[News] Death of the Mexican Presidency

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Sep 6 13:09:28 EDT 2006


http://www.counterpunch.org/

September 6, 2006


Adios, To the Fox!


Death of the Mexican Presidency

By JOHN ROSS

Mexico City.

The tableau of 155 leftist deputies and senators 
storming the tribune of congress here September 1 
to prevent President Vicente Fox from delivering 
his sixth and final State of the Union address 
(the "Informe") should be mandatory viewing for 
members of both houses of the U.S. Congress who, 
year after year, burst into servile applause for 
George Bush when each January he imposes his own 
infernal Informe upon the citizens of Gringolandia.

One crucial political distinction between these 
two distant neighbor nations is the presence of a 
third party in the Mexican mix, one that at least 
purports to be left of the center. Swindled out 
of the presidency by fraud this past July 2, the 
party of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO)--the 
Party of the Democratic Revolution or 
PRD--appears to have broken with the political class and traditional cronyism.

It is not that the PRD's hands are clean­ its 
legislators have regularly prostituted their 
wares - but in the wake of the stolen election 
and having been frozen out of any power positions 
in the brand-new congress despite being Mexico's 
second political force, the Party of AMLO has 
little to lose, and is suddenly speaking its 
truth to power, a singular position for any politico right or left.

Despite rampant corruption, regular vote 
stealing, and authoritarian tendencies, Mexico's 
multi-party system makes U.S. "democracy" with 
its two-headed single party rule, look a lot more 
like Idi Amin's Uganda than what the Boston tea 
party had in mind for the future citizens of the 
United States of North America.

The spectacle of elected officials being pissed 
off enough to stare down tin-plate potentates 
like President Vicente Fox topped off weeks of 
scuffling in and around the 10 kilometer steel 
wall Mexican troops had thrown up around the 
Legislative Palace to keep Lopez Obrador's 
die-hard supporters from congregating in shouting 
distance of the congress of the country. On the 
government side of the barricade, 6000 
preventative police (drawn from the military) and 
Fox's own presidential guard or the Estado Mayor 
had turned the congressional precinct into a war 
zone. One side in this standoff was equipped with 
clubs, electric shields, tear gas, water cannons, 
light tanks, live ammunition, and snipers up on 
the rooftops. The other only with its dreams and 
its "coraje" (righteous anger.) Guess which side won?

When I first touched down in this mile-high 
capital a full generation ago, Informe Day was a 
sacrosanct national holiday. Banks closed, 
workers got the day off, the streets were lined 
with adoring fans of the sitting president who 
was always a member of the Institutional 
Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the confetti 
drizzled down from the heavens above like 
worthless manna. Each September 1, El Presidente 
would be escorted into the PRI-controlled 
congress by a military honor guard and a gaggle 
of obsequious legislatures for sometimes six-hour speeches to the nation.

But little by little, this pompous ritual, which 
is not contemplated by the constitution and was 
first mandated by the PRI's founder General 
Plutarco Elias Calles in 1928 with the sole goal 
of aggrandizing an imperial presidency at the 
expense of the other two houses of government, 
has been stripped down to the bone largely due to 
the incessant heckling of a third party, the PRD.

This year, Informe Day dawned dark and 
apocalyptic, an evil wind snaking through the 
deserted streets of the capital in anticipation 
of violent clashes to come. At 4 in the 
afternoon, Lopez Obrador summoned his followers 
to the great Zocalo plaza, where he and 10,000 
more have been encamped for five weeks now, to 
issue marching orders to the left-leaning hordes 
about to throw themselves against the military's 
metal walls. But despite the masses' eagerness, 
AMLO's marching orders were not to march after 
all. His people now occupied 
<http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1560255781/counterpunchmaga>
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the political heart of Mexico, he reasoned, why 
give it up? Moreover, the Fox was pouring 
hundreds of thousands of pesos every day in 
policing costs just to keep them right where they 
were, the most strategic space in the nation. So 
should we march, Lopez Obrador asked the 
assembly. The vote was mixed, with many hands 
raised in favor of mayhem and AMLO had to cajole 
the crowd into non-violence. As if on cue, Lila 
Downs and Rita Guerrero, two of Mexico's stellar 
songbirds, were brought out to warble for the born-again pacifist throng.

Nonetheless, bands of hot-hearted students and 
workers set out for the nearby Legislative Palace 
to do battle with the robocops. Although this 
movement has been miraculously free of violence, 
after a month of living in the streets, many are itchy for fisticuffs.

While ski-masked youths scrimmaged on the 
barricades with Fox's cops and others shook their 
bodies in the Zocalo, the 155-member 
congressional delegation of AMLO's Coalition for 
the Good of All was examining its options. Having 
literally forced their way through the military 
checkpoints and the metal detectors to enter the 
Legislative Palace, they were in no mood for 
symbolic protest, as has so often been the 
antistrophe during the President's annual 
address. "We come as aggrieved citizens" warned 
Carlos Navarete, leader of the PRD in the senate 
and an ex-communist, and they were going to let 
the President, his bogus successor Felipe 
Calderon, and the archly right-wing PAN party 
know it. Besides stealing the election and 
unconstitutionally cordoning off congress with 
the troops, Fox's PAN, in league with
the PRI had rubbed salt in the PRD's wounds by 
keeping AMLO's party out of the direction of 
every committee in the new legislature. Now it was pay back time.

One after another, the parties, starting with the 
most inconsequential--the so-called "Alternative 
Social Democratic Farmers Party" (two 
seats)--followed each other to the podium to diss 
the Fox in the traditional run-up to the President's blahblah.

When it was Navarete's turn, the Senator seized 
the microphone to denounce the constitutional 
violations that had turned congress into an armed 
camp and declared that he would not budge from 
the podium until the barriers came down and the 
robocops sent back to barracks. 154 more leftist 
senators and deputies solemnly filed onto the 
tribune and proclaimed their solidarity. In a 
matter of seconds, the Mexican Congress had been 
transformed into an extension of the seven-mile 
encampment of AMLO's devotees that has clogged 
the city's thoroughfares for a month and so enraged the motoring class here.

No matter how many times the frozen-faced PANista 
president of congress Jorge Zerminio rapped his 
gavel and ordered the leftists back to their 
seats, AMLO's legislators would not be moved. 
They proudly stood their ground up on the podium, 
waving signs and banners labeling Vicente Fox "a 
traitor to democracy" and much worse.

After weeks of being excluded from the cameras of 
Mexico's two-headed television monopoly, Lopez 
Obrador's message was suddenly being carried on 
prime time. Both Televisa and its pipsqueak 
partner TV Azteca, obligated by time constraints 
and the imminent arrival of the President, could 
not cut away. There in the eye of the nation, 
newly-elected senators Rosario Ibarra de Piedra, 
the grande dame of Mexico's human rights 
movement, and the luminous actress Maria Rojo, 
kept flapping their insolent signs and chanting that Fox was a traitor.

The President and his pouting wife Martita had 
been helicoptered in from Los Pinos, Mexico's 
White House to deliver his State of the Union 
message. Guarded by hundreds of dark-suited 
goons, they were then transferred to a fleet of 
bulletproof SUVs, and warned that there was 
trouble in the congress. When the convoy pulled 
up to the principle door of the legislative 
palace, the President tentatively emerged as if 
not knowing what to expect--Martita was held back 
by the bodyguards--and slowly, painfully mounted 
the great steps of congress (he has a bad back.) 
The tension was now as taut as a drawn catapult. 
The sacred scenario of the Informe was about to go kaplooy.

The Fox got about a foot and a half inside the 
lobby of congress before he found himself face to 
face with the indignant leaders of the PAN 
contingent in the new legislature who had the 
unpleasant task of informing him that the tribune 
was occupied by AMLO's dirty yellow scum and for 
the first time in modern Mexican political 
history, the President would not be allowed to 
deliver his State of the Union bullshit to the 
nation. Fox got gray real quick, his jowly face a 
mask of indecision and befuddlement for all to 
see. The cameras were grinding and the whole 
country glued to the tube as Fox's authority and 
what was left of the imperial presidency collapsed into dust.

After conferring with his attorney general, the 
President must have realized that the final nail 
had been driven into the coffin of this useless 
ceremony, handed the text of his Informe to the 
secretary of the Congress in completion of his 
constitutional obligations, turned on his heels, 
and phalanxed by the Presidential Guard, trudged 
back down the steps of Congress. "ADIOOOOOS!" 
AMLO's leftists crooned from the tribune.

Outside, Martita was waiting for the green light 
to enter the Palace and flout the dazzling new 
frock the taxpayers had bought her and when she 
realized that her hubby had been rebuffed, her 
little face crumpled up in a grimace of disgust. 
The President and the First Lady were then driven 
back to the whirlybirds and returned to Los Pinos 
where Fox was rushed into the presidential 
television studio to doctor up a tape of the 
thwarted address pre-recorded for just such a 
contingency. Broadcast an hour later on all 
television and radio outlets and intercut with 
footage of smiling Indians and exuberant school 
children, the once-inviolable Informe was reduced to an info-mercial.

Meanwhile back in Congress, the leftist 
legislators clung to the podium despite the 
snarling insults of the PANistas, waving their 
mocking signs and tootling little Fox-40 Classic 
whistles as if they had suddenly all become 
soccer referees, until they were finally assured 
that the troops outside were being retired and 
the metal barriers disassembled. By then, the TV 
buzzards had long since lost interest in the 
denouement and one by one faded back into regular 
programming. Mr. Bean and Bart Simpson now filled the screen.

At the most nerve-wracking juncture in this 
battle for the soul of Mexico, AMLO had won a 
stunning propaganda victory, pyrrhic as it may 
prove to be, and his people celebrated 
accordingly. In the camps along the Paseo de 
Reforma and in the Zocalo, supporters embraced 
and jumped up and down ("he who does not jump is 
a PANista"), yodeled "adiooooooses" at the Fox, 
waved flags, detonated bottle rockets, and 
rehydrated a movement that had been flagging 
under a deluge of hard rain and bad news.

For Vicente and Martita this farewell fracaso 
capped a disastrous plunge from grace. Elected in 
2000 in a geyser of hope as the first opposition 
candidate to take the presidency since the PRI 
had franchised the office, things had soured 
fast. After pledging to resolve the crisis in 
Chiapas "in 15 minutes" and promising in his 
inaugural address to make the Indian rights 
accords that the Zapatistas had signed with the 
outgoing PRI government the law of the land, Fox 
had failed to deliver and the rebels had broken 
off all contact with his government. Six years 
later, that southern state still leaked blood.

Here at the end of his reign, Oaxaca was on 
fire--a new guerrilla group had appeared in 
public on the day of the Informe--and in the wake 
of the stolen election, the tangled traffic, and 
the military takeover of congress, Mexico City 
was on the brink of a nervous breakdown.

In the six years Fox had occupied the throne of 
Mexico, the rich had grown exponentially richer 
and the poor were just as poor as ever. During 
his years in office, 4,000,000 of Vicente Fox's 
fellow citizens had been forced to abandon the 
country for El Norte because of zero job growth 
and the depletion of the agricultural sector. The 
President much hoopla'd "Whole Enchilada" i.e. 
integral immigration reform had been flushed down 
Bush's toilet and the nation had endured six 
years of legislative gridlock. Hundreds of women 
had been slaughtered in Ciudad Juarez and the 
narco gangs were beheading their rivals in broad 
daylight on the streets of provincial cities. 
Meanwhile Martita's sons were about to be indicted for "illegal enrichment."

With the country divided in half between brown 
and white, rich and poor, the future - the 
imposition of Felipe Calderon upon an incredulous populace--looks dim.

The Informe and the display of military might in 
which it had unfurled was a dress rehearsal for 
December 1 when Fox will try and hang the 
tri-color presidential sash around Calderon's 
neck as if it were Coleridge's albatross. AMLO 
himself is about to set up a parallel government 
that will dog Fox's successor for the next six 
years when the leftist convenes the Democratic 
National Convention on Mexican Independence Day 
September 16. A million delegates are expected to 
attend this milestone in the heroic resistance of 
AMLO's people to the imposition of Calderon.

Such a government would be illegal and constitute 
usurpation of functions, a crime punishable by 
many years in prison, threatens Attorney General 
Carlos Abascal. The officious presidential 
spokesperson, Ruben Aguilar, proposes that Lopez Obrador
be tried for rebellion, another felony. The 
taking of the tribune of Congress by his senators 
and deputies could result in the cancellation of 
the PRD's registration as a political party, the 
PAN advises. The criminalization of AMLO--Fox has 
been trying to lock him up in La Palma, the 
nation's maximum lock-up, for years--is in the wind.

But September 1 was a moment in this skein that 
not many Mexicans of meager means and less power 
will soon forget. "We sure showed those 'pinches 
rateros' who this country belongs to, no 
Juanito?" bellowed 71 year-old Isidro Garcia, a 
former boxer who handymans here at the Hotel 
Isabel, clapping me hard on my bum spine. I saw 
that same twinkle now gleaming in Isidro's eye 
long ago after Cuauhtemoc Cardenas had whipped 
the reviled Carlos Salinas, the root of much of 
this evil, out in Michoacan back in '88. Some 
precincts had come in 600 to zero not so much for 
Cardenas but against the PRI. When I asked the 
colonos what had happened, they would gleefully 
report "nos hemos chingada el PRI".

"Do you know what a pendejo (cuckold or idiot) 
is?" Celia Cruz, an increasingly hunched-over 
"camarista" (bed maker) here at the Isabel 
laughed up at me, her eyes dancing to the top of 
her head, "a pendejo is an "arrogante" (arrogant 
person) who doesn't know he is a pendejo. Este Fox! Que pendejo!"

As I top off this chronicle, the seven judge 
panel or TRIFE that must at last declare a winner 
in this stolen election, is about to name Felipe 
Calderon the next president of Mexico, although 
the court's rotund condemnation of Fox's 
unconstitutional intervention on behalf of his 
fellow PANista would seem to have called for annulation of the July 2 election.

But for Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinajosa and his 
elite white ilk, the TRIFE's confirmation would 
seem to be another pyrrhic victory when the fury 
of those who have been once again defrauded out 
of their votes is measured. This battle for the soul of Mexico is not over yet.

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


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