Mexico’s Electoral Cliffhanger

Mexico’s Electoral Cliffhanger


The fate of Mexico is undetermined at this hour, but this much we know:Don’t take at face value what you read in the leading Americannewspapers about Mexico’s cliffhanger election outcome. Their candidateis the candidate of multinational business–FelipeCalderón–who supposedly won the presidential election by 240,000votes out of 41 million. Keep in mind that nearly 65 percent of Mexicanvoters essentially voted against Calderón and his pro-globalization,pro-NAFTA agenda by voting for someone else.

The leading opponent–Andrés Manuel López Obrador–came in second andcharges he was robbed. The most influential papers in America–theNew York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall StreetJournal–have already warned that López Obrador is a dangerous character.They depict a “firebrand” and “messianic” leader of the unwashed poor,a potentially violent “populist” who might destabilize the country.There is a long tradition in these newspapers of warning Americanreaders about the rise of non-establishment politicians in Mexico andLatin America. The CIA has devoted enormous energy over the years topreventing such a calamity for US interests (oil, banking, minerals–you name it.)

So keep an open mind about whether López Obrador’s charges of election fraudare substantive or, as the media suggest, farfetched. In recentdecades, Mexico’s ruling class has been notorious, even violent, aboutfixing elections. The presidency was effectively stolen from aleft-wing challenger back in 1988 to install Carlos Salinas de Gortari, much admired byWall Street as a “modern reformer.” He embraced NAFTA and US financesbut was discredited and deeply corrupt. (He had to flee the countryafterward but was taken in by his American friends, including theWall Street Journal, which put him on the Dow Jones board.)

On occasion, a promising politician’s candidacy has even been cut shortby murder. There were two in the run-up to the 1994 election: Luis Donaldo Colosio and Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu.

What’s most disgusting in the current coverage is the similarity to anAmerican election scam. Newsies are pounding home the same message forLópez Obrador that they used to bully Al Gore back in 2000: Don’t be a soreloser. Fold your tent and accept defeat, for the sake of stability, forthe good health of democracy. Remember Florida? If the votes had beenfairly, thoroughly recounted there in 2000, Gore would be the “nextPresident.”

In Mexico, López Obrador asks for a full recount of the national vote–areasonable demand, given what’s already known–but this is dismissed asirrational, even unpatriotic. So far he is standing his ground, but wecan expect the respectable pressures to intensify against him.Establishment influentials from the North will warn that Mexico’sfuture prosperity could be damaged if US investors “lose confidence.”The specter of small-d democratic protest will be described as animpediment to Calderón’s governing the entire country. Indeed, itmight be.

I am not anticipating a López Obrador triumph, but surely he is right todemand a full accounting of the real results. In any event, theMexican people have turned a big corner in their long struggle toachieve a genuine voice in a self-governing democracy. This election,even if the common people fall short of full justice, represents asignificant advance. (If only the American people could discover thesame spirit of insurgency.)

If Americans were not kept in ignorance by their own leaders and media,they might recognize their self-interest is directly involved. Theywould understand why, instead of fearing the popular aspirations ofordinary Mexicans, ordinary Americans should be standing with them.

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