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The Future?



     The area from Mexico to Panama is the part of Latin America most important to the United States. Our problems with revolutionary Cuba have created an infernal triangle: the United States, Cuba and Cuban Americans. The inferno would get much worse if the revolution spread to Mexico. Will Pancho Villa ride again? Mexico is not ninety miles from our shores, and Mexican Americans are far more numerous than Cuban Americans.
     Predictions are unwise, but concern is prudent. There is an intrigue going on in Mexico which hits us directly, or more precisely the American Embassy in Mexico, many of its windows smashed by student rioters. Some eighty of them were arrested. Meanwhile leaders of the student strike were engaged in a dialog with university administrators. The dignified university officials faced a gang of ruffians in a humiliating confrontation. After agreeing on a four-point agenda, the students cancelled the discussions until the jailed students were released.
     The student street battles were compounded by a series of demonstrations. Farmers rode their horses into the Chamber of Deputies, taxi drivers protested against the anti-smog regulations set by the government. The chaos in the capital is not spontaneous. It seems to be orchestrated by the Revolutionary Democratic Party of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, which governs the capital. When asked about the chaos, a spokesman said it was the PRI national government's job to control it. The PRI should win the elections, and Cárdenas seems prepared to create chaos to prevent it.
     At the other end of the area, a ceremony was held to mark the handover of the canal to Panama. It was interesting to compare the various versions of it. The United States was represented by former President Carter, who arranged the handover. The present U.S. government boycotted the ceremony, and Carter cut a sad figure.
     The star of the day was King Juan Carlos of Spain. President Mireya Moscoso paid much more attention to him than to Carter, and he replied in the name of the guests at the welcoming banquet. He used the term Iberoamerica, implying that Panama was part of the community led by Spain. The IberoAmerican summit will take place in Panama next year. Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes said than Panama could now sign treaties with anyone it likes, including the United States, and that Spain was one of the countries now involved in the administration of the Canal. I must check to see exactly what he meant. The stress during the ceremonies was on Panama's gaining control of the Canal, not on the great achievement of the United States in building it. References to the large number of workers killed in the process were calculated to appeal to Panama's black population.
     The Colombian revolutionary army FARC chose this moment to stage a very successful and bloody attack on a Colombian naval base close to Panama. It was clearly trying to send a message, but it was not clear. Certainly it was not a message of friendship for the United States.

Ronald Hilton - 12/15/99


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