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For All Nails #277C: Handover
by Noel Maurer
"They're carrying guns here! Cristo todopoderoso." Daw was more than a little surprised at the sight of Hands carrying Mexican-designed semi-automatic rifles. Another sign of economic recovery: the arms factories here were up-and-running again, churning out Rojas-65 knock-offs.
"Don't sweat it, vato. They'll be doing lo mismo in Bogotá soon enough," I responded.
"I'm sure. But if they're carrying fucking weapons now, why don't they just end the charade and send us home?" Daw sounded annoyed. We were all annoyed. Except for the captain and Puon. The captain was shacked up with this hot little chiquita back in Bogotá. And Puon seemed too stupid to care. He was gonna go back to some shit-ass town in Chiapas where he'd go back to shooting at abandoned cars in his backyard, or whatever it was those fucking campesinos did for fun.
Of course, it wasn't like I really had anything to go home to either, but I wanted to, all the same. What was left of our occupation was rapidly collapsing. Sky-blue and gold flags were out in force. Not a single navy-blue, gold, and green Mexican banner could be found, save for the little flashes on our uniform sleeves.
The economy was reviving, sort of. Oil production was below pre-war levels, but Caracas was turning itself into the world center of manufacturing cheap little plastic sandals, and New Granada's coffee production had hit an all-time high. So had its coca production. That last didn't make our new Eastern friends particularly happy, but the Tories were continuing to pump money into here anyway.
And now the "Ejército que no se Atreve a Mencionar su Nombre" was carrying weapons again. Their brown Constabulary-surplus uniforms had also sprouted flag patches and rank markings. I guess they were keeping the brown for sentimental reasons. "El Uniforme del Levantamiento Pascual." Even King Ferdi had taken to appearing in public wearing it.
We were there to supervise the election of a new government under the terms of the new constitution, although it wouldn't officially take office until August. The constitution really was a bonito document, sort of modeled on the Britannic Design. It guaranteed every sort of political right, six sorts of economic ones and established a freely-elected Parlamento. The king was given only the most residual powers, although that whole kerfuffle the CNA went through back in '76 made me wonder how "residual" they really were. The "primer ministro" possessed rather extensive authority, but no more, in theory, than that enjoyed by North American governor-generals. FN1 And in a brilliant propaganda stroke, at least as far as Mexican public opinion was concerned, the document never referred to "Reyes" or "Reinos." The monarch was just called the "soberano," and the country the "estado soberano de Nueva Granada."
Even more bonito, Article 2 declared that, " The sovereign state of New Granada, determined to rid succeeding generations of New Granadans of the scourge of organized violence, forever renounces the use of war as a means of state policy." Article 3 went on to declare that, "The sovereign state of New Granada, cognizant of the immense suffering which atomic and chemical devices have inflicted upon the peoples of the Earth, will never develop, deploy, or use weapons of mass destruction."
None of it mattered. It didn't matter how many Mexican soldiers and Tory election observers we had monitoring things. They didn't need fraud to win this election. The whole thing was a fucking joke, except maybe for Article 3, and I wasn't so sure about that.
"I dunno, ami." I spat on the ground, watching the long lines of people waiting to cast their ballots.
"It's a fuckin' charade," said Daw. "King Ferdi is like a fucking God. They all gonna vote for the, what's the name of that party? National Solidarity?"
"Close. 'Pasona,' they call it. Its members call themselves 'Pasos.'"
It fit, I supposed. Steps and Hands. Sweet María. For this I'd wasted two years of my life?
"Weird fucking name for a bunch of royalists," Daw said.
"No weirder than the Undersized Midget Party," I responded. FN2
Daw laughed. "Yeah."
"Something to drag in the Jeffy sympathizers, I suppose. I mean, they can't call themselves the National Jeffersonist party, but 'solidarity' gets the Jeffies all soft and mushy without setting off the Fanchonists." I spat on the ground again, holding my Rojas-72, and glared at the Hands every time they came near the 100 meter limit, or even seemed to be looking in our direction.
The line inched forward. The people marked the box on their ballots. There were five different parties registered for the vote. Three were a joke. "Venezuela Libre" was a bunch of collaborationists, a leftover of the Alliance occupation. They couldn't even get people to run in half the districts. The Jeffersonista candidates were brave men, but going nowhere in urban areas like this one. And the "Partido de Granadinos Unidos" was just a shill for the Pasos.
That left the Republicanos. I admired them. But they had no chance, not in this election, not against the party of the man who had vanquished the British. And I had sinking feeling that this was going to be the last free election here for a long time.
"Hey, Daw," I said.
"You ever wonder what the hell happened to Elbittar?" I asked.
"Now that you mention it, yeah. Shit, I think I read something, some document with his firma on it."
"Yeah, all my interviewees back in Cartagena talked like he was alive. But the way the Pasos go on about 'el Líder' it's always like he's a martyr or something. Like the Limones do with that Leigh-Oswald fucker. FN3 It's weird."
Daw thought for a second. "Who the fuck knows?" Not necessarily the most profound comment, but very true nonetheless.
"Who the fuck knows. I guess it doesn't matter." I made a threatening motion in the direction of the Hands. One of them simply waved back, a grin on his face. "I guess it doesn't matter."
- Bogotá, New Granada
- 1 August 1979
We were all formed up on what would soon be called the Plaza Real for the transfer-of-power ceremony. General Leto would formally hand New Granada's sovereignty back over to King Ferdinand. We had been practicing the ceremony for about a week. Like most Mexican soldiers -- and all Mexican reservists -- D&C was not our forté. FN4
Leto was droning on and on in Spanish, about something or other. It was all anodyne. I couldn't care less. Thankfully, it wasn't raining, but it was hot. At least we got to wear fatigues, instead of having to drag out our Class A's. All I cared about was that I was going home tomorrow. Operation Cold Phoenix ended today.
We were all going home. The Granadinos had politely refused our offer of a mutual defense pact, despite the fact that it seemed that everyone was all in a tizzy about the increasing likelihood of Chinese unification. It didn't help that there were Chinese Community soldiers in Quito, or that all the Chinese states were allied with Mexico's old enemies of Japan and Australia, or that Taiwan (e.g., China) was indelibly linked with Kramer in the mind of the Mexican-on-the-street. So much for "el amanecer nuevo de la paz mundial" and "un fin a la guerra sin la guerra." Both of which I think General Leto mentioned at least twice, at the same time that the politicos back home were screaming about "el peligro amarillo" and panicking over the latest Taiwanese long-range rocket tests. Loquesea.
But it didn't effect me. Yeah, the President was expanding the USMC, and sending two whole divisions to Rio Negro. Sure, Manaus had turned into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Navy of the United States of Mexico. Right, our soldiers were busy helping to train some newly created infantry outfit the Norteamericanos had created and in their own bizarrely incomprehensible Tory way had put under the command of the Air Force. FN5 None of that mattered to me. I was gonna go home.
Now King Ferdi was blathering. He didn't look like a King, not wearing the brown fatigues of the organization currently known as the "Auto-Defensas de Nueva Granada." The only color was a big Granadino flag on his right shoulder.
Blah blah "amistad histórica" blah blah "nueva época" blah blah "aprender de los errores del pasado" blah. I stifled a bostezo. It was not easy. When he mentioned the "peligro amarillo" I was briefly jolted awake. Huh? What had the King said?
Too late. Oh well. As long as I got to go home.
Now what do I do?
(Forward to FAN #278: Kaffeeklatsch.)
(Forward to 1 August 1979 (New Granada): Patience.)
(Return to For All Nails.)