Over half a million people took to the streets of Mexico City on Saturday to protest the fraudulent election of Felipe Calderon. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the real winner of the presidential election, told the huge crowd, “the elections were fraudulent from the start,” adding the incumbent president, Vincente Fox “has betrayed democracy.”
The reason Fox and his National Action Party (PAN) pulled out all the stops to steal the election is quite simple-they are desperately afraid of the growing class rebellion by Mexico’s poor and oppressed. The campaign slogan of Lopez Obrador was straight forward: “For the good of all, the poor first.” In a country where almost half the population lives below the poverty line Lopez Obrador pledged to provide a stipend to the elderly and health care for the poor. Millions of jobs will also be created, particularly by undertaking large construction projects to modernize Mexico’s dilapidated transportation system. He also promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement with the United States, particularly the clauses that allow the importation of cheap subsidized grains that undermine Mexico’s peasant producers.
More importantly Lopez Obrador pledged to break up the corrupt economic relationship that exists between the business class and government bureaucrats. Everyone in Mexico knows that bribes and kick backs are common place throughout Mexico as much of the country’s wealth is skimmed off at the expense of the workers and the poor. This system existed under the previous governments of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI. What has made the system particularly insidious under the PAN is that it, more than the PRI, is the party of an entrenched business elite. Before becoming president, Vincente Fox himself built up a huge personal fortune, even serving as the head of Coca Cola in Mexico. Not only is Lopez Obrador threatening to break up the system of inside favors and corruption, he is also proclaiming that the rich will have to pay the income and business taxes that they routinely avoid.
This evidence of fraud in the election is overwhelming. Thanks to the Internet the most revealing details of what happened are being produced by the on-line, dissident press. As Luis Hernandez Navarro, a senior editor of the Mexican daily, La Jornada, told me, “the electoral process was rigged before, during and after the election on July 2.” (See his editorial http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2006/07/04/021a1pol.php ) In addition to Navarro’s coverage, the excellent source that explains the electoral fraud with detailed statistics, documents and charts is written by Al Giordano in The Narco-News Bulletin. In his latest article he demonstrates that Lopez Obrador actually won the presidential election by a million votes. (See http://www.narconews.com/Issue42/article1967.html )
The proposed changes to the corrupt political system by Lopez Obrador are reformist, not revolutionary. They are being demanded by an increasingly restive populace that is shaking up much of Mexico. The unrest started in 1994 with the rebellion of the Zapatista National Liberation Army in Chiapas, Mexico. Since then there have been periodic outbursts around the country.
In 2002 militant residents of San Salvador Atenco in the state of Mexico blocked the building of an international airport. Earlier this year they used machetes, clubs and Molotov cocktails to disperse police who were trying to stop 60 flower vendors from setting up their stands in the neighboring community of Texcoco. Then just weeks before the presidential election teachers in Oaxaca went on strike and were joined by the entire population as they shut down the city and demanded the resignation of the PRI governor of the state.
The sin of Lopez Obrador in the eyes of the ruling classes is not that he fomented any of these revolts, but rather that he responds to popular demands from below. The official candidate of the PAN, Felipe Calderon, has painted Lopez Obrador as a demonic and messianic figure who will stop at nothing to take power into his hands. Lopez Obrador has indeed called for mass demonstrations in the past, but only when the system has violated the democratic process or overtly trampled on the poor. In 1995 when fraud occurred in elections in the state of Tabasco, Lopez Obrador led numerous road caravans and marches over a period of several months, culminating in a rally in Mexico City. In 1996 he helped lead a militant coalition of farmers and fisherman who demanded compensation from state owned oil wells for damages they suffered from a petroleum spill. Last year, a million people turned out in the capital when the Mexican congress tried to knock Lopez Obrador off the presidential ballot because, as mayor of Mexico City, he violated an obscure law by building a road to a hospital.
Even some international policy analysts and editorialists in the foreign press see that there are real dangers of a social explosion if there is not a recounting of all the votes as Lopez Obrador is demanding. The national security team of the Bush administration surely must know that fraud was committed in Mexico’s election, but this did not stop Bush from calling Felipe Calderon to congratulate him when Mexico’s Federal Electoral Institute announced its rigged results on Thursday. The ruling class in Mexico, along with its international cohorts, now find themselves between a rock and a hard place. If the vote recount is allowed, the fraud and corruption of the Mexican system will be exposed for the whole world to see. If it does not permit a fair recount, Mexico could become ungovernable.
Mexico has had two major social upheavals in its history. One came with the independence movement in 1810, and the other with the revolution that began in 1910. The current fraudulent election results could spark Mexico’s next social rebellion, four years before the exact century mark
ROGER BURBACH is director of the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) and a Visiting Scholar at the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is co- author with Jim Tarbell of “Imperial Overstretch: George W. Bush and the Hubris of Empire,” He released late last year “The Pinochet Affair: State Terrorism and Global Justice.”