Saturday, April 23, 2011

"Lynching" an ambassador

Figuratively speaking, that is what happened to Mr. Carlos Pascual, USA ambassador to Mexico until recently ( March 2011) . The dramatic word "lynch" came from a lady radio commentator whose name I did not catch. Wikileaks had revealed that in a report to Pres. Barack Obama, Amb. Pascual said the fight against organized crime is inefficient due to internal strife in the army and navy , described Mexican President Felipe Calderon as "inseguro" and the presidential aspirants of the ruling party, PAN (Partido Accion Nacional) as "hombres grises" meaning colorless. ( I am quoting from "La Jornada", a local rag.)

Pres. Felipe Calderon felt betrayed and hurt, to say the least. As expected, Amb . Pascual was attacked relentlessly by legislators, the academe, the labor sector and the public in general. Had he not resigned, he could have been declared "persona non grata." However, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, came to the rescue, praised Pascual's good work in helping Mexico fight drug lords and announced that the ambassador would stay for a bit to insure orderly transition. She declared that his replacement will be appointed after the Mexican presidential elections (next year!) ; a charge d'affaires will take over in the meantime. Was that a veiled threat?

Amb. Carlos Pascual, a Cuban-American, used to be connected with the Brookings Institute and, curiously enough, his previous diplomatic assignments were to "precarious" states like the Ukraine, so when he was sent to Mexico, there was a lot of "eyebrow raising" here. Be that as it may, Amb. Pascual made frequent visits to Los Pinos (Mexico's Malacanan) , had the ear of the President with whom he was reported to have discussed and perrhaps planned "Rapido y Furioso" (Fast and Furious) a controversial deal that secretly sent 2,000 high-powered arms to Mexico, the unmanned flights of drone planes over Mexican territory, and heaven knows what other obscure operations which Mexicans fear may be violating their Constitution.

In a radio interview, Mexixcan historian, Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, said that was certainly not the first time a US ambassador to Mexico has had shown his hand. In 1853, Amb. James Gadsen negotiated with the corrupt Pres. Antonio de Santa Ana the sale of a vast part of Mexican territory to the USA. The " Gadsen Purchase" so infuriated the Mexican people there were many uprisings and revolts against Santa Ana who was overthrown by the Ayutla revolution.

Dr. Meyer also related that in 1912, when Francisco Madero became president after the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, US Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson thought him a weak reformist so he openly cultivated the friendship of Madero's rivals like Gen. Victoriano Huerta. Emboldened, the latter rose against Madero and during a meeting, supposedly at the US embassy, Amb. Wilson advised Huerta to "do what was best for Mexico". Huerta lost no time and Madero was assasinated. For his part, US Pres. William H. Taft believed that Amb. Wilson had gone too far and bade him to stop meddlding in Mexican political affairs. Had there been Wikileaks in those tumultuous times, Ambassadors Gadsen and Wilson could have been lynched.# (written in Mexico city, March 2011)

His Lolo Leon

A few days after Carmen Guerrero - Nakpil's latest book , HEROES & VILLAINS, was launched my brother, Toto Cruz (the publisher) said, he had an incredible story to tell me so I should go to his place directly after work and have dinner there.

According to Toto, late one evening, he caught a glimpse of someone buying a copy of Mommy's book at the reception desk of his office and the secrtary was surprised when the man said he was buying the book because his grandfather, Leon, was on the cover. Intrigued, my brother dashed out of his office, assistant Peter Lee at his heels, to look for the mysterious stranger. They had hoped to catch him by the elevators but he was nowhere to be found so they rushed down to the front desk of the building where visitors had to retrive their IDs.

"We sighted Franz when he was already walking away from Tower One (of the Philippine Stock Exchange) ," Toto related. "Peter gave chase seeing he was carrying a red book (color of the cover), so we invited him to the brokers' lounge." Franz Villafuerte, grandson of Gen. Leon Villafuerte, works as a government securities dealer at the Development Bank of the Philippines. His Lolo Leon lived to a ripe old age of over 100 and passed on in 1956. Like Macario Sakay, his friend and fellow revolutionary, he had an "anting-anting" which he bequeathed to Franz's father but which his mother buried in their garden. I can only imagine why she could have done that ; I have two Rizalista "anting-anting" which I have not quite deciphered but are on display in my living-room.

Toto told Franz, whom he described as a handsome mestizillo, that our mother put that famous group picture of Gen. Macario Sakay and his comrades-at-arms, Leon Villafuerte included, on the cover of her latest book because she is an admirer of the former. Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim , another Sakay die-hard, had a monument built in his honor at the Plaza Morga in Tondo. Franz had not heard about it. Toto continued to say that yet another Sakay stalwart, his sister Gemma, will surely want to interview him about his Lolo Leon. (to be continued)

His Lolo Leon, 2

Franz Villafuerte, grandson of Gen. Leon Villafuerte, said he would like to research more abour his Lolo Leon. He also told my brother, Toto Cruz, that they have a photo of his Lolo Leon in their living room, so I wonder if it is the same one that is on the cover of my Mother's book (HEROES & VILLAINS) , that famous group picture of Gen. Macario Sakay and his officers, Villafuerte included. Well-groomed and dressed in crisp white "cerradas", did they know they were posing for posterity?

Considering how the post-Aguinaldo revolutionary guerrillas were being hunted and killed by the Americans, the Bringandage Act of 1903 punished them with death and/or life imprisonment with hard labor. It is heartening to know that Franz's elders did not conceal their blood ties with Gen. Leon Villafuerte even if he had joined Sakay who was branded an outlaw or "bandolero" by the American colonial government.

Gen. Leon Villafuerte was a follower of loyal "magdiwang" Gen. Luciano San Miguel who never stopped fighting, not even after the uneasy truce declared at Biak na Bato, nor after President Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in Palanan , Isabela, in 1901. When Gen. San Miguel was killed in battle in 1903, many of his men joined Macario Sakay, among them Leon Villafuerte.#