The Federal Bureau of Investigation, obsessed with the fear of "communist domination" in Mexico, is engaged in a campaign of espionage, infiltration, provocation and terrorism north and south of our 2,000-mile southern border.
FBI documents obtained recently through the Freedom of Information Act reveal that, since 1960, the Legal Attache of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City along with the FBI office in San Diego, have carried out counter- intelligence programs against the Mexican government, trade unions and left political parties, as well as against U.S. organizations with close ties to Mexico. Though the revelations of FBI activity in Mexico have been virtually ignored by the U.S. press, they have been the focus of a series of articles in Mexico's leading daily,
Convinced of the presence of "pinko characters" in the Luis Echeverria administration, the Bureau infiltrated the Mexican cabinet ministries of Gobernacion (Internal Security), Foreign Relations, National defense, Public Education and the Attorney General's office. FBI agents also served as provocateurs, disrupting student meetings with Echeverria, in an attempt to "convince" the President that it is not wise "to dialogue with any group which demands it."
Fearful of growing political activity by the Mexican Left, the FBI has infiltrated and disrupted the Mexican Communist Party (PCM), the Popular Socialist Party, the militant unions of electrical and railroad workers, peasant and religious organizations and student groups. As recently as 1976, the Bureau maintained at least one informer in the PCM with close ties to veteran Communist leader, Valentin Campa, and closely monitored Campa's presidential campaign in Baja California.
The FBI attempted to divide the Mexican student movement with terrorist actions according to the recently disclosed documents. Former Director
J. Edgar Hoover once wrote the Legal Attache in Mexico City, expressing his "pleasure at the wave of night machine gunnings to divide subversive leaders" and congratulating him for the "detonation of strategic and effective bombs."
The border area, and ties between chicano organizations and the Mexican left and government have been of particular interest to the FBI. Through a "Border Coverage Program," directed from San Diego, the Bureau has infiltrated student groups, community organizations and political parties in Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, planted heroin, cocaine and marijuana in the cars of chicano leaders to "put them out of order for a while," and ordered the production of "believable materials" to "prove" that the election campaigns of certain chicano politicians in Texas were financed by the Mexican government.
The FBI also claims credit for promoting an anti-Echeverria demonstration in San Antonio, Texas, designed to cause friction between the President and chicano leaders as well as "to identify the most radical Mexican-Americans." In 1973, during a visit of chicano activists to Mexico, an FBI memo reveals orders that "the car rented by
(name censored) should not be in condition to take him to the appointment at Los Pinos." (Los Pinos is the Mexican Presidential
The FBI also placed articles signed with pseudonyms in newspapers along the border, calling on the "citizens" to "patriotically denounce" neighbors who might be active in subversive activities. The articles asked that such "subversives" be reported to the U.S. Border Patrol, which has collaborated closely with the FBI in its border operations.
What is behind this flurry of activity by U.S. repressive forces in a country traditionally considered one of the United States' most stable and loyal allies? Four major concerns have caused U.S. policy-makers growing anxiety over the past decade: Mexico's economic crisis, its rich oil reserves, growing political unrest both north and south of the border, and increased immigration of jobless Mexicans to the U.S.
The Mexican economy has been on the downswing since the early 70s, crippled by the combined inflation and recession of the world market - especially the U.S. market, upon which Mexico depends for three-fourths of its foreign trade. As a consequence, by 1975, Mexico was importing $4.5 billion more than it was able to export.
In an effort to shore up the economy, the Mexican government borrowed heavily from international banks, using the funds to purchase floundering private businesses, expand irrigation projects for wealthy agribusiness interests, and offer cheap oil, electricity and transportation as subsidies to the foreign companies which dominate the country's economy. As a result of these policies, the foreign debt swelled by seven-fold in the past seven years, to a staggering $28 billion.
While trying to keep the business community happy during the chronic recession of the past decade, the Echeverria government also faced mounting political unrest, particularly from a militant rank and file movement demanding higher wages and the democratization of the government-controlled trade unions. In an effort to quell discontent, Echeverria made periodic gestures to the unions and the left, using part of the international loans for social projects like low cost housing, as well as offering wage hikes, a liberalization of the press, a progressive foreign policy, and a greater willingness to "dialogue" with the left.
It was precisely these minimal moves towards a "democratic opening" as it was called in Mexico, that caused such consternation among U.S. intelligence forces in Mexico and convinced Hoover that the government was dominated by "old communists and Communist Party sympathizers."
U.S. policy-makers and international bankers grew increasingly anxious when, by 1974, Echeverria's policies had still done little to boost the economy and even less to quiet the mounting political unrest. Washington's patience wore thinner when Mexico discovered huge new oil reserves in 1974, yet refused to begin immediate exports to the energy-hungry U.S.
Both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pressured the Mexican government to mend its ways by devaluing the peso, developing an oil export program and cutting back on social spending while freezing wages. Such policies, it was argued, would reduce Mexico's debt and trade deficit, as well as assure the U.S. a cheap supply of oil.
The Echeverria government initially held firm against these policy suggestions. He feared the unpopularity of such policies would exacerbate his already shaky political position by further angering and alienating popular rank and file forces of workers and peasants.
However, by the end of his regime in late 1976, Echeverria finally buckled under the pressure. He stepped up repression against the rank and file trade union movement and devalued the peso, laying the groundwork for the IMF-designed austerity program and oil export policies since established by his successor, Jose Lopez Portillo.
DESTABILIZATION CAMPAIGN ?
Did the Mexican Government succumb to pressures of a U.S.- sponsored destabilization campaign? Many observers in Mexico believe this to the case. As evidence they point to a period of intense political instability from late 1973 through 1976, marked by terrorist provocations, unsolved kidnappings, a right-wing farmers' work stoppage, and an endless stream of press rumors about impending coups, food shortages and sterilization campaigns in the schools.
In late 1974, the University of Michigan ran a survey through the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City to test the reaction of the Mexican people to a possible coup d'etat, according to Mexican press reports. And in 1976, during the final year of the Echeverria regime, 40 right-wing U.S. Congressmen denounced Mexico's "move towards communism" in a well-publicized letter to then President Ford. Finally, also in 1976, more than $800 million was withdrawn from Mexico, seriously exacerbating an already difficult financial crisis and punctuating the international business sector's lack of confidence in the government.
Do these incidents add up to an organized campaign to destabilize the Mexican government? That is still not clear. There are, however, two undeniable facts: (1) As the recent disclosures about FBI activity in Mexico confirm, the United States is certainly capable and willing to engage in such activities; and (2) the combination of these events - whether planned or coincidental - left Mexico near hysteria by the end of 1976 and paved the way for the subsequent, systematic implementation of all the policies previously demanded by the U.S. and international business interests.