.

Even though Mexico's President Calderon delivers noble speeches about breaking up monopolistic industries that dominate its economy, he continues to apply neoliberal policies by privatizing many industries--from petroleum to tortillas and telephones. by Definition monopolies own markets and that means they can charge high prices without pressure to improve or innovate. They turn economies into murky swamps that move slowly to a standstill.

At any moment in their daily routine, Mexicans cannot avoid the monopolies that plague their lives. When they fill their gas tanks, they pay homage to Pemex, the only supplier of petroleum. When the average Mexican, Jose, makes a phone call to reserve a table at his favorite restaurant, he pays a high price to Telmex, which owns 94% of landlines, a de facto monopoly. And when Jose takes his family to the restaurant and orders tortillas, he pays dearly to the main supplier of corn and flour, Roberto Gonzà lez Barrera, owner of the Maseca flour monopoly and Banorte bank, who controls more than 70% of the market. A desire for tacos leads to extortion, because the price of corn has risen more than 700% since NAFTA's start in 1994. When Jose's family watches the news about inflation on TV, their only choice for cable channels is owned by the Grupo Televisa, which controls an overwhelming part of the industry.

Mexico's captains of industry, the business elites, enjoy a tight grip on the economy while the country sinks deeper into its original feudal state when the Spanish monarchy ruled. A few dominating corporations own the economy. By accumulating power with political contributions and other bribes, these corporations also control most of the government. The distribution of wealth has remained in the hands of the owners of the feudal domains--which in modern terms are the oligarchic corporations. The concentration of wealth in the barons of fiefdoms keeps competition away. Since they own their own industries, they can continue to extort the general population, reduced to peasants in an economy that increasingly resembles the landscape of the Middle Ages.

Carlos Slim Helu, the owner of Mexico's telecommunications industry, enjoys a government-granted guaranteed monopoly, making him one of the richest men in the world with over $60 billion.

Mexico's super-rich class includes at least twenty-four billionaires and over 85,000 millionaires, not counting the billionaires and millionaires who prosper from the drugs and sex trafficking. Much of this skewed distribution of wealth began with Mexico's President Salinas's privatization and NAFTA policies in the early 1990s. At the same time that a handful of billionaires emerged in Mexico, more and more of the common people fell below subsistence level. More than fifty million Mexicans live on less than $4 per day and another fifteen million live on $1 or less per day (source: CONAPO survey of 2005). In like manner, many American citizens still prefer to live in a Disneyland vision of the U.S. while the middle class sinks deeper and closer to the same situation as in Mexico.

Feudalism and Capitalism

The privileged Mexican lords of industry represent the same special interest groups we know and despise so much here in the U.S. Just as in the U.S., the Mexican government--which is right-wing regardless of its political party and imposes neoliberal policies--blocks liberal groups at every turn when they propose changes to the system for a more equitable distribution of the wealth that reduces crime and creates a more efficient and productive country. The government, in collusion with the captains of industry, crushes any such attempts to chip away at their stronghold, built up over the centuries when Mexico was a closed, one-party state--from monarchy to make-believe democracy.

The authoritarian government in Mexico has continued a centuries-old tradition to serve and to protect the wealthy few. This cozy, collusive relationship between the government and the wealthy began when the Spanish colonized Mexico. At that time the Catholic Church played a prominent role as the governing authority. The encomienda system granted Spaniards with a "trusteeship" over the common people. In exchange for spreading Catholicism, the Spaniards could tax the "blue collar people" for their labor, forcing them to work the haciendas.

As the constitutional government gradually overtook certain authoritarian roles from the Church, similar arrangements continued regarding how the privileged class dominated the common folks. One of the few opportunities left for the destitute middle class is to enter the illegal businesses such as sex and drug trafficking. As the U.S. Border Patrol reveals on its Web site, the practice of slavery has since then grown and now we see that the U.S. is one of the largest markets for sex slavery.

When confronted with these facts, economic theorists, like Milton Friedman, and other neoconservatives from Bill Crystal to Joe Lieberman and to Podhoretz, G.W. Bush and Dick Cheney--or the right-wing religious fanatics of the 700 Club like Pat Robertson or Joel Osteen--defend the neoliberal's new world order by claiming that the spoils of the wealthy few will eventually trickle down to the masses, so long as liberal politicians do not interfere with the neoliberal policies that, ironically, only intensify the economic calamities. On the contrary, the neoconservatives promote their neoliberal economic policies by demanding a fanatical faith in the infallibility of laissez-faire and unregulated markets.

Large corporations use enormous funds in commercials and public relations to influence mainstream media. As a consequence, the entire U.S. culture is drastically influenced by emphasizing the commercial and consumer motivations in our lives.

Although the neoliberals claim that profits are the essence of democracy, people need to sense a connection to fellow citizens in order to maintain a civil responsibility. Without citizens finding respect for their community, democracy loses its foundation. Instead of citizens, people lose their connection with other people as they become preoccupied with their personal interests as consumers. The neoliberals promote consumerism by means of consumer credit, unregulated finance products, and shopping malls.

In this new world order, people lose their identity as people and about who they are. They change their identity by following the commercial propaganda and adopt a belief that they are what they possess. In a culture immersed in commercials and consumer products--one that shows only a marginal resistance--we identify ourselves by our cars, clothes, and other possessions more than by our principles about freedom, democracy and other values that the neoconservatives claim to protect, while, on the contrary, they manipulate and destroy them to such an extent that regular Americans value more what we own than the principles we might be ready to defend to the death in preemptive wars.

Individuals in modern society have always struggled on a balancing line between enjoying the surface of appearances and beauty and considering the underlying reality of our lives. When commercials, like some dogma, overrule our lives, we become alienated and competitive in a struggle to obtain more products than the next guy. We become exactly what corporations want from us, consumers, not citizens of a democracy. As people identify themselves more with products they buy, it becomes easier for us to see each other as products. This makes it easier for us to take the next step by buying one of the fastest growing imports from Mexico, a sex slave. (source: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09251/996295-84.stm#ixzz0bHjivXS3 ).

(source: Christian Science Monitor, January 23, 2007, http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0123/p12s01-woam.html ).

(source: New York Times, June 2, 2009, http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/02/monopolies-holding-mexico-back/ ).

(source: http://www.internationalist.org/tortillazo0701.html ).

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Mark Biskeborn is a novelist: Mojave Winds, A Sufi's Ghost, Mexican Trade. Short Stories: California & Beyond. Poetry & Essays. For more details: www.biskeborn.com See Mark's stories on Amazon.com or wherever books are (more...)
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