Wednesday, May 10, 2006

South of the Border

In keeping with our recent concentration on Latin America, highwayscribery will tell you a little bit about an Op-Ed penned by Jorge Castenada relative to the elections in Mexico entitled "Mexico, up for grabs".

We like Castaneda (the bearded one here) because he’s an intellectual who left his lair in the early heady, days after Vicente Fox routed the PRI in 2000 to try his hand at government. Specifically, he became Mexico’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, which is no small job.

During a G-8 or G-9 summit in Ottawa, Canada a few years ago, there were some tremendous demonstrations of the anti-globalization type. Asked where he would be if he were not foreign minister, Castaneda answered, “Outside with the kids.”

the scribe has always loved the way Latin American countries make senators, deputies, and even presidents of their writers. Brazil’s President in the 1980s, Jose Sarney, comes to mind as does Sergio Ramirez, vice president of Nicaragua during the reign of the revolutionary Sandinista Liberation Front.

Anyway, Castaneda’s article focus on the evaporated lead of long-time front-runner AndrĂ©s Manuel Lopez Obrador. We’ve made no secret of our interest in Obrador’s candidacy here at highwayscribery (“Mexico Rising, April 28, 2005 and “Lopez Obrador (anew),” July 27, 2005).

He seems, or seemed, to be a mellow guy of humble roots and intentions who took the Revolutionary Democratic Party and turned it into a governing entity during his term as Mayor of Mexico City, which is no small job.

He has been the frontrunner for months-and-months, but as the July elections near, he’s fallen behind a guy from the rightist PAN party.

Castaneda tries to let us in on why and highwayscribery, much as it hurts, must give him the benefit of the doubt. Among the maladies affecting Obrador’s candidacy are “hubris,” “arrogance,” and “disrespect for the electorate.”

And it must be admitted the Lopez Obrador's to skip nationally televised debates was a boner.

But what’s good about this piece is the articulate insider’s take on what’s happening in Mexico and how it’s sinking Lopez Obrador’s candidacy.

“Mexico,” he writes, “remains a terribly conservative country. Mexicans desire change only sporadically and in small doses, and they generally loathe stridency, confrontation and clean breaks with anything.”

He goes on to explain how Obrador’s party is driven by a base, “intent upon revolution.”

Of course, there are many good reasons for a revolution to take place in Mexico, but Castaneda is telling us that folks don’t want it, which creates a problem for the lefty candidate.

He says Obrador does not hail from that revolutionary base, but is hostage to it, which sounds a lot like somebody else who is (mis)ruling a behemoth directly to the north of Mexico, but never mind about that.

the scribe has to admit his sense of disappointment with Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Brazil’s Lula making hay with Venezuela’s Chavez and the decrepit Mr. Castro. Perhaps they must find friends wherever they may, but it was a natural hope they represented a new kind of Latin American left, as opposed to the anti-yanqui, anti-imperialist and mostly demagogic dinosaurs of the past.

Castaneda notes, “But Lopez Obrador is not out of the running. He has 60 percent of voter preferences in the Mexico City metropolitan area...has immense resources available to him. He inspires devotion, at time of a fanatical nature, among the country’s poor, and they are a majority. He has shown himself to be incredibly resilient in the past, shrugging off one apparently fatal blow after another. He is not finished, despite his own best efforts.”

We’re still hoping, which is no small job.

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