THE MENACE IN THE SOUTH
Agnes C. Laut
BOLSHEVISM has gripped Mexico. Superimposed on the disorder and terrorism which has been the lot of the peon for many years, it has created a condition there that can be described only as chaos. The lives and property of the foreign population, mostly American and Canadian, are jeopardized. More •serious still, Mexico is being made the starting point from which the contagion of Bolshevism may spread.
Therefore, the affairs of Mexico cannot be regarded as foreign to Canadians. Divided from that land by a hemisphere, Canada has yet a vital interest in the settling of the disorder that is making Mexico a menace to all North America.
The United States is in the position of the man who sees his neighbor’s house afire and the wind settling in his own direction; Canada is one lot farther removed but, if the fire is not stopped, it will ultimately reach there.
I was eight weeks in Mexico and I saw and heard things that will probably not be credited. I want to set some of them down, however, so that Canada may gain some conception of the menace in the South.
TEN years ago there had settled in Mexico more than 4,000 Americans. Some had taken out
their Mexican papers. Others retained their American citizenship.
They were there as mine owners, as mine workers, as engineers, as railroad operators, as promoters, as ranchers, as workers and owners of coffee plantations, of sugar plantations, of cotton factories and sugar mills. They had been welcomed to Mexico by the Diaz Government.
They had put into Mexico thirty
years of thrift and work and capital savings; and they were re-investing their accrued profits in Mexico. Today, where are these 40,000 American settlers in Mexico? Run out at the point of a bayonet, robbed and looted and “revolooted” by bandits, by revolutionary bands, by Carranza soldiers, tortured, murdered, maltreated, mutilated. Of the 40,000 American settlers in Mexico, less than 5,000 remain to-day; and they are huddled in the cities because no human life—or for that matter’ animal life either if it can be run off by bandits—is safe outside the cities, or in the cities, outside a house after nine o’clock at night.
Let me give some concrete cases.
I think of a farmer who sold all his land in Kansas thirty years ago and bought a 3,000-acre ranch of cactus land in the sugar section of South-Eastern Mexico. The name of the place I dare not give more specifically; for it would expose the family’s dispersed heirs to the vengeance of confiscation or murder. The cactus land cost a few dollars an acre—slightly more than we in the Canadian North-West could get for wild land during the same era of Manitoba and the prairies, where I roamed as a child. The cactus and sage brush and grease wood were grubbed out. The land was fenced. A ranch house was built.
Houses for the tenant hands were built. A little herd of horses and mules and cattle multiplied to 300 head of cattle and over 100 of horses and mules. Finally, sugar warehouses wrent up and railroad sidings were run in. Seven years ago, the Kansas farmer was employing 700 peons. He had —as we say in the West—begun to cash in for his thirty years of hard work and thrift and good management. At the time that Kansas farmer came to the sage brush country, wages were 12 to 25 eents a day. He was paying his hands 75c to $1.50.
The Mexican Method
IN the twinkling of an eye swooped down one of the revolutionary bands. It doesn’t matter very much whic-h band did it. There were about 200 in the band
-Miss Laut has just returned from an eight weeks’ She found conditions there so extremely grave that the menace in the south ’ extends even as far north as Canada. Mexico is not only torn With racial dissension and revolutionary fury, but is rapidly passing into the hands of the Bolshevists. In consequence a serious menace is being created for the whole North American continent, and Miss Laut gives a vivid picture of Mexico as it is to-day.
led by two peddlers, who had strapped on bandoliers and rifles and called themselves generals. The man who was a cut-throat, serving a criminal sentence in a dungeon yesterday, may be an official general to-day or to-morrow. The man who is an official general under Government auspices by daylight, may don a
burglars’ mask and go on a raiding expedition at night, of which the famous high-powered gray automobile manned by masked officers, who robbed the good houses of Mexico City, is an example.
Nor does it matter very much under which of the shifting dictatorships, in the sacred name of democracy during the last six years, this particular crime was perpetrated. Whoever was in power was answerable for the crime, ex actly as New York would be answerable for the crime, whether Republicans or Democrats were in power, if a similar outrage beieW any one of the 8,000 Mexicans now residing in New York City.
The Raiders at Work
IN the twinkling of an eye swooped down from the hills one of the bandit bands, one of the 500 such bands which have swept Mexko bai*e as a land scoured by some scourge from the depths of Hell. The stock was all run off, or slaughtered and maltreated on the spot. Why maltreated? “To see ’em squirm,” as a bandit, frenzied drunk with pulque, explained. The storehouses were looted. What couldn’t be carried away was gutted and set in flames. Flour—flour for which Mexican women and children have since gone hungry—was ripped open and trampled in the ground. All the barb wire was slashed and carried off. Furniture was cut into kindling wood. Pictures were slashed. Clothing and small jewelry were taken to deck the wild harlots, who rode with the patriots on their expeditions in the sacred name of fi-eedom; but more than personal trinkets were caught. It was pay day at the ranch. On pay day, it had been customary at the ranch for the mother and daughters to go to the nearest city and bring the pay envelopes out in cash. Providentially that day, the train was late. The women of the ranch had not come out; and that fact is all that saved them from the fate of hundreds, yes. thousands of women and girls. But the bandits wanted money and demanded it of the old father. He gave them all the cash he had. The one Mexican, who tried to protect him, the bandits shot on the spot. With 700 peon helpers and only 200 drunken bandits, why didn’t the American defend himself? Because the Carranza Government does not permit Americans to possess firearms to the extent of one pistol, or one rifle, or one iound of cartridges. That is why this frontiersman, whose ancestors pioneered the Bloody Ground of the West, could not raise a hand to defend himself without exposing 700 of his people to a shambles.
When I was in Mexico less than a month ago, one little settlement of Mexicans did so try7 to defend themselves from loot. They wanted to keep their mules from being stolen out of the plows as they were putting in their crops. The presiding patriot of the district, who called himself ‘a general” fell on them inside of a week, and 35 innocent Mexicans were massacred —chiefly by bayonet and machete, or what \ve would call a broadaxe.
The Scotchman Was Respected
?0 the old Kansas farmer was led out to be tortured into exposing where the supposed pay envelopes were hidden. r What happened I shall not tell. It is not tellable. They put a rope round his neck and began working him up and down an extemporized scaffolding to the blows and prods of rifle and machete. lie went raving mad. The torture stopped only when ihe old man lost cons ioustiess. Then lli.1 ranch heuse, the barns, the warehouses were set on fire; and the bandits, decked in the loot, and drunk w ith lust and crime, rode off with jeers and hoots. On that ranch was a young Scotchman as foreman of the warehouses and stores. On him they did not lay a finger. Why? Because he claimed the protection of another flag. Time was when the American flag wrapped round a man protected him from insult or wrong in any part of the world; or the United States had to know the reason why. Elocutionists used to recite a very beautiful poem about that flag protecting a man amid an alien horde. Yet that flag has been tied to the tail of a donkey and with half-naked urchins as pages for the donkey’s train dragged through the streets of a city in Mexico to the shouts of a rabble.
Let it be added that the Carranza Government finally caught and shot one leader of this band. Heart and viscera were taken from the body, the body packed with salt and exposed standing upright in a coffin as a wrarning for days; but the point is—the same conditions of outlawry and banditry are rampart in Mexico to-day except in the immediate environs of the well-policed cities. After seven years of revolution, or “revolooting” in the sacred name of freedom, such crimes are still rampant. Mexico lies crucified under the heel of bands of bandits and cut-throats, who compose less than one-half of one per cent, of her population. What happened to that ranch happened to such scores and hundreds of other ranches—American and Mexican—that the tale can never be told. Nor can the half of any one tale be told. Details of these cases can only be told in some pathological laboratory, where post mortems are performed on the brains of fiends. If any one challenges this statement, I shall be glad to send the details of cases that have happened within eight miles of the heart of Mexico City within the last two years, of cases that are on medical record now.
No Respect for the U.S. Flag
I HAVE spoken of the desecration of the American flag.
One more case. This time an American Methodist clergyman beloved by the whole community, Mexican and foreign. The rabble came to his door, tore down the American flag and called him out. He was ordered at rifle point to spit on the flag and stamp upon it. At first the enormity of the command did not dawn on him. Then he drew himself up.
“Never! Not till the crack of doom and back again,” he shouted above the jeers.
Rifles and revolvers were jammed against his head.
“You’re a dead man then,” the leading jefe blustered.
“Better dead and the flag undefiled,” he shouted back, “than alive and all the flag stands for down in the mud.”
Instantly, the mob tied the flag to the mudguard of a motor. It was raining. The streets were swimming in slime. With the clergyman clubbed in front of the mob, the car was run down the main street of the city dragging the Stars and Stripes in the slime, rifle shots cracking overhead to the door of the penitentiary, where the clergyman and a band of Y.M.C.A. workers, who had come to his rescue, were thrown inside a cell; and all that prevented that group of Americans suffering massacre was that two other mobs of bandits came into the city, one from the North, one from the South; they were so busy murdering each other that friends could set the clergyman and the Y.M.C.A. boys free.
JIT HIN the past year 11 workers in the American oil fields have been murdered, 30 assaulted and paymasters robbed to the amount of $150,000 (pesos). By “assaulted,” I don’t mean simply frisked and hustled. I mean beaten insensible so that some have been left maimed for life, their lives outraged, some even driven insane. If you want to realize what the raiding of a train means I could tell the details where a train was held up, all the passengers robbed, two Mexican women taken off, stripped naked and thrown into a vat of black train oil.
German Deviltry in a Paradise THE deviltries in the first place were financed by German money. Secret German propaganda, working through Bolsheviki, lashed an ignorant popu-
lace into a frenzy. But do not think the whole nation is an ignorant populace! Of fifteen million people, ten million do not speak even Spanish and are pure Indian. Of the five million, at least two represent the best that any nation can produce in art, in genius, in science; and in its topography the land is a garden of paradise inexhaustible in its wealth. In minerals, in fruits, in cereals, in forests, it produces anything to be found from Saskatchewan to Panama; and it raises always two crops a year—sometimes three. The land, itself, is of an area about equal to France and Italy, or Germany and Switzerland and Spain. It has twentyeight distinct states and some minor provinces.
Imagine German propaganda turned amuck in this land ! At one stage of the game, German propaganda came to Mexico and charged American soldiers and settlers with the same crimes against Mexican women as Germans perpetrated against Belgian and French. This choice piece of deviltry wras circulated by the Bolsheviki in the West and Centre Mexican States, where the people are remote and could not know the fraud. The book was not cii*eulated on the American Border, or on the Gulf, or in the big cities, for there Americans were living and the Mexicans knew differently.
German official propaganda is now dead. Bolsheviki propaganda is not dead however. It is more active than it has ever been; and it is now trying to fan up bad relations between Mexico and the United States by a species of subtle propaganda of which I shall tell later. It is easier to kindle a flame than to quench it.
Outside the different city limits, Mexico is as lawless as at any time during the past seven revolutionary years. Murder, outrage, rape, assassinations, banditry, kidnapping—are as rife to-day outside' city limits as at any time during the actual armed fighting of different revolutionary leaders. Only last fall, an American boy, who was an engineer in the mining country, was kidnapped. His people in California received a demand for $5,000. They were hard pressed to find the money. The bandits cut off his ears and sent them to his parents. The family scraped the money together some-
how. Came back a second demand for twice the first amount. This time they sent his fingers. By the time the family had scraped up the second instalment, the boy had been murdered. I could tell of two boys similarly kidnapped near Mexico City while I was there— one badly injured in a roping process—or of another boy ransomed for $4,000 and delivered back in Mexico City while I was there, in broad daylight in a place as public as Queen’s Park, Toronto, or Beaver Hill, Montreal.
T'RANTED also Carranza w'ould stop the banditry if he could. He can’t or he wrould. Of his, say twenty, generals—-I forget wrhether the number is fifteen or twenty—the number varies—granted five belong to the young Radical progressive group, whom I heard declare they would drive out “the den of thieves or die in the attempt.” The young, clean Radicals are outnumbered two to one; and if Carranza
budged from the present system, he would be assassinated. What is the present system? It is for a general to charge on his payroll for eight to ten thousand soldiers, when he has only three to five thousand soldiers; and not to pay the three to five thousand except when he has to. They are promised 75 cents to $1 a day, and are given 25 cents “and a free hand”; and in one section I visited, they were not given even the 25 cents. They were literally hungry in the Tehuantepec Country. That is why Carranza’s soldiers by day turned into bandits at night. That and the 11 murders and 30 assaults and $150,000 stolen—is what drove the oil producers to pay the bandit, Pelaez, protection money, a plain blackmail.
Protecting the Oil Supply
GET this oil matter straight! The charge is constantly made by Carranza that the oil companies are financing the revolutions. What happened and how was this : at one stage in the war, oil and gasoline supplies ran very low. We were within three weeks of not having enough to keep the British and American Navy going. Franklin Roosevelt called on the oil men of Mexico to speed up; and German spies w^ere on the ground trying to burn the oil tanks and oil wells and to blow up the eighty to one hundred miles of pipe lines that convey the oil from the jungle of the hot country to the water front. (It may be said—pipe lines cost the companies millions of dollars before they got a cent back for their outlays.) The Germans were also financing the rebel bands in their deviltries. One of the leading revolutionists in the oil country—by name, Pelaez—came to the oil companies.
“Pay me,” he said, “enough to keep and pay my men; and I’ll protect you from all other bands.”
And with the full connivance and knowledge of the State Department, pay him they did. Some say the amount runs to $60,000 a month, some say less; but as Pelaez has 5,000 trained men, it is probable not less than $60,000. Henceforth, if a small band ran amuck, Pelaez took to the high road after them ; there were ragged skeletons hanging to telegraph
poles. How then, have the companies been robbed so heavily in the last years? Because not all pay Pelaez; and because some of the companies have to go to the oil fields by launch down a narrow canal. Now before you can take a launch out in Mexico, you have to declare to the customs officials how much money you are taking out—so many pesos in gold, so much silver, so much copper; and when the bandits fire across the prow of a launch, they utter naive demands for exactly the amounts of gold, silver and copper, which the customs manifest declares. Who told them? Who are these bands? Sometimes Carranza soldiers take to the road with a “free hand”; and marked coins of identification are found on their persons in the low dives of Tampico.
Why doesn’t Carranza put this knavery down? Because he can’t. Because he does not control this region except in name.
How the Bandits Got Firearms
THE question is asked where do the bandits get fire arms and ammunition, if the foreign companies do not supply both? All the bandit rifles are old Mausers bought from Japan; and the bullets used are stamped Mexico City. The bandits get their munition by paying 10 to 25 cents to the Carranza soldiers for cartridge belts and by raiding garrisons for the rifles. Drugged pulque plays its part, too. Dynamite is usually stolen from construction and mining companies, or from passing freight Drains known to be carrying such inland. The United States will not permit one pound of ammunition to be shipped to anyone but Carranza.
When American Ambassador Fletcher came up Continued on page 69
The Menace in the South
Continued from page 18
from Mexico, the Mexicans themselves prayed God he would tell the truth and let the outside world know Mexico’s real condition and desperate need of help. Instead, he reported conditions “almost normal and improving,” and a groan of sorrow went up from Mexico. Does it read to you like “normal”? And if it does, what would the ambassador consider “abnormal?” I presume he would consider losing his job “abnormal”; and he isn’t going to lose it. Anyway, within a month of his reportAing conditions “normal” I know—for I was in Mexico—of thirty rail lines, only one was running on regular schedule; and it had to be preceded by an armored scout train and had itself an armored car filled with soldiers behind the engine and an armored car filled with soldiers behind its Pullman. One line was blown up and the governor of the State kidnapped. One port town was captured. A block house just outside Vera Cruz was taken. A city north of Vera Cruz was occupied and a train outside Tampico looted. The bandits like music. From one captured town, they kidnapped eighteen of the Carranza garrison band. All this was not the work of one revolutionary leader. Two or three independent leaders did it, covering a territory of about 180 miles. Does it sound to you very “normal”?
As long as the European War lasted,
the Allied nations were too busy to pay much attention to Mexico; but now the war is over; and Mexico, too, must be pacified; and it isn’t going to pacify Mexico to say* through 'loudmouthed propaganda that she is pacified when she isn’t. Three-quarters of the trouble with Mexico for the past six years is that the world has not been permitted to know the truth. The hush of a censorship stricter and more foolish than the censorship of Europe has done just as much harm to Mexican affairs as to European. It has simply permitted Bolsheviki deviltries to work unchecked and flood the press with false news. Secret diplomacy covering criminal blunders has done the same irreparable damage to Mexico as to Europe.
And all this takes no account of the enormous financial obligations of Mexico to foreign nations for confiscated properties—railroads, street lines, mines, banks, ranches, defaulted bonds, which involve the Monroe Doctrine. Of this I shall write fully in another article.
Meanwhile, if the Peace League is to pacify Europe, it must also tranquilize and stabilize Mexico. That is the next real job and it is due when Mexico comes up in the first peace conference after the League is cemented. It must be attended to without further delay. The fire spreads fast.