Socialist Worker

‘Civil resistance’ challenges result of Mexican election

by Debbie Jack in Mexico
Issue No. 2013

Conrado Saurez Aries

Conrado Saurez Aries

A “civil resistance” movement, involving millions of people, has sprung up in Mexico to challenge the result of the 2 July presidential election.

Workers, young people, artists, intellectuals, indigenous people, farmers, trade unionists and veteran activists from the 1968 student movement have all joined the protests.

They say that the candidate they voted for, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known by his initials AMLO, won the election - not Felipe Calderon, who was announced winner after four days of recounts.

There have been three major demonstrations in the capital, Mexico City, demanding a recount. The last two gathered over two million people - the biggest protests in Mexican history.

Now the movement has taken over some of the capital’s main streets, camping out in a huge convergence centre called a “planton”.

The planton stretches for four miles, from the main square where AMLO himself is camped, to Reforma, one of the busiest streets in the city.

Evidence of voting irregularities has been presented to the body governing the election. But the movement is not simply about electoral fraud. It reflects a growing polarisation in Mexico.

Calderon represents the neo-liberal agenda and is the candidate favoured by George Bush and the multinationals. AMLO draws his support from workers and the poor.

When I arrived at the Planton, it was bustling with makeshift kitchens, live music, dance classes, a radio station, wrestling matches, kids play areas, and photo exhibitions.

Students Ivan Saurez and Antonio Hernandez told me, “For the last 20 years we have seen neo-liberal policies that increase poverty. AMLO’s party, the PRD, offers social development and an end to privatisation.

“What we are asking is nothing extraordinary. We want an open recount, vote for vote.”

Public accountant Conrado Saurez Aries said, “I’m here in the planton because I want a better and different Mexico.

“I examine the accounts of private companies and I can see that people are very badly exploited. All the money goes to transnational companies and we are left with nothing.

“We work hard and our salaries are miniscule. The only solution now is a vote by vote recount. If Calderon won, OK, I’ll accept that, but we know perfectly well he didn’t.”

Communications worker Cristina Saragosa Lomas is one of the trade union activists who is backing AMLO’s campaign. She said, “We came here when AMLO called on unionised workers to meet him.

“He is committed to respecting our contracts, and our pension and retirement rights. He will increase our salaries and respect the autonomy and democracy of the unions.

“He is the only candidate who supports the working class. Workers haven’t had a pay rise in almost 20 years, so we are now earning less than half of what our parents earned.

“Our union is talking about how we can take the movement forward, but our leadership has turned its back on AMLO.

“Trade unionists have been quite weak and isolated in Mexico recently, but the planton has given us a chance to meet and discuss with other unions.”

Lourdes Enrique Cardenas, Rosa Ramirez Paredes and Angeles Obragon represent the Revolutionary Confederation of Farm Workers.

“We want to support the movement and want a recount, vote for vote,” they said. “The elections were stitched up. We represent thousands of workers from the fields to the factories who support AMLO, that’s why we are here.

“We want labour rights and increased salaries and we want them to respect our votes.”

At the moment people are waiting to see if AMLO will win the recount, but there is little chance that the establishment in Mexico will agree to this.

Meanwhile the polarisation is deepening. The movement is new but it is gaining confidence and looking for new ways to organise.

AMLO has lost some support from trade union leaders since establishing the planton, but his mass support from below is as strong as ever.

There is every possibility that this movement could move beyond calling for a recount to begin to make new, wider demands of its own.

Cristina Sargosa Lomas

Cristina Sargosa Lomas

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Sat 12 Aug 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2013
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