By RICARDO CASTILLO
Twice in the past week, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has mentioned the historically obscure existence of a civilian paramilitary group known as Los Polkos.
“Probably many don’t even know who they are,” AMLO said during one of his early morning press conferences, “but it surely seems they’re back.”
The mention of Los Polkos only reflects the ideological battle between a reticent rightwing and mildly leftist AMLO. More on this “war” further down.
History has it that Los Polkos formed several regiments of the then-known “National Guard.” Overall, participants in this part of the Mexican Army were uppercrust Mexico City residents who received their moniker of Los Polkos because, for the most part, they were young men who, before joining the militia, loved to attend the plush dance halls of the day to dance polka.
When they formed the National Guard (nothing to do with the current one) in 1846, then-U.S. President James K. Polk ordered an invasion into Mexico City. As the Americans were invading the nation through the Gulf of Mexico port of Veracruz, the Los Polkos militia staged a coup d’etat against then-Mexican President Valentín Gómez Farías. They disagreed with Gómez Farías’ attempts to disenfranchise Catholic Church properties.
Los Polkos were successful in overthrowing Gómez Farías, but while doing that, they blocked the delivery of assistance to the regiment stationed in Veracruz, which was totally outnumbered by the U.S. Army, who took the port without any Mexican resistance. And though Los Polkos joined the rest of the Mexican army during the 1847 Mexico City defense, their nickname went down in history as a synonym of traitors because had they not staged their whimsical coup versus Gómez Farías, the real battle would have been in Veracruz, not Mexico City. From Sept. 13, 1847, to December 1848, the U.S. flag was hoisted over Mexico’s National Palace.
As a side note, given that it was Polk who ordered the invasion, many people in Mexico still associate the moniker Los Polkos with the name of U.S. president, but the similarity is a coincidence and had nothing to do with his name. The nickname Los Polkos was coined circa 1845, long before the invasion that cost Mexico the loss of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada and California.
Now, a glance at the current ideological war.
But who are the modern day Polkos AMLO has mentioned in his press conferences? In essence, they are the conservatives that he thrashed in last year’s presidential elections, who are reflected by several newspapers, mainly the dailies Reforma and El Financiero.
AMLO’s mention comes due to the successful negotiations carried out by Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary (SRE) Marcelo Ebrard with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in which Ebrard managed to have POTUS Donald Trump to at least postpone slapping Mexico with a 25 percent total tariff on all imports starting Monday, June 10. The move was seen as a diplomatic triumph, but not by some of the modern-day Polkos.
On a daily basis, Reforma carries articles by contributors blasting AMLO – and Ebrard – for “kneeling” before Trump and questioning the outcome of the negotiations.
Journalist Jorge Suárez-Vélez wrote on Thursday, June 13, in one of many similar articles published by Reforma, the following quote, taken at random from one of many ideologically similar articles by conservative AMLO Haters:
”We should have challenged Trump to comply with the threat of imposing tariffs, which would violate the current (North American Free Trade Agreement) accord and all the norms of the World Trade Organization. This would have confronted him with his own party. We should have responded with countervailing duties.”
In short, he encouraged exactly the opposite of the diplomatic maneuvers made by Ebrard, which AMLO praises on a daily basis as the way to steer the nation away from an open confrontation, not with the United States, but, yes, with Donald Trump.
And, of course, the way for that confrontation – we do not know if the Republican Party would have reacted as Polko Suárez-Vélez assumes they would have – would have dealt to begin with a brutal blow to the forever-wobbly Mexican economy, and, most definitely, AMLO said, would lead the nation on a clear path to increased poverty.
The reason AMLO compares these opinion writers to Los Polkos of yesteryear is because, by attacking the president (instead of supporting him), they are carrying out the same disservice to the nation that Los Polkos of yesteryear did by overthrowing Gómez Farías and impeding the defense of Veracruz. In short, by distracting attention with their shenanigans, they changed the course of Mexican history.
AMLO is keenly looking for support wherever he can get it because the way of the future of Mexico is through progress, and the nation’s destiny is unavoidably linked to a good diplomatic relations with the United States.
True, Trump sooner or later, will come to pass, but for the meantime, he is waving his sharp machete over the Mexican economy.
And that, although the modern-day Polkos claim Trump should be challenged, may bring some clearly discomforting situations to all of Mexico.
Definitely, AMLO’s way of “peace and love” is the correct path to follow, and not that of the new Polkos.