Sunday, July 1 saw about 100,000 people march through the streets of Mexico City to the city´s central plaza, the Zócalo, one year after the election that put right-wing candidate Felipe Calderón in power via old-school and new-school fraud. Ex-candidate Andrés López Obrador took the stage after an endless array of boring speakers and low-key musical acts that the crowd tolerated in the sun. His new book, the subtly-entitled THE MAFIA STOLE THE PRESIDENCY, is one of many on the subject that have been released in the past few weeks. His Ibsenian spirit of resistance intact, he didn´t say anything particularly new at the rally. (The day before, one of his key advisors had suggested that the public be ready for an announcement of new actions to take: the ballots haven´t been burned yet, and there´s still time to trace the trail of corruption, he said.) The real news, participants and many media people agree, is that the movement still exists.
A survey of 899 persons in Mexico City (a more left-leaning and educated population than the rest of the country) released Monday by a centrist newspaper indicates that if the election were held (again) today, 62 percent would vote for López Obrador, compared with 60%, according to official figures, who voted for him a year ago.
The tendency to create a cult of personality around him has not abated; for some reason, in spite of our egalitarian beliefs, we tend, on the left, to canonize charismatic figures: Che Guevara, Jesse Jackson, Paul Wellstone, Emiliano Zapata, Subcomandante Marcos, Hugo Chávez. The slogans present at this march were not as funny, as radical, or as transcendent as those of the marches last summer; scatological insults directed at Calderón and extremely generalized boycott calls predominated this time.
One columnist commented on Monday that López Obrador´s fortune and that of the movement that surrounds him will probably rise as that of Calderón inevitably falls. Calderón has governed with Bush-like fearmongering strategies. The war of this official government is against “drug traffickers,” and the result, like in Iraq, is more violence in the affected areas than before the “war.” It turns out that the “drugs” in question are principally marijuana. This has led more Mexicans to call for its legalization, now that it´s more clear that the fight to repress cannibis causes much more damage than its consumption.
Calderón continues his predecessor Vicente Fox´s tradition of repression of non-aligned news media. Radio Monitor is a station that for 30 years was operated by José Gutiérrez Vivó, also the principal newscaster. He´s about as radical as the folksy clowns you used to hear on WCCO in Minneapolis, but at some point López Obrador began to give him exclusive interviews. This led to coverage on Monitor of the post-election protest activities, including broadcasting the daily rallies at which the ex-candidate spoke. Gutiérrez Vivó revealed that Fox had personally pressured him to stop giving free publicity to the opposition. This in turn caused, according to the newscaster, Fox and Calderón to pressure sponsors to boycott the station.
On the streets, teachers in Oaxaca have set up a new sit-in in the zócalo of that city. In México City, dissident teachers, mostly from the southern and western states of Guerrero and Michoacán, have a sit-in/blockade outside the offices of the ISSSTE, the Mexican social security and social service agency that has been gutted by a recent “reform” law passed in fast-track fashion by most of the parties in congress except those linked to López Obrador. The blockade only obstructs two blocks of a part of downtown that´s not vital to transportation, but various federal officials have demanded that the mayor repress the demonstration. (Some Minneapolis teachers recently visited for another reason; I took one of them to see the spectacle and he said: “This is great. Teachers in Minneapolis would never go to a march, let alone sleep on the street to defend their rights.”) The pension “reform,” which López Obrador referred to in his Sunday speech as following the dictates of the International Monetary Fund, would cut pensions for teachers and millions of others by about 50 percent. And they were never more than twenty dollars a day.This great reform to save the country from bankruptcy affects far less than one percent of the federal budget.
Leaders of the IMF congratulated the Mexican government and suggested that next in line are fiscal and energy reforms. The first is on the way; López Obrador has called for “zero negotiation” on the part of the center-left parties in Congress with the government on this issue. It remains to be seen to what extent activists–and dispossessed citizens forced into activism–will resist, with or without López Obrador, the coming aggressions: fiscal reform, the privatization of oil and electricity, the coming round of teacher contract negotiations, and the final blow of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the removal of price protection for Mexican corn and beans. (U.S. products, of course, will continue to be subsidized–Hilary´s husband´s contribution, back in the nineties, to the destruction of Mexican agriculture.)
JOHNNY HAZARD is somewhere where the banks won´t find him and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org