Another revolution has broken out in Mexico, the second in our lifetimes in that country of continuous revolution, where even the government celebrates revolution and clasps to its bosom the interests and desires and images and culture of the poor and indigenous while at the same time systematically excluding them from power if not from welfare programs.
A former governor from the state of Tabasco, the former mayor of Mexico City and leader of the Party of Democratic Revolution (PRD), had himself proclaimed "legitimate president" of Mexico in the central square of the capital on Saturday, September 16 by over a million supporters although it appears he narrowly lost the election.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known by his initials as AMLO, has implied, but has not yet been able to prove, that the July 2 national elections were stolen by fraud. This is significant because the current administration of Vicente Fox of the Party of National Action (PAN) is considered the first to be elected honestly in over 70 years dominated by the corrupt PRI party. A former PRD candidate Cauhtemoc Cardenas, son of one of Mexico's revolutionary heroes who first nationalized the petroleum industry was widely acknowledged to have been robbed of victory in the year 1994.
In order to achieve electoral democracy at the federal level in Mexico, an independent agency staffed by professionals (IFE) was subsequently established under the control of a commission with representation from all recognized political parties. Without this, the PRI would still be in control.
The IFE's judicial tribunal decided last month that the PRD had not proven fraud, and refused its demand for a complete recount even though the gap between AMLO and his PAN opponent Felipe Calderon was less than one percent. It was like the year 2000 election in the US, but on steroids.
After reviewing results from only 9% of polling places, the IFE judges ruled Calderon the victor on September 5. International observers confirmed that no obvious fraud or subversions of the process had taken place. In the past, the PRI could stuff ballot boxes with impunity because its government controlled the vote counting process. This did not happen here, apparently.
The IFE had another option which was to conduct a new election, a step they foolishly refused to take.
The PRD's declaration directly challenges the legitimacy of the IFE, the one institution on which the country depends for electoral integrity.
AMLO's forces consist of the PRD, and two other parties, the old Communist Party now called the Partido Trabajador and another front called Convergence. They controlled the streets of Mexico City from July until mid September, demanding a complete recount. As Independence Day approached, they removed their tents and blockades to permit military parades on Saturday, which significantly was Mexican Independence Day. Also significantly, president Fox was forced to move a traditional ceremony -- the Cry of Independence -- from the national palace to the town where the revolution against Spain started in 1810, Dolores Hidalgo in the state of Guanajuato.
On September 1, Fox had previously been shamed by having to deliver his state of the union speech on TV instead of the Chamber of Deputies where he had been blocked from entering by the PRD representatives. The PRD blames Fox -- a former president of Coca Cola -- for aiding his fellow Panista with campaign contributions from multinational corporations. They call him a "traitor" to democracy, recalling the days when the PRI presidents named their own successor in a tradition called "el dedazo," the fingering.
In what they called a National Democratic Convention with 1.25 million registered delegates from around the country, the perredistas denied that Calderon and his cabinet were their government and named Lopez Obrador instead, authorizing him to form a "government in resistance." They are also forming a new front called the Frente Amplia Progresista and declared they will seat AMLO as president on November 20 in that very spot.
Calderon will presumably be installed on December 1 in the Chamber of Deputies, but it is possible that PRD congresspeople will physically block that from happening, as they did to Fox.
So what we have here is a candidate with about half the popular vote declaring an election to be null and void and declaring himself president of our neighbor to the south. Incidently, this is a nation with millions of citizens living inside our borders, most of whom were prevented by arcane rules from voting in this summer's election in Mexico.
The consequences of this act are that the PRD which is a longstanding, successful and widely respected party known for its uncompromising support for the poor and workers placing itself forever outside the possibility of ever taking part in the political process again and turning instead to an endless career of direct action. One commentator called it, "burning the ships," refering to the Spanish conquistador who wanted to make sure his men were committed to the march inland to the Lost Cities of Gold or whatever.
Compare this to Gore's response to his year 2000 loss, which was to retire from public life.
AMLO insists the long campaign of resistance on which his long suffering people now embark will be peaceful. But that depends in part on the patience of the establishment. The PAN is known for its links to the Catholic Church, landowning elites and multinational corporations. Fox is a former president of Coca Cola, and Calderon is a Harvard educated lawyer.
As of yesterday, Mexico's fledgeling democracy seems to have come off its wheels and headed toward endless civil conflict.
It was 16 years ago that a rag tag band of Indians ran out of the jungle and captured the capital of Chiapas state carrying borrowed rifles and pitchforks. Their leader, a pipe smoking academic, has been keeping himself amused writing columns to his international admirers from a hideout in the mountains all this time. Scattered bands of armed revolutionaries are still active in other states.
Mexico is headed for a still unknown future, and with any luck so could we.
Richard Johnson is a writer and organic gardener, a self-employed full time community activist for 30 years, most of that in Mendocino County, CA where he publishes El Sol, the county's only Spanish language newspaper and the MENDOCINO COUNTRY Independent that carries local political and environmental as well as commentary on US history and Imperialism. (Subscription $20 per year to MCI, P.O. Box 533, Talmage, CA 95481). He also has an e-mail list called Rejecting American Nationalism, RAN that you can get by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the website at www.mendocinocountry.com. He is also on the Mendocino County Green Party county council and organizes in the Latino community with El Partido Marron del Condado de Mendocino.