FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

What Now for the Mexican Left?

by PAUL IMISON

Mexico City.

So the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which governed Mexico as a de facto dictatorship for 71 years, wins back power south of the border after a twelve-year absence. The Mexican business elite win. Foreign investment giants win. NAFTA wins. Washington, for its myriad interests in the country, wins. The Mexican population – or 99% of it – loses. As much of Latin America swings to the Left and looks for alternatives to the neoliberal model, Mexico (“so close to the United States, so far from God”) will surely be the last “domino” to fall.

The country’s Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) promised a “quick count” – based on a sample of 7,500 polling stations – to be released at 11:15pm Sunday. No sooner had IFE president Leonardo Valdes Zurita announced a seven-point lead by the PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto with 38% of the vote in his favor than President Felipe Calderon appeared on national TV to congratulate the president-elect. Calderon, who faced accusations of fraud after his own election in 2006, insisted that “Today, Mexico voted like a free country.”

As of Monday evening, preliminary results from 98% of stations show Peña Nieto leading leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) of the Progressive Movement coalition by a 6.5% margin. This is nowhere near as close as the 0.56% margin by which AMLO lost to Calderon in 2006. Tellingly, AMLO has not claimed victory as he did that July, simply saying he would wait until all votes were counted before accepting the result.

The rush to recognize Peña Nieto’s victory by both the PRI and incumbent PAN was surely an attempt to dampen the likelihood of protest by AMLO’s supporters and groups such as the student-led #YoSoy132 movement in the coming days. Good luck with that. The so-called “Mexican Spring” looks set to turn into a long, heady summer.

So who really won the Mexican election? Notoriously crooked former president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who will act as the power behind the throne of Peña Nieto, deserves a nod. These next six years will look a lot like the Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo administrations of the 1990s with a scoop of the militarization of the Calderon era for good measure.

The world’s oil giants win. Peña Nieto will back the privatization of Petroleos Mexicanos (PEMEX). Mexico’s oil industry, which accounts for some 40% of the federal budget, has been in state hands since 1938. The privatization of PEMEX has always been a sensitive issue owing to Mexican nationalism, but Peña – like Calderon before him – will fight on behalf of the world’s super-majors against the public interest.

US defense contractors reaping the blood money of Mexico’s “Drug War” also win. AMLO had vowed to halt the flow of gringo “security aid” that sent the Calderon administration on a killing spree. Peña Nieto has said he will continue “the struggle” against a drug-trafficking mafia that is nevertheless knee-deep in the country’s politics. We already know he will hire former Colombian National Police commander General Oscar Naranjo as chief security adviser; an extremely sketchy figure known for both his narco links and long working relationship with Washington.

If this is starting to sound a lot like the Felipe Calderon administration of the last six years, that’s because it will be. Ignore the hype that this is some kind of return to the dark days of authoritarianism for Mexico. The dark days never actually went away.

“The Most Transparent Election in History” 

Was it a clean victory by the PRI? Despite IFE’s claim that this would be “the most transparent election in Mexican history”, a recent poll by Latinobarometro indicated that around 71% of Mexicans were anticipating some kind of fraud. There’s a possibility that Peña Nieto – pushed down voters’ throats relentlessly for the best part of two years – would have won anyway given his enormous media exposure, but there is no guarantee.

We know for certain that the PRI employed its age-old tactics of vote-buying and coercion; the same ones it used to maintain power for seven decades. “Gift boxes” containing essential food items and two-hundred peso bills ready for distribution were photographed by journalists around the country. Pledges were made to replace rooftops and pave roads in impoverished communities – cement sales skyrocket every six years – if residents gave up their vote for Peña Nieto.

Stolen ballots, duplicated ballots, irregularities and threats were reported around the country, largely in poor rural areas. Armed thugs of unknown origin prevented people voting in municipalities of perennially-troubled states like Chihuahua and Guerrero. The country’s infamous “narcos” were all over the election like a rash, albeit mainly at the local level, where threats and kidnappings were commonplace.

We know that Televisa – the largest mass-media company in the Spanish-speaking world – assisted the campaigns of both Peña Nieto and PAN candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota. According to the investigative news magazine “Proceso”, they even had the same guy (producer Pedro Torres) working on both campaigns. Last month, The Guardian published evidence of a clear strategy by Televisa to discredit AMLO, both in this year’s election and in his 2006 duel with Calderon.

Mexicans also elected 500 deputies, 128 senators, six state governors, a Mexico City mayor, and local governments. The PRI now controls an impressive 23 states out of 31 in the republic yet it fell short of a majority in either the Chamber of Deputies or the Senate.

In good news, AMLO’s Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) will be the second largest force in the Chamber of Deputies and have a sizable contingent in the Senate, a much-improved showing on its performance in the 2009 midterms. The party also retained Mexico City with its largest share of the vote in history. The capital is truly, in the late John Ross’s words, “Left City”.

What Now for the Left? 

Nevertheless, the Mexican Left now faces a dilemma. While AMLO could easily have won the presidency at least once in the last six years, there are an increasing number on the Left disenchanted by the PRD and its perceived swing to the center-ground. Interviewed in Contralinea magazine ahead of the election, Carlos Antonio Aguirre Rojas, a social scientist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, berated the party’s “pragmatic Left” which he said simply seeks to rob from the trans-nationals to give to the domestic elite.

The PRD has had a long, shaky 23-year journey. Formed by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in 1989 after his fraudulent defeat at the hands of Carlos Salinas and faced with a bloody “dirty war” by the PRI during the ‘90s, Cardenas pulled the PRD to the center-left, fearing extinction. For a long time, AMLO represented the die-hard, fist-pumping roots of the party, alienating many within the PRD, and he seemed to have been handed the ticket this time around only on the condition that he ran a more moderate campaign.

AMLO is unlikely to run for president again unless he does so by registering his Movement for National Regeneration (MORENA) as a party, heavily diluting the progressive vote. In 2018 the PRD candidate will surely be either Marcelo Ebrard, who just stepped down as Mexico City mayor, or his successor Miguel Angel Mancera. Both are of the centrist wing of the party and while widely loved in urbane (i.e. elitist) Mexico City, have nowhere near AMLO’s sway throughout the rest of the country.

The Left is divided in more ways than one. Both #YoSoy132 and the Movement for Peace with Justice & Dignity (the anti-Drug War and militarization movement) refused to endorse AMLO’s bid. The country’s so-called guerrilla groups did likewise, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) of Guerrero publicly rejecting all four candidates, including AMLO, as “neoliberals”.

The fallout from Sunday’s election will be fascinating – and tense – to watch. Peña Nieto doesn’t take office until December 1. What happens now to the #YoSoy132 movement, literally hundreds of thousands of students who opposed the PRI candidate? They came out in force just yesterday to protest the result and may soon be joined by AMLO’s MORENA as the country wakes up to the very painful reality of the PRI’s return.

Paul Imison lives in Mexico. He can be reached at paulimison@hotmail.com 

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 24, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Pierre M. Sprey - Franklin “Chuck” Spinney
Sleepwalking Into a Nuclear Arms Race with Russia
Ajamu Baraka
Malcolm X and Human Rights in the Time of Trumpism: Transcending the Master’s Tools
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Exxon’s End Game Theory
John Laforge
Did Obama Pave the Way for More Torture?
Mike Whitney
McMaster Takes Charge: Trump Relinquishes Control of Foreign Policy 
Paul Street
Liberal Hypocrisy, “Late-Shaming,” and Russia-Blaming in the Age of Trump
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Decline of US and UK Power
Louisa Willcox
The Endangered Species Act: a Critical Safety Net Now Threatened by Congress and Trump
Vijay Prashad
A Foreign Policy of Cruel Populism
John Chuckman
Israel’s Terrible Problem: Two States or One?
Matthew Stevenson
The Parallax View of Donald Trump
Norman Pollack
Drumbeat of Fascism: Find, Arrest, Deport
Stan Cox
Can the Climate Survive Electoral Democracy? Maybe. Can It Survive Capitalism? No.
Ramzy Baroud
The Trump-Netanyahu Circus: Now, No One Can Save Israel from Itself
Edward Hunt
The United States of Permanent War
David Morgan
Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?
Pete Dolack
The Bait and Switch of Public-Private Partnerships
Mike Miller
What Kind of Movement Moment Are We In? 
Elliot Sperber
Why Resistance is Insufficient
Brian Cloughley
What are You Going to Do About Afghanistan, President Trump?
Binoy Kampmark
Warring in the Oncology Ward
Yves Engler
Remembering the Coup in Ghana
Jeremy Brecher
“Climate Kids” v. Trump: Trial of the Century Pits Trump Climate Denialism Against Right to a Climate System Capable of Sustaining Human Life”
Jonathan Taylor
Hate Trump? You Should Have Voted for Ron Paul
Franklin Lamb
Another Small Step for Syrian Refugee Children in Beirut’s “Aleppo Park”
Ron Jacobs
The Realist: Irreverence Was Their Only Sacred Cow
Andre Vltchek
Lock up England in Jail or an Insane Asylum!
Rev. William Alberts
Grandiose Marketing of Spirituality
Paul DeRienzo
Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Eric Sommer
Organize Workers Immigrant Defense Committees!
Steve Cooper
A Progressive Agenda
David Swanson
100 Years of Using War to Try to End All War
Andrew Stewart
The 4CHAN Presidency: A Media Critique of the Alt-Right
Edward Leer
Tripping USA: The Chair
Randy Shields
Tom Regan: The Life of the Animal Rights Party
Nyla Ali Khan
One Certain Effect of Instability in Kashmir is the Erosion of Freedom of Expression and Regional Integration
Rob Hager
The Only Fake News That Probably Threw the Election to Trump was not Russian 
Mike Garrity
Why Should We Pay Billionaires to Destroy Our Public Lands? 
Mark Dickman
The Prophet: Deutscher’s Trotsky
Christopher Brauchli
The Politics of the Toilet Police
Ezra Kronfeld
Joe Manchin: a Senate Republicrat to Dispute and Challenge
Clancy Sigal
The Nazis Called It a “Rafle”
Louis Proyect
Socialism Betrayed? Inside the Ukrainian Holodomor
Charles R. Larson
Review: Timothy B. Tyson’s “The Blood of Emmett Till”
David Yearsley
Founding Father of American Song
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail