• Monthly
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $other
  • use PayPal

ONE WEEK TO DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!

A generous CounterPuncher has offered a $25,000 matching grant. So for this week only, whatever you can donate will be doubled up to $25,000! If you have the means, please donate! If you already have done so, thank you for your support. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Democracy Failing in Mexico

Mexico City

When Vicente Fox ended the 71-year reign of Mexico’s Institutional Revolutionary Party in the 2000 presidential elections, many observers heralded it as the beginning of a long-overdue transition to democracy. Now President Fox, in a concerted effort with members of the former ruling party, has closed the door on that transition.

By orchestrating a pseudo-legal offensive against Mexico City’s popular mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Fox has not only dashed the hopes of Mexicans for a real democracy, but has also destroyed the political capital he gained back in 2000.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Mexico City’s central square to protest Congress’s decision to strip López Obrador of immunity to prosecution granted elected officials. The mayor will now stand trial for allegedly failing to follow a court order to halt work on an access road to a local hospital. According to the federal attorney general’s office, the government will likely put López Obrador behind bars, as a “preventive measure,” before the trial even starts.

According to the vast majority of Mexicans, the government really aims to prevent López Obrador from becoming an official candidate in the 2006 electoral contest. He currently holds a 15% advantage in preference polls.

Although Fox claims that his government’s decision to prosecute is based on legal grounds and that “no-one should be above the law,” the specifics of the case have left few doubts that the prosecution is politically motivated. There is evidence indicating that the Mexico City government was not at fault. Even if it were, it is highly unusual to indict a mayor for infractions by city government officials–much less impeach him based on a minor charge.

In his speech to followers before defending himself in Congress, López Obrador formally declared that he will seek the candidacy of his party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution “from wherever I am.” With his announcement, it became official that the legal persecution of the mayor not only removes a popularly elected official from office but also serves to sideline the opposition frontrunner on a technicality.

The mayor announced the formation of a “broad movement for transformation” to promote not only his defense but also his alternative platform. That platform directly criticizes the government’s economic policies and calls for more social spending and political reforms. López Obrador’s platform of reducing economic inequality–with “First, the Poor” as his slogan–resonates amply in this nation of billionaires and beggars.

He also announced plans to appeal to international human rights groups to fight what he called this “huge step backward for Mexican democracy.” Among the protest crowd in Mexico City’s central plaza, the sense of betrayal by a government elected to usher in the transition to democracy was palpable. Effigies of the president drew boos and whistles. Comments and hand-painted signs supporting Lopez Obrador reflected an unusual mixture of indignation and idolatry, with emotions running high.

It could easily be a volatile mixture. But the mayor’s message to his supporters was to maintain calm and avoid being provoked to violence. “We are the majority,” he told the crowd. “Only those who are in the wrong resort to force.”
What happens next is anyone’s guess. Even the legal implications of the vote are unclear.

What is clear is that President Fox and the country’s ruling parties–PAN and PRI–have plunged the country into political crisis for their own gain. The elections of 2000 offered a promise to consolidate democratic institutions after one-party rule. Some progress had been made. But if the democratic process is manipulated for political ends by those in power, then the promise of transition is betrayed.

Wall Street firms and financial experts had warned Mexican politicians against prosecution of the mayor. No friends of what they see as a populist politician, the main fear is that the maneuver will backfire.

Famed for his austerity and personal integrity, the mantle of political martyr is one that sits well on López Obrador’s shoulders. From prison, his case could burgeon into a symbol of all that’s wrong with Mexico today, greatly enhancing his popularity and his prospects for the presidency.

In a best-case scenario, a real grassroots movement to defend democracy and popular will could lead to long-needed political reforms in Mexico. This will depend on the capacity of the opposition movement to preserve peaceful and democratic means–and on the response of a government whose most recent actions demonstrate irresponsibility and a profound lack of statesmanship.

LAURA CARLSEN is Director of the Americas Program for Interhemispheric Resource Center. She holds a BA in Social Thought and Institutions (1980) from Stanford University and an MA in Latin American Studies (1986) from Stanford. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to study the impact of the Mexican economic crisis on women in 1986 and has since lived in Mexico City. She can be reached at: laura@irc-online.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Laura Carlsen is the director of the Americas Program in Mexico City and advisor to Just Associates (JASS) .

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
October 17, 2019
Steve Early
The Irishman Cometh: Teamster History Hits the Big Screen (Again)
Jonathan Cook
Israel Prepares to Turn Bedouin Citizens into Refugees in Their Own Country
Stan Cox
Healing the Rift Between Political Reality and Ecological Reality
Jeff Klein
Syria, the Kurds, Turkey and the U.S.: Why Progressives Should Not Support a New Imperial Partition in the Middle East
George Ochenski
The Governor, the Mining Company and the Future of a Montana Wilderness
Charles Pierson
Bret Stephens’ American Fantasy
Ted Rall
The First Thing We Do, Let’s Fire All the Cops
Jon Rynn
Saving the Green New Deal
Ajamu Baraka
Syria: Exposing Western Radical Collaboration with Imperialism
Binoy Kampmark
A Coalition of Support: Parliamentarians for Julian Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Down Side of Impeachment
Harvey Wasserman
What Really Happened to American Socialism?
Tom Engelhardt
American Brexit
October 16, 2019
Patrick Cockburn
How Turkey’s Invasion of Syria Backfired on Erdogan
Chitrangada Choudhury – Aniket Aga
How Cotton Became a Headache in the Age of Climate Chaos
Jack Rasmus
US-China Mini-Trade Deal: Trump Takes the Money and Runs
Michael Welton
Communist Dictatorship in Our Midst
Robert Hunziker
Extinction Rebellion Sweeps the World
Peter A. Coclanis
Donald Trump as Artist
Chris Floyd
Byzantium Now: Time-Warping From Justinian to Trump
Steve Klinger
In For a Dime, in For a Dollar
Gary Leupp
The Maria Ramirez Story
Kim C. Domenico
It Serves Us Right To Suffer: Breaking Down Neoliberal Complacency
Kiley Blackman
Wildlife Killing Contests are Unethical
Colin Todhunter
Bayer Shareholders: Put Health and Nature First and Stop Funding This Company!
Andrés Castro
Looking Normal in Kew Gardens
October 15, 2019
Victor Grossman
The Berlin Wall, Thirty Years Later
Raouf Halaby
Kurdish Massacres: One of Britain’s Many Original Sins
Robert Fisk
Trump and Erdogan have Much in Common – and the Kurds will be the Tragic Victims of Their Idiocy
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal in the Levant
Wilma Salgado
Ecuador: Lenin Moreno’s Government Sacrifices the Poor to Satisfy the IMF
Ralph Nader
The Congress Has to Draw the Line
William A. Cohn
The Don Fought the Law…
John W. Whitehead
One Man Against the Monster: John Lennon vs. the Deep State
Lara Merling – Leo Baunach
Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Not Falling Prey to Vultures
Norman Solomon
The More Joe Biden Stumbles, the More Corporate Democrats Freak Out
Jim Britell
The Problem With Partnerships and Roundtables
Howard Lisnoff
More Incitement to Violence by Trump’s Fellow Travelers
Binoy Kampmark
University Woes: the Managerial Class Gets Uppity
Joe Emersberger
Media Smears, Political Persecution Set the Stage for Austerity and the Backlash Against It in Ecuador
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Abiy Ahmed Wins Nobel Peace Prize, But It Takes Two to Make Peace
Wim Laven
Citizens Must Remove Trump From Office
October 14, 2019
Ann Robertson - Bill Leumer
Class Struggle is Still the Issue
Mike Miller
Global Climate Strike: From Protest To Power?
Patrick Cockburn
As Turkey Prepares to Slice Through Syria, the US has Cleared a New Breeding Ground for Isis
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail