The authors were part of a team of almost 300 national and international election observers in Mexico organized by the University and Citizen Network for Democracy (RUCD) and accredited by the National Electoral Institute (INE), an officially nonpartisan, government-run agency that oversaw the electoral process before, during, and after the July 1 vote that brought Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka AMLO), the MORENA party, and its coalition to leadership. Cerullo and Wypijewski were dispatched to the south-central state of Morelos, in a brigade that observed the vote, the count, and subsequent validation in the towns of Tlayacapan, Totolapan, Atlatlahucan, and Yautepec. What follows is a diary in two voices.
JoAnn Wypijewski: After the victory, after the long day of snaking lines, resolute voters, and elaborate public counting, there was band music in the morning. Brass, cymbal, drums—the whimsical clang roused me from a dream about kidnapping that, marvelously, had a happy ending. It was a school band, the sound of any Monday morning, Laura Saldivar, our brigade jefa and host in Tlayacapan, said: ordinary life and not, as I, half awake, had imagined, a public celebration. But this day ordinary things seemed newly clothed in the colors of the extraordinary. Laura had waited most of her life for such a day, 30 years, since the theft of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas’s electoral victory in 1988, when she participated in the electoral process even though she was too young to vote. Others said Mexico had waited almost 100 years. “Waited” is not quite correct. Something has happened in Mexico that MORENA’s triumph, sweeping as it is, capturing offices from the presidency down to municipal government, can measure only in part. AMLO is not the lone hero of the story.
The night before the vote my dreams had been full of death and tears. Tlayacapan had not felt particularly dangerous, any more than it felt safe later. Danger and safety are, in any case, contingent terms. But the subject of violence arises so commonly in conversation that it is impossible to understand this moment of social happiness without speaking of its opposite. So let’s speak of it, but plainly, without sensationalism, in the manner of the people of the pueblos who told of lost loved ones, systematized extortion, armed men parked near a school in the morning, tanks in city streets at midday, and, above all, of the 43 Ayotzinapa students, one from our district, extinguished in 2014, quite possibly by the army. Terrible as they are, the details are less politically resonant right now than the even timbre of the voices telling these stories. Society has moved beyond lamentation and the building of memorials. Soon, after elation, AMLO will have to advance on his promise of justice; his base is unlikely to abide continued impunity. Some 300,000 people have been killed over the past 12 years alone; 35,000 disappeared, countless thousands displaced. Eighty-seven journalists have been killed over the same period. Everyone can recite the number of casualties from this election season alone: at least 120 politicians, 351 government functionaries, assassinated; seven journalists, killed—one, a police reporter, two days before the vote. Many suspect that all those numbers are undercounts. Politics produced the carnage, mainly in the form of the Drug War launched in 2006 by a pretender to the presidency, Felipe Calderón, and sustained by his successor, Enriqué Peña Nieto, with ideological and material support from the United States. On July 1 politics was a weapon of rebellion.