- Created: Wednesday, 06 May 2009 10:35
- Written by Robert Clough
FRFI 192 August / September 2006
On Sunday 16 July, more than one and a half million people flooded into the Zocalo square in the centre of Mexico City to demand a full recount of the 2 July presidential vote and restore the result to the rightful winner, Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). In a blatantly rigged election, Felipe Calderon of the pro-imperialist National Action Party (PAN) was declared winner by a margin of 0.58%, 243,000 votes out of 42 million cast. Now the masses will decide the result on the streets of Mexico’s cities in mobilisations which will terrify the Mexican ruling class and its allies in Washington. ROBERT CLOUGH reports.
This outcome was inevitable. The ruling class had tried everything to frustrate an inevitable Obrador victory. In March 2005, it attempted to prevent the popular Mexico City Mayor from standing as a presidential candidate by alleging public misconduct in widening a road to a hospital. Over a million people took to the streets and restored him to the ballot. During the campaign itself, the ruling class demonised Obrador as another Chavez, believing this would cost him support. Although Obrador’s politics are completely social democratic, as his campaigning slogan ‘For the good of all, the poor first’ suggests, even his mildly progressive programme presents a profound challenge to the neo-liberal order.
In Mexico, 50% of the population live in poverty; bribery and corruption are endemic. Between 1960 and 1980 its per capita income had grown by 99%; between 1980 and 2005 under the pressure of neo-liberalism, the growth had amounted to a mere 19%. Obrador did not campaign for the end of the North American Free Trade Association which has brought the Mexican economy to its knees, but did promise to cancel a clause which would unleash subsidised US corn and beans exports onto the Mexican market in 2008, destroying the livelihoods of tens of thousands of farmers.
The fraud that took place was pervasive. It started at the top, with the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), Mexico’s electoral authorities. The software it used to count the votes was supplied by Calderon’s brother-in-law Diego Zavala. By the evening of Monday 3 July, IFE was claiming that 98% of the votes had been counted and that Calderon was the clear winner. In fact its own screens showed that only 39 out of 42 million votes had been counted – three million had been ‘lost’. Throughout Monday and Tuesday reports of missing votes and manipulated local counts started to flood in. In the town of Comalcolo, the people seized a PAN truck containing thousands of votes destined for the dump before they could be included in the national tally: Obrador had taken 73,473 votes against 3,863 for Calderon. At a rally attended by half a million in Mexico City on 9 July, Obrador played a recording of a telephone conversation between a corrupt PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) trade union leader and a PRI state governor, where the trade unionist urges the governor to contact Calderon ‘to sell him what you have’ by way of PRI votes because the PRI candidate is so far behind.
The back-drop to the election was an intensifying class struggle. On 21 April 1,000 armed police attacked 600 striking steel workers who fought back with slingshots and iron ore pellets, driving the police off. Two young workers were killed. This followed the removal by outgoing President Vincente Fox of the leader of the miners’ union, Napoleon Urrita, after he organised strikes in protest at the death of 65 coal miners in a pit accident. In Oaxaca, 70,000 teachers have been on strike since June. On 15 June, an attempt by police to evict them from an encampment in the central plaza of the state capital ended in failure. Half a million people marched in their support the following week calling for the formation of an autonomous popular assembly. In May police also attacked protesting farmers in Atenco just outside Mexico City, killing two, beating and jailing hundreds and raping or sexually abusing more than 20 women. The farmers have received wide-spread support. Finally, the Zapatistas organised in The Other Campaign have toured the country demanding a constituent assembly. Their leader, Delegate Zero, formerly Sub Comandante Marcos, has expressed support for the campaign to retrieve the stolen election. That campaign will continue to take to the streets.