Recent Posts

Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10
2
Martial Arts Topics / Re: **WEBSITE UPDATES**
« Last post by Bob Burgee on February 27, 2021, 07:36:37 AM »
Greetings DBMA Association Members!

The Gathering of the Pack - USA - 2003 is now available to our members.

https://dogbrothers.com/gathering-of-the-pack-usa-2003/

Module 1   Play All   

Unit 1   Play All   

Module 2   Individual Fights   

Unit 1   01 - Knife - 2 vs 2   
Unit 2   02 - Knife - 2 vs 2   
Unit 3   03 - Knife - 2 vs 2   
Unit 4   04 - Knife - 2 vs 2   
Unit 5   05 - Knife - 2 vs 2   
Unit 6   06 - Knife - 3 vs 1   
Unit 7   07 - Knife - 3 vs 2   
Unit 8   08 - Single Knife vs Single Knife   
Unit 9   09 - Single Knife vs Empty Hand   
Unit 10   10 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 11   11 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 12   12 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 13   13 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 14   14 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 15   15 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 16   16 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 17   17 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 18   18 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 19   19 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 20   20 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 21   21 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 22   22 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 23   23 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 24   24 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 25   25 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 26   26 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 27   27 - Double Stick vs Double Stick   
Unit 28   28 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 29   29 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 30   30 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 31   31 - Double Stick vs Double Stick   
Unit 32   32 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 33   33 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 34   34 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 35   35 - Single Stick vs Single Stick   
Unit 36   36 - Double Stick vs Double Stick   
Unit 37   37 - Double Stick vs Double Stick

Enjoy!
3
Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico
« Last post by Crafty_Dog on February 24, 2021, 05:24:07 AM »
Mexico’s Energy Conundrum
Winter storms were just the beginning.
By: Allison Fedirka
Last week, ice storms disrupted natural gas supplies to Mexico and so revived an existential question over how energy independent the country can and should be. But because Mexico’s independence is so often defined by its relationship to the United States, what started as an errant power outage quickly became a larger debate over the future of Mexico’s energy sector, infrastructure development and domestic politics as officials clamored for more energy self-sufficiency.

Their calls are hardly misplaced. State-run energy company Pemex has long focused primarily on oil, leaving the natural gas sector in a state of arrested development. What natural gas Mexico does produce is in decline. Modest deregulation has allowed for private investment and infrastructural improvement, but for now the country relies heavily on the U.S. to meet its natural gas needs. In fact, its northern neighbor accounts for about 70 percent of the natural gas consumed in Mexico, and 60 percent of the energy consumed by vital manufacturing hubs in the north is natural gas. Similarly, the U.S. meets nearly 75 percent of Mexico’s gasoline needs. (Though Mexico is an oil-producing country, it does not have the refining efficiency, ability or storage capacity to meet domestic demand with its own crude oil production.) In 2019, Pemex alone spent $14.75 billion on fuel imports; the country total is even higher once private importers have been factored in.


(click to enlarge)

Energy is a historically sensitive issue in Mexico. U.S. and British oil companies dominated the country’s oil industry during its infancy, and were put in check only in 1917, when Mexico’s new constitution stipulated that the national government had ownership over all subsoil – that is, resources. A series of taxes and other regulatory measures favoring Mexico ensued, until finally in 1938 President Lazaro Cardenas simply expropriated the assets of nearly all the foreign oil companies operating in Mexico. The move reflected years of festering discontent among Mexicans with how the oil industry operated in their country – how profits were being sent overseas, how investment was lacking, how production was low, and how poor Mexican industry workers were. Shortly thereafter, the government formed Pemex and has played an influential role in its operations ever since.

With a past like this, it’s easy to see why energy independence means more than just a best-practice of diversification. There’s an inherent wariness between the U.S. and Mexico, which lost a lot of its territory to the U.S. in 1848 and which fell victim to intermittent invasions and occupations by U.S. forces up until the start of World War I. Past energy disputes make Mexico even more uneasy. After the 1938 expropriations, the U.S. threatened to stop buying Mexican silver and its oil companies embargoed Mexican oil. Exports fell to half their volume in a handful of years. The issue was not resolved until Mexico agreed to pay $29 million in compensation to U.S. companies in 1942. Now as then, Mexico’s dependence gives the U.S. a ton of leverage. Current disagreements between the countries are plenty manageable, but this kind of leverage means Mexico has a hard time acting from a position of strength if an unmanageable conflict erupts. Energy security is thus highly politicized.

Value of Mexican Oil Exports by Destination
(click to enlarge)

It’s one thing to want independence, of course, and quite another to have it. Importing energy from other suppliers is simply not a viable option. Its proximity to the U.S. and its existing infrastructure make transport cheaper than from any other supplier. Higher prices on energy imports would drive up Mexico’s own production costs, making domestic markets more expensive and exports potentially less competitive.

In addition, the country’s state-owned oil company is in dire straits. Once the pride and joy of the country’s economy, Pemex is now a drain for the government. Crude oil production has been in decline since peaking in 2003, and the lackluster price of oil globally makes recovery difficult. Tax demands, mismanagement, barriers to reinvestment, pension plans and fuel theft have made Pemex operations inefficient and have left the company in debt to the tune of approximately $110 billion. The Mexican government has been pumping money in to keep the company afloat – and plans to provide another $3.5 billion this year – but has been unable to reverse its course.


(click to enlarge)

The administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is betting heavily on improving Mexico’s refining capacity. Its refineries are currently operating at 36.4 percent capacity, according to the energy office. (Lopez Obrador says Pemex refineries operate closer to 50 percent capacity.) Issues are due partly to supply and partly to the lack of upgrades. The Dos Bocas refinery project, for example, lies at the core of the government’s plans to solve the country’s refining shortcomings. Pemex owns the project, which will cost $31.3 billion over 20 years. The project’s potential value and return remain contested by members of the business community; those opposed believe the benefits are unrealistic. There is also concern over the lack of storage capacity for refined fuels.

Mexico City has meanwhile made modest policy attempts to improve its energy issues.
For example, it attempted to curb fuel imports by introducing a bill last December that significantly reduced the timeframe for related contracts. These measures were challenged in court, though, and their application was temporarily suspended under court orders.

The government also proposed major natural gas infrastructure projects. In the last quarter of 2020, it announced an infrastructure investment package worth $14 billion. Among the proposals is the Salina Cruz liquefaction project, which includes the expansion of pipeline networks and will account for $1.2 billion of the earmarked investment. While the Salina Cruz project has the domestic market in mind, two other liquified natural gas projects in the package mean to re-export LNG to Asia. These kinds of projects are designed to both stimulate economic recovery and signal to private investors that their money will be used wisely.

Mexico's Natural Gas
(click to enlarge)

The government can’t go it alone, so foreign direct investment will play a key role in helping Mexico build out its energy infrastructure. The problem confronting the government is that its hands-on approach to restructuring and revitalizing the domestic energy industry is off-putting to the very investors Mexico needs to attract. When he came to office, Lopez Obrador made several moves that discouraged investor confidence such as rewriting gas contracts, canceling electricity projects and taking steps toward ending subcontracts in the labor force. Other efforts, such as saving Pemex, have been viewed as superficial, moves that treat the symptom and not the disease. The chambers of commerce from Canada and the U.S. have both expressed concern over the growing role of the state in economic projects and warned that this could affect investment behavior going forward.

Mexico has a national imperative to break free of its energy dependence on the United States, in spite of the many obstacles that stand in its way. Even under the best of circumstances, they will be difficult to surmount any time soon.
4
The forgotten story of UFC’s flirtation with stick fighting – The Athletic

‘Too extreme’: The forgotten story of the UFC’s flirtation with stick fighting
Shaheen Al-Shatti Feb 18, 2021 9

It’s often said that nothing was off-limits in the early days of MMA. And though that’s not entirely true, it’s not far off the mark either. With the UFC all too happy to poke the edges of polite society in its No Holds Barred years if it helped attract a few extra eyeballs, its metaphorical head was always on a swivel in search of the next great controversy or idea. And one of the wildest examples — one that’s been lost to history — was a proposal that floated across the promotion’s desk in 1995.


The UFC had already held a handful of successful pay-per-views by the end of 1994, the last of which — UFC 4 — featured a bout that perfectly embodied the lawless ethos of a fledgling sport. The image of Keith Hackney, a blue-collar air conditioning technician out of the Midwest, raining down a hurricane of blows upon the family jewels of Joe Son, one of the era’s many charlatans who represented his own fictional style called Jo Son Do, was peak No Holds Barred.


The popularity of those first shows coaxed a wave of martial arts oddities out of the woodwork, with many fighters representing their own obscure disciplines, and all of them seeking validation in the UFC’s tournaments. But one group’s aspirations rose higher than just competing: the Dog Brothers.


The brainchild of a trio of well-to-do friends out of Southern California, the Dog Brothers extolled a self-styled, weapon-based martial art that was essentially a loose combination of the Japanese discipline of kendo and the Philippine discipline of escrima, both of which focused on combat with wooden sticks.
All three creators went by elaborate nicknames — “Crafty Dog” Marc Denny, “The Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers”; “Top Dog” Eric Knaus, “The Fighting Force of the Dog Brothers”; and “Salty Dog” Arlan Sanford, “The Silent Force of the Dog Brothers” — as did their disciples. Matches were brutal and protective equipment was sparse. Their mission statement was a simple one — and they were all-in on their canine aesthetic.


“These guys were doing full-on stick fighting,” remembers UFC co-founder Campbell McLaren.
“They had this crest, and it was two dogs standing up fighting with sticks. Not real — like, cartoon dogs fighting with the escrima sticks. And then their motto was: ‘No suing.’”


The latter point was an important one. The UFC had burst into the public consciousness in part because of its willingness to embrace violence, but the Dog Brothers had raised the bar in that regard.


“They were white-collar guys and they would beat the fuck out of each other,” remembers UFC co-creator Art Davie. “Just beat the fuck out of each other with these sticks. They were still wearing like a (fencing) mask or a goalie’s face mask, and they were wearing some sort of gloves, but it wasn’t a big deal.


“They would wind up with fucked up knuckles or somebody would get a broken finger. And that’s how these things would end. Somebody would either signal defeat — very rarely — or they would get injured. They would get injured, and that’s what I found fascinating.”


A lawyer who continued competing in stick fighting until his late 40s, Denny insisted on his combatants “self-governing” their own matches, “without relying upon a referee.”


“No judges, no referees, no trophies,” Denny says.


“We’ve certainly had some concussions and plenty of broken bones. One guy had a split kneecap. So it’s serious, it’s rowdy.”


The outlaw tenor of the era fit the two groups to a tee. Believing to have found a kindred corporate spirit, the Dog Brothers broached conversations with the UFC in early 1995 with a proposition: Bring us on as mid-card programming between tournament bouts and we’ll not only kill the dead air on a pay-per-view, we’ll also show your audience a spectacle unlike any they’ve seen before.


And there was mutual interest, at least initially.


Davie attended two different Dog Brothers demonstrations — afternoons in Huntington Beach that were styled as “Gatherings of the Dog Pack,” which ended up being half kumite, half friendly neighborhood barbecue.


He came away genuinely intrigued by what he saw.


“There was Buck Dog, Spit Dog — everybody was a dog,” Davie says. “And it was funny because they were educated. These were not a bunch of yahoos from some corner of Los Angeles that you would’ve said, ‘Well, you know, it’s logical that they would have gotten (into this).’ … And they would just beat the frick out of each other, then they’d all barbecue chicken and hamburgers and we’d sit around and eat.


“One of the things I found once we did the first UFC is that there was a universe of people out there that was available. That was the beauty of the martial arts, is that every city had you-name-it. So there were people out there that we’d never heard of, and the universe was full of people in those days who were absolutely off the wall — and to me the Dog Brothers were just another wonderful, crazy group of guys who had gotten into these exotic martial arts and pursued them. So it was fascinating. I thought they were very legitimate, and I felt that the demonstrations I saw would have fascinated our audience.”


McLaren was equally smitten. The weaponry used at “Gatherings of the Dog Pack” wasn’t only limited to wooden sticks. From the traditional — whips, practice knives, triple staffs — to the outlandish such as hockey sticks, frying pans, and other household objects, any weapon was fair game as long as it was mutually agreed upon before a match.


The UFC had already done interstitial programming in the past, often in the form of an award presentation to a martial arts luminary, so it wasn’t a foreign proposition as far as pay-per-view resources. But McLaren also courted bombast as gleefully as Davie did, and in the Dog Brothers, he saw an untapped market that could turn into more than just a halftime show.


“The moment they start hitting each other and jumping around, the mask would come flying off. And I’m looking at this and I’m going, ‘This is the coolest stuff I’ve ever seen,’” McLaren said.


“They’re like proto-bros, right? ‘Bro, come on. We can do some stick fighting, bro. Come do it, bro. Come on.’ And then they beat the shit out of each other. And they’re like bamboo sticks, so there’s probably some concussions involved, but mostly it’s like scalp cuts, so it’s just a lot of blood. And I’m looking at this — I go, ‘this is fucking awesome.’ I mean, we need to do one of these fights in between fights and see if we could spin this off. Full-contact stick fighting.”


Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately depending on your opinion of grown men beating the living bejesus out of each other with wooden sticks, the temperature around UFC had already begun to rise by the time the Dog Brothers entered the picture. Pressure from media and politicians, both on the state and federal level, to shut down the sport was creeping through the front door of the UFC’s party in a way that felt soberingly real, and the infamous “human cockfighting” remarks of U.S. Sen. John McCain were lurking around the corner.


As early as 1994 at UFC 3, local law enforcement had already begun threatening to arrest athletes on assault charges if the promotion’s events proceeded as planned. As much as MMA thrived on controversy, it was becoming clear to all involved how dire the situation could get if they didn’t draw a line in the sand.
“We had a CFO that sometimes he’d literally pass out from stuff I would show him, so I brought him in, because he was kind of the litmus test. If he passed out, I knew it was good. And he passed out (watching the stick fighting), so I figured it was good,” McLaren says.


“But everybody just went, ‘No, you’re out of your mind. Are you kidding? We’re in trouble and it’s guys punching each other, and you want to bring in full-contact stick fighting?!’ And you’re laughing and I’m laughing as I tell this, but when I did it, it was like, ‘Oh, hell no, Campbell. No. And in fact — you should probably leave.’ It wasn’t even (a discussion). And I’m like, ‘Ah, come on! An exhibition? No suing!’ But that was that. It was enough.”


As bizarre as its brief lifespan may have been, the UFC’s flirtation with full-contact stick fighting died a swift death. In May 1995, Davie penned a wistful rejection letter to the Dog Brothers in which he wrote, “it is with great reluctance that I must tell you that stickfighting, such as your group has pioneered in the USA, is just too extreme for the UFC format at this time.”


The phrase “too extreme for the UFC” served as its own badge of honor in 1995 — “We’re proud of that one,” Denny says, laughing — but the matter was settled.


And so the sport moved on. Davie sold his share of the UFC by the end of 1995 and McLaren was pushed out of the picture soon after. MMA ultimately exploded in popularity over the ensuing decades, culminating in the UFC’s sale to WME-IMG in 2016 for a then record-breaking sum of over $4 billion. And the Dog Brothers even played their own small roles in the ecosystem.


Denny, one of the group’s founders, served as a judge for a single fight at UFC 10. His fellow stick-fighting apostle, Lester Griffin — aka “Surf Dog” — followed a similar path and judged myriad high-profile MMA events from 2006-16, counting the UFC, Bellator, Strikeforce, WEC and Invicta FC among his credits.
The Dog Brothers pressed on as well — their YouTube channel continues to upload content to this day, and their website still proudly displays Davie’s letter.


“If I could’ve made the decision unilaterally,” Davie says 26 years later, “especially me — the spectacle guy — I would have put them in.”


Who knows what could’ve been?


The UFC’s dalliance with stick fighting is now a lost footnote in history, but perhaps an alternate universe exists somewhere out there in the cosmos where the Dog Brothers reached out with their proposition before the deluge of outside pressure devoured the early UFC whole. Perhaps their weaponized mid-card exhibitions became a smash hit in that universe, and full-contact stick fighting turned into the spinoff McLaren always envisioned, a bastard cousin to the UFC’s original offering that spawned thousands of Dog Brothers gyms and “Gatherings of the Dog Pack” around the globe.


Probably not. But hey, anything was possible in those Wild West days.


(Photo of Art Jimmerson and Royce Gracie: Markus Boes)
5
Espanol Discussion / Se Vende Cuba
« Last post by Crafty_Dog on February 15, 2021, 04:28:53 AM »
Cuba Is on the Clock
The island is in dire need of a new patron.
By: Allison Fedirka
Cuba may be a geostrategically valuable country, but its value far outweighs its actual power. The island’s proximity to the rest of North America’s coastlines, as well as its position in the Gulf of Mexico, which gives it influence over all maritime traffic in the northern part of the Western Hemisphere, has made it both a prize and a power broker for anyone with interest in this region of the world. Yet, its small size and limited resources prevent Cuba from projecting much power on its own.


(click to enlarge)

Havana’s solution to this historic dilemma has been to offer itself to a patron who in return can offer economic prosperity and security guarantees. The Spanish first established this client-patron relationship in the 15th century, using Cuba as a critical resupply station between the Old World and the New. As the Spanish Empire faded, so too did Cuba’s economic prosperity. Tired of sacrificing for a patron that could no longer meet their needs, the Cubans rose up against the Spanish and allied with the United States. The new relationship was a boon to the Cuban economy, but Washington’s heavy-handed political control led to another revolution, after which the Cuban government, then led by Fidel Castro, quickly aligned with the Soviet Union. After it collapsed, the Cuban economy again fell into disrepair. (Unlike Cuba's break from Spain and the U.S., the split with the Soviets was not initiated by Havana, which was therefore unprepared for it.) Foreign aid, strong security forces and state-sponsored initiatives to promote tourism allowed the Castro government to remain in power until a new patron could be found.

Cuba, a communist country in a post-Cold War world, didn’t have a lot of options. Enter Hugo Chavez. His rise to power in oil-rich Venezuela in 1999 made Caracas a viable patron for Havana. Chavez had the Bolivarian ideology that meshed nicely with Cuba’s. Venezuela gave Cuba subsidized oil, and in return Cuba supported Venezuela with intelligence and security cooperation. Their partnership, however, was short-lived. Chavez died in 2013, leaving Venezuela’s government accounts distorted with high social spending bills and a population dependent on government services. Oil prices tanked in 2014. Since then, Venezuela’s ability to lend support to Cuba has dramatically declined. Caracas can no longer feed its own population, let alone prop up a foreign government. Russia has attempted to fill the void by canceling Cuba’s debt, initiating a railway modernization project and giving Cuba modest grain exports. These efforts were enough to forestall a crisis but not to fundamentally change the direction in which Cuba was heading.

It's now 2021, and Cuba’s behavior over the past few months leads only to one conclusion: that the economy is reaching a breaking point and the government is therefore looking for a patron to ensure its survival. For over a year, there have been anecdotal reports of fuel shortages. Economic problems in the agriculture sector have compromised domestic production and led to shortages. (President Miguel Diaz-Canel has even acknowledged the situation publicly.) Between reduced Venezuelan oil shipments and the high price of alternative oil imports, transportation on the island is also breaking down. The brief influx of U.S. dollars after travel restrictions for Americans were lifted in 2015 ended in 2017, when the Trump administration reinstated past restrictions and introduced more severe sanctions against Cuba. The COVID-19 pandemic killed international travel to the island and thus its lucrative and crucial tourism industry.

The government is looking for answers. It put in a request with the Paris Club for a two-year moratorium on paying its debt; the club granted it a one-year reprieve last month. It has accelerated a raft of economic reforms meant to spark economic activity by reducing distortions and attracting investment. In July, the government made U.S. dollars more accessible so that they can be used to buy a wider range of basic goods. In November, it streamlined the process by which foreign investment was approved and started to experiment with expanding digital services to further reduce processing times. The next month, the Foreign Trade and Investment Ministry announced that the government would no longer be required to have a majority share in joint business projects in the areas of tourism, biotechnology and wholesale trade. This was followed by the end of select subsidy programs and the convertible Cuban peso. More recently, in early February, Cuba announced that it would expand opportunities for private businesses to operate, lifting restrictions on private enterprise in 1,873 of 2,000 sectors. The government also increased fines for those that engage in price speculation.

Mounting social pressure has amplified the government’s sense of urgency. Last November, there was the first of many protests staged by artists who spoke against the government by occupying the palace plaza and going on a hunger strike. The government intervened, made some arrests and offered an empty invitation to engage in dialogue. Since then, supporters and sympathizers have come together to form the San Isidro and 27N movements. Their most high-profile activity so far was the Feb. 9 delivery of a letter intended for President Joe Biden to the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, in which they asked him for help ending some of the recent sanctions placed on the island.

Havana subtly broadcast last week that it was in the market for a new patron. It came in the form of a letter from the Cuban Embassy in Bogota warning the Colombian government of a possible upcoming attack by the National Liberation Army, the paramilitary organization better known as the ELN. The ambassador submitted a document saying outright that the Cuban Embassy had received the information but had not verified it. Given Cuba’s long-standing relationship with the group, the announcement was interpreted as Cuba looking for a political opening.

Among the leading candidates are the U.S. and China. The Biden administration has put nearly all foreign relations under review, and many expect it to revitalize President Barack Obama’s efforts to normalize ties with Cuba. Through executive powers, a U.S. president can unilaterally control, to a degree, anyway, the extent to which the U.S. opens to the island. But it remains a highly contentious issue in U.S. politics; these kinds of changes require a lot of political capital, and Biden is currently in short supply. Cuba-watchers – those for and against closer ties with the island, and those inside and outside elected office – have already started mobilizing to get their way. For now, though, the U.S. government does not appear positioned to make any significant changes to its Cuba policy.

China, meanwhile, has been slowly gaining economic influence in Latin America over the past decade and recognizes Cuba’s strategic position relative to the United States. China needs some leverage against the U.S. similar to the kind Washington has against Beijing in the South China Sea. Improved ties with Cuba would go some way toward getting that leverage. Beijing has certainly used shared ideological beliefs to politically align with the Cuban government, and on the economic front, China is now Cuba’s second-largest trading partner. Important advances have also been made in Cuba’s telecommunications systems. Huawei helped establish public Wi-Fi hot spots throughout the island and is now helping increase household connectivity. China’s Haier now assembles laptops and tablets in Cuba, and the China Communications Construction Company operates in Cuba’s Mariel Special Development Zone.


(click to enlarge)

A U.S. Homeland Security report indicated that China’s telecommunications presence on the island already impedes U.S. firms from entering the Cuban market. Chinese financing now supports port modernization projects in Santiago, and investments are planned in pharmaceuticals and tourism. Cuban officials have also highlighted renewable energy, cybersecurity, technology and biotechnology as areas in which they’d like to work more closely with China. These projects help Cuba, of course, but more will be needed to stabilize the economy, let alone change its current trajectory. How much China comes through will depend in part on how secure its foothold is in Cuba – and how well it will be able to keep the U.S. on edge.

Cuba has made overtures, and though the U.S. and China are the leading options for Cuba, both face constraints in terms of how they can respond. Either way, Havana is on the clock.
6
Martial Arts Topics / Re: **WEBSITE UPDATES**
« Last post by Bob Burgee on February 04, 2021, 04:05:35 PM »
Greetings DBMA Association Members.

New vid lesson: DBMA Virtual Class - Staff & Shotgun

https://dogbrothers.com/module-3/dbma-virtual-class-july-26-2020/

Enjoy!
7
Martial Arts Topics / DBMA in Russian Budo
« Last post by Crafty_Dog on February 03, 2021, 02:22:24 PM »
8
Espanol Discussion / WSJ on AMLO
« Last post by Crafty_Dog on February 01, 2021, 05:25:46 AM »
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador —a k a AMLO—has been known to bristle when critics liken him to the late Hugo Chávez. But the parallels between the spirit of Mr. López Obrador’s two-year-old government and that of the Venezuelan strongman’s in its early years are impossible to ignore.

Morena, AMLO’s party, launched an effort in the Mexican Senate in December to seize autonomy from the country’s central bank. The lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, will discuss the bill this week. The president seems to be backing off the idea, but if so it is only a tactical retreat.

AMLO is on a mission to complete what he calls “the fourth transformation” of Mexico, and he has to centralize power to do it. He has already wrested control of the Supreme Court, and last month he proclaimed that autonomous regulatory bodies like the federal antitrust commission and the office that provides transparency in federal contracts should be eliminated.


Ahead of the June midterm elections he is signaling that he is ready to buck the authority of two independent bodies charged with ensuring election fairness. Mexican democrats are in a fight for their political lives.

There are obvious differences between AMLO and Chávez. But when the history is written I suspect most of them will turn out to have been driven by economic constraints on the Mexican caudillo, not choice.

Chávez had control of Venezuela’s state-owned oil monopoly PdVSA when oil prices took off in the early 2000s. Awash in oil income, he was able to buy off opponents while spreading money around to create the illusion that the masses were getting richer. He had the resources to militarize his government, and Cuba had been infiltrating the barracks for decades.

AMLO’s world is one of moderated oil prices and a diversified economy. Revenues generated by Pemex, the state-owned, debt-laden petroleum company, are dwarfed by the boom in manufacturing and services born of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement.


So AMLO can’t copy Chávez play by play. But his aspirations are hauntingly similar and so is his modus operandi.

Chávez was a demagogue and he used his television show—“Aló Presidente”—to bond with the man in the street against the Venezuelan establishment. AMLO uses his daily morning press conferences to the same effect—though he has been absent since his Covid-19 diagnosis a week ago.

His words sow resentment and division while justifying abuses of power in the name of corruption fighting. His critics are dismissed as elites—or “fifi” in his lexicon. There is no civil discourse.

Up to now he has used “legal” instruments like the anti-money-laundering Financial Intelligence Unit inside the Mexican Treasury to purge institutions of nonbelievers—including a Supreme Court justice and the head of the energy regulatory commission. Neither has been charged with a crime. He has also boosted the army’s role in the economy.

Morena controls the Senate, where the bill passed in December would obligate Banxico, Mexico’s central bank, to buy foreign-currency cash from Mexican banks.

Watchdogs on both sides of the border are alarmed. Cash is a nonissue for legally compliant financial institutions because they verify its origins and are able to ship it to correspondent U.S. banks.

Morena claims that the change in the law is necessary to ensure that migrants aren’t forced to change their dollars at disadvantageous rates. Yet Banxico reports that only about 1% of total remittances are cash.

It isn’t clear who Morena is trying to please by obligating the central bank to take cash dollars. But it is certain that passing the law would break a longstanding taboo in place to protect the monetary authority from becoming a tool for transnational criminal organizations to launder money. Who else walks into Mexican banks with suitcases full of unexplained cash?

Banxico says the law threatens its autonomy and its ability to do its job. In a Dec. 9 communiqué it said the draft legislation “would force the Central Bank to carry out high-risk active operations that may compromise” international reserves and “the compliance with the constitutional mandate to preserve the purchasing power of the National currency.”


Sharp criticism from the international financial community seems to have given AMLO second thoughts. He knows that if Mexico is marked a money launderer, the peso will hit the skids, and so will his presidency. His finance minister now says the government is working on an alternative idea for migrant cash transactions.

If he and Morena back off, it will be a small but important victory. Preserving Banxico’s autonomy may not be a sufficient condition to save Mexican pluralism from the Venezuelan fate, but it is a necessary one.
Pages: [1] 2 3 ... 10