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US Foreign Policy: Middle East and Mexico

The best feature of the US governmental system is the congressional hearings. However, the appearance of Colin Powell before the House International Relations Committee showed its weakness. The new Secretary of State came across as intelligent, informed, diplomatic, and above all as having some of the warmth and eloquence of a black preacher. Very different from the usual cold and calculating diplomat or the bumbling political appointee, he is an excellent spokesman for the United States.

However, instead of asking him questions, many of the committee members used the TV op to make prepared speeches, clearly demanding that he agree with them. The worst was the Zionist lobby, led by Tom Lantos of San Mateo county, California. There was no criticism of the Sharon government. Sadam Hussein was rightly condemned, but there was no understanding of the position of the other Arab countries, and no mention of the Islamic world in general or of European opinion. Several advocates of black Africa demanded more help for that continent, with no reference to the failures of its governments, one of the most conspicuous being Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who embroiled his sorry country in the Congo war.

Equally distorted was the vision ofˇ Latin America. A black congresswoman, Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, spoke of the suffering black Colombians under the Pastrana government, as though that were the worst issue facing Colombia.

The Cuban lobby demanded to know what steps were being taken to overthrow Castro and expressed satisfaction that a Cuban American might be appointed US Ambassador to the UN. That was about all. If the session represented the vision Congress has of the world, it is badly distorted.

Powell opened his statement asserting that the visit of President Bush to Mexico for talks with Fox was proof that relations with Mexico had a priority. However, there was no understanding of the confrontation brewing in Mexico. The large Zapatista convoy advanced on Mexico city in a wide loop, reportedly following the route of Zapata, from some of whose letters Marcos read passages. Clearly the Zapatistas want to live up their name. Marcos warned that he might resort to violence, and he was clearly in touch with sympathizers in Mexico City, especially the strikers at the University of Mexico. The attitude of the Catholic Church was ambivalent. In several places the Zapatistas were housed in church buildings. Like Fidel Castro, Marcos was educated by Jesuits. There is a similar situation in Spain, where a number of Basque clerics have refused to condemn ETA violence. A Jesuit who had angered the anti-ETA people by his blunt statements was ordered to be silent.

Televisa and Azteca television organized a huge free rock peace festival in Mexico City's Azteca Stadium attended by 120,000 people and broadcast around the world. However admirable the intent, it was a noisy mob affair with no intellectual content. The Zapatistas dismissed it as a manipulation of the public and held a similar show, which drew a smaller crowd, partly because participants had to pay a fee and a bag of rice for the poor of Chiapas. Marcos himself spoke scornfully of Fox, saying he did not want to meet with him unless he met his conditions. Fox had stated his position in an address to the armed forces, with the clear implication that they were there to be used if necessary. Meanwhile the Mexican Congress debated whether to allow Marcos to addesss it, as Marcos had requested. The Zapatista caravan is due to enter Mexico City today, with a real possibility of violence, to which the US congress seemed oblivious.

While the Zapatistas were drawing crowds of Indians to their meetings, Fox was in Patzcuaro meeting with Indians he had assembled. Speaking forcefully and with apparent anger and concern, he claimed that he was serving the Indians. Their response was not clear. He clearly had set up Indian headquarters there as a counterweight to Marcos' camp in Chiapas. It looked as though there might be internecine strife among Indians, as in the time of Cortés. Cortés won. Officially forgotten, he may make a comeback in Mexico.

Russ Bartley accuses WAISers of carrying on the Cold War (who, me? Not me!) and suggests we read the Zapatista web page for enlightenment: " To place discussion of current events in Mexico on a sounder intellectual footing, you should consider the contents of the following analysis by the zapatistas; for further information you should look at their Web site:

Since Marcos has made it clear that the Zapatistas emulate their hero, Zapata, and are prepared to follow his methods, we may wonder what the attitude of Stanford´s Zapata House would be if trouble ensued. Fox will follow his methods, and not only Mexico nut also Stanford may be divided into Zapatistas and Foxistas. Stay tuned.

Ronald Hilton - 3/8/01