A new movie, Roma, by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón is reminding Mexicans of a history many would rather forget. Poignantly, the history points to a seldom discussed issue about American foreign policy and the migrant caravan that has been making headlines over the last month, or so. Cuarón is best known for movies like the Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, controversial because of its sexual content; Tu Mamá También and Gravity. The movie Roma is a drama about a Mexican maid and her travails. It has become controversial because of Netflix. The movie isn’t slated to be released until mid-December, but some theaters are playing it already. The movie takes place at the same time a paramilitary group is used to kill protesting Mexican students. The paramilitary group, Los Halcones was the result of American foreign policy directed at controlling and eradicating radical left-wing politics in Latin America to keep Soviet expansion at bay. Today, many of the migrants seeking asylum are the result of the events in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
There is little known about Los Halones – or the Hawks in English – because of the secrecy surrounding their existence. They were created by the Mexican government in the mid-to-late 60’s and were dissolved on June 11, 1971 as the result of the murder of about 120 student demonstrators. There continues to be a debate about whether the Halcones were created in 1966 or in 1970, with most favoring the mid-1960s. The U.S. government, via a diplomatic cable to Washington, pegs the creation date to 1968.
Regardless, there is substantial evidence that the paramilitary group was organized by the Mexican government to infiltrate and control student left-wing agitators in the country’s universities.
The Halcones were made up of men recruited from pools of low-income families. The recruits were divided into two groups, those that were 18-19-year-old and those that were 20 or so years old. They were recruited by word-of-mouth from families closely aligned to the PRI Party. In return for their service, they were provided a free education, cash payments and a promise for access to the PRI Party apparatus for political work. The recruits needed to be in good health and have advanced athletic abilities.
During their indoctrination they were trained in advanced martial arts, including karate, Kendo and judo with an emphasis in hand-to-hand combat. When deployed, the Halcones, although intended to be secretive, nonetheless became visible because of the Kendo sticks they used against the students.
Each Halcon was identified by a nickname.
They were also trained in advanced military techniques and firearms. In addition to the recruits from poor families, the Halcones also incorporated ex-military personnel who had recently left the military or had been discharged for various reasons.
A small group of selected Halcones were trained by American military forces in insurgency tactics, although the U.S government continues to deny their involvement. The Halcones were not military units nor were they federal units, although the Mexican government knew and approved of them. The Halcones were part of the Mexico City police.
The Halcones were one of several paramilitary, military and security services created by the Mexican government in the 1970s to curtail and control left-wing agitators and Communism within México. The United States government supported some of the units directly and tacitly approved of the others. These included Los Guantes Blancos (Batallón Olimpia), the Dirección de Seguridad Federal, Los Escuderos (connected to the Catholic Church) and Los Zorros.
The Halcones were involved in two of the most controversial student oppressions in México. The 1968 Tlatelolco Massacre, where about 250 student activists were killed, and the Mantanza del Jueves de Corpus better known as El Halconazo because of the involvement of the Halcones in the murder of about 120 student protesters.
All the Latin American dirty war history and especially the paramilitary groups and military units that arose during this time are tied directly to today’s drug cartels in México, the Migrant Caravans from Central America and America’s foreign policy of forcing other governments to do its dirty work.
I’ll be adding short historical posts about the Guantes Blancos, the Dirección de Seguridad Federal, Los Escuderos, Los Zorros and other dirty war details in future posts.
Historians tend to focus on individual events or groups and even the “perfect dictatorship” of the PRI Party but seldom put context to the geopolitical events that feed the catastrophes. Most are focused today on the Migrant Caravan and their quest for American asylum, but few go back to America’s penchant for diplomacy in faraway lands to protect America’s homeland, or the paramilitary units America created or encouraged to be created that now displace people from their homelands.
Today’s events, immigration, border security and the Drug War are all intertwined with dirty wars in Central America and in México and the groups involved in them, including American official and irregular forces. Even the “perfect dictatorship” is a product of American foreign diplomacy.
For those who watch Roma and have no historical perspective about America’s quest to keep Communism out of the Americas and the groups that were deployed to do so will be left wondering what the backdrop to the drama is all about.
Over 100 students were killed to protect America from Communism on its doorstep.
On Saturday, the AMLO government will take over México. AMLO’s first task will be to deal with Donald Trump on the migrants seeking asylum. History has proven that México will suffer the consequences of doing America’s dirty work.