FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Mexico’s Fear of Democracy

Mexico City.

As the results of the July 2 presidential elections in Mexico head to the courts, it could be several days or even weeks before the final winner is determined. The current vote counts have given a razor thin advantage to Felipe Calderón of the right-wing National Action Party (PAN), to which incumbent president Vicente Fox belongs. Still, with the margin well under one percent and with irregularities in the vote-counting process being challenged, progressive former Mexico City mayor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), might conceivably eke out a victory. While U.S. newspapers declare Calderón the winner, Mexican electoral authorities have yet to do so, recognizing the tribunal that is reviewing disputes as the final arbiter for the race.

The past months in Mexico have been marked by a campaign of fear against López Obrador. What conservatives portrayed as a dreaded possibility is the very thing that would have done most to consolidate the country’s transition to democracy: a peaceful passing of power across ideological lines.

When Vicente Fox won the last presidential elections in 2000, his triumph ended more than seven decades of one-party governance and disrupted some of the traditional patronage networks that had defined Mexican politics. Yet Fox furthered the same brand of market-oriented economic neoliberalism promoted for two decades by long-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, which joined with the PAN to pass NAFTA in the early 1990s.

As in many countries throughout Latin America, neoliberalism has failed to deliver for Mexico. Back when he was on the campaign trail, Fox promised that he would create economic growth of seven percent per year; the actual average was 1.8 percent. Even with the economy picking up in the first quarter of 2006, Mexico has not seen anywhere near the one million new jobs per year that Fox pledged. Instead, steep inequality, persistent poverty, and desperation have driven many Mexican immigrants north in search of opportunity in the post-NAFTA era.

Enter López Obrador. The center-left presidential candidate became a hugely popular figure as mayor of Mexico City by actually paying attention to the needs of the poor. He launched new public works and created pensions and subsidies for the elderly, single mothers, and the disabled. Through most of the presidential race, López Obrador polled as the clear frontrunner. He vowed to end special privileges and sweetheart contracts for the wealthy, to raise revenue by stemming an epidemic of elite tax evasion, and to expand his social programs nationally.

López Obrador’s impending victory offered something fundamental for democracy: the possibility of real change.

In the months leading up to the election, López Obrador’s political enemies fought his candidacy with relentless fear-mongering. Even after electoral officials reprimanded the PAN and forced the party to pull campaign advertisements that called López Obrador a “danger to Mexico” and that asserted false links with Hugo Chávez, right-wing business groups threw the same sucker punch in round two. They funded a series of “non-partisan” last-minute attack ads that showed images of the Venezuelan leader and, wink wink, stated that “Mexico doesn’t need a dictator.”

Meanwhile, U.S. pundits fanned the flames by spreading ominous accusations of “populism,” and political consultants traveled south of the border to help plot the character assassination.

With all the conservative vitriol, you would never know that López Obrador has been consistently criticized from the left for his moderation. Social movement groups like the Zapatistas paint his social initiatives as stop-gap measures that wouldn’t address the real dysfunction of the economic system. They contend that López Obrador has been too quick to affirm that Mexico will remain tied to the U.S. vision of a neoliberal global economy and too hesitant to forge a distinct economic path. And they disparage him for his plans merely to renegotiate the sections of the North American Free Trade Agreement’s that most hurt Mexican producers, rather than to scrap NAFTA altogether.

As López Obrador’s supporters believed it would, Calderón’s lead from preliminary tabulations narrowed as a full vote count progressed, but the conservative retained a slight edge. Now, an electoral tribunal will be reviewing disputes and making a final determination. The conduct at the great majority of polling places during last Sunday’s elections was a far cry from in the bad old days of one-party government, when bought votes and stuffed ballot boxes were the norm. Still, the PRD has alleged serious irregularities in the vote-counting process. If evidence continues to mount it may well raise the specter of a stolen election for the wider Mexican public.

In that case, popular protests would be justified to prevent a repeat of the infamous elections of 1988, when blatant fraud was used to stop another progressive candidate from taking office.

A surge of action in the courts or on the streets may yet alter the results of this election. But for the time being, the country faces a less dramatic prospect: that the campaign of fear will have kept the Mexico locked into the status quo, leaving its democratic transition incomplete.

MARK ENGLER, a writer based in New York City, is an analyst with Foreign Policy In Focus. He can be reached via the web site http://www.DemocracyUprising.com.

 

 

More articles by:

MARK ENGLER is author of How to Rule the World: The Coming Battle Over the Global Economy (Nation Books, April 2008). He can be reached via the web site http://www.DemocracyUprising.com

June 18, 2018
Paul Street
Denuclearize the United States? An Unthinkable Thought
John Pilger
Bring Julian Assange Home
Conn Hallinan
The Spanish Labyrinth
Patrick Cockburn
Attacking Hodeidah is a Deliberate Act of Cruelty by the Trump Administration
Gary Leupp
Trump Gives Bibi Whatever He Wants
Thomas Knapp
Child Abductions: A Conversation It’s Hard to Believe We’re Even Having
Robert Fisk
I Spoke to Palestinians Who Still Hold the Keys to Homes They Fled Decades Ago – Many are Still Determined to Return
Steve Early
Requiem for a Steelworker: Mon Valley Memories of Oil Can Eddie
Jim Scheff
Protect Our National Forests From an Increase in Logging
Adam Parsons
Reclaiming the UN’s Radical Vision of Global Economic Justice
Dean Baker
Manufacturing Production Falls in May and No One Notices
Laura Flanders
Bottom-Up Wins in Virginia’s Primaries
Binoy Kampmark
The Anguish for Lost Buildings: Embers and Death at the Victoria Park Hotel
Weekend Edition
June 15, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Dan Kovalik
The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Yellow Journalism and the New Cold War
Charles Pierson
The Day the US Became an Empire
Jonathan Cook
How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions
Ajamu Baraka
North Korea Issue is Not De-nuclearization But De-Colonization
Andrew Levine
Midterms Coming: Antinomy Ahead
Louisa Willcox
New Information on 2017 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Deaths Should Nix Trophy Hunting in Core Habitat
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Singapore Fling
Ron Jacobs
What’s So Bad About Peace, Man?
Robert Hunziker
State of the Climate – It’s Alarming!
L. Michael Hager
Acts and Omissions: The NYT’s Flawed Coverage of the Gaza Protest
Dave Lindorff
However Tenuous and Whatever His Motives, Trump’s Summit Agreement with Kim is Praiseworthy
Robert Fantina
Palestine, the United Nations and the Right of Return
Brian Cloughley
Sabre-Rattling With Russia
Chris Wright
To Be or Not to Be? That’s the Question
David Rosen
Why Do Establishment Feminists Hate Sex Workers?
Victor Grossman
A Key Congress in Leipzig
John Eskow
“It’s All Kinderspiel!” Trump, MSNBC, and the 24/7 Horseshit Roundelay
Paul Buhle
The Russians are Coming!
Joyce Nelson
The NED’s Useful Idiots
Lindsay Koshgarian
Trump’s Giving Diplomacy a Chance. His Critics Should, Too
Louis Proyect
American Nativism: From the Chinese Exclusion Act to Trump
Stan Malinowitz
On the Elections in Colombia
Camilo Mejia
Open Letter to Amnesty International on Nicaragua From a Former Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience
David Krieger
An Assessment of the Trump-Kim Singapore Summit
Jonah Raskin
Cannabis in California: a Report From Sacramento
Josh Hoxie
Just How Rich Are the Ultra Rich?
CJ Hopkins
Awaiting the Putin-Nazi Apocalypse
Mona Younis
We’re the Wealthiest Country on Earth, But Over 40 Percent of Us Live in or Near Poverty
Dean Baker
Not Everything Trump Says on Trade is Wrong
James Munson
Trading Places: the Other 1% and the .001% Who Won’t Save Them
Rivera Sun
Stop Crony Capitalism: Protect the Net!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail