For All Nails #121: October Surprise

by Noel Maurer

Chihuahua City, Durango, USM
13 October 1974

The crowd was more subdued than normal, but only slightly. Security checks at public forums had been a fact of life in Mexico ever since the Rainbow War, but over the last twenty years they had become perfunctory, both checker and checkee simply going through the motions. This time, though, not only were the Chihuahua City police officers assigned to the Emiliano Calles Estadio de Toros taking their job seriously, they were supplemented by federal Constabulary officers in their telltale brown combat fatigues and incongruous conical sombreros. Rumors were flying that some big-name político was going to open the match, perhaps even Governor Tagle. Matches at this level were usually opened by some wannabe bigwig who would give some boilerplate about how the toros represented the true Mexican spirit, blah blah blah ... except in Jefferson, where politicians tried to stay as far away from the controversy regarding the sport (or art, or savagery, depending on who you talked to) as they could. It was usually about as interesting as watching the match crew paint the zone markings onto the bullring. All the security today, however, promised a genuine bigwig, who might actually have something entertaining to say.

This was a big match, with one of Mexico's best matadors scheduled to perform. As always, the cheerleaders for the Chihuahua City Cavaliers cricket team opened the match with one of their racier performances. This one pushed the envelope, borrowing as it did from an underground charlabom dance routine, but it went over well. The women admired their athletic talent, and the men admired ... uh ...

After the cheerleaders the matadors rode out on horseback, waving to the crowd. Don Francisco Tacano, easily identifiable even from the nosebleed seats in his trademark neon green jersey, was the main attraction --- for most of the male spectators, that is, because a not-insignificant percentage were much more interested in watching the cheerleaders --- and he got even this subdued crowd to roar.

After which the two announcers got out onto the field and hollered into a microphone, "Damas y caballeros! Welcome to IPN's Monday Night Bullfighting. I'm your host, Johnny Gómez, and this is my partner, Nick Diamante" --- the shorter mustachioed blond man waved to the crowd --- "And do we have a night for you! Here we have the world's foremost matador, a champion at both Mexican toreo and Spanish tradicional, Puerto Hancock's own Franciiiiiiiiiisco Tacano!" Thunderous applause. "And we've also got, as you've just seen and --- damas, hide your men --- will see again, the infamous and oh-so riiiiiiiiica Chihuahua City Chavas of Cheer!!!!!" Even more applause.

"But before we begin," boomed out Diamante in his baritone, "We've got a surprise for you. Our scheduled speaker and former football hero, Governor Clark Tagle, has kindly agreed to give up his scheduled speaking engagement for ..." dramatic pause ... "the President of the United States of Mexico, Don Immanuel Moctezuma!!!"

The crowd was stunned. The President! After a moment, scattered applause could be heard, and soon it traveled around the stadium bit by bit by bit, picking up speed, but it never really took off into anything worthy of the word ovation. The President! Here! To address them! And to address the nation, of course --- half the nation was tuned into this match --- but to address them! The president had been silent ever since the revelations two weeks ago. If anything could have gotten the attention of a crowd waiting to see bulls get slaughtered, this was it. They were too curious to clap.

The president strode out across the field to the emcee, waving at the crowd. As he waved to certain sections, applause picked up there, but it still failed to take off. The president, wearing a brown business suit and looking simply huge compared to the diminutive cheerleaders and matadors, marched up to the announcer, clapped him on the back, and took the microphone into his own hand. His hand was so large that the mike practically seemed to disappear inside a human cricket mitt.

"Hello, Chihuahua!" boomed the President. "Hello Mexico!" There was some applause.

"As you probably know, the Congress of the United States is currently debating a measure of no little importance: the future of Secretary Vicente Mercator." He paused and smiled. "I hope that you won't mind indulging me for a few minutes while I speak about the Secretary's fate." He gestured towards Don Tacano and the other matadors. "I know you all want to see Francisco go up against the bulls. I do too, but my wife always used to call me supremely bull headed, so I don't feel so bad." There were some smiles at the lame joke. "Anyway, I know it's tradition for local politicians to speak at these events, and I hope that what I have to say might be a little more interesting than the usual." FN1

He paused for a second. "Vicente Mercator is a great man. There's no doubt about that. Remember what life was like in the early fifties? Terrorist racialists assaulting our hard-won Rainbow coalition. Men who sought to cling to power tearing apart our political life. The insidious machinations of Kramer Associates undermining our economy. During the gravest crisis which our Republic has ever faced, Vicente Mercator y Félix García made the hard decisions y took the difficult actions needed to preserve our Constitution y our way of life.

"Y after the crisis had passed, Vicente Mercator did not retire to his law office in Jefferson, but laid the groundwork for the stability we enjoy today. He built the United States Health Service, the finest y most egalitarian health care system in the world. He built the Federal Universities, the greatest y most open school system on the planet, one which provides all Mexicans with more opportunity than any other nation. He built the supercalzadas, to bring together our far-flung continental republic. He built the military-industrial complex into the powerful force it is today. Damas y caballeros, by 1960, Vicente Mercator y his allies had saved the United States."

The President shrugged. "So why have I fired him?" Laughter tittered across the stands. The crowd was transfixed: this was going to be a show. And Moctezuma needed that crowd: he never came across well on the vita, not without some human interaction to show him how he was doing.

"Well, what has he done for you lately?" More laughter at the reference to a Tania Monroy song. "Let me list them. He has used the Department of War for his own personal gain. I have submitted to Congress a list of seventeen contractors from whom he has personally skimmed profits, y hundreds --- yes, hundreds --- of other cases in which firms connected to Mercator or his cronies received contracts over superior competitors. He has run a personal foreign policy, against the desires of the duly-elected representatives of the Mexican gente, putting his own interests above the interests of the gente of the USM. He has subverted the democratically elected governments of our neighbors, encouraging racial strife and terrorist violence. He has supported the restoration and expansion of monarchy on the American continent. He has brought the world closer to the brink of a new Global War under the guise of a War Without War."

The President paused for a heartbeat. "Now, we do live in a bad neighborhood, but as anyone from North-East Puerto Hancock can tell you, it's far better to walk the walk than talk the talk." There was some more laughter, louder this time, as people were relieved to hear him break the tension. Tacano was from NEPH, an infamously tough area. "Under my foreign policy, the policy you voted for three years ago, we have pursued peace through strength. The strength of our economy, the strength of our military, y the strength of our example. No other nation could produce an example of such unity out of such diversity."

Now he was on a roll. "Only our history could produce such greatness. Andrew Jackson united Jeffersonian y Mexican. Miguel Huddleston united Anglo y Hispano. Benito Hermión united the poor y the rich. Y the happy warrior, Emiliano Calles --- for whom this estadio is named --- completed the Rainbow with the Manumission Act of 1921. I would not be here before you were it not for General Calles's completion of Mexico's universal destiny!"

There was applause, but the President continued through it. "Calles made us the Rainbow. Calles made us the world. We are the world. We are the children of Jackson and Cuauhtémoc. We are the ones who make the world a brighter place!" His voice rose. "Just you and me: Anglo, Hispano, Mexicano, Indian, Negro --- Mexico is the World!!!" At this point the stadium erupted into thunderous applause. This was the rhetoric people wanted, this was the rhetoric Moctezuma needed, this was rhetoric that made people proud of Mexico and to be Mexican … and made it un-Mexican to resent the President for the color of his father's skin.

As the applause continued, the President took a small folded piece of yellow paper out of his suit pocket. He slowly unfolded it, and as the noise from the stands continued, he began to read: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal ..." Before he got to the second sentence, the cheering was so loud as to drown out the amplified voice of El Popo.

As the applause died down, the President took his speech in a different direction. Mercatorista newspapers would later criticize it, writing: The President's speech was one long non sequitur: it may not have made any sense, but El Popo sure does like pizza. That didn't matter, though: what mattered was the reaction of the people in that stadium, and more importantly, the millions watching on vita or who would watch the re-broadcast on the news stations in the coming day. He was speaking as if their opinion really mattered, and that made politics fun again.

"Elected officials, those selected by the gente, from the gente, to serve the gente, must be ever vigilant against the tyranny of the camarilla. It is tempting to join those who seem to know everything, who have been around forever. But we do not serve them. They were not elected. And they do not and should not guide us. What can they see from their little rooms? How can they tell how government is doing better than you can? The government exists to serve you, and nobody can tell if you're being served more clearly than you! You know what you want and you know what you need, and you deserve to be governed by men accountable to you. If we, your government, or me, your president, kicks the duck, then you can kick our culo. No one can or should be able to take that away from you. Mexicans must be able to say to their government: we'll have it our way. You can fire me, but if I can't fire the bureaucrats, then you won't be able to have it your way, you'll have it their way, and that's un-Mexican! Emiliano Calles did his job, saved his nation, and stepped down. It is time for Vicente Mercator to do the same."

As the applause rose again, the President nodded to the fans in the stands. "Thank you. Thank you. Oh, and one more thing ... ¡Viva Tacano!" The applause went on, and didn't stop until after the President had left the field.

Guantánamo, Cuba
20 October 1974

1LT (AUX) Sebastian Quezadas was an annoyed and uncomfortable man. They'd radioed Coyoacán for instructions, but no clarification was forthcoming. But there they were, sitting on the runway, and their own goddamned troops weren't letting them get off the plane.

He sat in the hold of the C-12, hot and bored and surrounded by 300 other hot and bored heavily-armed men. He looked at MAJ Brady. MAJ Brady looked at him.

"Sitting around with nothin' to do," said Brady.

"You're lookin' at me, I'm lookin' at you," completed Quezadas.

"At least they let us land," commented TCO Andría. Both officers looked at him. "Shut up, brokepenny," said Quezadas, about as succinctly as it got.

"Sir," asked DWO Garce, "Why aren't they letting us off the plane? It's been two hours."

"I dunno," growled the Major. He was not a happy man. He had not been happy when the order suddenly came down that they were actually deploying to Cuba. In fact, his words to Colonel Donaldson had been, "Fuck, sir, I got a whole bunch of rotociviles who been here less than a month, and you want us to deploy on three days notice?" FN2 The answer had been "yes." The next thing they knew, they were packed up and on a bus to Tizayuca, where the big Army Air Base was located. FN3

Then they were issued weapons -- which bothered both Brady and both his Regular and Reserve XOs. The Reserve XO -- Joe Talvi, a gruff Jeffersonian ex-Marine -- had been especially bothered: why the fuck are we flying to Cuba? Why are we flying to Cuba in battle dress and carrying Rojas-65s? Why is a Group Three combat support company flying to Cuba in full battle dress and carrying Rojas-65s??? Yeah, they like to remind us that everybody's default tecspec is alfa-one-carlos, but this was silly.

"This is driving me nuts," said TCP (AUX) Warren, fingering his collar.

Quezadas looked out the window. There were armed Regulars out there on the tarmac. Now, they were milling around, and a whole lot of them were smoking cigarettes, but they were armed. Something was very very wrong.

Something had, in fact, been wrong going in, when they were denied permission to land. They were only allowed down when the pilot had (falsely) claimed that he was running out of fuel and wasn't about to take a fully loaded Ox into a civilian airport in a war zone without an intelligence report.

Brady looked out the window too. "Okay. Enough. I don't know about you, but these parametrallas as are making my neck ache. FN4 This is fucking ridiculous." He pressed the button on the link to the cabin over his head. "Captain Astori! Open up the ramps. We're getting out of here."

"One or both ramps, sir?" asked Astori. He had what sounded like a Californian accent to everyone there except Brady, who actually was from California. It always annoyed him that the flyboys all tried to sound like they were chingones from North-East Puerto Hancock. It especially annoyed him that CPT Astori sounded so, well, fuckin' comfortable up front there.

Normally troops in a C-12 configured for carrying soldiers would exit from the rear ramp only, making it easier to count and form up on the tarmac. But normally the troops in a C-12 wouldn't have been kept waiting in the hold for two goddamned hours.

"Both ramps, Captain. Open 'em both." He took his thumb off the comm switch. "Okay, men, we're getting off this godbedamned airmobile. Ready for disembarkation!" For most of the men, that just meant making sure they knew where their Rojases were. Brady was at the rear of the plane, along with Quezadas: officers were first-off in A-company of the 56th CSB. FN5

There was a whine as the servos started to let down the ramps at both ends of the plane. Quezadas was still looking out the window. He wasn't particularly surprised to see the soldiers milling around in the hot sun start pointing and tossing away their cigarettes. Then Brady tapped him on the casco, and it was time to run off the airmobile.

At which point Quezadas became very surprised to see that in the intervening fifteen seconds the soldiers -- Mexican soldiers -- on the tarmac had dropped into the prone and were pointing very ugly autocarbines at them. "Positions!" yelled Brady, and to his surprise Quezadas found himself fanning out from the ramp and dropping down into the prone on autopilot. Maybe he had been trained better than he'd realized.

Oh my, thought some distant part of his mind. I'm pointing my weapon at real people. Mexican people. This is quite odd. Another part of his mind thought that it was quite odd for him to be using expressions like "quite odd."

Brady, good officer that he was, was out in front. Or did that make him a bad officer? Quezadas couldn't remember. But he did see the Major waving as the rest of the 150 men in the company poured off the rear of the transport, and raggedly fanned out around the tarmac. Very raggedly. They were a combat support unit, after all, not infantry. They were trained to come under fire, but distant fire or artillery fire, and they weren't trained to operate as a large group, and anyway Basic training was a long time ago.

Meanwhile, Brady was simultaneously yelling at the soldiers around the airmobile. "What the fuck are you doing, you fuckheads! For the fucking love of God, stand the fuck down!"

At the same time, one of the officers leading the, uh, opposing troops was also yelling. "What the fuck are you doing!" Nice symmetry there. "Get back on the fucking plane!" Not likely, thought Quezadas. The officers on both sides sounded really really angry. Hey, that's how they teach you to sound at ROTC, he idly thought. I shoulda joined the Navy.

Okay ... must think ... there's something I'm supposed to do here, right? Andría was flat on the ground next to him. Other soldiers running off the plane were stomping right over him, their boots coming precariously close to his rifle-toting arms or his splayed-out legs. FN6 A few of the officers were standing and directing their men. Quezadas didn't feel bad about that -- he was just an intelligence officer, a glorified map-reader. FN7

Deep in his own head, he missed the first shot. Pop! Then another series of pops, he wasn't sure how many. But he did see Major Brady fall backwards, his weapon clattering to the asphalt.

Pop! Pop! Pop! Popoppopopoppopopopopopop …. the sounds of small-arms fire started to come from all around where Quezadas lay on the ground. ¡Putamadre! he thought. He started to fire at the grey-green blobs in front of him. Pop! Pop! It didn't seem real.

It was so unreal that Andría even paused for a moment, and the two of them just looked at each other. Then Quezadas felt an agonizing pain in the back of right calf. How the fuck did I get hit there? he thought, quite lucidly, even as his mouth screamed "AAAaaaaauuuuughhh!!" FN8 He kept shooting, even more poorly aimed than before.

He wasn't paying attention when the loudspeakers from the control tower started bellowing "CEASE FIRE! CEASE FIRE!" But he didn't need to be. Nobody on either side wanted to be shooting, and it stopped almost immediately. In fact, they'd probably been firing for less than a minute, maybe thirty seconds.

His heart was pumping in his chest, and he found he could barely breathe. He couldn't feel anything in his right calf. Gotta calm down, be cool for kid. Set an example. He turned to Andría.

The young TCO was dead, shot right through the left eye.

Mexico City, C.D., USM
21 October 1974

"What the fuck do you mean he REGRETS the incident! Regrets it! What the hell does that mean?" fulminated El Popo.

"He says he regrets it," said Chewy Enciso.

"Well, why doesn't he come down here in person and tell me that he regrets it, the pinche ratón! Huh!?" yelled the President.

"We don't know," shrugged his Chief of Staff, calm in the face of fire. "Bisteni thinks he's in New Granada right now doing ... something."

"New fucking Granada! Granada! Nnnnnnnaaaaauuugh ... blaugh. Granada. What the fuck is he doing there?" asked the nation's putative Commander-in-Chief.

"I don't know," answered Chewy. "The Secretary isn't exactly answering any questions other than those posed to him by Congress. Y Congress has gone home to campaign for the election."

"I knew that. Okay. Bueno. Fuck." The President was calming down now. "Who gave the order not to let the men off the plane?"

"We don't know, but it wasn't the base commander's idea: the order apparently came from New Granada. It turns out, get this, that the chain-of-command from all of our bases in the Caribbean leads through a special office in, badum bum, New Granada." Chewy looked at the President, somewhat conspiratorially.

"Aaaaaaahhh hah," said Immanuel Moctezuma. "Aren't those units supposed to report directly back to Coyoacán?"

"That's what they tell me," answered the Chief of Staff.

"Nnnnyomina bomina. Y does that happen to be why Bisteni thinks the Mapmaker is in New Granada right now?" asked the President.

"I'm not sure, patrón. Should I get him in here?"

"Yeah. Get him in here. Y get Luria and Ávila in here too. I have some things I want them to, uh, research."

"Tan facil, sir," said Chewy.

"Are you mocking me?" asked the President.

"Never, sir. Just congratulating you on becoming commander-in-chief again." He smiled, saluted, and did a smart about-face. El Popo burst out laughing. "Be back in a jiff, sir!" shouted Chewy as he left the room.

You couldn't let these sort of things get you down, thought Chewy as he left the Presidential room and swept into the bustle and noise of Chapultepec Castle. This was a horrible incident, but all the evidence is that it was just an accident. Anyway it will only help us in November.

He had the decency to be immediately ashamed of that thought.

New York City, New York, N.C., CNA
30 October 1974
From the New York Herald, page W1

Moctezuma and Del Rey Campaign as Much Against Each Other as Mercator

By Roland Burton

The President and his Secretary of State have been barnstorming the entire country, giving close-in speeches to groups small and large. They are campaigning non-stop for Congressional candidates in the upcoming November election, and they are both campaigning as if their own jobs were at stake. Which is not far from the truth, especially for the President. It is a brand of retail politics that Mexico has not seen on the national level in decades. Yet even taking that into account, there is something strange about this campaign.

In Henrytown, the President talks about free trade. In Guanajuato, the Secretary of State talks about protecting small farmers. In San Francisco, the President takes credit for preserving the budget surplus. In Lafayette, the Secretary of State talks about pressing spending needs. In Manzanillo, the President lauds the socialized U.S. Health Service. In San Diego, the Secretary of State pushes tax breaks to help families fill gaping holes in public coverage. Both officials are helping only candidates who have pledged to vote against the bill of impeachment before the lower house of the legislature, but other than that nothing --- not even membership in the Progressive Party --- connects the candidates for whom the Secretary campaigns, and the candidates for whom stumps the President.

In other words, it seems as if two shadow campaigns are happening at the same time, neither of which is officially recognized. The first is to re-elect the President --- or, as many here put it, to "elect a Commander-in-Chief." It is an election run both on the President's record since taking office in 1972, and on the scandals that have enveloped the Department of War in recent days. It is also a referendum on whether Mexicans are ready to accept their first Negro president. In that election, both the President and the Secretary of State are on the same side.

The second election is between two parties for the control of Congress, neither of which has an official name. One party, the President's party, is an odd alliance of urban industrial workers, poor southern Mexicanos, and big business. The other, María del Rey's party, is an equally ill-fitting coalition of small farmers, small businessmen, urban professionals, and big business. While the battle between President Moctezuma and War Secretary Mercator dominates the headlines, the battle between the president's men and the followers of Secretary of State María del Rey for control of the legislature may be more important to the country's future ... FN9

Forward to FAN #122: The Unforgettable Fire.

Forward to 22 October 1974: The Mancunian Candidate.

Forward to USM politics: November Election.

Forward to Sebo Quezadas: Where Are They Right Now?

Return to For All Nails.

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