“A Terrorist Plot”: Anticommunism, the Transnational Right, and the Production of State Legitimacy in 1960s Mexico

Sunday, January 10, 2016: 11:00 AM
International Ballroom A (Atlanta Marriott Marquis)
Luis Alberto Herran Avila, New School for Social Research
During the Cold War, Mexico occupied a peculiar and ambiguous place in the Latin American anti-communist imaginary as a fertile ground for “enemy activity” as well as a platform for the extreme Right. In this regard, the PRI regime’s pragmatic approach to the question of communism (a combination of caution and pragmatism in hemispheric diplomacy and strong-handed repression towards domestic Leftists) remained a source of bewilderment on behalf of non-state anti-communist groups home and abroad. This paper addresses the discursive and legal instruments that the regime used in order to deal with the 1965 attack perpetrated by the Cuban exile organization Movimiento Nacionalista Cristiano against the Mexican daily El Día as a “terrorist plot” planned from abroad. Tried as political criminals and foreign extremists, the attackers also revealed the links of the MNC with the extreme Right student organization known as MURO and other anti-communist groups in Mexico that were kept under state surveillance for their potentially disruptive actions. Besides showing the importance of Mexico as a center for transnational anti-communist activity, this episode also speaks of a fundamental aspect of state formation in Cold War Mexico: the regime’s mobilization of the discourse of criminality and “terrorism” to present an image of security and stability concerning the challenges posed by domestic and foreign “extremists.”
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