Commentary: Mexico’s Election, 2006

by Bobbi Lopez on June 30, 2006

On Sunday, July 2, Mexicans will be voting for their next president. After the historic vote of 2000, unseating the ruling party of more than seventy years, the question remains whether the country will be lead by free-trade, neo-liberal elites or will it move in a more populist direction. The top two contender’s are Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known as AMLO) of the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) and Felipe Calderon, current president Vicente Fox’s protégé, representing the right-wing PAN (National Action Party). The third candidate, Roberto Madrazo of the former ruling party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) trails behind, and with less than 2%, the Nader-like candidate running, Patricia Mercado, of the Social Democrat and Farmer Alternative, is pushing for the legalization of marijuana, women’s, gay, indigenous and farmers rights.

The election is extremely contested and there is no clear victor yet, though the candidates represent the spectrum of ideologies sought to lead Mexico out of poverty and dependency. The elite and business interests, who support the PRI and increasingly, the PAN, try to peg Lopez Obrador as a Hugo Chavez in television ads, however AMLO’s record is hardly that of a leftist but more of a centrist. Even Subcommandante Marcos, the EZLN revolutionary leader fighting in Chiapas for Indigenous rights has called AMLO a “false left-wing” candidate.

AMLO compares himself to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and it is appropriate to say that during his tenure as “mayor” of Mexico City, he did institute many programs to help the poorest citizens and his brand of New Dealism was welcome by the overwhelming majority of Capitalinos (Mexico City residents). However, AMLO’s rule in the capital has also seen the hiring of Republican Rudolph Giuliani to deal with crime and the gentrification of parts of the City in order to restore the historic downtown. His reign is more akin to that of Lazaro Cardenas, president of Mexico in the 1930s, who nationalized oil reserves and instituted many programs for the poor that lead to a whole generation of poor Mexicans accessing higher education. In those times, the British openly boycotted Mexico, but in the end, this move allowed Mexico to build its infrastructure and become a giant in oil production. While the Bush administration would prefer another Vicente Fox, it has been very quiet. Some conservatives even believe that a populist who brings renewed hope to Mexico may stem immigration.

Speaking to residents of the Tenderloin from Michoacán and Yucatan, it is evident that Lopez Obrador has over-whelming support of Mexican immigrants in the U.S. However, because it is near impossible to return to Mexico to vote, most of the four million Mexicans abroad will not have much of a say in the election. Mexico needs change as witnessed in the recent eruptions of violence in the southern state of Oaxaca, the on-going civil war in the state of Chiapas, the treatment of Indigenous people, the huge gap between rich and poor, and the failure of NAFTA, in particular in protecting Mexican farmers. Of note, the PAN candidate, Felipe Calderon, canceled his trip to Oaxaca during its unrest, which indicate his party’s refusal to deal with the county’ poorest citizens. In summation, it is best to heed the word of respected historian and writer, Carlos Fuentes, in his open letter dated June 7th, to the PAN and PRI, parts of which are translated below:

Thank you to the PAN for all your falsehoods and robberies For every drop of blood that you had to spill For the thousands of people seeking democracy since the revolution For the lost generations, For the dreams not realized, For the errors and the decisions made without asking us That you launched in our name, we will always remember Durazo, 68’, Mario Villanueva, Fidel Vasquez, And the whole bunch of bad governors, the corrupt and the Mafioso’s

Thank you as well, PAN, for during the past 50 years, You have been the right arm of the PRI, because during your existence, You did not oppose the decisions of the State . . .

Thank you for terrorizing us with the idea that People are bad if they are populists. How do you call governing for a few, Concentrating power and riches, or embarking the Nation In a wrongful and injust route called Fobaproa? What is the opposite of populism? In Germany and the U.S., the government subsidizes, It supports and launches social programs, are they populists? . . .

Thank you PAN and PRI for the disgust you have towards Minorities, women, Indigenous people, the poor, For the gay community . . .

PRI and PAN, we will remember the lives you have ruined, But especially we will remember on July 2nd, When we vote for the only option that brave citizens Can choose, because for every dead Mexican in The fight for social justice, there is another Mexican responsible, And I have no doubt in giving my vote, along with millions, For Andres Lopez Obrador.

– Carlos, Fuentes. (translated)

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