Revolution #54, July 23, 2006


Mexico Tense in Wake of Election

On July 6 Felipe Calderon of the National Action Party (PAN) was officially declared the winner in the Mexican presidential election. Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, presidential candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has said that he is the winner. Before, during, and after the elections, there was obvious evidence of fraud including video of ballots being destroyed. Lopez Obrador has demanded that the votes must be recounted and the election decided by the Federal Election Tribunal.

Mexican media have reported charges that the election itself was rigged through “cybernetic fraud.” The computer system used for the election tallied 30,000 more votes for the president than for senators in all the states where the PAN won and 300,000 less votes for president than for senators in the states where the PRD won. When the votes were counted in the polling places, in the areas where Lopez Obrador won, votes were taken off, and Calderon’s votes were duplicated. 827,000 ballots from poor neighborhoods, where the vote was more likely to be for Lopez Obrador, were supposedly left blank. The software program used in the computer to tally the votes was written by a company owned by Felipe Calderon’s brother-in-law.

The Federal Election Commission in charge of conducting the election and tabulating the votes is completely dominated by the PRI (the Party of the Institutionalized Revolution—which controlled Mexico as a virtual one-party state until recently) and the PAN. Many of the long-time commission members are supporters of the richest bankers in Mexico, PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state-owned oil company), and representatives of foreign corporations.

Aside from outright rigging of the voting process, the voter rolls were tampered with ahead of time to purge likely PRD voters, and people who receive public funds were threatened if they did not vote for the PAN. It was reported in the alternative press that two election workers from the PRD were killed in Guerrero. Before the election the PAN organizations in the U.S. received a $4 million grant from the Ford Foundation to strengthen their ability to organize the vote for the PAN. With the help of the Mexican Consulate they used the state databases to identify those who would vote for the PRD and they were eliminated from the voting rolls. Those Mexicans who traveled to Tijuana to vote found that there weren’t enough ballots available.

The “Huge Postponed Poverty Agenda” and U.S. Domination of Mexico

Underlying the tension around the election result is the intolerable situation for the vast majority of Mexican people. The election was staged (and managed) to divert people’s anger into a process that did not and could not address the fundamental problems people face. And now, with massive election fraud coming out in the news, if Lopez Obrador just accepts the results, that anger could erupt in ways outside of the control of the system.

One of Lopez Obrador’s U.S. polling consultants put it this way: “This society has a huge postponed poverty agenda, and Lopez Obrador speaks for these people. If he backs down without defending their votes, he runs the risk of pushing those people out of the electoral arena into other options that are not good for anyone.”

While Lopez Obrador does not in fact “speak for” the real interests of the people, there is indeed a “huge postponed poverty agenda” in Mexico. In Mexico today, ten percent of the population control 40% of the wealth, the third richest man in the world is a Mexican businessman, while 50 million Mexicans, roughly half the population, are living on less than $4 a day.

Setting the stage for all this, and hovering over every aspect of Mexican society, is the massive impact of deeply embedded capital from the United States. NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement) has uprooted millions of people: one out of ten people in Mexico (10%) migrate to the U.S., and the remittances sent home have become the second largest source of income for the country after oil revenues. Another 15% of the population uprooted by the agricultural crisis migrates inside the country, often to the belt of sweatshops (maquiladoras) near the border with the U.S.

NAFTA eliminated all barriers to U.S. capital and commodities, slashed back social programs, and privatized state-owned enterprises. Lower-priced U.S. products have flooded Mexico. Mexican farmers can’t compete with capital-intensive U.S. agribusiness, which receives large government subsidies from the U.S. government. Millions of peasants and small businessmen have been bankrupted. Every year, almost 3 million tons of Mexican corn is left to rot because it is too expensive to sell while Mexican commodity importers receive low-interest loans to buy crops from the United States.

Neither Calderon or Lopez Obrador had a program that would fundamentally change the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. But Lopez Obrador called his campaign “For the Good of All, The Poor First” and said that his main objective is to “promote hope” among those who have most suffered from the free trade NAFTA program.

While an analysis of Lopez Obrador’s agenda is beyond the scope of this writing, he did not have a platform that would fundamentally challenge the domination of Mexico by U.S. capital. Nevertheless, Lopez Obrador was never intended to win this election. The candidate considered most reliable by the U.S. is Felipe Calderon who vows to complete the economic restructuring to benefit free trade that Fox was not able to carry out, such as opening the country’s state-controlled energy sector to private investment. The various levels of fixing the election took place in that context, as will whatever “review” is conducted by the electoral commission.

Post-Election Tension, Potential Dangers, and Opportunities for the People

The intense struggle around these elections is occurring within a social climate in Mexico that is already taut with explosive struggle. In the months before the elections there was extreme government repression carried out against workers and social movements. Lopez Obrador has remained silent about all these struggles. After an explosion and cave-in killed dozens of miners, the government attacked their families when they protested the terrible conditions in the mines. Two steelworkers in Michoacan were killed by government forces who attacked their strike, as were several teachers in Oaxaca. In punishment for struggles to defend land in Atenco, two youth were killed, almost 100 arrested and the women gang-raped by police called in by the mayor. In Chiapas, the PRD candidate for the Senate has declared that the Zapatistas must be smashed and he is vehemently hated by the masses.

This is a very explosive situation that could develop in unpredictable ways and spin out of control. There is potential for a whole range of developments, including more repression on either or both sides of the border. Millions are searching for real solutions and radical change. What is now an electoral crisis could leap out of the electoral framework creating openings for genuine struggle from below and opportunities for advances in revolutionary activity .

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