[News] Mexico's Most Toxic Presidential Race Ever

Anti-Imperialist News News at freedomarchives.org
Thu Apr 6 19:18:48 EDT 2006

April 6, 2006

Mexico's Most Toxic Presidential Race Ever

All Against Lopez Obrador


Mexico City.

Splattered as it is with libelous calumnies, dark 
threats, smarmy insinuation, and stridently 
accusatory television spots, the run-up to the 
July 2 elections here constitutes the most toxic 
presidential race of the five this reporter has 
covered during decades on the ground in Mexico.

Indeed, both the campaigns of once-upon-a-time 
ruling PRI party candidate Roberto Madrazo and 
the right-wing PAN's Felipe Calderon boil down to 
one theme: everything and anything against 
frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), 
the former mayor of Mexico City and the standard 
bearer for the pseudo-leftist Party of the 
Democratic Revolution (PRD) who has led the pack 
by as much as 18 points ever since 2003 mid-term 
elections. AMLO's lead has held steady around eight for months.

The bi-partisan anti-AMLO assault is an extension 
of PRI-PAN complicity to eliminate Lopez Obrador 
from the competition by hook or by crook. The 
onslaught began in early 2004 with the release of 
incriminating videotapes showing members of the 
PRD receiving cash payouts from a construction 
tycoon whom AMLO had denied city contracts. Lopez 
Obrador would later tie the release of the videos 
(which were aired ad nauseam on Mexico's 
two-headed television monopoly Televisa and TV 
Azteca) to ex-president Carlos Salinas, a 
personal nemesis in AMLO's mindset akin to 
Sherlock Holmes' great foe, Prof. Moriarty.

Having failed to blacken Lopez Obrador's name via 
the videos, President Vicente Fox's PAN party 
sought to take advantage of widespread crime and 
violence in Mexico City by organizing a march in 
June 2004 to repudiate the then-mayor. But the 
huge mobilization was swelled by AMLO supporters 
who turned their rage on President Fox.

In early 2005, the PAN and the PRI again ganged 
up on Lopez Obrador for having defied a court 
order by trying to build an access road to a 
hospital that may or may not have skirted private 
property, and sought to remove the immunity from 
prosecution that his office guaranteed him Had 
the plot succeeded, Lopez Obrador would have been 
jailed and barred from the ballot. Nonetheless, 
after 1.3 million AMLO loyalists marched through 
Mexico City last April to protest the 
persecution, Fox got cold feet and shelved the charges.

Now his rivals are clobbering Lopez Obrador with 
the fearsome specter of none other than 
Venezuela's outspoken president Hugo Chavez. The 
connection between AMLO and Chavez has long been 
floated by Washington. Charges that Chavez was 
financing AMLO's campaign re-emerged after the 
Mexico City daily Cronica, a paper said to be 
financed by the Salinas family, "infiltrated" 
"Bolivarian Cells" (they are 'circles' not 
'cells'), an organization of Mexican citizens who 
stand in solidarity with Chavez's Venezuela, and 
"discovered" that some Chavez supporters also 
supported Lopez Obrador! Although Cronica offered 
no other proof of links between the left 
candidate and the Venezuelan leader, German 
Martinez, the PAN representative before the 
Federal Electoral Institute called upon IFE 
president Luis Carlos Ugalde to probe Chavista 
"subversion" in AMLO's campaign. Ugalde 
subsequently turned the matter over to the Interior Ministry for investigation.

Meanwhile, the PAN deluged Televisa and TV Azteca 
screens with primetime spots that cut back and 
forth between Lopez Obrador and an arm-flailing 
Hugo Chavez just to underscore the 
unsubstantiated connection between the two. The 
spots seemed to irritate the Venezuelan president 
more than they did Lopez Obrador. On his weekly 
TV show "Alo Senor Presidente", Chavez lashed out 
at the PAN, accusing the right-wingers of using 
his image to smear the Mexican Left in order to 
prevent Lopez Obrador's election in July. The PAN 
campaign, said Chavez, was just one more example 
of the Washington-orchestrated conspiracy against his person,

The Venezuelan president's outburst further 
fueled the anti-AMLO inquisition. Now the PAN 
insisted that Fox lodge a diplomatic protest 
against Venezuela for having "interfered" in the 
Mexican election, a crime delineated in Article 
33 of the constitution. The IFE's Ugalde, who 
frequently seems to side with the PAN, splashed 
petrol on the bonfire by labeling Chavez's 
intervention "imprudent and undesirable" and 
petitioned the foreign ministry to demand redress.

In late February, Ugalde refused to intervene 
when the PAN flew former right-wing Spanish prime 
minister Jose Maria Aznar to the Mexican capital 
to endorse Calderon, diss Lopez Obrador by name, 
and warn that his election would bring down 
Mexico, a much more obvious violation of Article 
33 than Chavez might or might not have perpetrated.

Not since the Salinas years when the IFE was 
created to legitimize questionable federal 
elections has the nation's maximum electoral 
authority appeared so patently partisan.

Both Fox, the PAN and the PRI (the "PRIAN" dixit 
AMLO) concur with the Bush White House assessment 
that Lopez Obrador, like Hugo Chavez, is a 
dangerous demogogue spreading dread "populism" in 
his efforts to attend to the basic needs of the 
poor. This past March, the Bush regime issued a 
reaffirmation of its strategy of "preventive" war 
that pointed to pockets of "extreme populism" as 
likely targets for U.S. "preventive" attack in Latin America.

The Fox-White House obsession with the 
Chavez-Lopez Obrador connection was on exhibit at 
the April 1st tri-national summit in Cancun. 
Asked if he and George Bush had discussed the 
Mexican election, Fox told Televisa news that 
yes, the two had talked about "Venezuela." The 
U.S. State Department accuses Chavez of meddling 
in elections in Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

Despite this latest "zipizapi" (ruckus) between 
Vicente Fox and Hugo Chavez, relations between 
Venezuela and Mexico could not get much worse at 
this point. Both countries withdrew ambassadors 
after Chavez dubbed Fox "a puppy of Yanqui 
imperialism" following last November's Summit of the Americas in Argentina.

Although he is barred from re-election, Fox's 
incessant stump speeches packed with veiled 
references to AMLO amount to bald-faced 
intervention in the presidential race by a 
sitting president, the PRD insists - a charge 
Mexico's Supreme Court ratified, warning Fox that 
he could be forced to resign should he continue to push the envelope.

According to the Fox gospel, Lopez Obrador is an 
unstable would-be 'caudillo' (strongman) who will 
destroy the economic achievements of the Fox 
administration and bankrupt the country with his 
populist schemes. "Callese Chachalaca!" AMLO 
mocks back, "Shut up, you garrulous bird!" Such 
is the abysmal level of campaign debate in Mexico 
with less than a hundred days until the election.

Media hype has been even more malignantly 
excessive in 2006 than it was six years ago when 
Fox rode negative spots designed by ex-Clinton 
strategist Dick Morris to victory. Televisa, 
which dominates 85% of the Mexican market, and 
its junior partner TV Azteca, are crucial to the 
anti-AMLO crusade's success. No matter who 
actually wins the election, the big winners will 
be Televisa and Azteca â*" both networks stand to 
garner the lion's share of the 13,000.000.000 
pesos being shelled out by the IFE to subsidize 
the parties, much of it being spent on airing 
venomous spots against Lopez Obrador (one shows 
AMLO's Mexico City crumbling to the ground with 
the word DANGER stamped across the screen.)

In an effort to consolidate PAN support for a 
"reform" of laws governing radio and television 
that would grant Televisa and Azteca 40 year 
concessions and eliminate the competition from a 
rapidly digilitizing spectrum, PAN president 
Manuel Espino summoned the party's senators 
together last month (March) to explain how the 
so-called "ley Televisa" would enhance the 
fortunes of their candidate. Televisa had 
promised to pump up the increasingly shrill 
Calderon until he caught Lopez Obrador and then 
double its efforts to put him ahead, the PAN 
president had told the solons, according to what 
one anonymous senator later leaked to the 
national (left-wing) daily La Jornada.

Televisa's handling of the presidential race has 
been tilted to the right ever since the 
candidates kicked off their campaigns in January 
and the network covered live Calderon's 
investiture as the PAN nominee, a favor not 
extended to either Madrazo or Lopez Obrador. 
Televisa coverage of daily activities of the 
three "presidenciales" sometimes shows AMLO in 
herky-jerky frames just to underscore his 
purportedly erratic and unstable persona.

Both Calderon and the PRI's Madrazo (who trails 
badly in the polls) will get another chance to 
beat up on Lopez Obrador in upcoming debates set 
for April and June â*" AMLO will only show up for the second.

Meanwhile, on the left flank of the Lopez Obrador 
bandwagon, the rebel Zapatista Army of National 
Liberation's "Other Campaign", a fiercely 
anti-electoral initiative featuring "Delegate 
Zero" (Subcomandante Marcos) that has been 
barnstorming from state to state talking bad 
about all the candidates with particular emphasis 
on Lopez Obrador, suffered a bitter slap when 
Rosario Ibarra, the Gran Dame of Mexico's human 
rights movement and Marcos's surrogate mother, 
accepted a sure-shot senate seat on the AMLO ticket.

Nevertheless, whether due to the Other Campaign's 
efforts or voter disgust at the antics of the 
candidates, a quarter of the electorate tell 
pollsters that they will not go to the polls July 2nd.

Question: How is Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador like 
Ronald Reagan? Answer: both are (were) coated 
with Teflon. No matter what crimes they are 
(were) accused of ("like eating babies for 
breakfast" cracks former AMLO City Hall sidekick 
Jose Agustin Ortiz Pincheti), the salvos 
strengthened their statures. Indeed, every 
ill-intentioned ploy to unseat him or bar him 
from the ballot or cast him as an unstable 
subversive has only helped Lopez Obrador to firm 
up his advantage. March monthly ratings by 
Mitofsky pollsters contracted by Televisa, not a 
fountain of support for AMLO, have the 
frontrunner solid at 38, Calderon (probably due 
to the anti-Chavez barrage) up a point and a half 
at 31.5 and Madrazo shrinking to 28. The sampling 
may have as much validity as the predictions of 
the famous Witches of Catamaco Veracruz who 
recently cleansed AMLO by passing an egg over his 
person and subsequently divined him the big winner July 2nd.

But despite the witches' "limpia", being the 
frontrunner could be extremely dangerous for 
Lopez Obrador's health. Exasperated as Calderon 
and Madrazo must be at the failure of character 
assassination to deflate AMLO's lead, the corporeal kind could come next.

John Ross has covered four previous Mexican 
presidential election. He is the author of 
By Capitalism.

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