The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


April 27, 2022/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team

Arm(s) Wrestling: A Landmark Confrontation

What entity packs more political punch, a nation or a private corporation? Who figures to win a contest over firearms, the nation of México or the gunmaker Smith & Wesson?


At one time, long ago, the notion that a single company could challenge an entire nation — and prevail — would have seemed ridiculous. But capitalism has developed, over the generations, in just that direction. Private enterprises that exist solely to profit their tiny groups of owner/investors can today stare down entire nations.


These private enterprises are exploiting handy little legal devices like NAFTA’s Investor-State-Dispute-Settlement provisions, magical clauses that let corporations sue nations for enacting policies that these corporations can claim reduce their ability to maximize profits. Oil companies, to give just one example, have used ISDS to sue countries with environmental protections that limit fossil-fuel extraction.


But what about nations suing companies? In a big-time nation-corporation match-up, could a nation prevail? We’re about to find out. México is turning the tables.


México has filed suit in a US federal court to wrestle power from arms manufacturers. Millions of Mexicans today find themselves caught in the cross-hairs of criminal gangs armed to the teeth with military-grade weapons, almost all made in the USA. The massive inflow of US weapons into México, the AMLO administration charges, has powered the growth of violent drug cartels that have created a climate of terror for the Mexican people. 


Thirteen US states have so far filed amicus briefs with México’s lawsuit, and that ought to give the Mexican case more muscle. One safe prediction: People on both sides of the US-México border will be cheering if this suit should successfully wrestle arms dealers down to the ground. We have more, in this week’s interview, on the outlook ahead. And, for an even deeper dive into this landmark battle, take a look at the analysis our México Solidaity Bulletin co-editor Bill Gallegos published earlier this spring in The Nation magazine.


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México’s Bold Lawsuit Against US Gunmakers

Last August, México filed a $10-billion lawsuit against US gunmakers for facilitating gun imports into México, the first-ever such sovereign government suit against gunmaker corporations. A wide array of groups are supporting México’s suit, and the international human rights group Global Exchange recently hosted a webinar that brought together some of these organizations. David Pucino, a senior attorney with the Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence, moderated the session. His group’s founder, former US member of Congress Gabrielle Giffords, was shot pointblank in the head at a 2011 political event.

Gabrielle Giffords

David Pucino, Giffords Center: This Mexican lawsuit is forging a new legal approach. The companies sued, México charges, have made unjustifiable sales, particularly of military-grade weapons. One example: Barrett makes a 50-caliber sniper gun — sold in México — that can shoot down a helicopter from a mile away. Other firms named in the suit range from Smith & Wesson and Sturm to Colt and Glock. Maria Isabel, you lost a son to gun-fueled violence.

Maria Isabel Cruz Bernal: In 2017, men entered my home in Sinaloa and took away my son. I never saw him again. I belong to an organization, Sabuesos Guerreras AC, “Warrior Sleuths,” 150 mothers who’ve been searching for the remains of our sons in Sinaloa. We see ourselves as just one part of a larger movement: over 60 organizations of the relatives of the disappeared, all grieving for lost sons, all searching for evidence and for justice.

Maria Pia, you direct the Association for Public Policies in Argentina. Your nation is also feeling the effects of the gun trade?


Maria Pia Devoto: The gun trade has had a huge impact on all of Latin America. The gangs now operate transnationally, and arms made by US gun companies account for 30 percent of our region’s intentional homicides. I’ve worked to stop the arms trade for years. The Mexican lawsuit has given us an opportunity to take a concrete action — filing an amicus brief — and both the US and Mexican embassies have helped us by facilitating relationships with researchers and pro bono lawyers.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard shows documents announcing México’s US federal lawsuit against US gunmakers. REUTERS/Luis Cortes

Alla, your Everytown for Gun Safety is also supporting México’s lawsuit. As the group’s litigation director, you know the costs of the gun trade all too well.


Alla Lefkowitz: The Mexican lawsuit rests on the contention that US gun manufacturers have been legally “negligent” in their sales practices, knowingly allowing guns to fall into the hands of Mexican cartels. The suit also uses “public nuisance” laws, statutes that ban “unreasonable interference in the public’s normal life.”


Besides the human toll, the gun trade exacts financial costs as well. Everytown has calculated that our federal, state, and local governments are spending a combined average of $34.8 million each day to deal with the aftermath of gun violence: victim services, health care, criminal justice, police and ambulance, preparedness training for schools, lost wages, and so much more.


The total annual bill for taxpayers, survivors, families, employers, and communities comes to $280 billion. We need to also see this as a social cost: the loss of the potential to invest in public services that benefit all Americans. The economic costs for México have not yet been calculated.

In 2005, the US gun lobby pushed into law the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, legislation that specifically shields firearms manufacturers from liability when crimes take place with their products. The gun industry is citing this law to demand that México’s lawsuit be dismissed. Will the industry get its way?

Maria Pia: That 2005 statute applies in the US, but this case is testing whether the Act applies to harm done in another country.


Alla: This past February, the families of Sandy Hook shooting victims won a historic $73 million settlement against Remington, the maker of the gun that killed 20 little children. This case proved that other laws can be used as effective legal arguments, that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act doesn’t give gunmakers a foolproof shield. We’re hopeful!


In México Today, What Makes a ‘Traitor’? 

Does voting in favor of the interests of foreign capital make someone a traitor? Mexicans have been asking themselves that question after a proposed constitutional reform last week failed to secure a needed two-thirds supermajority in México’s lower house of Congress.

President López-Obrador’s reform proposal sought to roll back some of the privatization of the state-owned electric utility sector that had taken place under PRI rule and secure the total nationalization of the lithium industry. Both these moves would have promoted México’s energy sovereignty. But despite efforts by President López Obrador and his Morena party to win the support of the center-right PRI, the PRI-PAN opposition alliance maintained its unity and rejected the reform.

What does this rejection mean for the once all-powerful PRI party?

If the proposed constitutional amendment had passed, AMLO/Morena would have successfully co-opted the PRI and broken the PRI-PAN opposition alliance. But with the vote’s failure, the PRI has just committed political suicide.


The PRI descends from political forces that a century ago drove the Mexican Revolution. The party once championed the very sort of moves AMLO’s constitutional reform was proposing. Indeed, before the PRI made its turn toward neoliberalism in the 1980s, the party had led the way to nationalizing both México’s oil and energy industries.


In the years since the PRI’s weak third-place finish in the 2018 elections, the party has been trying to rebrand itself as a progressive champion of social democracy. PRI leaders are even calling themselves “revolutionaries.” But now, with their vote against the electric power reform, they’ve betrayed that rhetoric to stand as junior partners in an opposition coalition with the right-wing PAN, a party more likely to pick up anti-Morena votes than the PRI! The PRI decision to stand with the PAN simply clarifies México’s core political reality: Voters have only two political projects available to them through the ballot box. 


Morena and its supporters, meanwhile, have taken to labeling the opposition as traitors to the homeland” for favoring the interests of foreign energy firms. These foreign powerhouses engaged in a massive lobbying effort to stop the constitutional change. 


The opposition has reacted angrily to this “traitors” label, charging that it amounts to political violence.” But the label seems to be sticking. A recent poll by Massive Caller found that 65 percent of Mexicans see the lawmakers who voted against the reform as traitors.


And what about the countrys lithium, widely seen as a critical resource in a world that’s transitioning away from fossil fuels? A few days after the constitutional amendment fell, the AMLO government managed to secure lithium’s total nationalization anyway, through an amendment to the Mining Law that only required a simple majority to pass.

José Luis Granados Ceja, a Mexican freelance journalist, is currently studying human rights and popular democracy at the Autonomous
University of Mexico City. His writings on democratic struggles in Latin America appear regularly online at his Antimperialistia site.


Recent news reports and commentaries, from progressive and mainstream media,
on life and struggles on both sides of the US-México border


Nick Corbishley, Global Energy Giants Breathe Sigh of Relief as México’s Electricity Reform Falls at Final Hurdle, Naked Capitalism. Within hours of the electricity reform’s failure, México’s president AMLO had shifted his focus to new legislation aimed at nationalizing México’s lithium deposits.


Adrián Velázquez Ramírez, AMLO: entre la revocación y la reforma eléctrica, Jacobin América Latina. En el lapso de una semana, Andrés Manuel López Obrador vivió una victoria política vital y una derrota de agenda significativa. Con apoyo popular, el presidente mexicano se enfrenta a una oposición intransigente.


Alina Duarte, Elon Musk’s Worst Nightmare: Mexico Nationalizes Lithium, Breakthrough. Could Washington try to sabotage this new nationalistic turn?


Eduardo Dina, ‘Yo pienso de otra forma’: AMLO exhibe voto de Lilly Téllez contra la creación de ‘AMLITIO’, El Universal. López Obrador dijo que el pensamiento de la senadora panista “fue el que sirvió para acompañar el saqueo más grande que se haya registrado en la historia de México”.


Mexican migration has changed America for the better, The Economist. Remittances sent home have helped Mexico, too.


U.S. Arrested 210,000 Migrants at U.S.-Mexico Border in March, Democracy Now! The highest monthly arrest total in two decades.


The Mexico Solidarity Project brings together activists from various socialist and left organizations and individuals committed to worker and global justice who see the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of México as a watershed moment. AMLO and his progressive Morena party aim to end generations of corruption, impoverishment, and subservience to US interests. Our Project supports not just Morena, but all Mexicans struggling for basic rights, and opposes US efforts to undermine organizing and México’s national sovereignty. 


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