The Revolution is Not Over
Wednesday 06 December @ 16:07:48
By JOHNNY HAZARD
"They put themselves in power via a coup. That's what has generated instability, not our response. There will be no return to normal life until there's democracy in this country."
With these words, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the "legitimate president of Mexico," began his remarks at the rally called at 7 a.m. in the Zocalo, Mexico City's central plaza, on Friday, Dec. 1, immediately before the official inauguration of his opponent Felipe Calderon. This was the culmination of various "civil resistance" Ãevents held since July to protest the (let's dispense with the word "alleged") election fraud that led to the declaration of right-wing party Partido de Accion National (PAN) candidate, Felipe Calderon, as president-elect.
The instability in question has included a tent city that blocked the Zocalo and about five miles of Reforma, one of the principal avenues of Mexico City and, more recently, the occupation of the congressional podium by, first, PAN legislators, who said they were trying to prevent the inevitable occupation of said podium by members of Lopez Obrador's party, the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD). These actions were taken to keep Calderon's inauguration ceremony from taking place today. (Anticipating that they might not be able to get in to the congress, Fox and Calderon staged a bizarre and extralegal transfer of authority on television, with only a few military people as witnesses, at midnight.)
The instability also includes, of course, the chaotic teachers' and citizens' movement in the state of Oaxaca whose repression by state, federal and paramilitary forces has caused the deaths of at least 17 people, almost all members or sympathizers of the resistance movement, though the media and government find a way to blame the movement itself.
The bloodiest days in Oaxaca were over the weekend on Nov. 25 and 26. Coincidentally, the two most popular non-right-wing radio newscasters in the country were out of commission the following Monday: Carmen Aristegui had just received an award in Spain for her coverage of the post-election situation, and it extended her time away from the microphone. Was this her choice? We don't know. Ricardo Rocha, an Edward R. Murrow-like liberal, suddenly and with no explanation, just wasn't there any more, replaced by a talk show in which an announcer and a caller spent 20 minutes talking about the noises the latter's husband makes in bed. In the context of these incidents and countless others, AMLO referred to certain Mexican media as "pimps for the right wing."
At the same time, Calderon continued introducing his cabinet members. The most important position (similar to Home Secretary in England and with no equivalent in the U.S.) went to Francisco Ramirez Acuna, ex-governor of Jalisco and promoter of the Abu Graib-like torture of anti-globalization activists in Guadalajara in 2004. (The repression occurred when agent provocateurs began to throw rocks at the end of a march led by Evo Morales, a little-known Bolivian activist.) During Ramirez Acuna's term as governor, his administration was the object of 640 complaints of torture, a significant portion of which have been sustained by international human rights organizations. This is part of the "firm hand" law enforcement approach that Calderon promises.
Meanwhile, back at the rally ...
People gathered slowly in the Zocalo prior to and during Lopez Obrador's speech. There were few people at the announced starting time, due to a planning error. On holidays, the subway opens at 7, thus no one could arrive on time. But by the time the march finished, there were 200,000 people, according to some estimates.
The crowd received the news that the PRD legislators were still occupying their part of the podium, that the senators had moved in to occupy another part, and that they'd installed their own locks to keep out the outgoing and incoming presidents and visiting dignitaries, like George H.W. Bush, progenitor of a world famous father-and-son serial killer team, and one of the few foreign presidents who dared to make the trip. Obviously not among them was the aforementioned Evo Morales, now president of Bolivia.
Suspense had built for months: Are we going to prevent Calderon from taking office? How? On Sept. 1, when Fox gave the equivalent of the state of the union address, the same expectation had been raised. On that occasion, members of Lopez Obrador's team (with him reportedly in the minority) voted not to march to the congress, arguing the presence of thousands of troops on land, in helicopters, and ready to snipe from windows, and to let congress members impede Fox from reading his text. This worked, and was a significant emotional victory for the movement.
This time, however, most people felt that more drastic action was necessary, and Lopez Obrador announced near the beginning that "We're going to march," to the relief of many, though he didn't say where to or under what circumstances.
He continued -- referring to the cabal of Fox, ex-president Carlos Salinas, chamber of commerce president Claudio X. Gonzalez and Roberto Hernandez -- who sold the country's biggest bank to Citicorp without paying taxes; and all the other usual suspects as "the biggest gang in the country." Later he called them neo-fascists. Calderon figures as an afterthought in this list, but AMLO never refers to him by name, preferring to use names like "the flunkey," "the spurious one," or "that person whose name I don't want to pronounce." Of this gang he said on Friday:
"I warned them that if they accepted a vote-by-vote count, I would call off the mobilizations, and that if the results were adverse to us, we would accept them ... But they refused. Everything has its limits. We're not going to accept authoritarianism. So we're going to march. But without violence." (Audible sighs of disappointment from many in the audience.) In his two long speeches during the day -- one before and one after the march -- he repeatedly stressed nonviolence and even warned: "If you see someone in the crowd who wants to look very radical, maybe that person is an infiltrator. What we're doing is more radical than anything else, because we never give up. We don't want a single wall graffitied or a single window broken." And none were, as far as I know. At the end of the march, thinking that people were looking to rush police lines, he said: "I know what you're thinking. But that's just what the right wants: for us to confront police and soldiers, something that doesn't affect the powers-that-be and doesn't accomplish anything. Instead, we're going to fight for better salaries for soldiers and police." Calderon, in a speech the next day, co-opted this idea. More on wages and other labor issues in a moment.
Perhaps to avoid said confrontation, the march went toward the national auditorium, Chapultepec Park, and Los Pinos (the presidential compound), all sites of later inauguration events, and not toward the congress.
Senator Rosario Ibarra, mother of a still-disappeared activist from the dirty war of the 1970s and '80s, spoke at the end of the march and said it was one of the proudest moments of her life, because she'd just witnessed Calderon taking office on a podium where he barely fit, crowded as it was with activists. "He came in the back door and he left through the back door."
Apparently the PRD congress members hadn't locked all the doors. The new president spent less than five minutes in the congress. When the crowd heard, in the first speech, "Everything has its limits," and that the legislators had added locks to their barricades, some thought everything was going to be like in the summer: they're not only not going to let Calderon in, they're going to force, finally, the counting of the ballots -- if they haven't been tampered with (more) in all this time. But it was not to be.
The next big event for the nonviolent wing of the Mexican populist left is a march on Thursday, Dec. 7, from the Zocalo to, this time, yes, the congress, to demand enforcement of the constitution's provision that the minimum wage be "sufficient to satisfy the needs of a head of household in material, social and cultural terms, and to provide for the compulsory education of his/her children." The minimum wage in Mexico is less than five dollars a day. The strife in Oaxaca was detonated largely by the teachers' request for a 20-dollar-a-month raise.
In his speech at the people's inauguration on Nov. 20 (Day of the Revolution), when he received the presidential sash from Rosario Ibarra, AMLO outlined a social democratic program to fight poverty, reciting a litany of services that cost more in Mexico than in the U.S., like telephone lines (150 percent more), wide-band internet (ditto), and credit card interest (1000 percent more), though the minimum wage in Mexico is 90 percent lower than in the U.S.
Or, to put it another way, the hourly minimum in the U.S. (before the proposed increase) is lower than the DAILY minimum in Mexico.
A few days before the Nov. 20 event, til-now dormant guerrilla groups that form part of a coalition called Ejercito Revolucionario del Pueblo-Tendencia Democratica (ERP-TD) claimed responsibility for four bombs that exploded and several others that didn't early Monday morning. Lopez Obrador announced that he had the names of those responsible for the bombings: the same people he identified on Dec. 1 as "the most dangerous gang in Mexico." He announced that if he were called to testify, he would tell everything he knows about these dangerous delinquents. Many people believed, and still believe, that the bombings were the work of the government or other right-wing forces looking to scapegoat progressive movements. But the ERP-TD does exist, has engaged in similar actions in the past -- always at least vaguely announced in advance --and the next event of the non-pacifist wing of the Mexican social-democratic left (the new guerrilla groups in Mexico tend to be social democratic, not Leninist, paradoxical though it may seem) may be, as they have already announced, a response to the repression in Oaxaca. Or it may be, as not yet announced but easily imaginable, propaganda-by-the-deed addressed to cabinet member Ramirez Acuna and his supervisor. ||