Remembering Ruben Jaramillo: A Recent History of Privatization

Ruben Jaramillo

Ruben Jaramillo

Before the Zapatistas revolted of January 1, 1994, Rubén Jaramillo had fought for the land reform, guaranteed by the Mexican Constitution of 1917.  Born in Tlaquiltenango, Morelos, in 1900, Jaramillo at 15 joined Emiliano Zapata’s Liberation Army of the South and at 17 was a captain. Under Jaramillo’s leadership in 1943 the Zacatepec sugar mill workers went on strike. The state ordered Jaramillo’s arrest, forcing him to take to the mountains. His insurrection ended when the government gave him amnesty and promised reforms.

For the next nine years, Jaramillo worked within the electoral system, founding el Partido Agrario Obrero Morelense, or PAOM that attracted 15,000 members. Jaramillo ran for governor of Morelos in 1946 and 1952. The elections were disputed, so in 1953, Jaramillo again led an armed revolt that lasted to 1958 when Mexican President Adolfo López Mateos promised Jaramillo to support Morelos campesinos.

Rural Gentrification

Tongue in cheek I cynically call the movement of rancheros onto ejido lands “rural gentrification”. Cattle ranchers with the tacit approval of the federal government invaded peasant holdings. Jaramillo fought back, followed by thousands of small farmers. Jaramillo wanted the government to live up to the Mexican Constitution, and when the government refused to enforce the law, the campesinos again occupied the land (1962).

On May 23, 1962, Federal Judicial Police and soldiers raided Jaramillo’s home, arresting him, his pregnant wife Epifanía, and their three sons taking them to Xochicalco, Morelos, and brutally murdering them, only his daughter survived. No one was charged with the murders.

Today the campesinos from Morelos and Guerrero en la tierra de Zapata remember Rubén Jaramillo. Mexicans treasure their old songs and memories.

The Legacy

A former DEA officer eloquently wrote me: “With the disappearance of the 43 students in Ayotzinapa, Mexico delivered its message loud and clear: a normalista education is dangerous for teachers and students. The government is watching what students are learning, and if they are learning to tell the truth about corruption in their communities, more will disappear. Interestingly killings of engaged citizens in Ayotzinapa goes back to the days of Ruben Jaramillo and into the 1950s when citizens tried to express their concerns for justice, especially when American business interests were dominating the  Mexican work force. Sadly, the power is united (both legal and illegal) against everyday Mexicans, and I think we will see it played out again after this new trade agreement begins to take hold. It’s not about drugs. It’s about resources. Drugs just give the U.S. excuse to flood Mexico with billions of dollars to kill campesinos living on the wrong land.”

The death of the Jaramillos and disappearance of the normalistas are efforts to erase memory.

Born to Fail

The easiest way to justify the theft of public enterprises and resources is to allow them to become so corrupt and ineffective that they lose moral authority. Another way is to bankrupt them like the U.S. Congress has bankrupted the postal service. No one likes corruption or inefficiency, so neoliberals have sold the public on the myth of the fabled efficiency of private sector.

Prior to 1970, the Mexican government could not choose whether to privatize or not because it operated relatively few productive enterprises. This changed with the influx of oil revenue during the 1970s when government bought hundreds of firms. By 1982 the Mexican government ran 1,155 businesses, along with scores of public enterprises.

Meanwhile, inflation ate away at Mexico’s economy, resulting in a devaluation of the peso. The spiral began in 1976 when the exchange rate jumped from 12.50 to 20.50 pesos per US dollar (64 percent currency devaluation). The “boom” in oil prices justified spending in oil-related projects. Oil was also used as collateral for additional borrowing. As a consequence, debt levels doubled between 1976-1981causing a financial crisis that preceded the bank nationalizations in 1982.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank forced Mexico to adopt severe austerity measures. This almost wiped out public sector jobs and services and the poor paid for the elites’ malfeasance.

The Final Solution

In 1985, de la Madrid announced state controlled businesses would be sold to private buyers as part of the government’s campaign to raise state revenues and promote economic efficiency. The message was that the private sector could do it better.

In 1988, U.S. involvement in Mexican economic policy became more apparent. Under Salinas de Gortari, a new generation of US-trained economists and policymakers implemented market-oriented strategies that the United States promoted in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. It laid the groundwork for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)—a free trade agreement with the United States and Canada, reducing the role of the public sector and eliminating social legislation. The myth was job creation and job stability.

As in the case of Pinochet’s Chile, many high ranking Mexican politicos went to Ivy League graduate schools. These universities played a role similar to the U.S. Army’s center at Fort Benning, Ga., the School of the Americas that trained 60,000 South and Central American soldiers.

To name a few technocrats: President Ernesto Zedillo (Yale, Ph.D., ’78), Carlos Salinas de Gotari (Harvard, Ph.D., ’78) and Miguel de la Madrid (Harvard, master’s, ’65) as well as finance secretaries Jaime Serra Puche (Yale, Ph. D., ’79) and Guillermo Ortiz Martinez (Stanford, Ph. D., ’77). The Mexican alumni admired and emulated their mentors and professors at elite U.S. Management Schools.

It was no surprise that privatization of state enterprises accelerated under Harvard trained Salinas de Gortari who made it the cornerstone of his structural adjustment program. By 1993, Salinas sold a total of 390 state enterprises (63 percent of the firms held by Mexico in 1988). The outcome was that privatization eliminated more than 400,000 jobs between 1983 and 1993.

Zedillo during 1995 awarded five concessions to joint ventures between Mexican and foreign companies to operate ventures that included long-distance telecommunications and the privatization of the secondary petrochemicals operation Petróleos Mexicanos–Pemex, but the steamroller met opposition.

The Molting of the Bandidos: The Age of the Billionaires

By the beginning of the 21st century it was clear that neoliberals had seized control of both sides of the border. In 2000, George Bush was elected president and Vicente Fox began his sexenio. Issues such as immigration and the War on Drugs were used to strengthen the hegemony of the billionaires as NAFTA and other policies created more billionaires. Supporters of NAFTA had promised to increase the income of Mexican and American workers, and in some instances the middle class did grow in Mexico; however, the big winners were the ultra-rich.

“Privatization is a popular strategy for restructuring the national economies of advanced and advancing countries.”  This strategy promotes the free market system, promising that changing ownership and management systems would be safer and use less tax monies while improving services.

In order to accomplish this, a chaotic picture was constructed to prepared the public for subversion of constitutional guarantees. This allowed the transfer state enterprises into the hands of friends and cronies of the ruling elite, much like what happened in Russia in the 1990s.  The priority today in Mexico is oil; it is the Big Apple. When this and other ventures are completed, los muertos de hambre will move on to other government agencies to molt more Mexican billionaires, as in the United States. The plums are state enterprises related to the land, water, prisons, the parks, and education.

Memories had to be reconstructed or eliminated. That is what the war on the Normalistas and the erasure of the memory of Rubén Jaramillo is all about.

Corrido de Rubén Jaramillo,

–by Rodolfo F. Acuña


Rodolfo F. Acuña, “Impaction: What Goes around Comes Around,” La Prensa San Diego, February 2015. . Acuña, “The Word Neo is Not New:The Age of the

Billionaires,” Counterpunch, Dec 27, 2013. . Mark Karlin, “The School of the Americas, the CIA and the US-Condoned Cancer of Torture Continue to Spread in Latin America, Including Mexico,” TruthOut, June 10, 2012,

SAM DILLON, “Mexico’s Presidential Hopefuls Are All New Breed,” The New York Times, June 24, 1999,

“Mexico Privatization: Who Contro  ls the World,” William C. Gruben and Robert McComb, “Liberalization,Privatization,And Crash:Mexico’s Banking System in the 1990s,” FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF DALLAS, ECONOMIC REVIEW FIRST QUARTER,1997.

Rodolfo Acuña, “The Age of the Billionaires,” Counterpunch, Dec 27, 2013.  Bob Filner, “Mexico’s US Problem,” The Nation, February 7, 2001,

Shaker A. Zahra, Carol Dianne Hansen, (2000) “PRIVATIZATION, ENTREPRENEURSHIP, AND GLOBAL COMPETITIVENESS IN THE 21st CENTURY”, Competitiveness Review: An International Business Journal, Vol. 10 Iss: 1, pp.83 – 103

Linette Lopez, “How Russia’s Billionaire Oligarchs Got So Very Rich,’ Business Insider, Mar 24, 2013.

This entry was posted in AmeriKKKa, Chicana/o, Chicana/o Activism, Chicana/o Community, Chicana/o History, Chicana/o Identity, Chicana/o Ideology, Chicana/o Politics, Chicana/o Power, Chicana/o Studies, Chicana/o Underground, Chicana/o Youth, Classism, Colonialism, Community, Cultura, Decolonization, Education, Gentrification, Globalization, History, Indigenous, Knowledge, Labor, Land, Language, Law, Mexican, Mexico, Neo-Liberalism, Nepantla, Palabra, Politics, Resistance, Sin Fronteras, Social justice, Solidarity, Student Empowerment, Transnational, Unity, Xicana, Xicano. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *