Chiapas Diary by George Baker
Chiapas diary: Pemex and the Election Year
Chiapas diary: Pemex and the Election Year by
Oakland, January 4, 1994
Received a call in my office from a New York bank, asking if the Chiapas
crisis posed a threat to Mexican oil production. He mentioned that he had
just invested in the Mexico Fund and Telefonos de Mexico taking advantage of a
dip in their stock prices. He wanted to double-check his risk assessment. For
a while the stock itch also seizes me, but after a while I calm down. My
thinking about Mexico's economic and policy issues should not be clouded by
fear or greed associated with personal financial gain.
Berkeley, January 5
Wake up at 5 a.m., in my pajamas and bathrobe write the following reflections:
The native American uprising in the State of Chiapas, on the border with
Guatemala, does not threaten Pemex oil production. The uprising has nothing
to do with NAFTA and does not jeopardize export or labor markets or sources of
raw materials. Finally, the military and para-military clashes neither
strengthen nor weaken the presidential aspirations of any of the candidates in
the elections scheduled for August 21 of 1994. From a politico-market
viewpoint alone, therefore, the uprising may be ignored.
Pemex has three wells near the town of Ocosingo, but they are
exploratory wells, not ones in production. If the rebels have attacked these
installations, the fact has been kept from the press. As for the possibility
that the rebels might make economic trouble by a march on Pemex's producing
fields in the Reforma area near the city of Villahermosa, it is remote. They
would first have to cross the Sierra via a two-lane road, one easily blocked
by any inspection points, then travel north from the Palenque ruins several
hours along a main highway the traffic which can also be easily monitored by
policy and army units.
What, then, is the meaning of the social violence, that in the first
four days of NAFTA, produced a death toll that exceeded 100? (Death counts in
Mexico are routinely under-stated in the press, as in the instances of the
police violence in Tlatelolco in 1968, the earthquake in Mexico City in 1985
and the gasoline explosion in Guadalajara in 1992 in which the government
knocked a zero off the popularly believed, but unverifiable, street
In an era of concern about the political and economic rights of
minorities and indigenous people, the deaths, as a result of social violence,
of 10, 100 or 1,000 people in Mexico cannot be overlooked. What does it mean
and what does it portend?
The meaning has nothing to do with NAFTA's economic realities. The
poverty-stricken, Tzotzil-speaking Indians of Chiapas have never heard of
NAFTA, much less fathom its economic implications for their subsistence-level
of existence. That NAFTA has appeared in the press at all is purely the work
of gringo sympathizers (gringo in this context means monolingual,
Spanish-speakers from the state and federal capitals).
The meaning of this social violence mainly concerns the election year in
Mexico, a time in which marginalized towns, regions, professions, economic
sectors and even individuals are given the right to sound off about their
grievances, real or imagined. The idea is to get the attention of the
incoming administration in the hope that federal priorities and budgets in the
next six year period may be more favorable to their cause than had been those
of the previous sexennium. Election years in Mexico, then, are about setting
the direction and urgency of federal spending priorities for the next PRI
administration. At the presidential level, elections in Mexico have nothing to
do with the selection of the next office-holder, this matter having been
decided upon by the PRI in the naming of its official candidate.
For the period 1994-2000 the vestry of the PRI has voted in favor of
Luis Donaldo Colosio, a young, fast-track political manager from the northern
state of Sonora. The strength of Colosio's qualifications is that, during
1992-93, he was in charge of a new federal agency dedicated mainly to issues
of rural poverty. So if any national political figure in Mexico has a
first-hand knowledge of issues and data on the plight of the Indians of
Chiapas, it is he.
Doubtless this Colosio-directed message has been delivered to its
intended recipient, and one can anticipate that the next federal budget will
show increased outlays to ameliorate the more wretched aspects of poverty and
underdevelopment in Chiapas. Meanwhile, army and police repression will be
the order of the day, as is routine in such cases, not only in Mexico but in
Rodney King's Los Angeles as well.
The Chiapas Affaire, then, has no long-term meaning in relation to
issues that the U.S. Government dares to discuss with counterparts in Mexico.
The social compact (contract?) between the two governments regarding issues of
income distribution (read: mass poverty), human rights and democratic
processes parallels the new gay-rights policy in the U.S. military: don't
ask, don't tell.
Oakland, January 9
Make last-minute decision to attend an industry conference in Mexico
City next week. The registration fee is $650 for two days. I had asked
business associates in Mexico who were to be attending the conference to pick
up extra copies of the hand-outs for me.
Oakland, January 10
Return to the office after dinner, work on diverse back-logged projects,
including clipping Mexican newspapers that had been accumulating in piles,
some from 1992. Leave office at 7:30 a.m., shower, driven to the airport,
arrive at 9:15 for an 11:50 flight. Go to Mexicana lounge where, for fifteen
minutes, I fall asleep sitting up. An agent comes over, asks me to leave,
when I don't respond promptly (for just waking up), she informs me that the
security guard will be called.
United flight, January 11
Read with annoyance an article in a morning paper "Underdog presidential
candidate makes most of Mexican uprising." According to the article, the
leading candidate of the 1988 presidential elections in Mexico, Cuauhtemoc
Cardenas, the so-called leftist candidate, had lost most of his charm for
voters, some of whom, when interviewed on the street, had never heard of him.
The article reported that if elected, which is not expected, since the ruling
PRI party has always won the presidency for the previous sixty years, Cardenas
could be expected to take the Mexican economy back to the 1970s, a time of
populist and nationalist economics. A Cardenas victory, the article
concluded, would put at risk many of the gains that President Carlos Salinas
had achieved, such as reducing annual inflation from 150% to under 10%.
Mexico, D.F., Tuesday, January 11
The taxi driver who takes me from the airport tells me that a bomb had
exploded in a shopping mall in Mexico City, but that only one or two people
I leave a message on the voice recorder of the Mexico City bureau of the
newspaper that published the article that I had read on the airplane. I tell
the journalist, with whom I have a relationship of confianza (or goodwill and
trust), that it seemed to me that his article sounded like the work of a PRI
apologist. "The PRI could want nothing better than objective U.S. news
reporting that the leading opposition candidate's campaign was faltering, and
that he was resorting to populist means to prop up his campaign.
"I recall Cardenas saying in 1992 that he wished that the international
press would stop 'geometrizing' him (as he put it), putting him on the left or
right, up or down. Cardenas asked 'Why can't the international press simply
report on my campaign as one that seeks social and political justice in
"To call Cardenas 'the leftist candidate' in the U.S. press is to chalk
up one more vote of moral support for the PRI, which, by implication, is to be
regarded as the 'center' (and presumably more moderate, reasonable) party.
Why report on the Mexican elections at all in terms of parties, when what is
really at stake is the struggle for the policy priorities and budgetary
commitments of the next administration?"
Wednesday, January 12
In Mexico City to attend a two-day industry conference on natural gas
and the environment in North America. The conference is jointly sponsored by
the American Gas Association, the Canadian Gas Association and the Mexican
Association of Gas Distributors (AMG). The AGA has perhaps 5,000 corporate
members, the CGA perhaps 2,500 and the AMG perhaps 12 or 13. The U.S. and
Canadian sides are always looking for counterparts in Mexico, but,
incomprehensibly, none exist at any level. Where the AGA might have a
permanent staff of fifty, the AMG is staffed by company employees who
occasionally take the trade association letterhead out of the drawer.
I read in the Mexican press that International Trade Commission
representative Mickey Kantor promises that the U.S. Government will
not intervene in any matter related to Chiapas and that NAFTA is unaffected by these events. I also read that the
Mexican Government is planning massive aid and economic development projects
for Chiapas and other rural areas. A cartoon shows Ross Perot lying on a
sidewalk clutching his ribs in laughter.
In the afternoon a political march takes place in the afternoon,
attended by 15,000 to 100,000 protesters (the government's estimate was the
lower). I do not attend, but, on television, see that Cuauhtemoc Cardenas,
Porfirio Muņoz Ledo and other representatives from opposition movements are
Thursday, January 13
Particularly striking to me is that the conference is attended by
perhaps 400 people, with exhibition booths that filled the ballroom of the
Hotel Camino Real. Aside from the Canadians and U.S. oilfield equipment and
service companies that want to close sales with Pemex or with each other,
everyone else is looking for investment opportunities in Mexico's oil and gas
industry. The puzzling detail is that the conference organizers provided not
a single slip of paper that contained statistical or other information on
Mexico's gas industry. Conference panelists, with one or two exceptions, did
I took twenty-five pages of notes, but those who did not came back with
briefcases empty except for glossy equipment brochures. At the reception at
the end of the day I comment on the lack of available information about
Mexico's gas industry and the lack of discussion on the regulatory environment
and potential investment opportunities. "It's all taking place in other
meetings that are held privately. Nothing of importance is going to be said
Attend a grand farewell dinner for conference participants at the Castle
of Chapultepec: sea bass stuffed with huitlacoche (a bluish by-product of a
certain variety of corn, a pre-Hispanic delicacy), wine, violins, Pemex top
brass and several hundred hungry equipment vendors and would-be investors.
My guest at the farewell dinner is a Mexican government official whom I
have known several years. We joke a lot about my gringo impressions of
Mexico. My guest tells me that the Ministry of Defense is offering a prize
for the best essay on the "Niņos Heroes," the military cadets who, in Mexican
mythology, are said to have lost their lives defending the Mexican flag
against the American invaders in the assault of September 14, 1847.
Walk around saying hello to friends and acquaintances in academia,
industry and government. Going out to the patio for air a U.S. government
official stops me with "Are you a newspaper man?" I assure him that I am
not, and ask him what gave him that impression. "Your questions during the
conference were too direct to be just from anybody." I tell him I had
academic training as a Latin American area specialist. Later he sees me and
says, teasing me, "There goes an academic if I ever saw one."
Toward the end of the dinner a speech is read in Spanish in which some
of the history of the famous castle is recounted. Inevitably the topic of the
military cadets is raised. I recall having been told in 1973 by a reliable
source, a Mexican historian who had been asked by the Defense Ministry to
write a paper on the cadets and who had carried out research at the Ministry
archives, that there was no documentary evidence that they ever existed.
"The military cadets were patriotic inventions of Guillermo Prieto and other
liberals of the early 1850s," he told me. At last the speech is read in
English. We leave at 10:30 p.m. so as not to keep my guest's driver waiting
too long. The driver is dismissed for the evening and the two of us go to a
Sanborn's in the Pink Zone to buy books and newspapers. Arrive at my
apartment about 12:30 a.m.
Friday, January 14
10:30 a.m. A friend in Pemex to whom I sent my reflections of January 5
remarks that I was right to place the events of Chiapas in the election year.
"But you were too gentle and did not go far enough. First, you must realize
that what's happening in Chiapas is merely a pretext. Second, the political
class of Mexico is destabilized by these events, profoundly destablized. The
government's sending the runner-up candidate for the presidency, Manual
Camacho, to Chiapas to negotiate is ludicrous, since everyone knows that the
intellectual authors and financial backers of this Indian uprising live and
work in Mexico City, not in the state of Chiapas."
"How do you know that there are such backers?," I ask.
"Those humble Indians have insufficient resources to feed themselves,
much less buy AK 47s, ammunition and uniforms. Think of it. Uniforms?
Since when has a guerrilla movement in Mexico needed uniforms? Also, these
people have no military experience. They might be able to blow up Pemex
installations with the 1,000 or so kilograms of dynamite they stole but they
certainly, on their own, do not know how to organize themselves into military
units capable of attacking the federal army.
"As for who's in back of the uprising, we don't know. That's what's
disturbing about it. Whoever they are, it's completely transparent to
everyone with political sensibilities in Mexico that their purpose is to apply
extreme pressure on the present government.
"To give you an idea, there has been discussion in the press about
pressure to dump Colosio in favor of Camacho, which would be an utterly
unprecedented move. Someone I know has been asked to join the Colosio
campaign but is now holding back, wondering if the candidate might be changed.
My friend realizes that he would burn himself politically if he were to bet on
the wrong horse."
"Who conceivably might be the backers?" I ask.
"Elements of the Old Guard of the early '70s who expected that it was
their turn to have a candidate in the presidency for the sexennium of
1994-2000. By the old rules of rotation, they should have had a candidate
sensitive to issues of social justice, a Democrat, if you will, not just
another Salinas-bred Republican disguised as a Democrat."
"Who would have been their candidate?"
"Again, we don't know. Consider that it could have been Cuauhtemoc
Cardenas had he stayed in the ranks of the PRI and not bolted to form his own
political party, as he did in 1987."
"What surprised me," I say, "was that during the opening moves of the
election year opponents of the current regime should thrown down an ace, where
an ace is an action in relation to which the government is forced to respond
immediately. Why not play cards of lesser value first, to test the direction
and determination of government policy? I also don't understand why Camacho
has risen from his political ashes to occupy the front page of the national
press, totally eclipsing Colosio."
"Agreed. It's a mystery."
5:00 p.m. Meet for an hour with a foreign journalist who resides in
Mexico. He follows the Mexican oil industry closely. I am struck by his
encyclopedic knowledge of the names and technical profiles of Mexican oil
wells. In his notes for me he casually writes the Mayan names of two wells.
10:15 p.m. I meet two licenciados at Sanborn's House of Tiles in the
Historical Center, but it is too noisy in the dining area for serious
discussion. We find a cafeteria on Tacubaya Street. Concluding our principal
business agenda, we touch on a range of political issues.
I observe that January 10th was the fifth anniversary of the
government's harsh anti-labor policies, made public by its paramilitary
operation against the Oil Union's leader, Joaquin Hernandez Galicia. "The
Salinas Government began its administration with bayonets drawn in the north,
in Tampico, and, it seems, it will end its tenure with bayonets at the ready
in the south, in Chiapas."
My agitation over the news article on Cardenas continues. "What is
called 'electoral fraud' in Mexico," I say, "is not done at the polling
booths, not done in the issuing of voter registration cards, it is done in the
very framework in which the electoral campaign is presented to the public in
Mexico and the United States. Suppose you want to sell toothpaste in Mexico.
There are 4 brands. One brand controls 99% of the airwaves and 95% of the
printed media. Competitor brands are treated as sub-standard for today's
needs for dental hygiene, both by what is reported and what is omitted.
Election day comes: the consumer is to decide on which brand of toothpaste is
his preference. Question: Which brand will received the most votes?"
"Obviously," said one, "the brand whose political backers control
television, radio and the press (but above all television)."
"So there can be no meaningful discussion of 'underdog' brands. There
are no underdogs when the so-called underdog candidates have such a tenuous
existence in the Mexican media. They exist mainly to serve the need of the
Mexican political system to promote the idea of opposition candidates in the
U.S. and international press."
"Another bone thrown to the press is the matter of the so-called spending limits for
election campaigns. In March or April of last year I was an unofficial observer for a state
gubernatorial election. The process was utterly clean, even the voting urns had transparent plastic
"Go to the headquarters of the three major parties, however, and you begin to sense a
different picture. The two minor parties had rented a few offices for several months. The PRI
headquarters had a large, three story building of its own, with several hundred staff assigned to
the details of the voting that day. In the auditorium there were fifty people sitting behind folding
tables that were laid out around the room. The halls were packed with people, everyone wearing
badges of different colors. I asked the federal elections coordinator, whom I had known from an
earlier incarnation in the late '70s, 'Who pays all these people?' His cold, if seemingly cheerful,
answer was 'They're all volunteers.'
"To reduce official, campaign spending limits, therefore, will not reduce the human
resources of the PRI that are available on a volunteer basis.
"In a sense, then, there is no 'electoral fraud' in Mexico, there is simply the Mexican
system of government. Ineffable. Inscrutable."
12:30 a.m. Arrive back at the apartment.
Saturday, January 15
Attend celebration of Gurdjieff's birthday. Stuff pitted olives with
cilantro as an appetizer for sixty people. Music from 11 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.
Unusual orchestration with piano, synthesizer, flute, drums and guitar. I
greeted several persons whom I had not seen in twenty years, since I was a
Fulbrighter at the National University in 1973-74.
Sunday, January 16
11 a.m. A talk, verging on an argument, with a Mexican historian and
political analyst to whom I had outlined the conversation in Pemex. There was
sharp disagreement on so many points at once that I have difficulty keeping
the logical pieces together in my mind. Former Governor Cardenas, I am told,
would never have agreed to be named the government party's presidential
candidate by "the pointed finger method" (what Mexicans called "dedazo"). "On
the contrary, the meaning of the Democratic Current of the PRI that briefly
flourished in 1986-87 was that the successor-naming process had to be
democratized. There needed to be real consultations between different sectors
of society, not just a one-man decision."
I reply that, in my view, Mexican political society operated from the
basic principle that major policy decisions would never be put in writing.
The proposal that there be "formal" consultations requires a written record.
In Mexico, all attempts to require a written record of the real
presidential-selection process or any other major policy decision will fail.
And this pattern, or law of Mexican politics, is not new, it has been around
"Mexican history has always been one in which day-to-day realities are
at variance with orders from the central authority. In the colonial period
there was the well-used expression, "I obey but I do not comply." Today we
have a Mexico full of 'institutionalized procedures' but with the feeling that
no major decision regarding public policy obeys written rules; on the
contrary, everything is decided by unwritten rules and largely undocumented
Finally, I say, the thesis that the successor-president is simply named
by the incumbent president is simplistic. There already are consultations,
there simply is no written record.
In response, I am told that there are large gaps in my understanding of
Mexican politics and history. "For one thing, the problem of land use in
Chiapas is not the work of the Salinas administration; this problem has been
around since before the arrival of the Spaniards in the sixteenth century.
You have to understand the intertwined history of the Church, land and
education in the provinces to be able to judge what's happening in Chiapas."
My source finds it puzzling and deeply disturbing that President Salinas
should have announced that former Mayor Camacho should "have put conditions"
on being named presidential negotiator in Chiapas. "Who has ever heard of a
Mexican politician 'putting conditions' on what the President tells him to do?
And, having put conditions, how could have Salinas ever acknowledged that fact
on national television?"
5 p.m. Attend a mass at a neighborhood Catholic church. The liturgy
and music are printed in a comic-book format. Struck by the similarities with
the Anglican service. (It occurs to me that the "oil" spoken of in the Bible,
Jewish and Christian, is olive oil.) During Communion, the Host is placed
directly on the parishioner's tongue. No wine. I speak to the
organist-soloist afterward; congratulate him on his gifts of music and voice.
"It's work, and we have to make use of the gifts that God gives each of us,"
he said with the characteristic Mexican mixture of optimism and fatalism.
10 p.m. Late that night a call at my apartment from a Mexican bank
analyst. We talk about Chiapas and NAFTA. "If the backers of the rebels in
Chiapas had wanted to stop NAFTA, it would have been very easy: they only had
to start their uprising the week before the Perot-Gore debate or the week
before the final vote in the House.
"Clearly, NAFTA does nothing for small and medium businesses in Mexico.
The Salinas Administration has single-mindedly defended big business in
Mexico. After all the talk about deregulation and privatization, how many
television franchises are there in Mexico? One, Televisa. How many telephone
companies? One, Telefonos de Mexico. How many cement companies of any size?
Two. How many major glass companies? Two or three. And what about the
automobile industry. Why is illegal for the Mexican consumer to import a
used car? Also, if the Mexican upper-class consumer wants to import a
Corvette, it's now okay, provided that the GM agency does the importing and
makes its mark-up.
"All of these industries, and others, are protected in NAFTA for a long
'adjustment' period. Meanwhile, why should we be paying twice the U.S. price
Stay up until about 2 a.m. engaged in checking the translation of a
paper that I presented on March 17, 1993, at a conference on energy planning
held at the National University. My paper concerned the tax advantages to the
Mexican government of authorizing upstream associations between Pemex and the
international oil companies. The tables, notes and several pages of text
needed translating. Only the notes remained untouched when I went to bed.
Monday, January 17
I ask my 6 a.m. taxi driver on the way to the airport what he thinks
about the Chiapas crisis. "We don't know anything," he observes with customary
Mexican cynicism about the Mexican press. "The Government only wants us to
know what is convenient for the Government. I expect that the foreign press
will have much more to say than what's available to us here. Rumors say that
although President Salinas ordered a cease-fire by the army, his orders seem
to have been ignored and military operations against the Chiapanecos continue.
In this connection it strikes me as odd that the president on television
should be constantly reaffirming that he is acting as the supreme commander of
the Mexican armed forces; it's as if he's being challenged on this score from
"Of course, this is an election year, and everything in Mexico obeys
that basic fact. We have to remember six years ago when Act One of the
Presidential Mini-Series was shown on television: at that time everyone was
obsessed by the breaking off of the Democratic Current of the PRI and the
emergence of ex-PRI manager Cuauhtemoc Cardenas as an opposition candidate.
It's as if 'the system' now wants us to feel completely at sea during the
election year. We are supposed to feel the confusion, unpredictability and
risks associated with being on the wrong side. Recall also the political
murder of one of Cardenas's key aides a few days before the election of 1988,
a clear warning to voters who were leaning away from the PRI. Now, in 1994,
with helicopter machine guns going off in Chiapas and marches and bomb scares
in Mexico City, we have Act Two of the same mini-series."
On the flight to San Francisco I discover an academic colleague from
Mexico whom I had not seen in two years. He is on his way to Stanford for a
week. His wife mentions that one of her grown children six months before told
her that he had heard my name in an interview on a Mexican radio station. "Dad
knows someone named George Baker, doesn't he?"
We take seats together in the back of the plane. I show him this trip's
collection of data and reports dealing with Pemex, my loot, I say, "botin,"
he adds, giving me the translation. "Be sure to make copies of these reports
for me. You can be sure that they will never be distributed to Mexicans who
work in the field."
Oakland, January 20
My copy of this week's Oil & Gas Journal arrives. My article on
"Challenges in Petroleum Policy for the Next President of Mexico" is
published, but I am surprised to see that excerpts from my Chiapas diary entry
of January 5 are included in the weekly editorial.
Telephone discussion with a Canadian trade association official with
whom I had spoken at the conference. He blamed the huitlacoche for several
days of stomach upset.
Telephone discussion with U.S. oil company manager who comments that he
had heard that at least one Pemex production platform in Campeche Bay had been
shut down temporarily as a result of a bomb threat.
Reviewed e-mail messages on the Profmexis Internet network (funded by
Ford Foundation/Mexico to foster communication and research among Mexico academics
and policy analysts). Read several responses to my earlier draft of this
diary; most of the respondents are unknown to me personally.
One network reader laments what he terms the racism of Mexican society
and the utter silence by the Clinton Administration on failures in Mexico of
human rights and economic development policies. Also found it jarring that
while wine was being served in the Castle of Chapultepec Mayan Indians were
being killed in the highlands of Chiapas. (Several days later I read on my
computer screen that my message in reply had failed to go through. I had said
that a Mexico City columnist recently had written that what was taking place
in bilateral relations between the two countries was the Mexicanization of the
American government, not the democratization of the Mexican government.)
Another communication wonders if I believe the Mexico City
interpretation of the Chiapas uprising. Harry Browne, a researcher at the
Research Center in Albuquerque questions if the discipline, armaments, and
"uniforms" of the Zapatistas unambiguously point to funding and leadership
from outside the region. The ruling class in Mexico, he notes, will always
assume virtually everything in traditional political life in Mexico revolves
around the DF.
I reply that the DF explanation indeed sounds like the Chilango (Mexico
Citian) political narcissism of always. I was shocked, however, by the
uniformity of the DF interpretation of events in Chiapas. I now don't know
what to think. In meta-Mexico anything is plausible. My first take was that
it was a regional-electoral matter at bottom. On the other hand, the degree of
force applied against the Salinas Administration seems much greater than
called for by normal election-year excesses. It's breaking an egg with a
hammer. This greater degree of force, in turn, smells of something greater
than regional issues (i.e., national issues manipulated by big players on the
inside of national politics).
Harry observes that to him several hundred or thousand people would not
risk their lives for a mere election-year message.
I recall other comments in Mexico City that I had omitted from my diary.
One point of view held that "it's sad to see that the Indians of Chiapas are
being manipulated as always by outsiders who give them exaggerated promises in
exchanges for their lives and the security of their families."
Harry also questioned the thesis that Indians could not have financed
the purchase of the weapons. "I have friends in Chiapas who were held up twice
in 1993. by well-armed bandidos who stopped and boarded their bus in an
orderly fashion, removing only cash or cash-equivalents. And there were
numerous kidnappings for ransom throughout the state last year, many assumed
to be carried out by security forces, but at least some of which could have
been the work of Zapatistas."
An e-mail comment from an academic colleague in Ohio reports that
"informed sources" in Mexico City say that there continue to be "controlled"
bombings, meaning that they are planned so as to not cause personal injury and
minimize property damage. "The purpose appears to remind the government and
others of the presence of Zapatista supporters in Mexico City and have the
ability to cause damage if they so choose. The Mexican media, of course, has
kept total silence on the topic of the alleged bombings in the DF and other
key cities, but rumors spread. What have you heard?"
I reply that at a cocktail party on January 15th at the home of a U.S.
embassy official, and which I was able to attend for only an hour or so, a
U.S. business consultant told us how the previous day, Friday, at an office of
the Energy Ministry there was a bomb scare and that the building had to be
evacuated. "It gave me pause, fear, in point of fact, and made me ask what I
was doing there."
And I am reminded of a thought that I have had many times about the
essential defect of Alan Riding's famous book on Mexico (Distant Neighbors,
published in 1985): Riding does not make it clear that real facts about
Mexico can seldom be learned unless there is a place in your mind in which you
realize that your life is in danger.
The author is executive secretary of Profmex, an international
association of Mexico policy analysts, and an industry
and policy consultant on Mexico, based in Oakland.
Tel (510) 486-1247, Fax (510) 209-3139
George Baker received his graduate training as a Latin American area
specialist. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the National University of Mexico
during 1973-74, and academic coordinator of the U.S. Embassy's bicentennial
project in Mexico.
In the United States he has held academic positions at California State
University, Fullerton and New Mexico State University. In 1992 he was a
visiting scholar at UCLA's Center for Latin American Studies. Since 1987 he
has been executive secretary of Profmex, an international association of
Mexico policy analysts based at UCLA.
In 1991-92 he was a consultant to the U.S. General Accounting Office in
two studies carried out on Mexico's petrochemical and petroleum industries.
He is a contributor to industry publications such as Oil & Gas Journal as well
as to general publications dealing with Mexico such as Mexico Policy News
(Profmex) Business Mexico and El Financiero International, the latter two
both published in English in Mexico City. His book on Pemex during the Oil
Boom, Mexico's Petroleum Sector, was published by PennWell in 1983.
In 1993 several of his op-ed essays dealing with Mexico were published
in the Houston Chronicle and Christian Science Monitor.
Currently he is a consultant to several U.S. and Canadian companies in
the oil and gas industry who are evaluating business opportunities in Mexico.
He received his Ph.D. in history at Duke University in 1970.