Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Left Grows in Mexico

Mexico Approaches the Combustion Point

Mexico City.
August 23, 2006

"God doesn't belong to the PAN!"
"AMLO deserves a miracle"
"No Pasaran!"

The Congress of the country is ringed by two-meter tall
grilled metal barriers soldered together apparently to
thwart a suicide car bomb attack. Behind this metal
wall, 3000 vizored, kevlar-wearing robocops -- the
Federal Preventative Police (PFP, a police force drawn
from the army) -- and members of the elite Estado Mayor
or Presidential military command, form a second line of
defense. Armed with tear gas launchers, water cannons,
and reportedly light tanks, this Praetorian Guard has
been assigned to protect law and order and the
institutions of the republic against left-wing mobs
that threaten to storm the Legislative Palace -- or so
the President informs his fellow citizens in repeated
messages transmitted on national television.

No, the President's name is not Pinochet and this
military tableau is not being mounted in the usual
banana republic or some African satrap. This is Mexico,
a paragon of democracy (dixit George Bush), Washington'
third trading partner, and the eighth leading petroleum
producer on the planet, seven weeks after the fraud-
marred July 2 presidential election of which, at this
writing, no winner has been officially declared. One of
the elite military units assigned to seal off congress
is indeed titled the July 2 brigade.

MEXICO ON A KNIFEBLADE headlines the British Guardian,
but the typically short-term-memory-loss U.S. print
media seems to have forgotten about the imbroglio just
south of its borders. Nonetheless, the phone rings and
it's New York telling me they just got a call from
their man on the border and Homeland Security is
beefing up its forces around Laredo in anticipation of
upheaval further south. The phone rings again and it's
California telling me they just heard on Air America
that U.S. Navy patrols were being dispatched to
safeguard Mexican oil platforms in the Gulf. The left-
wing daily here, La Jornada, runs a citizen-snapped
photo of army convoys arriving carrying soldiers
disguised as farmers and young toughs. Rumors race
through the seven mile-long encampment installed by
supporters of leftist presidential challenger Andres
Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) three weeks ago who have
tied up big city traffic and enraged the motorist class
here, that PFP robocops will attack before dawn. The
campers stay up all night huddled around bum fires
prepared to defend their tent cities.

The moment reminds many Mexicans of the tense weeks in
September and October 1968 when 12 days before the
Olympic Games were to be inaugurated here, President
Gustavo Diaz Ordaz ordered the military to massacre
striking students in a downtown plaza not far from
where AMLO's people are now camped out. 300 were killed
in the Plaza of Three Cultures, their bodies
incinerated at Military Camp #1 in western Mexico City.
The Tlatelolco massacre was a watershed in social
conflict here and the similarities are sinister. In
fact, Lopez Obrador has taken to comparing outgoing
President Vicente Fox with Diaz Ordaz.

Fox will go to congress September 1 to deliver his
final State of the Union address. The new legislature
will be convened the same day. The country may or may
not have a new president by that day. In

anticipation of this show-down, on August 14, newly-
elected senators and deputies from the three parties
that comprise AMLO's Coalition for the Good of All
attempted to encamp on the sidewalk in front of the
legislative palace only to be rousted and clobbered
bloody by the President's robocops.

With 160 representatives, the Coalition forms just a
quarter of the 628 members of the new congress but they
will be a loud minority during Fox's "Informe". Since
the 1988 "presidenciales" were stolen from Cuauhtemoc
Cardenas, founder of AMLO's Party of the Democratic
Revolution, PRD legislators have routinely interrupted
the president during this authoritarian ritual in
orchestrated outbursts that have sometimes degenerated
into partisan fisticuffs.

The first to challenge the Imperial Presidency was
Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a hoary political warhorse, who in
1988 thrust a finger at President Miguel De la Madrid,
accusing him of overseeing the theft of the election
from Cardenas. Munoz Ledo's J'Accuse stunned the
political class. He was slugged and pummeled by members
of De la Madrid's long-ruling PRI when he tried to
escape the chamber. Munoz Ledo now stands at AMLO's

But perhaps the most comical moment in the annals of
acting out during the Informe, came in 1996 when a
brash PRI deputy donned a Babe the Valiant Pig mask and
positioned himself directly under the podium from which
President Ernesto Zedillo was addressing the state of
the nation, and wiggled insouciant signs with slogans
that said things like 'EAT THE RICH!" Like Munoz Ledo,
Marco Rascon was physically attacked, his mask ripped
off like he was a losing wrestler by a corrupt railroad
union official who in turn was hammer locked by a
pseudo-leftist senator, Irma "La Tigresa" Serrano, a
one-time ranchero singer and in fact, the former very
close friend of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.

This September 1, if martial law is not declared and
the new congress dissolved before it is even installed,
the PRD delegation, which will no doubt be strip-
searched by the Estado Mayor for incriminating banners,
is sworn to create a monumental ruckus, shredding the
tarnished decorum of this once-solemn event forever to
protest Fox's endorsement of electoral larceny. Some
solons say they may go naked.

But no matter what kind of uproar develops, one can be
secure that it will not be shown on national television
as the cameras of Mexico's two-headed television
monstrosity â_" Televisa and TV Azteca â_" will stay
trained on the President as he tries to mouth the
stereotypical clichÃ(c)s that is always the stuff and
fluff of this otherwise stultifying sÃ(c)ance. The images
of the chaos on the floor of congress will not be
passed along to the Great Unwashed.

There is a reptilian feel to Mexico seven weeks after a
discredited Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) cemented
Lopez Obrador into a second place coffin by awarding
the presidency to right-winger Felipe Calderon by a
mere 243,000 votes out of a total 42,000,000 cast. Both
Calderon and IFE czar Luis Carlos Ugalde (Calderon was
best man at Ugalde's wedding) make these little beady
reptile eyes as they slither across national screens.

Those screens have been the scenes of some of the
slimiest and most sordid political intrigue of late.
One of the lizard kings who is fleetingly featured on
Televisa primetime is an imprisoned Argentinean
construction tycoon, Carlos Ahumada, who in 2004
conspired with Fox, Calderon's PAN, and Televisa to
frame AMLO on corruption charges and take him out of
the presidential election."El Peje" (for a gar-like
fish from the swamps of Lopez Obrador's native Tabasco)
was then leading the pack by 18 points.

Charged by Lopez Obrador, then the mayor of this
megalopolis, with defrauding Mexico City out of
millions, Ahumada had taken his revenge by filming PRD
honchos when they came to his office to pick up boodles
of political cash. Although the filthy lucre was
perfectly legal under Mexico's milquetoast campaign
financing laws, the pick-ups looked awful on national
television. AMLO's former personal secretary was caught
stuffing wads of low denomination bills into his suit
coat pockets as if he were on Saturday Night Live.

Ahumada subsequently turned the tapes over to the
leprous, cigar-chomping leader of Fox's PAN party in
the Senate, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos ("El Jefe
Diego") who in turn had them delivered to a green-
haired clown, Brozo, who was then reading the morning
news on Televisa. Then the Argentine blackmailer fled
to Cuba in a private plane. Televisa would air the
incriminating videos day and night for months.

Apprehended in Veradero after his lover Robles was
shadowed to that socialist beachfront, Ahumada spilled
the beans to Cuban authorities: Interior Secretary
Santiago Creel, who was then AMLO's lead rival for the
presidency, had cooked up the plot with the connivance
of reviled former president Carlos Salinas, Lopez
Obrador's most venomous foe, the then attorney general,
and Fox himself, to remove AMLO from the race.

The Mexican government did not ask for extradition and
Ahumada's deportation from Cuba was not seen as a
friendly gesture. Within a month, diplomatic relations
between Mexico and Cuba were broken off and ambassadors
summoned home. The construction tycoon has been
imprisoned in Mexico City ever since he was booted out
of Cuba and was last heard from when he had his rogue
cop chauffer shoot up the family SUV, a charade both
Fox and Televisa tried to pin on AMLO. Ahumada had
suggested he was about to release two more
incriminating videos. These dubious events took place
on June 6, the day of a crucial presidential debate
between AMLO and Calderon.

Then last week, Ahumada abruptly resurfaced, or at
least his videotaped confession to Cuban authorities
did. Filmed through prison bars, he lays out the plot
step by step. Yes, he affirms, the deal was fixed up to
cut AMLO's legs out from under him and advance the
fortunes of the right-wing candidate who turned out to
be Felipe Calderon and not the bumbling Creel. The
conspiracy backfired badly as his supporters rallied
around him and Lopez Obrador's ratings soared.

The origins of the confession tape, leaked to top-rung
reporter Carmen Aristegui, was obscure. Had Fidel
dispatched it from his sick bed to bolster Lopez
Obrador's claims of victory as the PAN and the snake-
eyed Televisa evening anchor Joaquin Lopez Dorriga
hissed? The air grew serpentine with theories. There
was even one school that speculated Calderon himself
had been the source in a scheme to distance himself
from Fox (there had always been bad feelings between
them) and Creel, now the leader of the PAN faction in

AMLO advanced a variant of this explanation: the
specter of Ahumada had been resuscitated to divert
attention from the evidence of generalized fraud the
Coalition had submitted to the TRIFE and the panel's
impending verdict that Calderon had won the election.

Perhaps the most nagging question in this snakepit of
uncertainty is what happened during the partial recount
of less than 10per cent of the 130,000 ballot boxes
ordered by the TRIFE to test the legitimacy of the
IFE's results. Although the recount concluded on August
13, the judges have released no numbers and are not
obligated to do so. Their only responsibility is to
certify the validity of the election.

Although AMLO's reps in the counting rooms came up with
gobs of evidence -- violated ballot boxes, stolen or
stuffed ballots, altered tally sheets and other bizarre
anomalies -- only the left-wing daily La Jornada saw
fit to mention them. The silence of the Mexican media
and their accomplices in the international press in
respect to the Great Fraud is deafening, although they
manage to fill their rags with ample attacks on Lopez
Obrador for tying up Mexico City traffic.

According to AMLO's people, 119,000 ballots in the
sample recount cannot be substantiated in about 3500
casillas, 58,000 more votes were cast than the number
of voters on the voting list. In nearly 4000 other
casillas, 61,000 ballots allocated to election
officials cannot be accounted for. The annulment of the
casillas in which these alterations occurred would put
Lopez Obrador in striking distance of Calderon and in a
better world, would obligate the TRIFE to order a total

But given the cheesy state of the Mexican judiciary
this is not apt to happen. One of the judges who will
decide the fate of democracy in Mexico is a former
client of El Jefe Diego for whom the PANista senator
won millions from the Mexico City government in a
crooked land deal.

Meanwhile, thousands continue to camp out in a hard
rain for a third week on the streets of Mexico City
awaiting the court's decision. They have taken to
erecting shrines and altars and are praying for divine
intervention. Hundreds pilgrimage out to the shrine of
the Virgin of Guadalupe, some crawling on their knees,
to ask the Brown Madonna to work her miracle. "God
doesn't belong to the PAN!" they chant as they trudge
up the great avenue that leads to the Basilica. "AMLO
deserves a miracle" Esther Ortiz, a 70 year-old great
grandmother comments to a reporter as she kneels to
pray before the gilded altar.

At the Metropolitan Cathedral on one flank of the
Zocalo, a young worshipper interrupts Cardinal Norberto
Rivera and is quickly hustled off the premises by his
Eminence's bouncers. The following Sunday, the
Cathedral's great doors are under heavy surveillance,
and churchgoers screened for telltale signs of devotion
to Lopez Obrador. Hundreds of AMLO's supporters mill
about in front of the ancient temple shouting "voto por
voto" and that Cardinal Rivera is a pederast.

AMLO as demi-god is one motif of this religious pageant
being played out at what was once the heart of the
Aztec theocracy, the island of Tenochtitlan. The ruins
of the twin temples of the fierce Aztec war god
Huitzilopochtli and Tlahuac, the god of the rain, are
adjacent to the National Palace against which AMLO's
stage is set. Lopez Obrador sleeps each night in a tent
close by.

Many hearts were ripped out smoking on these old stones
and fed to such hungry gods before the Crusaders showed
up bearing the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

AMLO is accused by right-wing "intellectuals" (Enrique
Krauze and the gringo apologist George Grayson) of
entertaining a Messiah complex. Indeed, he is up there
every day on the big screen, his craggy features, salt
and pepper hair, raspy voice and defiantly jutted jaw
bearing more of a passable resemblance to a younger
George C. Scott rather than The Crucified One. AMLO's
devotees come every evening at seven, shoehorned
between the big tents that fill the Zocalo, rain or
shine. Last Monday, I stood with a few thousand
diehards in a biblical downpour, thunder and lightening
shattering the heavens above. "Llueve y llueve y el
pueblo no se mueve" they chanted joyously, "it rains
and rains and the people do not move."

The evolution of these incantations is fascinating. At
first, the standard slogan of "Voto Por Voto, Casilla
por Casilla!" was automatically invoked whenever Lopez
Obrador stepped to the microphone. "You are not alone!"
and "Presidente!" had their moment. "Fraude!" is still
popular but in these last days, "No Pasaran!" -- they
shall not pass, the cry of the defenders of Madrid as
Franco's fascist hordes banged on the doors of Madrid,
1936 -- has flourished.

In this context, "No Pasaran!" means "we will not let
Felipe Calderon pass to the presidency." AMLO, who
holds out little hope that the TRIFE will decide in his
favor, devotes more time now to organizing the
resistance to the imposition of Calderon upon the Aztec
nation. Article 39 of the Mexican constitution, he
reminds partisans, grants the people the right to
change their government if that government does not
represent them. To this end, he is summoning a million
delegates up to the Zocalo for a National Democratic
Convention on Mexican Independence Day September 16, a
date usually reserved for a major military parade.

Aside from the logistical impossibility of putting a
million citizens in this Tiennemens-sized plaza, how
this gargantuan political extravaganza is going to be
financed is cloudy. Right now, it seems like small
children donating their piggy banks is the main mode of
fund-raising. Because AMLO's people distrust the banks,
all of which financed Calderon's vicious TV ad
campaign, a giant piggy bank has been raised in the
Zocalo to receive the contributions of the faithful.

Dreaming is also a fundraiser. 10,000 raised their
voices in song this past Sunday as part of a huge
chorus assembled under the dome of the Monument to the
Revolution to perform a cantata based on the words of
Martin Luther King and Mohandas Gandhi. This too is a
form of civil resistance, Lopez Obrador commended his

The first National Democratic Convention took place
behind rebel lines in the state of Aguascalientes in
1914 at the apogee of the Mexican Revolution when the
forces of Francisco Villa and his Army of the North
first joined forces with Zapata's Liberating Army of
the Southern Revolution. The second National Democratic
Revolution took place 80 years later in 1994, in a
clearing in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas when the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation wedded itself to
the civil society in an uprising that rocked Mexico all
throughout the '90s. Eclipsed by events, the EZLN and
its quixotic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos have
disappeared from the political map in the wake of the
fraudulent election.

What this third National Democratic Convention is all
about is now being debated in PRD ruling circles and
down at the grassroots. Minimally, a plan of organized
resistance that will dog Felipe Calderon for the next
six years, severely hampering his ability to rule will
evolve from this mammoth conclave. The declaration of a
government in resistance headed by Andres Manuel Lopez
Obrador is one consideration. The National Democratic
Convention could also result in the creation of a new
party to replace a worn-out PRD now thoroughly
infiltrated by cast-offs from the PRI.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution has always
functioned best as an opposition party. With notable
exceptions (AMLO was one), when the PRD becomes
government, it collapses into corruption, internecine
bickering, and behaves just as arrogantly as the PAN
and the PRI. No Pasaran?

Seven weeks after the July 2 electoral debacle, Mexico
finds itself at a dangerously combustible conjunction
("coyuntura") in which the tiny white elite here is
about to impose its will upon a largely brown and
impoverished populous to whom the political parties and
process grow more irrelevant each day. "No Pasaran!"
the people cry out but to whom and what they are
alluding to remains to be defined.

John Ross's ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible:
Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 will be published by
Nation Books this October. Ross will travel the Left
Coast this fall with both ZAPATISTAS! and a new
chapbook of poetry BOMBA! and is still looking for
possible venues. Send suggestions to

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