[News] Endgame Engulfs Mexico

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Aug 16 15:35:45 EDT 2006


http://www.counterpunch.org/ross08162006.html

August 16, 2006


Towards Armageddon and After


Endgame Engulfs Mexico

By JOHN ROSS

Mexico City.

They carried the coffin of Jose Jimenez 
Colmanares on their shoulders through the narrow 
streets of Oaxaca city into the old colonial 
plaza they had occupied for months and deposited 
it outside the state government offices. There 
his comrades ­- striking schoolteachers and 
militants of the mostly-indigenous Oaxaca Popular 
Peoples' Assembly (APPO) mourned the fallen car 
mechanic with furious epithets and accusations. 
Jimenez, the husband of a striking teacher, had 
been gunned down by goons during a march two 
nights before and the assailants had been tracked 
to a nearby warehouse where they were captured by 
the furious crowd and their hideout burnt to the 
ground. But for the striking teachers and their 
allies in the APPO, the bullet that murdered Jose 
Jimenez was fired by Governor Ulisis Ruiz whose 
resignation they have been demanding for months.

The strike of Oaxaca's teachers began last May 
15, the Day of the Maestro, when 70,000 members 
of the radicalized Section 22 of the National 
Education Workers Union walked out of their 
classrooms in pursuit of a cost of living 
increase. Encamped in the same plaza where Jose 
Jimenez's corpse was now planted, the maestros 
refused to move even after Governor Ruiz set a 
thousand state police on them June 14--more than 
a hundred were injured as the cops slammed 
concussion grenades into the swirling crowd below 
from low-flying helicopters. But the teachers 
soon retook the plaza and together with the even 
more radical APPO have continued to carry on a 
vigorous campaign of civil disobedience and just plain sabotage.

Pledging to physically obstruct the July 2 
presidential balloting in the state, many 
teachers instead voted for leftist candidate 
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) who won the 
popular vote in Oaxaca handily greatly 
embarrassing Governor Ruiz, a disciple of the 
long-ruling 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1560255781/counterpunchmaga>
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Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) standard bearer Roberto Madrazo.

In the heady days since July 2 during which Lopez 
Obrador was apparently swindled out of the 
presidency of Mexico, both sides in the Oaxaca 
stand-off have grown more aggressive, the 
maestros and their allies blocking highways, 
tourist hotels, and burning up the stage at the 
annual Guelaguetza indigenous dance festival, 
forcing the cancellation of Oaxaca's top tourist 
attraction. Governor Ruiz has responded in the 
old PRI way, sending his pistoleros after his 
detractors--a university radio station was shot 
up, as was a local newspaper Noticias which had 
dared to diss Ruiz. A professor was gunned down 
near the Autonomous Benito Juarez University and 
protestors' buses were torched. Leaders of the 
APPO, including one wheelchair-bound activist 
were arrested and jailed in maximum-security 
prisons. Jimenez's death may not have been the final straw.

Up until the present face-off, Ulisis Ruiz was a 
rising star in the sinking PRI firmament. During 
its excruciatingly long and cruel seven decade 
rule, the former ruling party stole one election 
after another, crushed or co-opted those who 
opposed it, dominated the nation's political 
agenda, and deliberately kept the Mexican people 
in abject poverty, holding their votes hostage 
for crumbs until the PRI was unceremoniously 
dumped from power six years ago by the right-wing 
National Action or PAN party and outgoing president Vicente Fox.

The ex-official party's fortunes fell even more 
precipitously this past July 2 when the PRI 
finished a dismal third behind Lopez Obrador's 
Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and 
right-winger Felipe Calderon's PAN. Its unctuous 
candidate Madrazo had been Ulisis Ruiz's 
protector in PRI ruling circles and the Oaxaca 
governor's political future is deeply entangled 
with the snake-slim former party president from 
tropical Tabasco. But for now, the future of the 
PRI, not only in Oaxaca but all over Mexico's political map, is past.

Southern Mexico was once the ex-ruling party's 
"green reserve" where the ballot boxes always 
came back stuffed with 110% of the votes for the 
PRI, a "zapato" (shoe) or "carro completo" (full 
car) in the Institutionals' arcane argot - but on 
July 2, Lopez Obrador swept 16 southern Mexican 
states, the poorest, most indigenous, and 
resource-rich region in the union containing 54 
per cent of the nation's population, including 
the PRI's greenest reserves--Veracruz, Tabasco, Chiapas and Oaxaca.

Both Tabasco and Chiapas are expected to sustain 
the AMLO tide in gubernatorial elections this 
August and September. But in Chiapas, it is not 
easy to separate the PRIistas from the former 
PRIistas who have moved into the PRD's house in 
the last months. The PRD's candidate for 
governor- Juan Sabines, the nephew of the 
nation's most passionate romantic poet, is a 
political hack who accepted the left-center 
party's nomination only after he had been denied 
the slot by the PRI. Under the auspices of 
outgoing Chiapas governor Pablo Salazar, who 
spent six years walking a tightrope between Fox, 
the PRI, and the PRD, Sabines was running 10 
points ahead of the pack when abracadabra, the 
PAN candidate and an ex-PRDista who had 
opportunistically availed himself of the PANAL or 
New Alliance Party's nomination under the 
tutelage of teachers' union czarina Elba Esther 
Gordillo, abruptly retired from the race and 
threw their votes to the PRI's Juan Antonio 
Bodegas. If this sounds like universal treason, it is.

In Chiapas, at least, and in many states where 
AMLO won big July 2, both the PRI and the 
PRD--not to mention the PAN, which seems to have 
stolen the presidency from Lopez Obrador "a la 
antigua" (in the old PRI way)--are all living in the past tense

PRESENT TENSE

Despite their demands for a vote-by-vote recount, 
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is convinced that he 
won the July 2 presidential race only to have 
victory wrested away in a complicated fraud 
orchestrated by the Federal Electoral Commission 
(IFE) to favor right-winger Felipe Calderon. The 
seven judge tribunal (TRIFE)which has until 
September 5 to name the next president of Mexico, 
has ordered a review of less than 10 per cent of 
the 130,000 plus "casillas" or precincts where 41 
million citizens deposited their ballots back on the first Sunday in July.

Notwithstanding AMLO's refusal to go along with 
the "10% Solution", the partial recount began 
last Wednesday in 149 out of the nation's 300 
electoral districts. Putting little credence in 
the fairness of a process he is convinced is 
rigged against him, Lopez Obrador has vowed to 
intensify the campaign of civil resistance that 
his followers, still encamped on the streets and 
boulevards of the capital, have so industriously waged for weeks.

Even as the votes were being counted out in 26 of 
the nation's 32 states, AMLO's people closed down 
toll booths at the gates of Mexico City, slipping 
plastic bags that read "Voto Por Voto" over the 
coin collection boxes, and let thousands of 
motorists into the city for free--not really a 
huge favor in a megalopolis where traffic has 
been hopelessly snarled since the encampments 
were established July 30. In response, the 
federal commission (CAFUPE) that oversees 
Mexico's mostly privatized highways--road tolls 
are some of the most expensive in the world to 
insure a quick return on transnational 
investment--offered to drag Lopez Obrador into 
court for endangering the taxpayers' patrimony.

In a concerted effort to disrupt Mexico's highly 
globalized economy, supporters also shut down 
three major foreign-owned banks (all Mexican 
banks are foreign-owned) and blocked doors at the 
Finance Ministry's tax-collection offices--AMLO's 
people shut down the Mexican stock market the week before.

The civil resistance campaign has stoked a 
backlash amongst chilangos (Mexico City 
residents) who did not vote for Lopez Obrador, 
the former mayor of the capital. 349 motorists 
have filed complaints with the city's human 
rights commission protesting that their right of 
free transit is being violated by the camp-in. 
Interim mayor Alejandro Encinas, AMLO's one-time 
left-hand man and a roly-poly former communist, 
has been threatened with impeachment for failing 
to order the police to clean out the encampments. 
One transnational publicity outfit that has 
display advertising contracts with the city filed 
charges with the attorney general because its 
clients' billboards were being visually obstructed by the campers' tents.

To answer the charges, several thousand 
protestors marched on federal law enforcement 
offices, some wearing convict's stripes, others 
in handcuffs or hogtied or wearing nooses around 
their necks but all sporting notices of their 
intention of turning themselves into the 
authorities for "defending democracy."

But while these hijinks grabbed the cameras, 
behind locked doors in 149 district offices of 
the much-abused IFE and indeed staffed by the 
same IFE technicians who had fouled the July 2 
vote, the partial recount proceeded under the 
eyes of hurriedly appointed members of the 
judiciary, not all of them of proven probity by 
any means, and the representatives of the 
political parties. The press was locked out, 
permitted in only for photo ops and on-the-fly 
interviews with party reps. But despite the 
absence of hard info, the numbers began to flow sub rosa early on.

Inside the counting rooms, Mexico's 2006 
presidential election, exalted by the U.S. State 
Department as a paragon of democracy, was not a 
pretty sight. Hundreds of ballot boxes warehoused 
under military guard had been broken into, their 
seals ripped open, and the contents contaminated. 
Sometimes the ballots were scattered on the floor 
of the warehouse, sometimes there were no ballots 
inside the boxes to verify what the tally sheets 
("actas") affirmed. When AMLO's representatives 
grew apoplectic at the wholesale fraud, the 
judges ordered the military to expel them from the recount.

Jalisco, a PAN citadel, was the first state to 
report results on election night--there was a 
governor's race on the ballot as well as the 
presidential vote and the PAN seemed to have 
kicked ass, building up a 70 per cent landslide. 
But the results seemed so out of whack with 
national numbers (Calderon was awarded a highly 
dubious .58 per cent victory by the IFE) that the 
judges ordered more than 1700 casillas in the state reopened.

The new count did not sustain Calderon's Election 
Day claims. In 15 ballot boxes in District 3 
(Tepatitlan), the PANista had been awarded 2700 
votes according to the tally sheets that could 
not be found in the ballot boxes. Lopez Obrador, 
meanwhile, picked up 250 votes in the district, 
about 12 per casilla--Calderon's disputed 243,000 
"victory" breaks down to about 1.8 per casilla.

On paper, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had only to 
accumulate a total of 24,000 votes recovered in 
his favor or subtracted from Calderon's in the 
partial sample--10 per cent of all the 
precincts--in order to catch the right-winger and 
force the judges to count out all the ballots 
"voto por voto." According to the PRD's electoral 
guru Horacio Duarte, not only has AMLO rescued 
that many votes in the recount but also at least 
150,000 Calderon votes cannot be substantiated by the recount,
Extrapolating the total vote from these estimates 
would give Lopez Obrador a 1.5 million-vote victory.

Thousands of ballots not found in the ballot 
boxes were apparently added to the PANista's 
total July 2 while thousands of other ballots 
issued to the precincts were never accounted for. 
One federal judge has suggested that voters took 
them home as souvenirs. In addition, nearly a 
million ballots cast July 2 were declared null 
and void by federal election officials--nearly 
four times the margin of Calderon's purported triumph.

Indeed the gross number of anomalies found in the 
sample that now must be evaluated by the TRIFE 
could result in the annulation of enough 
districts to throw the election back to Lopez 
Obrador - although no one is banking on such a 
happy ending. AMLO himself seems to have lost 
faith in a judicial process that has always 
favored the rich and powerful, and now talks of 
preventing the presidency of Felipe Calderon from being imposed upon the land.

FUTURE TENSE

This past Sunday (August 13), amidst rumors that 
the encampments were about to be lifted, Andres 
Manuel Lopez Obrador took his customary stance on 
the speaker's platform in the packed Zocalo plaza 
for yet another "informative assembly". For the 
first time in years, I was invited to view the 
proceedings from the roof garden of the Majestic 
Hotel where AMLO's less impoverished supporters 
often convene for brunch--the Majestic fronts the 
Zocalo in sniper's range of Lopez Obrador.

Down below, tens of thousands of little yellow 
AMLO ants swarmed and seethed, the chants of "los 
de abajo" rising in great waves from the street 
and infecting even the "perfumados" (the perfumed 
ones.) "Voto Por Voto, Casilla Por Casilla!" and 
"No Estas Solo!" rang from the rooftop garden.

 From that vantage point, Lopez Obrador was 
poised right behind the monumental Mexican flag 
planted at the exact center of the plaza. The 
red, white and green banner, which features an 
eagle devouring a snake on a nopal cactus bush, 
kept furling and unfurling dramatically, definitely the visual of the day.

Lopez Obrador was here to talk about the future. 
No, the camps would not be dismantled. He 
projected that they might remain in place for 
years. As usual, he did not express much hope 
that even confronted by the stinking garbage of 
electoral fraud their own recount had vomited up, 
the judges would open any more ballot boxes and 
count out the votes one by one. Even now, they 
were preparing to sweep the whole mess under the 
legal rug and crown Calderon king of Mexico. The 
immediate task was to prevent the TRIFE from 
putting the certificate of constancy that would 
confirm the July 2 flimflam in Felipe's little 
hand. Whenever and wherever this crime was to 
take place, AMLO appealed to his supporters to 
disrupt the ceremony--peacefully, of course.

There were other dates on the calendar of civil 
resistance. On September 1, outgoing President 
Vicente Fox is to go to congress to present his 
annual "Informe" or State of the Union address 
and Lopez Obrador called upon his people to 
surround the legislature. An attempt to establish 
a camp outside the building August 14 was 
repelled by Federal Preventative Police and Fox's 
elite military guard. Newly elected PRD 
legislators were gassed and beaten, the first 
overt repression against AMLO's people during the post-electoral troubles.

On September 15, Fox is slated to deliver his 
final Independence Day "Grito" ("Viva Mexico!") 
to a usually jammed Zocalo but the fiery leftist 
advised the president to find another venue--his 
people were here now and they would deliver their 
own grito. AMLO also encouraged his supporters to 
dog Fox as he travels around the country, 
protesting his role in the Great Fraud at every 
stop--there have already been shoving matches 
between AMLO's people and the elite troops assigned to protect the president.

Loath to expose his person to an enraged public, 
Felipe Calderon has yet to venture outside 
business and political circles in upscale 
southern Mexico City--his SUV was attacked by 
furious street venders on his one foray outside his insulated bailiwick.

September 16 promises to be an exhilarating day 
on AMLO's dance card. Traditionally, the Zocalo 
is the starting point for an ultra patriotic 
military parade that day. Battalion after 
battalion goose step beneath the President's 
flag-bedecked balcony as he waves from the 
National Palace. But instead of martial music and 
streaking jet fighters, Lopez Obrador is 
summoning all Mexicans to flock to the Zocalo for 
an historic National Democratic Convention. How 
the Generals will respond to this cheeky 
challenge is not much of a mystery. The tanks will be in the street.

Armageddon is scheduled for December 1 on AMLO's 
calendar. That's when FeCal, as he is universally 
dubbed by his detractors, will receive the 
presidential sash from his predecessor. As Luis 
Hernandez, editor of the national left daily La 
Jornada op ed page recently speculated, the 
inauguration will probably take place behind the 
walls of Military Camp #1 in western Mexico City to avoid civil insurrection.

In addition to strong-arming Calderon, Lopez 
Obrador is reportedly seeking consensus among the 
PRD's congressional representatives, about a 
third of the 628 deputies and senators, not to 
take office September 1. Such a strike by elected 
officials could paralyze the new congress and 
trigger constitutional crisis. But some 
legislators argue that the PAN-PRI majority will 
use the interval to order the destruction of the 
evidence of massive fraud July 2nd by burning the 
ballots, much as they did after the PRI stole the 
election from Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in 1988.

And after Armageddon--what next? Widespread armed 
rebellion? A new Mexican revolution? A sniper's 
bullet from a window of the Majestic Hotel? Will Oliver Stone make the movie?

John Ross's ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World 
Possible--Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 will 
be published by Nation Books in October. Ross 
will travel the left coast this fall with the new 
volume and a hot-off-the-press chapbook of poetry 
Bomba!--all suggestions of venues will be 
cheerfully entertained--write <mailto:johnross at igc.org>johnross at igc.org


The Freedom Archives
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