Following presidential elections widely viewed as marred by fraud, Mexico’s
political crisis not only shows no signs of being resolved, but in fact is intensifying almost daily.
In the six weeks since the July 2 presidential elections, two sides have squared off.
On one side are the federal government, its electoral authorities, and the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and its
candidate Felipe Calderon, defending their razor-thin 0.6% margin of victory as the legitimate election results. On the other
side are the For the Good of All coalition headed by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), its candidate Andres Manuel
Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO) and the social sectors and mass organisations of most of the left and progressive movements.
Given the close vote and AMLO’s charges of electoral fraud, a partial recount
of 9% of the country’s 131,000 polling stations was ordered by the Federal Electoral Tribunal. AMLO and his supporters,
however, have been demanding a 100% recount. The recount, which began on August 9, has not resolved the dispute. The AMLO
forces charge serious discrepancies, even on the basis of the small 9% sample, among them:
ˇ In 43% of the sample, Calderon had been accredited with more votes than he actually received,
lowering his total number of votes by 13,500. This was 5000% more votes than AMLO lost in the recount.
ˇ In 65% of the recounted polling stations, there were either more ballots deposited than there
were voters or more voters than there were corresponding ballots. In Mexico, control of the paper ballots is extremely strict.
In the 9% of the polling stations that were recounted, these discrepancies involved 120,000 ballots — half the difference
between the two candidates nationwide across all the polling stations.
ˇ More than 30% of the supposedly sealed ballot boxes had been opened after the elections, raising
the spectre that their contents were altered.
With the official difference being about two votes per ballot box, AMLO has insisted
on a full recount and nullifying results in the 7600 polling stations of the 9% sample that had discrepancies. If the polling
stations showing too many or too few ballots in the partial recount were to be annulled, AMLO would win the elections.
While the evidence of fraud is circumstantial, it is also strong and, given Mexico’s
tradition of fraudulent elections, AMLO’s charges are considered by many to be credible. A poll by the conservative
daily Reforma indicated that 65% of Mexico City residents feel fraud
was committed and that all votes should be recounted.
The PRD also charges that Mexican electoral law was violated prior to election day
by incumbent President Vicente Fox’s support for Calderon’s campaign, by a particularly vicious media campaign
against AMLO (attempting to tie him to Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez), and by business associations illegally placing
advertisements on television implicitly attacking the PRD candidate.
Although electoral authorities often forced an end to such practices, the damage had
already been done and the punishment was so ridiculously minimal that there was no deterrent to further infractions.
On August 18, a video was played on Mexican television demonstrating the existence
of a plot against AMLO involving top-level government officials, PAN leaders and Argentine-Mexican businessperson Carlos Ahumada,
who is under investigation for fraud committed against the Mexico City administration.
The City Prosecutor’s Office announced it would file penal charges against federal government officials who protected
or helped Ahumada.
In addition to myriad legal challenges, the PRD and AMLO have waged a mass campaign
in the streets demanding a full recount. Demonstrations take place on an almost daily basis. On July 30, up to 2.4 million
people participated in the largest demonstration in Mexico’s
While the PRD and the junior partners in its electoral coalition make no claims to
be socialist or revolutionary, they have nonetheless mounted a strong campaign against electoral fraud and have refused to
“negotiate” a solution with the national government.
Since July 30, thousands of demonstrators have been camped out in Mexico
City’s central square and an eight-kilometre stretch along Reforma avenue,
a main city artery. Federal police have cordoned off the area around parliament with tanks. All of this has considerably exacerbated
the city’s already nightmarish traffic.
Besides the continuing occupation of downtown Mexico City,
thousands of Lopez Obrador supporters are also engaged in daily acts of civil resistance.
The PAN and business associations have called on the Mexico City
government — which is headed by the PRD — to evict the protesters, however local officials have refused. The mass
media has waged a campaign against the protests, attempting to whip up a backlash among middle class residents inconvenienced
by the mammoth traffic jams.
As a next step, AMLO has called for the formation of the National Democratic Convention
on September 16 (Independence Day) to unite grassroots and social organisations behind a program not just centred on electoral
democracy, but also addressing the country’s social problems.
Many far left and social organisations that didn’t participate in AMLO’s
campaign are involved in the anti-fraud protests. Along the eight kilometre stretch of encampments, a wide array of neighbourhood
associations, unions, student groups and political organisations can be found.
Unfortunately, the Other Campaign, an initiative launched by the Zapatista National
Liberation Army and headed by the charismatic Subcomandante Marcos, while condemning the fraud, has abstained from the mass
demonstrations. During the election campaign, the Other Campaign centred most of its fire on AMLO and the obvious deficiencies
in the PRD’s program and methods. Some organisations that participated in the Other Campaign are, however, involved
in the anti-fraud protests.
If Calderon is declared the victor by the Federal Electoral Tribunal on August 31 —
which most view as the likely outcome — from the word go the new government will face a bitterly divided country, with
major sectors of the population questioning the government’s legitimacy and huge and powerful mass movements that consider
it their declared adversary. Major battles are clearly on the horizon in Mexico.
Defiance in Mexico
August 25, 2006 | Page 2 from www.socialistworker.org
AFSANEH MORADIAN reports from Mexico.
THE FIGHT over who will be the next president of Mexico continues amid escalating repression--and
with a massive protest against electoral fraud set for September 1.
Tensions in Mexico City burst open August 15 when police attacked protesters
supporting Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known by his initials AMLO), presidential candidate of the center-left Democratic
Revolutionary Party (PRD). Using batons and tear gas, the Federal Preventive Police attacked a demonstration that included
11 members of the country’s legislature.
The attack is seen as preparation for the announcement of a court decision declaring
a new president of Mexico or nullifying the July 2 election. The announcement must be made before September 6.
AMLO is calling for a total recount following widespread fraud that allowed
the other top contender, Felipe Calderón of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), to claim victory. Currently, only
9 percent of the votes are under review.
With the support of millions of workers and indigenous people throughout the country,
AMLO has led an encampment of thousands in the center of Mexico City for several weeks.
Initially, AMLO’s critique of free-market, neoliberal policies, in particular
NAFTA, and calls for reforms to lessen the extreme poverty in Mexico had made him the overwhelming leader in early opinion
polls before the presidential vote. Some on the far left, however, have criticized AMLO for his ties to billionaire telecommunications
magnate Carlos Slim, and for hiring key players from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for 70 years until it lost
the 2000 elections to PAN candidate Vicente Fox.
Now, however, AMLO’s popular support has deepened again, as many see
this election as a battle for democracy and the right for every vote to count.
AMLO is calling on his supporters to protest Fox’s final scheduled
national address September 1. PRD spokesperson Gerardo Fernandez said that if Calderón is awarded the presidency, the PAN
candidate “will be a president under siege...he will not be able to operate outside his office.”
Meanwhile, the popular movement in the state of Oaxaca is growing in response to recent police repression.
Protests continue to demand the resignation of the right-wing governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz of the PRI.
Teachers in Oaxaca have been on strike for close to three months. After police attacked the strikers’ encampment
in the center of Oaxaca City
June 14, even larger numbers rallied behind the teachers as the struggle to force the governor to step down spread.
More recently, gunmen shot into a demonstration, killing a teacher, 50-year-old
José Jimenez. Following the killing, police arrested one of the leaders of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO).
APPO responded by detaining for several hours four people associated with the killing and the arrests.
In addition, the health care workers union in Oaxaca has joined the teachers and declared a strike that,
it says, will not end until the governor steps down. The union has closed all of the 650 clinics in the state, large parts
of hospitals and administrative offices, leaving open only emergency care and care for those hospitalized with a collective
staff of 500.
APPO has called for a general strike involving all teachers, health care
workers, telephone workers, universities and municipal workers if the governor does not resign by September.
At the same time, the Zapatista Front is organizing, going beyond its base among the
indigenous peoples of Chiapas, where it first arose in a mid-1990s rebellion.
Its focus is on San Salvador Atenco, where police carried out a horrific
attack in May that involved beatings, rape, torture and arrest--retribution ordered by authorities against the town for organizing
protests that blocked an airport expansion.
Zapatista leader Subcommander Marcos toured Mexico during campaign season, offering
Mexico’s poor the alternative of building a movement from below rather than voting for any of the candidates on offer.
Marcos spoke in Atenco a few weeks ago, declaring that the struggle to free the 27 political prisoners will continue.
With both the movements and the government preparing to fight, it’s
difficult to predict what will happen next. But what’s clear is that millions of Mexicans are directly involved in protesting
to change the course of politics as usual.