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Program 0025
June 20, 2000

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.

JESUS REYES HEROLES: Today it can be affirmed that there is a real system of checks and balances in Mexico.

MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, a preview of the Mexican elections. Plus radio as a propaganda tool.

YOUNG BOY (HUGO) IN RADIO DRAMA: “If you want to be a real Hitler Youth, you’ve gotta clinch your teeth and endure. That’s what Hitler said: ‘Clinch your teeth and endure.'”

KEITH PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Voters in Mexico will go to the polls on July 2 to elect a new president and Congress. Many analysts consider the election to be the most important in many years. Today Mexico stands at a crossroads, torn between war and peace in the southern states, while facing the breakdown of law and order in the northern border regions. And as Common Ground‘s Kent Patterson reports, voters will cast their ballots amid a growing unease their country is taking.

[sound of a politician speaking to a crowd over a loudspeaker]

KENT PATTERSON: Former Mexican presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo speaks to a crowd of supporters in the town of Zihuaenero Guerrero. For several months Madrazo ran what some pundits called a rebel campaign, challenging the establishment in his own party, the long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI. Although Madrazo lost the presidential nomination to ex-Interior Minister Francisco Labastida, it was the first time voters elected the PRI’s candidate in a primary. For some the exercise was an example of how Mexico is moving in the direction of more democracy.

[sound of Mexican music]

PATTERSON: Mexico’s presidential election comes at a crucial moment in the nation’s history. Many state-run businesses are being privatized, while free trade agreements with Europe, Central America, the United States, and Canada are being credited by the government for economic growth. Mexico is currently the United States’ second-largest trading partner. By all accounts, the nationalist economic and political project born of the 1910 revolution is being relegated to the history books. Jesus Reyes Heroles is Mexico’s ambassador to the United States.

JESUS REYES HEROLES: Along with trade liberalization, deep changes have occurred in the political arena. Only since December 1997 opposition parties have won seven governerships, which is more than all the governerships won by the opposition in the previous sixty years. Today the opposition governs in eleven states, including Mexico City, as well as many of the most important capital cities, such as Monterey, Guadalajara, Leon, Queretaro, and Mexicali. Finally, since 1997 there is a divided government in Mexico, which has allowed the opposition to oversee the administration and for the executive branch to negotiate with Congress every piece of legislation. Today it can be affirmed that there is a real system of checks and balances in Mexico.

PATTERSON: But numerous Mexican and international human rights groups, including Amnesty International, contend that Mexico is rife with human rights violations, while at the same time the rule of law is being drowned in a sea of official corruption and judicial incompetence. Of particular concern is the situation in the state of Chiapas, where tens of thousands of Mexican soldiers encircle Zapatista communities that rose up in 1994. This issue was hotly debated at a recent speech by Ambassador Rejas in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

SALVADORE IBARRA: These people will disappear within a day if the Mexican government were really as bad as they say. It’s a bunch of people that don’t have any background. They are being incited by other people. Where in the hell are they getting the money to do this? Where is the money coming from? OK?


SALVADORE IBARRA: What they are doing—no, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED PRESON IN CROWD: I don’t think that, but this is an anger thing.

SALVADORE IBARRA: No, no, no, that’s propaganda.


PATTERSON: Mexican businessman Salvadore Ibarra, argues with members at the New Mexico-based, pro-Zapatista solidarity group First Nations North and South. First Nations members like Martha Dominguez, charge the Mexican government is pursuing a low-intensity war against the Zapatistas and trying to isolate them from the international community.

MARTHA DOMINGUEZ: Today they through out three more US citizens out of Mexico. That was on KONM, as a matter of fact. And then in the past week they deported teachers and human rights observers. So we’re not making this up. This is being said. The regular media channels are not giving out. Cause nothing in the regular media is talking about Chiapas.

[a crowd cheering and applauding]

PATTERSON: Resolving the Chiapas crisis will be one of the main issues facing Mexico’s next president. Although six candidates are competing for the job, polls show three main contenders. Chief among them are the PRI’s Francisco Labastida, who is viewed as representing the status quo, and his two primary rivals, Cuahtemoc Cardenas, of the Alliance for Mexico, and Vicente Fox, of the Alliance For Change.

[a crowd cheering and applauding]

PATTERSON: In an Acapulco hall supporters of Vicente Fox whip up a frenzy. Fox represents the Alliance For Change, a two-party coalition that unites the conservative National Action party, PAN, with the Mexican Green Party. A rancher and former PAN governor of the state of Guanawato, Fox is brash, outspoken, and a master of tailoring his message to suit the audience.

[Vicente Fox speaks to the crowd in Spanish]

PATTERSON: At this meeting Fox is accompanied by famous Mexican actress Luz Maria Aguilar. Fox’s words are sharp, but toned down for this urban, middle-class crowd. On other occasions, when he speaks to rural audiences, the tall Fox dons cowboy boots and hat, and makes vulgar references to Francisco Labastida, his rival from the long-ruling PRI. Recent polls indicate Fox and Labastida are running neck to neck, with Cardenas lagging behind in third place.

[Vicente Fox speaks to the crowd in Spanish]

PATTERSON: Fox’s main proposal is to create jobs and reduce the unequal distribution of wealth in Mexico. Another Fox priority is reforming the country’s troubled educational system. Fox sometimes comes across as a populist. In recent months he has moved toward the political center. Two prominent left intellectuals, Jorge Castenda, and Adolfo Zinser, serve as key advisors. Fox promises to withdraw the Mexican Army from Chiapas, but crack down on armed rebel groups in the state of Guerrero. Campaign workers like Isidro Radilla say they will take his message to the masses

Isidro Radilla: [via a translator] We’re going to begin with a new campaign called, “We matter with Fox.” This campaign proposes to adopt indigenous communities in Guerrero. The objective is to help them and teach them new technology. For instance, if they need a school, make a school. If they need water, bring them water. Drill them a well. In this way we’re helping the Mexican people as well as the Fox campaign. We invite everyone to open their eyes. It’s been proven that the best states in the Mexican Republic are the ones which are governed by the PAN. We invite the people of Guerrero and Mexico to open their eyes and see the difference that exists between the states governed by the PAN and the rest of the Mexican Republic.

PATTERSON: A one-time manager for Coca-Cola before becoming the governor of Guanajuato, Fox points to the growth of employment in his home state as proof that he can bring changes. Another state governed by the PAN is here in Aquascalientes, which has been turned into a center of foreign-owned assembly plants known as maquilladoras. While many people work in the maquilladoras, wages are low. A few dollars a day in a country where the cost of living now rivals that of the United States.

Marco Vinichio Saldana: [speaks in Spanish]

PATTERSON: Not everyone in Aquascalientes is happy with the PAN or Vicente Fox. Marco Vinichio Saldana is a campaign coordinator for Cuahtemoc Cardenas, the presidential candidate of the center left Party of the Democratic Revolution and Alliance For Mexico. Cardenas supporters like Vinichio Saldana claim their man is the real alternative to the PAN of Vicente Fox and the PRI of Francisco Labastida. He says the pro-PRI media is distorting Cardenas’s record as the recent mayor of Mexico City, falsely pinning the murder of a famous drug-addicted comedian on the alleged incompetence of Cardenas’s crime fighting policy.

Marco Vinichio Saldana: [speaks in Spanish]

PATTERSON: Vinichio Saldana says the real issue in this year’s presidential election is whether Mexico will remain a sovereign nation. While Fox and the PAN are generally supportive of economic privatizations and free trade agreements, Vinichio Saldana says that Cardenas wants to redefine Mexico’s role in the international economy and revise sections of the North American Free Trade Agreement that hurt the nation’s agriculture and migrant workers.

Marco Vinichio Saldana: [via a translator] Sovereignty is not an obsolete concept. We think that in this era of huge transnational corporations and of political and economic integration, that to say sovereignty has disappeared is a fallacy. We think that the formation of great power blocks and accelerated globalization that is happening has not implied, for the more developed countries, the renunciation of their sovereignty. They have freely decided to associate with each other and come together and construct new economic and political spaces, as well as new decision-making mechanisms. They have freely decided what to transfer to the international sphere, and what issues to reserve for their own internal purposes. And this is what we want for our own development.

[A crowd cheering and applauding]

PATTERSON: As the candidates publicize their proposals in the mass media, several matters, including whether Mexico’s oil resources should remain nationalized, are emerging as the burning issues of the campaign. But at the same time criticism of the campaigns is growing. Many people are upset at the large amount of money being spent, about $350 million in public funds alone. And worries are growing that the PRI will resort to vote buying and electoral fraud to hold onto power. Consequently, one new citizen movement is calling for a democracy that goes beyond the male-dominated system.

JORGE SANCHEZ: [speaks in Spanish]

PATTERSON: Jorge Sanchez represents the nongovernmental group Citizen Action for Democracy and Life, a nonpartisan initiative that united six hundred groups from across Mexico. Citizen Action is the largest grass roots coalition to emerge in the country during recent years. Sanchez says Citizen Action has an agenda that calls for sweeping political, economic, and social reforms. Besides trying to convince the candidates to adopt its agenda, Citizen Action plans on monitoring the victors after the election in order to make sure they comply with their campaign promises.

MARIBEL: [speaks in Spanish]

PATTERSON: Citizen Action activists like Maribel, say a genuine democracy means more than just joining a political party and casting ballots in elections. Maribel says her movement wants to encourage the participation of Mexicans, especially women, in all levels of social and economic life.

MARIBEL: [via a translator] The role of women in developing our agenda was notable. Women are the ones who live closest to the cuts in family income. And they have to make sure the family’s basic needs are met, as well as the kids’ education. Added to these life experiences is our history of making our demands public and building solidarity between families and other women in order to create our own political spaces. Women participate a lot in their neighborhoods and churches. From these places we’ve seen the possibility of constructing a democracy, not just in electoral terms, but one rooted in the life of the people, neighborhoods, and communities.

[A crowd cheering and chanting]

PATTERSON: Meanwhile, the Mexican and US media are increasingly narrowing the presidential election down to the fortunes of two men. Vicente Fox or Francisco Labastida. In addition to electing the new president, Mexican voters will choose the next Congress and several state governors. For Common Ground, I’m Kent Patterson reporting.

MCHUGH: Coming up, radio and propaganda. Printed transcripts and audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details. Or visit our Web site at Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.

PORTER: In the 1920s and ’30s radio became an established way to entertain, inform, and communicate. By the late 1930s domestic radio stations were broadcasting in almost every country around the globe and powerful short wave transmitters sent radio signals across borders. When the Second World War began in 1939, radio had become a way to rally the home front and terrorize the enemy. As our special series on international radio continues, Common Ground‘s Ken Mills looks at the war waged over the airwaves.

[Morse code being transmitted]

MILLS: Radio and World War II were a perfect marriage.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLIDER: [The soldier’s Morse code transmission is being reread by an announcer] They’re not near yet. We are waiting for God only knows what. How about a chocolate soda? Not many. Not near yet. Lots of heavy fighting going on. We’ve only got about one hour twenty minutes before….

MILLS: You are hearing the words of a soldier from a radio telegraph

[Morse code continues in background]

UNIDENTIFIED SOLIDER: [The soldier’s Morse code transmission is being reread by an announcer] We may have to give up by noon. Tell Joe, wherever he is, give ’em hell for us. My love, you….

MILLS: Radio brought even the most intimate situations home.

[Morse code continues in background]

UNIDENTIFIED SOLIDER: [The soldier’s Morse code transmission is being reread by an announcer] …God bless you and keep you. Love. Signed, my name. And tell my mother how you heard from me.

MILLS: World War II was the radio war. The battle to win the mind of the listener. In the years between World War I and World War II radio went from being dots and dashes to become a full world of sound.

[Big band jazz plays in the background]

MILLS: With the progress in technology came new ways to share ideas and to motivate. Radio was the window on the war. And just about everyone wanted the war to be over.

MALE CROONER: [singing] “When the lights go on again, all over the world.”

MILLS: Popular songs of the era tell of a longing for peace.

MALE CROONER: [singing] “And the boys are home again, all over the world.”

MILLS: The number one priority for radio during the war was to maintain morale. Dr. Michael Biel, Professor of Radio and Television at Morehead State University in Kentucky, talks about wartime propaganda.

MICHAEL BIEL: Radio was very, very important for maintaining morale, both on the home front and also the morale of the soldiers. The development of Armed Forces Radio and the Armed Forces Network allowed American soldiers all over the world to hear the same radio programs that the people back at home were hearing. And those programs could lift the spirits of the people at home and they lifted the spirits of the soldiers all over the world. Additionally, of course, there were propaganda broadcasts. The Americans propagandized to their own American people to convince them that this part of the war or that part of the war was very important.

MILLS: One of the tools of propaganda was to demonize the enemy, even in entertainment programs such as this show for children in 1942.

YOUNG BOY (HUGO) IN RADIO DRAMA: “I can remember when I joined the Young Folks League, Fritz. Ahh, you’ll never forget it.”

YOUNG BOY (FRITZ) IN RADIO DRAMA: “Help me pack my things, Hugo.”

HUGO: “Pack them yourself. What’s the matter?”

FRITZ: “Just now, my side, I’ve had a pain a couple of days. Right here. It comes and goes.

HUGO: “It’s nothing. If you want to be a real Hitler Youth, you’ve gotta clinch your teeth and endure. That’s what Hitler said: “Clinch your teeth and endure.”

FRITZ: “Yes, Hugo.

HUGO: “We must give up everything for him. He’s the greatest man that ever lived.”

[dramatic music]

MILLS: The Germans understood the domestic power of radio propaganda, too. As early as the mid-1930s they introduced the Volksemfanger, or “People’s Radio,” the cousin of the Volkswagen. The inexpensive Volksemfanger helped bring radio to virtually every German home. But radio knows no borders. Dr. Biel tells about international efforts.

BIEL: Of course the Germans and the Japanese also tried to do international propaganda. And in almost every instance it was just totally laughable. For example, one of the propagandists the Germans used to broadcast to the British was nicknamed Lord Haw Haw. No one could take somebody seriously after you start talking about him as being Lord Haw Haw.

GERMAN RADIO ANNOUNCER: Hello North America. Germany calling. We now present Lord Haw Haw speaking to England.

LORD HAW HAW: To say the British Empire is in danger today would be a very feeble understatement. Never before has it been in such a perilous position.

MILLS: The purpose of this type of propaganda was to scare the listeners. But little else was accomplished, because the broadcasts lacked credibility.

LORD HAW HAW: The British Minister of “Misinformation” has been conducting a systematic campaign of frightening British women and girls about the danger of being injured by splinters from German bombs. The women reacted to these suggestions and alarms by requesting their milliners to shape the spring and summer hats out of very thin tin plate, which is covered with silk, velvet, or other draping material.

MILLS: The German radio propagandist who was even more outrageous was Axis Sally, an American woman named Mildred Gillers.

AXIS SALLY: Yes, girls, there is a reason. And it’s this. It’s because I’m not on the side of President Roosevelt, I’m not on the side of Roosevelt and his Jewish friends and his British friends, because I’ve been brought up to be a one hundred percent American girl. And now girls, I think it would be nice to listen to a little

music, don’t you? And now here it is, conveying all the thoughts of, in the hearts of those men so far away from their mothers and wives today.

CROONER SINGS: “No longer, the town just doesn’t look…

MILLS: Perhaps the most pathetic World War II broadcast was the final communication from Lord Haw Haw. Here is a portion of his last broadcast as Allied troops closed in on his location.

LORD HAW HAW: This evening I am talking to you about Germany. That is a concept that many of you may have failed to understand. Let me tell you that in Germany there still remains the spirit of unity and the spirit of strength. Let me tell you that here we have a united people who amongst, in their wishes. They are not imperialists. They don’t want to take what doesn’t belong to them….

MILLS: According to Dr. Michael Biel, the Japanese thought they were more successful with international radio propaganda.

BIEL: Really the most serious case was that of, well, supposedly Tokyo Rose. Tokyo Rose was a nickname which the American sailors and soldiers had given for various women who broadcast from Japanese radio. And it was known throughout the Pacific region that Tokyo Rose broadcasts were interesting broadcasts to listen to. They played good music and they were not to be taken seriously as propaganda.

TOKYO ROSE: Hello you fighting orphans of the Pacific. How’s tricks? This is after her weekend and I’m back on the air strictly under you now. Does that sound

OK? It better be, because this is all-request night. And I’ve got a….

BIEL: At the end of the war the Americans found one of the women, who turned out to be an American citizen of Japanese descent, Iva Takori, and railroaded her into a, into a treason trial. And it was a, it really was a sham. Because first of all she had never used the name Tokyo Rose; she was “Orphan Ann.” And the programs which she did, if they had allowed all of the recordings that were existing of her program to be played in the trial, would show that she was doing what she had thought that she was doing; she was trying to fool her Japanese captors into thinking that she was doing propaganda broadcasts, when actually she was trying to build the morale of the Americans that she was broadcasting to.

“CHARLEY AND HIS ORCHESTRA”: [singing and playing] “Yes, you, you’re driving me crazy. What did I do?” What did I do?”

MILLS: Perhaps one of the most adventurous examples of international radio propaganda was the German musical group Charley And His Orchestra.

[Charley And His Orchestra continue playing in the background]

MILLS: This group would perform popular American and British songs.

[Charley And His Orchestra continue playing in the background]

MILLS: They would copy the original song, but somewhere during the song the message would change to become naked propaganda.

“CHARLEY AND HIS ORCHESTRA”: [singing and playing] “…to you. Here is Winston Churchill’s latest tearjerker. ‘Yes, the Germans are driving me crazy. I thought I had brains, but they’ve shuttered my brain. They’ve built up a front against me. It’s quite amazing.’”

[Charley And His Orchestra continue playing in the background]

MILLS: Of course the Germans weren’t the only ones who produced singing propaganda.

AMERICAN COUNTRY SINGER: “I’m gonna tell the postman next time he comes around. That Mr. Hitler’s new address is the Berlin Buryin’ Ground. Around and around, Hitler’s grave, around and around we go. Gonna lay that feller done so he won’t get up no more.”

MILLS: By the war’s end there was no doubt that radio had become an important new weapon. Future international broadcasters would learn from the mistakes of the World War II cross-border propaganda. German domestic propaganda was considered a huge success at fooling the people. Propaganda during World War II proved Edward R. Murrow’s claim that communication systems are neutral. They broadcast truth and falsehood with equal facility. Dr. Michael Biel adds:

BIEL: When you’re in the middle of the war you don’t know whether you’re gonna win or not. In hindsight we can listen to the recordings of the wartime broadcasts from the Americans, from the British, from the Germans, from the Japanese; and we know the Americans won. And we can listen to those things now and laugh at them. Because we know we won the war. Those songs wouldn’t be so funny if the Nazis had won the war. Believe me, they would not be that funny. But listening to them now, they’re really a hoot to listen to.

“CHARLEY AND HIS ORCHESTRA”: [singing and playing] “Let’s go bombing, oh let’s go bombing.”

MILLS: Reporting for Common Ground, I’m Ken Mills.

PORTER: When the Second World War ended, the victorious Allies set up less centralized radio broadcasting systems in Germany and Japan. The BBC became the king of global radio broadcasting. Meanwhile, the United States established powerful international radio stations to send messages to a new audience: people living behind the Iron Curtain. And the Soviet Union countered with Radio Moscow, it’s own force in international broadcasting. Next week, as our series on international radio continues, Ken Mills will profile Cold War Radio: the radio battle between the Voice Of America, Radio Free Europe, the BBC, and Radio Moscow.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security