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Mexico's Election Fraud & public unrest

From Green Left Weekly, September 27, 2006.
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MEXICO: Convention elects AMLO as legitimate president

Neville Spencer


On September 16 — Independence Day — 1,025,724 registered delegates and many thousands of others gathered at the National Democratic Convention in Mexico City’s main square, the Zocalo. Accusing right-wing president-elect Felipe Calderon of usurping power through electoral fraud, they elected Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO) as Mexico’s legitimate president.

The official result announced following the July 2 presidential election put Calderon 0.58% ahead of AMLO, who stood as the candidate of the left-leaning For the Good of All coalition.

AMLO accused the National Action Party (PAN), to which Calderon and current president Vicente Fox belong, of orchestrating widespread fraud. Evidence was produced of fraud in many polling places and a full recount of the vote was called for, though even this could not have resolved problems such as destroyed or stuffed ballot boxes. Following a series of massive protests, the Federal Electoral Tribunal agreed to recount only 9% of polling places, resulting in only minor changes to the official tally.

The call for the National Democratic Convention was made by AMLO when it became clear that no significant action was going to be taken to address the charges of fraud.

In spite of rain, an estimated 1.5-2 million turned out. Even the sizeable Zocalo could not contain the crowd. Part of the convention was the endorsement of a “plan of resistance”. This includes numerous protests, not just against the electoral fraud, but also against a variety of different threats to the wellbeing of Mexico’s workers and poor posed by a new PAN government.

A national day of action against the privatisation of energy is part of the plan. The PAN has proposed privatising electricity and the state oil company Pemex. Pemex is one of the world’s largest oil companies. The nationalisation of oil, which took place in the 1930s, has been a source of national pride for Mexico. Until the neoliberal turn of the 1980s, it was also a source of funding for some of the social benefits that Mexico had at a level above the standard of most Third World countries.

A week of action is planned for October around the defence of free state education.

The central act of the convention was the recognition of AMLO as the legitimate president. An alternate proposal, that he be “head of resistance”, was not as well supported, the argument given being that this would give too much legitimacy to Calderon’s election.

It was decided by the convention that AMLO would form a government and a swearing-in ceremony would be held on Mexico’s Revolution Day, November 20. This would put it ahead of Calderon’s swearing in on December 1. A mass mobilisation is also planned for that day to try to prevent Calderon being installed as president.

The convention itself was a continuation of the existing campaign against electoral fraud that began soon after the July ballot. The Zocalo had already been the site of earlier demonstrations, including the largest demonstration in Mexico’s history on July 30. The crowd at that demonstration was estimated at up to 2.4 million.

The Zocalo and surrounding area had also been under a continuous occupation for several weeks prior to the convention, with AMLO directing the campaign from a tent in the square.

On September 1, deputies from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), of which AMLO is a member, disrupted Fox’s attempt to give the annual state-of-the-nation address to the parliament. Instead it was handed out in written form.

Fox was also forced to avoid protesters the night before the convention. It is traditional for the president to give the “grito” from a balcony of the National Palace overlooking the Zocalo the night before Independence Day. With the Zocalo full of demonstrators, Fox stayed away.

Although the convention set the stage for a continued mass movement, it is still quite possible that the movement will fade. The convention marked the lifting of the occupation of the Zocalo, even though new plans for protest were made. The PRD, which is the dominant component of the For the Good of All coalition, is a generally social-democratic party used to not rocking the boat too much.

Another PRD leader, Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, was also robbed of a probable victory in the 1988 presidential election. He chose not to try to mobilise any resistance for fear that it might lead to violence.

Both AMLO and the movement around him at least seem to be in a more combative mood than that. A letter from Cardenas was read out at the convention opposing the idea of declaring AMLO president and calling for the institutional order to be respected. The reaction of the crowd was one of anger.

The alternative government to be formed by AMLO is not going to actually exercise any power but will primarily be symbolic, though it could act as an organiser of ongoing opposition. Even if protests fail to force Calderon from power and fade away, the mood of militancy will at least be notched up over the coming period.




From Green Left Weekly, August 30, 2006.
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MEXICO: Huge political crisis rocks country

Peter Gellert, Mexico City

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 history.

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.




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