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"Nobody is Paying Us. We Came to Defend Democracy"

Mexico Piquetero

by CLAUDIO ALBERTANI

Mexico City.

The revolt against the July 2nd electoral fraud in favor of Felipe Calderon, the right wing candidate, is expanding. After three weeks, the occupation of Mexico City’s historic center shows no sign of fatigue, to the contrary, the movement is growing like an unstoppable avalanche. In the past few days, actions of peaceful civil resistance have multiplied in the Northern part of Mexico, traditionally a stronghold of the right. On the 11th of August, in Ciudad Juarez, farmers on horses took over the bridge that connects Mexico with the US, blocking for several hours hundreds of trucks crossing the border from both sides. In Hermosillo, sympathizers of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took over the airport for about half an hour, while in Nuevo Laredo representatives of civil rights organizations symbolically closed the Mexican equivalent of the IRS office, and in Monterey women armed with pots and pans occupied the site of the Mexican Employers Association (Coparmex). In other areas, like in Morelia, Queretaro, Veracruz, Acapulco, and Mexico City, the freeways toll-collecting system was disabled, with the enthusiastic support of drivers, as Mexican road tolls are amongst the most expensive in the world.

It is true, though, that the heart of the movement continues to beat in Mexico City, especially in the area between Avenida Reforma and Plaza De La Constitucion, where thousands of citizens have planted their tents after the July 30th demonstration, the largest in the history of the Country. It is here that as the writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II observed, the of poverty-stricken citizens exercise their multiple organizational skills, born out of decades of social struggles. In a festive environment, the ancient informal solidarity networks break the rules of the economy, mould new urban planning strategies, and create start unusual products. Products, one has to say, that are non-commercial, given that everything is free. Hundreds of cultural activities, theatrical performances, conferences, spoken words, music concerts, Danzon contests, chess matches, ska shows, mural newspapers, and a mobile library break the infernal daily routine of this monster-city and attract the attention of passersby. In the improvised camp hospital a baby has already been born.

"Nobody is paying us. We came to defend democracy", some protesters clarify in front of the camera of Caitlin Manning, a Californian filmmaker, who, while on vacation and touched by the events in Mexico, decided to shoot a documentary. "The time of the poor has arrived" states Donna Lupita, an elderly woman from Ixtapala, one of the most wretched neighborhoods in Mexico City. There is no hate in her words, only awareness of living in a historical moment. Andre Manuel Lopez Obrador, who is sharing the joys and hardships (for example, the terrible hailstorms) of the encampment, echoes her. "We are prepared to resist for months. Even for years", he declared at the informative assembly of Sunday 13th, during which he specified the objectives of the movement. The first objective is, indeed, to fight poverty, this monstrous inequality in a country where next to Carlos Slim – a phone company tycoon and third on the Forbes list of the richest people in the world ­ millions of people survive in abject poverty. The second objective, as in Evo Morales’ Bolivia, is the protection of national resources and public services: no to the privatization of electric energy, natural gas, oil, education and health. The third objective, of prime importance, is the right to information, which means breaking the monopoly held by private television networks and strengthening the public sector. The fourth objective is the struggle against white-collar corruption and the reduction of civil servants’ astronomical salaries.

This is certainly not a revolutionary program, but it is a step forward compared to the lukewarm 50 points of his electoral platform. Why? Because Obrador cannot afford to disappoint the expectations of a large social movement that, faced with the failure of the electoral process (the electoral tribunal has not pronounced a verdict yet, but it’s almost certain that it will legalize fraud), is deciding to renew social institutions on its own.

The list of upcoming mobilizations is impressive: a huge demonstration against the inaugural declaration of the president-elect; on September 1st, date of the presentation of the last report to the nation from president Fox, a protest at the site of Parliament; on the 15th, Mexican Independence day, an attempt to prevent him from pronouncing the traditional "shout"; and, on the 16th, a National Democratic Convention bringing together representatives of grassroots organizations from the all over the country.

CLAUDIO ALBERTANI can be reached at: claudio.albertani@gmail.com