Author Alexander Aviña talks about Mexico’s cold war in new book


Jose: "SPECTERS OF REVOLUTION: PEASANT GUERILLAS IN THE COLD WAR MEXICAN COUNTRYSIDE" TELLS THE STORY OF TWO PEASANT GUERILLA ORGANIZATIONS LED BY SCHOOL TEACHERS. THE NATIONAL REVOLUTIONARY CIVIL ASSOCIATION AND THE PARTY OF THE POOR. WHICH FOUGHT TO OVER THROW THE PRI. JOINING ME NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE BOOK IS ALEXANDER AVINA ASU ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR FOR THE SCHOOL OF HISTORICAL, PHILOSOPHICAL AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES AND AUTHOR OF "SPECTERS OF REVOLUTION" PROFESSOR AVINA WELCOME TO HORIZONTE.
THE COLD WAR THAT YOU ARE REFFERING TO IS LITERRALY THE COLD WAR THAT WAS GOING ON BETWEEN THE EASTERN AND WESTERN HEMISPHERE AT THAT TIME.
Alexander: YEAH IT IS A USEFUL HISTORICAL FRAMEWORK TO USE TO DESCRIBE THIS PARTICULAR POLITICAL PERIOD IN MEXICAN HISTORY. SO WHEN WE TEND TO THINK ABOUT THE COLD WAR WE THINK OF THIS GEOPOLITICAL IDEOLOGICAL CONFLICT BETWEEN THE SOVIET UNION AND UNITED STATES, BUT MORE RECENT SCHOLARSHIP IN LATIN AMERICA THAT DEALS WITH THE COLD WAR LOOKS MORE AT THE LOCAL CONDITIONS IN LATIN AMERICA AND HOW THOSE LOCAL CONDITIONS INTERACTED WITH THESE BROADER GLOBAL POLITICAL CONFLICTS THAT WERE REPRESENTED IN THE UNITED STATES AND SOVIET UNION.

Jose: FOR THE LONGEST TIME, MEXICO WAS LOOKED UPON AS THE STABLE PART OF LATIN AMERICA. REALLY THEY WERE GOING TO OTHER PARTS OF LATIN AMERICA MEXICO WAS RELATIVELY STABLE YOUR BOOK RELIANCE DECLASIFIED MATERIAL HAS A MUCH DIFFERENT PICTURE.
Alexander: YEAH I THINK PART OF THE ARGUMENT OF MY BOOK, AND INCREASING NUMBER OF MEXICAN SCHOLARS, IS THAT MEXICO CONDUCTED ITS OWN SERIES OF DIRTY WARS. I THINK A SMALL GROUP OF US, AND ACTIVIST SCHOLARS IN MEXICO, HAVE UNCOVERED PROBABLY TO THE TUNE OF 3,000 PEOPLE KILLED BY THE MEXICAN STATE FROM THE MID-1960s TO THE EARLY 1980s. IF WE ARE ACCURATE, WITH THE NUMBER OF OVER 3,000 KILLED BY THE STATE THAT WOULD PUT MEXICO ON PAR WITH CHILE WHICH IS USUALLY REGARDED AS ONE OF THE DYNAMIC CASES OF LATIN AMERICAN DIRTY WARS. MEXICO UNDER THE PRI, THE LONG RULING PARTY BUT

Jose: AND THEORETICALLY A LEFT DISCOVERY ITSELF.

Alexander: THEORETICAL A NATIONALIST PARTY THEY DID AN AMAZING JOB IN PORTRAYING ITSELF INTERNATIONALLY AS A PROGRESSIVE REVOLUTIONARY AND NATIONALIST GOVERNMENT AND THEY ACCEPTED EXILES FROM A LOT OF THESE DIRTY WAR COUNTRIES IN LATIN AMERICA. THEY ACEPTED EXILES FROM CHILE, ARGENTINA, BRAZIL, URUGUAY BUT INTERNALLY..

Jose: AND RELATIONS WITH CUBA.

Alexander: AND RELATIONS WITH CUBA. ALTHOUGH NOW WE HAVE A LOT OF DECLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS THAT SHOW REALLY MEXICO WAS IN A SENSE WORKING FOR THE UNITED STATES TO KEEP THE LOOCKOUT ON WHAT WAS GOING ON IN CUBA SECRETLY. WE ALSO KNOW THAT ATLEAST TWO MEXICAN PRESIDENTS HAD CONTACTS WITH AND WORKED AND COLLABORATED WITH THE CIA. SO THERE WAS THIS EXTERIOR POSITIONING OF THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT AS WE ARE DEFIANT, NATIONALIST WE ARE PROGRESSIVE BUT RECENTLY DECLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS AND WORKS BY SCHOLARS SHOW THAT SECRETLY THERE WAS SOME REALLY INTERESTING NEGOTIATIONS GOING ON BETWEEN THE MEXICAN GOVERNMENT WITH PRESIDENTS AND THE UNITED STATES AND TALKING ABOUT HOW. THEY WERE FRANK ABOUT INTERNATIONALLY WE HAVE TO ACT A CERTAIN WAY WITH YOU BECAUSE OF OUR HISTORY 1846 AND THE U.S. TAKING HALF OF MEXICO'S LAND BUT SECRETLY WE’RE GOING TO COLLABORATE. WE’RE GOING TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE IS NO ROCURAS IN LATIN AMERICA.

Jose: WE JUST FINISHED INTERVIEWING PRESIDENT FOX AND OFF CAMERA YOU TOLD ME THAT IN SOME RESPECTS HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR YOU BEING ABLE TO ACCESS SOME OF THOSE DOCUMENTS AND IS THAT BECAUSE HIS PARTY THE PAN DEFEATED THE PRI

Alexander: YES SO THE PRI-RULES PRESIDENTIALLY IN UNBROKEN SEQUENCE FROM THE LATE '20s TO 2000 WHEN PRESIDENT VICENTE FOX WON THE ELECTION FOR THE PIN THE RIGHT WING PARTY IN MEXICO AND ONE OF THE IMPORTANT THINGS THAT HE DID WAS TO DECLARE OR DECREE THE DECLASSIFICATION OF MILLIONS OF SECRET POLICE, MILITARY DOCUMENTS THAT WOULD ALLOW BOTH POLITICAL, GOVERNMENT AND SCHOLARS TO UNCOVER THIS SECRET DIRTY HISTORY OF THE PRI IN REPRESSING POPULAR MOVEMENTS. EVERYONE HAD AN IDEA OF THIS PAST USUALLY CENTERED AROUND MEXICO 1968.

Jose: THE STUDENT UPRISING.

Alexander: AND MASSACRE OF WE STILL DON'T KNOW HOW MANY STUDENTS WERE MASSACRED ON OCTOBER 2ND 1968 WE’RE APPROACING THE 5OTH ANNIVERSARY OF THIS MASSACRE BUT OTHER THAN THAT THERE WAS NOT MUCH KNOWN OTHER THAN WITHIN SPECIFIC ACTIVISTS AND SURVIVOR COMMUNITIES IN MEXICO ABOUT THIS DIRTY WAR. SO FOX DECLASSIFYING THESE MILLIONS OF DOCUMENTS AND SENDING THEM OVER TO THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES IN MEXICO CITY WAS A BOOM FOR RESEARCHERS IT WAS A BOOM FOR FAMILY MEMBERS WHO HAD SPENT DECADES TRYING TO FIND THE WHEREABOUTS OF A DISSAPEARED LOVED ONE. THAT NUMBER WELL OVER A THOUSAND, PROBABLY UP CLOSE TO THREE THOUSAND. WE THINK SOMETHING LIKE BETWEEN 7 TO 10,000 PEOPLE, CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATES WERE TORTURED BY THE MEXICAN STATE FROM THE MID-60s TO THE EARLY '80s. ONE OF THE FEW THINGS THAT I SUPPORTED DURING PRESIDENT FOX'S TENURE WAS THIS ATTEMPT TO UNCOVER THE DIRTY WARS THAT THE PRI HAD LAUNCHED IN THE '60s AND '70s.
Jose: AND THE PRI WAS SUCCESSFUL IN PUTTING DOWN THESE INSURGENCIES
Alexander:THEY WERE SUCCESFUL SO IN THE STATE OF GUERRERO WHERE MY RESEARCH FOCUSES ON THEY MANAGED TO EXTERMINATE TWO DIFFERENT PEASANT GUERILLA MOVEMENTS THAT WERE LED BY RURAL SCHOOLTEACHERS GENARO VAZQUEZ AND LUCIO CABANAS.
Jose: BOTH OF THEM WERE KILLED
Alexander: BOTH OF THEM WERE KILLED. THE PARTY LED BY LUCIO CABANAS MANAGED TO CREATE A MUCH MORE POTENT MILITARY AND POLITICAL FORCE THAT COULD COUNT ON THE SUPPORT OF DOZENS OF MOUNTAIN AND COASTAL COMMUNITIES IN GUERRERO. IT TOOK A REALLY BRUTAL COUNTER INSURGENCY BY THE MEXICAN MILITARY TO WIPE OUT THIS GUERILLA MOVEMENT. WHAT THEY DID IS THEY TARGETED THE CIVILIAN POPULATION THAT SUPPORTED THE GUERILLA MOVEMENTS. THAT TOOK A LOT OF VIOLENCE. A LOT OF TORTURE, RAPE, AND DISAPPEARANCE OF PEOPLE TO SEPARATE THESE GUERILLA GROUPS FROM THE CIVILIAN BASE OF SUPPORT.

Jose: NOW IM SO SAD THAT WE’RE OUT OF TIME. THERE IS A LOT MORE TO THIS STORY AND I KNOW YOU ALSO SPECIALIZE IN ANNALYZING CURRENT MEXICAN POLITICS AND WE WILL HAVE YOU BACK ON THE SHOW TO TALK ABOUT THAT. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOING US THIS EVENING.
Alexander: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME
Jose: THANK YOU FOR WATCHING. FOR "HORIZONTE" AND ARIZONA PBS, I AM JOSÉ CÁRDENAS. HAVE A GOOD EVENING.

"HORIZONTE" IS MADE POSSIBLE BY CONTRIBUTIONS FROM THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS, MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.

Arizona State University Associate Professor at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies Alexander Aviña discusses Mexico’s cold war in “Specters of Revolution: Peasant Guerrillas in the Cold War Mexican Countryside.”

“When we tend to think about the cold war, we think about this geopolitical ideological confrontation between the Soviet Union and the United States,” Aviña says.

The professor’s book deals with the cold war deals in Latin America and how local conditions interacted with global political conflicts. It is the first book in English to describe the history of peasant revolutionary movements an the history of state terror by the Mexican government against civilians in the 1960s and 70s.

“I think part of the argument of my book, and an increasing number of Mexican scholars, is Mexico conducted its own series of dirty wars,” Aviña says. “I think a small group of us and active scholars in Mexico have uncovered probably about three thousand people killed by the Mexican state from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s.”

Aviña says if the number of people killed is correct than it puts Mexico on par with Chile.

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Alexander Aviña: ASU Assoc. Professor School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

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