Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A March Toward Democracy

“The matter of the election in Mexico is being taken up by some special court or other. Will it care much about the demands of a bunch of Nacos closing off the streets? Probably not, and there’s your problem.”

That quote appeared at highwayscribery a few days ago (“Beware Mexico, August 4), and that’s what happened a few days later in Mexico City.

No recount, a partial something or other, a call by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) to maintain the street activity and to push the Revolutionary Democratic Party’s demand for a vote-by-vote recount.

And there’s your problem.

The situation remains unresolved. The American press continues to work the “sore loser” card, accusing AMLO of undermining the civic structure, such as it is, in Mexico.

For those of you who are not following this with any particular focus, the left-wing guy who ran for president has demanded a recount in a close election he lost. He says there was fraud and that he won.

AMLO filled the streets of Mexico City with camping demonstrators whom shut down the historic core. He petitioned a federal election tribunal to get a recount. The tribunal said no, the people are still camped in the streets.

The mayor of Mexico City has let all of this go down, much to the political advantage of Lopez Obrador. In other words, the guy who ran for president says his troops are acting within the law, and the mayor of the invaded city agrees.

That man, Alejandro Encinas, and the Mexican newspaper “La Jornada” ran an interview with him which appeared on the Aug. 7
web page.

You have to read Spanish, but if you don’t the scribe can tell you something about it. The person conducting the interview was Elena Poniatowska, an avowed progressive writer of considerable weight and respect in that country.

She is author of the stunning biographical novel “Tinisima,” about the life of Tina Modotti, silent screen actress, renowned photographer, and international communist agent.

Poniatowksa noted in her preamble that plenty of folks want the mayor’s head because the disorder has arrested commerce, stymied traffic and turned Mexico City into something of a midsummer’s nightmare.

“Do the Job or Leave the Job,” “They Ask Encinas: Do Your Job,” and other slugs of similar timbre are enumerated by her. But the portrait Poniatowska paints is of a guy calmly doing his job, adapting city administration to a problem created at the national level with the elections.

Poniatowska: What would you do if the opposition party (PAN) took over El Zocalo?

Encina (more or less): “I’d do the same thing if the PAN took over El Zocalo, as it has in acts of civic resistence over many years at the national level and in the states, I would respect it under the same terms and conditions I did with strikes and obstructions by the teachers union, the march against public insecurity, the world water forum...because I’m convinced that not only should the exercise of liberty should be complete, it should be afforded every sector of society, whether we agree with them or not, because I think the path to resolution is through reason and that the use force only creates new problems.”

The journalist then asked the mayor to put the demonstrations within the context of Mexico’s march toward open democracy. Encina said that march was comprised of four milestones.

The first was the 1968 encounter between university students and federal troops, which wound up in a massacre, which is to be a little to succinct, about what went down. The march maintained expression through guerilla movements in the 1970s, repressed by a “secret war” the kind which was very popular in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay at the time.

The second milestone, Encina asserted, was the earthquake of 1985. The government’s failure to care for those in need, and the lesson in self-organizing learned by many communities, opened a door to the third milestone: the establishment of a real political alternative to the long-governing Revolutionary Institutional Party, which we always like to say, was more institutional than revolutionary.

The PRD came very close to winning that election, and feels it was robbed. The guy who won, by the way, ended up fleeing the country to avoid corruption charges. His brother was jailed etc.

Encina: “Today we are experiencing, from my point of view, a fourth milestone in the road toward democracy with this electoral process. I’m talking about 2006, but this is a result of a campaign and process over many years, starting with el paraje San Juan, the videoscandles, the impeachment, the dirty campaign in the mass media against certain candidates, and we’ve been able to consolidate a democratic pole that will mark the coming years.”

I think we are giving a lesson in democracy to the world. Mexico has been fortunate in knowing how to channel its protests, whereas when you look overseas at countries with supposedly more developed institutions, not only do they have problems running their elections, they can’t manage the disagreements that follow. This is a lesson for the candidates in the United States [John Kerry/Al Gore] who were not up to the job in fighting for their supporters’ claims.”

Poniatowska recounts for the mayor a recent personal experience wherein a citizen of Mexico City verbally assaults her, promising to burn copies of her books he owned, accusing her of selling her down the road with support of the movement of Lopez Obrador.

Encinas: “That is the result of the campaign to discredit and sow fear, the supposed danger Mexico faced in supporting us, which drew reactions from the crudest sectors of our society whom fanned the winds of racism, disdain, and discrimination, that idea that the Coalition for the Good of All” represented people without education, the poor, the downtrodden - an enormous disdain.”

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