Socialist Worker

Mexico: key moment in democracy battle

by Debbie Jack in Mexico
Issue No. 2017

Friday 1 September was a key date in the battle against electoral fraud in Mexico. Outgoing president Vicente Fox was set to give his last annual state of the nation speech to Congress.

But this year the Congress building was surrounded by a 15 foot barricade and the army was deployed to defend the deputies inside. The streets were crowded with supporters of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as Amlo).

Amlo, who won support from millions of poor Mexicans in the 2 July presidential elections, is challenging the result. He says that a huge fraud has been perpetuated by the wealthy, white elite, who have ruled the country for decades.

Last Friday, six demonstrations set out from different parts of Mexico City, congregating in the Zocalo - the capital’s central plaza - to hear Amlo speak. The atmosphere was tense - the talk was of a huge battle between the army and Amlo supporters, many of who have been camping out in the capital since 30 July.

However Amlo convinced demonstrators to stay in the Zocalo and to “not give the army an excuse to attack the movement”.

Inside Congress, deputies from Amlo’s PRD party also protested, preventing the annual speech from taking place for the first time in modern history.

Not everyone was happy with the decision to stay in the Zocalo. But most of those in the movement agree with Amlo that the main focus should be the national convention he has called on 16 September - Mexico’s independence day.

Amlo has threatened to use the convention to launch an alternative government if, as expected, Mexico’s electoral tribunal allows his rival, Felipe Calderon, to become president. The tribunal was set to announce its decision by Wednesday of this week.

The tribunal has already chosen to ignore evidence of electoral fraud from a recount of ballot papers from 9 percent of polling stations. That limited recount threw out 237,736 votes. The national margin between Calderon and Amlo was just 239,751 votes.

The battle for democracy comes at time of growing polarisation between rich and poor in Mexico.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, enacted 12 years ago has worsened the situation in an already impoverished country.

But, globalisation has also brought extreme wealth for the rich, many of who enjoy lives of luxury in Mexico City. The country has become a home for multinationals seeking cheap labour and low tax rates.

Meanwhile privatisation has destroyed workers’ rights and job security.

The situation has also sparked resistance. Most well known is the uprising against Nafta by the indigenous Zapatista movement in the Chiapas region in 1994.

More recently in Oaxaca, one of the poorest states in Mexico, thugs from the local authorities have murdered striking teachers and their supporters. Activists responded by creating a people’s assembly to coordinate the resistance.

The death of 72 miners in February sparked a wave of trade union protest. Miners struck and other workers demonstrated in their thousands around the country. Two weeks ago workers in Puebla’s Volkswagen factory struck over wages and union rights.

The arrogance of George Bush, his influence in Mexican politics and his treatment of Mexican immigrants in the US, led to a May Day boycott of US goods.

Now these movements are coming together. The latest electoral fraud was, for many, simply the last straw.

The situation is unpredictable. While Amlo is serious about his claim to the presidency, he and his PRD party want to maintain their control over the situation.

However, the present crisis is bringing together a range of movements who have the power and the potential to unleash far more fundamental change in Mexico.

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Article information

Sat 9 Sep 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 2017
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