Mexico: massive protests against electoral fraud

Massive protests have taken place across Mexico at the massive fraud behind Pena Nieto’s victory in the 1 July presidential election. Standing for the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Nieto got 38.2% of the vote; his social democratic opponent, Lopez Obrador, got 31.2%, with Josefina Mota

(National Action Party, PAN), 25.4%. Nieto’s winning margin was much greater than President Calderon’s in the 2006 election when Calderon got just 0.58% more than Obrador. That led to widespread protests and a partial recount whose results were never made public by the Federal Electoral Institute because the evidence is that it would have shown that Obrador had won. In 2012 the corruption was far more naked: vote buying on a huge scale, with the PRI spending between $250m and $500m on plastic gift cards worth $7 each which could be used in the Soriana supermarket chain. Hundreds of voters gathered outside PRI offices on election night demanding the 2,500 pesos they had been promised for handing over their voter cards: the minimum wage is 46 pesos a day, or about £2.20. There was also widespread intimidation of voters to ensure that they voted for a party which ran Mexico as a one-party state for over 60 years to 2000.

For over 30 years, since 1980, successive Mexican presidents have adopted neo-liberalism, subordinating the Mexican economy entirely to the needs of US imperialism: 80% of the country’s non-oil exports are destined for the US. The result has been a disaster for the working class and peasantry. The 1990s saw hundreds of thousands of peasants and farm workers forced off the land by the provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement which allowed heavily-subsidised US agricultural products such as corn and beans to flood into the country and undercut local agriculture. Over a million workers went into the maquila sweatshop sector where the already appalling working conditions were made worse by increased competition from China. Per capita GDP, which had risen by 92% between 1960 and 1980, rose by a mere 6% in the next two decades and by 0.9% per annum since 2000.  Privatisation of state-owned industries has created a layer of billionaires: the world’s richest person with a fortune of $74bn is a Mexican, Carlos Slim. Poverty levels have soared over the six years of Calderon’s presidency, from 42.7% to 51.3% in 2010. 40% of the workforce is either unemployed or underemployed; there are seven million young people who are neither studying nor in work. Calderon’s war on drugs has involved 40,000 troops and has cost 60,000 lives, with 10,000 ‘disappeared’.  

This was the backdrop the 2012 presidential campaign. From the outset, the Mexican bourgeoisie were determined to get their man elected. The two principal TV companies which have a 95% broadcast share (TV Azteca, owned by Ricardo Pliego, Mexico’s third richest person with $8.2bn, and Televisa, owned Emilio Jean, sixth richest with $2.3bn) gave Nieto their complete support. It was this bias that launched the Yo Soy 132 movement. When Nieto visited the Ibero-American University on 11 May, he was challenged by students on his human rights record as governor of the state of Mexico between 2005 and 2011. The students were denounced as infiltrators with Televisa leading the way. 131 of the university students then made a video brandishing their student cards: they were followed by thousands of others tweeting ‘Yo soy [I am] 132’. On 23 May Yo Soy 132 organised demonstrations in 20 cities across the country. When TV Azteca and Televisa refused to nationally broadcast the first presidential debate on 6 May, Yo Soy 132 ran their own on 19 June, broadcasting it online through Youtube. Nieto was alone among the presidential candidates in refusing to participate in this second debate.

President Obama was quick off the mark to congratulate Nieto on his victory. Mexico is along with Colombia the US’s principal ally in Latin America. On 7 July, Yo Soy 132 and Obrador’s Democratic Revolution Party organised huge protest demonstrations, the largest since 2006. The question now is how You Soy 132 will develop. Obrador had moved to the right in 2012 and did not gain any extra support for this. Yo Soy 132 has declared itself an apolitical, peaceful movement. However the youth who have been drawn behind its protests will want something more than this if they are to tackle the legacy of neoliberalism.

Robert Claridge


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