Revolution #60, September 10, 2006


Who Is AMLO, What Is His Program, and Where Will It Lead?

Many honest people who want to fight for change have put their faith in the calls for resistance and the militant words of AMLO, and see in him an option for change, or at least as the lesser of two evils. He calls his coalition “For the Good of All, the Poor First.” But who is AMLO and what does he represent?

The PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) has its roots in the PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution), the party that was formed (under the name of Party of the National Revolution—PNR) in 1929 to consolidate the defeat of the 1910 Mexican revolution and to “institutionalize the revolution.” In fact, PRI represented the landlord and big business capitalist classes, and held power in Mexico for 70 years. Once the regime fell into political crisis, some of the leaders of the PRI formed the PRD, to provide a more democratic-seeming alternative. Most of the leftist parties in Mexico also joined the PRD. Since its creation, the PRD has served the ruling classes as an instrument to control the masses, and channel their revolutionary sentiments into a dead-end electoral path.

AMLO joined the PRI in the mid-1970s after it had been in power for over 40 years and had carried out the massacre of students in Mexico City in 1968, as well as a “dirty war” to crush guerrilla groups and rural resistance. He served as a PRI official for over 10 years before joining the PRD and running for governor of Tabasco. In his presidential campaign, his closest advisors are high-level former PRI officials who served in the regimes of Echeverria (1970-1976), López Portillo (1976-1982), de la Madrid (1982-1988) and Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) administrations. How can AMLO represent a new order when he is so deeply enmeshed in the old oppressive one?

The masses and popular organizations that support AMLO are doing so because they think that he will stop the devastation to the land and people of Mexico wrought by NAFTA and globalization. But in fact AMLO supports globalization, and expanding maquiladoras through the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). He says that Mexico has to find the way to make globalization work to their advantage and become competitive in the world market. (See “50 compromisos para recuperar el orgullo nacional” at This point is found under #25.) He points to China as a positive example of this, where the wages for the workers are four times lower than Mexico—because China has been able to build up development on top of this super-exploitation and invest in other countries, (including Mexico). Many of the maquiladoras (assembly plants), which had come to Mexico to exploit the low-paid workers, have now moved to China where they can pay the workers even less, and where the costs of doing business are cheaper. AMLO proposes to give maquiladoras tax breaks and incentives to attract them back to Mexico. How will this represent the true interests of the workers exploited and worked to death in these maquiladoras—and then cast out when capital moves on to suck the blood of its next victim?

AMLO says that he is against the provision of NAFTA that will flood the country with U.S.-produced corn and beans, since this is the staple food in Mexico. In reality, Mexico has already been flooded with corn and beans from the U.S. for years, and to stop this practice would require overturning NAFTA and free trade. Instead of ending NAFTA, he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he proposes renegotiating certain clauses “using, of course, the mechanisms that are set forth in the treaty itself,” and promoting investment in agriculture for export and agro-industry and “cooperation for development” with the U.S. This type of “development” depends on desperately poor migrant laborers to do the seasonal work on the farms. The owners of these export and agro-industry businesses are a few imperialist corporations, such as Monsanto and Cargill, together with their “business partners” in the big capitalist and landlord classes in Mexico.

For example, in Baja California Sur the farms that export fruits and vegetables to the U.S. are owned in partnership between U.S. corporations and Mexican capitalists. These farms are the “success stories” of NAFTA, and their need for labor has increased five-fold since NAFTA went into effect. They exploit migrant laborer who are trucked in from the indigenous south of Mexico by labor contractors promising good wages and nice living quarters. The indigenous population of Baja California Sur was exterminated in the conquest of Mexico, but now indigenous people speaking at least 7 different languages compose 75% of the labor force on these farms—including thousands of children who work without access to schooling. Very near to the luxury tourist resorts of Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are the slums of migrant workers whose children under 5 years old die of diseases like malaria, cholera, diarrhea, and tuberculosis—diseases that have been wiped out among other sections of the population. How are the interests of these masses represented by either AMLO or Calderón?

AMLO supports a huge development project in southern Mexico which has been fought against for many years by the indigenous people who live in the affected area. The Megaproject of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is said to be a “detonator of development,” part of Plan Puebla-Panama and the FTAA—a plan which has even been rejected by many governments in Latin America and has been the target of heroic protests. AMLO says that the Isthmus project would “convert the country into a strategic position in the globe.” The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrowest land mass between the Gulf of Mexico ands the Pacific Ocean. Part of this development area would destroy the Chimalapa rainforest which contains a unique mix of animal and plant species found nowhere else in the world and is homeland to five indigenous groups.

The Zoque Indians have lived in the Chimalapa wetlands in Oaxaca, on the border with Chiapas, for 2000 years and have applied a complex plan to preserve the jungle ecosystem. The development project would build an eight-lane superhighway through this jungle area which, together with the Lacandona jungle, is known as “the Lungs of Mexico”—the last of the tropical rainforests in Mexico, 80% of which have already been lost forever. The project is envisioned as replacing the overcrowded Panama Canal, with deep-berth ports on either side of the isthmus, where huge freight ships could dock and the freight containers would be transported overland by railroad or trucks. How can the wanton sacrifice of the Mexican environment, all in the service of capitalist profit, represent the interests of the Mexican masses, or humanity as a whole for that matter?

AMLO says he is for “…the Poor First.” But when he has been in power his program toward these masses has been to criminalize, beat and lock them up. In 2002, while mayor of Mexico City, AMLO contracted the firm of Rudolph Giuliani, ex-mayor of New York, to help Mexico City police apply Guiliani’s so-called “Zero Tolerance” program that had criminalized the poor of New York and given the police a free hand in attacking them. In Mexico City, millions of people survive through street vending, and there are thousands of street orphans. “Zero tolerance” and combating delinquency under AMLO meant arresting street orphans and attacking street vendors. Squadrons of hooded undercover police in unmarked cars patrolled the city to “combat street crime” and “drug dealing,” and many cases of innocent people being kidnapped by these police are documented. AMLO also oversaw the renovation of the Historic Center, bringing in millions of dollars to investors, principally the Mexican multi-millionaire Carlos Slim, who is the fourth wealthiest man in the world, while “cleaning” the area of street vendors and windshield cleaners.

AMLO has repeatedly proven his loyalty to U.S. imperialism and the Mexican ruling class by repressing important social figures and movements that come to the capital to protest government crimes. The Justice Department of Mexico City was in charge of the investigation of the murder of Digna Ochoa, a famous and beloved people’s lawyer who for many years defended peasant ecologists in Guerrero and political prisoners from guerrilla groups. She had received numerous death threats and was murdered in Distrito Federal in 2001. The government of AMLO helped to cover up and protect her murderers by declaring that Digna Ochoa had committed suicide. In 2001, when campesinos from Atenco came to Mexico City to protest the government plan to take their land and build an airport on their land, they were attacked by 150 police; in 2003 when students from 17 rural schools (rurales normales) came to DF to defend education and to protest the closing of a school in Chiapas and the imprisonment of the students who had resisted this closing, they were beaten by the police and 108 of them were arrested. In the spring of 2003, on two occasions when thousands protested the invasion of Iraq in front of the U.S. embassy, the PRD government sent the police out to surround, beat, and arrest the protesters. After a demo of 50,000 people, the police attacked it when it dispersed. They said, “We have orders from above to fuck them up.” How does any of this repression of the people’s right to protest represent the interests of the people?

The people are correct to go into the streets to demand a full recount and to oppose the program represented by Calderón, as well as the repression now being threatened. But as they do this, they also need an alternative that truly represents their interests. And while this article is not a thorough analysis of the PRD/AMLO program, it is thorough enough to say that this is not the alternative that people need. What is needed, urgently, is leadership and a program that do get to the root of the problems resulting from the domination of U.S. imperialism and the classes in Mexico that ally with and serve those interests, and that find revolutionary alternatives that break out of those relations. This is a debate that needs to happen, even as the people forge forward in their resistance.

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