US, Mexico and the geopolitics of oil

Mexico’s Dos Bocas Refinery, in the state of Tabasco.

By: Carlos Fazio

At the dawn of the 21st century, after the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, United States president George W. Bush and his advisers sought to sustain the declining global political power of the empire based in a powerful military apparatus, an economy and permanent war diplomacy and the perpetuation of a climate of chaotic instability centered on fear. Even then, the relative decline in US industrial capacity exhibited the erosion of imperial hegemony in the world. Nevertheless, the group of neoconservatives that surrounded Bush Jr. (Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Armitage, Perle et al.) dusted off the 1977 Project for the New American Century and The New York Times Magazine and The Wall Street Journal amplified the idea that a “certain dose of US imperialism” and “expansionism” could be the “best answer” to terrorism. As Michael Ignatieff pointed out at the time, the US war on terror was an “exercise in imperialism” (Times Magazine). The invasion of Afghanistan (2001) was followed by the failed coup d’état of the Pentagon and the CIA in Venezuela (2002) and the military invasion of Iraq (2003), both hydrocarbon-producing countries and members of OPEC. It repeated the old history started by the US in Iran in 1953, with the overthrow of Mossadegh, always with the lure of establishing “democracy.”

Beyond conspiracy theories (the interests of the Bush clan and the Vice President Dick Cheney in the oil industry), everything has to do with geopolitical concerns and hydrocarbons. In those days, M. Klare said in La Jornada that whoever “controls the Middle East will control the global oil tap” in the near future. Henry Kissinger had already said: “Control the oil and you will control the nations; control the food and you will control the people” (the current Davos agenda). Oil keeps the world’s armies and industrial infrastructure moving. For the U.S., access to the hydrocarbon was a matter of “national security.” Hence the attempts to overthrow Hugo Chavez and Saddam Hussein; for stabilizing or reforming the Saudi regime, and consolidating its position in Turkey and Uzbekistan to control the oil reserves of the Caspian basin. Objective: to turn off the “tap” to Europe, Japan and China.

In 2003, U.S. policy toward Iraq generated outbreaks of resistance from Germany, France, Japan, and China, and the blurred profiles of the Eurasian power bloc that Halford Mackinder had envisioned as a candidate for geopolitical dominance of the world, so feared by Kissinger, loomed. Hence, along with its military power (with its low-intensity wars, color revolutions and covert operations), sanctions (punishments) and economic-financial blockades and media terrorism, cultural imperialism became an important weapon to establish US hegemony through a variable combination of consent and coercion (including invasions and the elimination of enemies), in order to entrench Washington’s domination and intellectual and moral leadership.

Domination that had been imposed on Latin America in the previous two centuries under the protection of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny, through a combination of privileged trade relations, patronage, clientelism, covert coercion and coups d’état, and in its last stretch, via the financialization of the economy through the Washington Consensus (1989), as an exercise of power by the Wall Street-Treasury Department-IMF/World Bank/IDB complex, which, through the neoliberal State, promoted a series of megaprojects on a continental scale,  which deepened what David Harvey has called “accumulation by dispossession,” a contemporary imitation of the primitive or original accumulation described by Marx in Capital, based on violence, plunder, fraud, usurpation and dispossession of the commons.

The Interoceanic Corridor crosses the Isthmus of Tehuantepec from port of Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz to the port of Salina Cruz, Oaxaca.

In 1992, with its sights set on the privatization of Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and the Federal Electricity Commission, the United States had achieved “negotiating ” the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico: the alliance between the shark and the sardine (which went into effect in 1994), in unison with the energy counter-reform of Carlos Salinas that opened the way to the alienation of gas, oil and mining resources from the subsoil.

During the presidency of Vicente Fox (2000-06), and along with the design of new economic corridors in the world (such as the Russia-Iran-India agreement to establish a shorter and cheaper Eurasian trade route through the Caspian Sea, instead of the Suez Canal), the US launched the Plan Puebla-Panama (PPP), as part of a de facto territorial reorganization project that sneakily introduced Mexico into the Alliance for North American Security and Prosperity (2005). The ASPAN included a cross-border energy integration (gas pipelines and laying of electricity networks from the US to the Panama Canal through Mexico) subordinated to Washington and megaprojects of transnational capital that subsumed the economic criteria to those of the security of the hegemonic power, with a supranational regulation that set aside legislative control in the partner and weakest link: Mexico. Meanwhile, counterinsurgency laws were imposed that criminalized protest and poverty and accentuated social discipline.

With Felipe Calderón (2006-12), the PPP mutated into the Mesoamerican Project, incorporating the “democratic security” of the Colombian autocrat Álvaro Uribe as part of the Merida Initiative, which with the help of the CIA, the DEA and the Pentagon militarized and para-militarized Mexico, and became special economic zones with Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-18). Today, under the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, US imperialism’s old nineteenth-century yearning to control the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, comes to life through an interoceanic corridor that will link Coatzacoalcos, in the Gulf of Mexico (Atlantic Ocean) with Salina Cruz, Oaxaca (Pacific Ocean), dynamically interrelated with two other megaprojects: the Maya Train in the Yucatan Peninsula and the Olmec refinery in Dos Bocas, Tabasco. All three, as new enclaves for the accumulation of capital by dispossession.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Monday, July 25, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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