At the center of today’s “Three Amigos” Summit in New Orleans between George W. Bush and his homologues, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon and Stephen Harper of Canada, is the sovereignty-swallowing nexus between trade, migration and military policy. As mentioned in this AP piece, Bush and Calderon held bilateral talks today in which they discussed NAFTA, the proposed free trade agreement (FTA) with Colombia and regional security. Much of the chatter in the press focused on how Calderon and Bush “defended” NAFTA and free trade.
Lacking in all of the coverage of this and other regional summits is any notion of the symbiotic relationship between trade and militarization throughout hemisphere, including the U.S.. None of the press, for example, makes the connection between how economy-integrating trade policies like NAFTA or the proposed U.S.-Colombia FTA are inevitably accompanied by increases in the domestic policing and military budgets of the U.S. and its “Latin American trade partners” like Colombia, home to the worst human rights record in the Americas thanks to the more than $4 billion in military aid it receives from the U.S.
As they continue negotiating an exponential increase in the military aid Mexico receives from the U.S., Bush and Calderon appear to be plotting a Colombianization (drug wars, counterinsurgency wars combined with free trade) just a stones throw from our southern border.
Nothing was said in today’s summit coverage about how Calderon and Bush are actually “defending” free trade with real guns and real troops.This link between increased free trade and mushrooming military budgets makes sense when we consider that border-smashing corporate interests represented by Bush and Calderon need uniformed people with guns to quash social tensions (formerly known as class conflicts) exacerbated by economic restructuring. Put another way, when the soft power middle class cushion between rich and poor gets tattered beyond repair by free trade, it is replaced by the hard power military cushion in both the U.S and Mexico.
Following the same free trade+militarism=freedom formula, Bush and Calderon continued their plans to implement “Plan Merida”. Better known as “Plan Mexico”, Bush and Calderon’s plan is a “security” agreement designed deal with the “threat to our societies by drug trafficking and other criminal organizations operating on both sides of our common border. According to the Times Picayune, Bush told Calderon “I want to work with you in close coordination to defeat these drug traffickers”. After agreeing with Bush, Calderon added, “Recently, NAFTA has come under criticism, and I don’t believe people are realizing the benefits it has brought to the United States and Mexico”.
As I’ve stated here and elsewhere, such “benefits” come complete with plans for intensified militarization to respond to the post-cold war need for new enemies that both legitimate militarism and promote free trade as well as the idea of the state itself. Bush and Calderon are clear that, in the absence of the internal and external communist threat of the previous era, immigrants, drug cartels and youth gangs are joining “terrorists” in the mish mash of enemy-making in the post-Cold War politics of the hemisphere. For more on how this applies to immigrants in the U.S., see this recent piece. Those protesting the cheapening of their lives in the U.S. and Mexico are also joining the ranks of the unruly masses requiring enhanced legal and police control. Policing at protests like those of New Orleans preview and expand the closing of public space and rights by the true sovereign of our political and economic system: border-hopping big capital.
Interestingly, those protesting the summit included both locals organizing a very important “People’s Summit”, some left-leaning Latin American solidarity organizations and right-leaning Lou Dobbs “pro-sovereignty” groups and individuals, many of whom are quite anti-immigrant. Also curious was how Bush introduced New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as “el alcalde” (Spanish words for “the mayor”). I remember being in New Orleans shortly after Katrina and hearing responses to Nagin’s statements about the need to “stop New Orleans from being overrun by Mexican workers.” I wonder what Nagin was thinking as he stood next to Bush and Calderon (see below) while they announced trade and military agreements that will foment further migration to New Orleans from Mexico?