John Ross: Mexico Approaches the Combustion Point


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

"God doesn't belong to the PAN!"
"AMLO deserves a miracle"
"No Pasaran!"
Mexico Approaches the Combustion Point
Mexico City.

The Congress of the country is ringed by two-meter tall grilled metal barriers 
soldered together apparently to thwart a suicide car bomb attack. Behind this 
metal wall, 3000 vizored, kevlar-wearing robocops -- the Federal Preventative 
Police (PFP, a police force drawn from the army) -- and members of the elite 
Estado Mayor or Presidential military command, form a second line of defense. 
Armed with tear gas launchers, water cannons, and reportedly light tanks, this 
Praetorian Guard has been assigned to protect law and order and the institutions
of the republic against left-wing mobs that threaten to storm the Legislative 
Palace -- or so the President informs his fellow citizens in repeated messages 
transmitted on national television.

No, the President's name is not Pinochet and this military tableau is not being 
mounted in the usual banana republic or some African satrap. This is Mexico, a 
paragon of democracy (dixit George Bush), Washington' third trading partner, and
the eighth leading petroleum producer on the planet, seven weeks after the 
fraud-marred July 2 presidential election of which, at this writing, no winner 
has been officially declared. One of the elite military units assigned to seal 
off congress is indeed titled the July 2 brigade.

MEXICO ON A KNIFEBLADE headlines the British Guardian, but the typically 
short-term-memory-loss U.S. print media seems to have forgotten about the 
imbroglio just south of its borders. Nonetheless, the phone rings and it's New 
York telling me they just got a call from their man on the border and Homeland 
Security is beefing up its forces around Laredo in anticipation of upheaval 
further south. The phone rings again and it's California telling me they just 
heard on Air America that U.S. Navy patrols were being dispatched to safeguard 
Mexican oil platforms in the Gulf. The left-wing daily here, La Jornada, runs a 
citizen-snapped photo of army convoys arriving carrying soldiers disguised as 
farmers and young toughs. Rumors race through the seven mile-long encampment 
installed by supporters of leftist presidential challenger Andres Manuel Lopez 
Obrador (AMLO) three weeks ago who have tied up big city traffic and enraged the
motorist class here, that PFP robocops will attack before dawn. The campers stay
up all night huddled around bum fires prepared to defend their tent cities.

The moment reminds many Mexicans of the tense weeks in September and October 
1968 when 12 days before the Olympic Games were to be inaugurated here, 
President Gustavo Diaz Ordaz ordered the military to massacre striking students 
in a downtown plaza not far from where AMLO's people are now camped out. 300 
were killed in the Plaza of Three Cultures, their bodies incinerated at Military
Camp #1 in western Mexico City. The Tlatelolco massacre was a watershed in 
social conflict here and the similarities are sinister. In fact, Lopez Obrador 
has taken to comparing outgoing President Vicente Fox with Diaz Ordaz.

Fox will go to congress September 1 to deliver his final State of the Union 
address. The new legislature will be convened the same day. The country may or 
may not have a new president by that day. In anticipation of this show-down, on 
August 14, newly-elected senators and deputies from the three parties that 
comprise AMLO's Coalition for the Good of All attempted to encamp on the 
sidewalk in front of the legislative palace only to be rousted and clobbered 
bloody by the President's robocops.

With 160 representatives, the Coalition forms just a quarter of the 628 members 
of the new congress but they will be a loud minority during Fox's "Informe". 
Since the 1988 "presidenciales" were stolen from Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, founder of
AMLO's Party of the Democratic Revolution, PRD legislators have routinely 
interrupted the president during this authoritarian ritual in orchestrated 
outbursts that have sometimes degenerated into partisan fisticuffs.

The first to challenge the Imperial Presidency was Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a hoary 
political warhorse, who in 1988 thrust a finger at President Miguel De la 
Madrid, accusing him of overseeing the theft of the election from Cardenas. 
Munoz Ledo's J'Accuse stunned the political class. He was slugged and pummeled 
by members of De la Madrid's long-ruling PRI when he tried to escape the 
chamber. Munoz Ledo now stands at AMLO's side.

But perhaps the most comical moment in the annals of acting out during the 
Informe, came in 1996 when a brash PRI deputy donned a Babe the Valiant Pig mask
and positioned himself directly under the podium from which President Ernesto 
Zedillo was addressing the state of the nation, and wiggled insouciant signs 
with slogans that said things like 'EAT THE RICH!" Like Munoz Ledo, Marco Rascon
was physically attacked, his mask ripped off like he was a losing wrestler by a 
corrupt railroad union official who in turn was hammer locked by a 
pseudo-leftist senator, Irma "La Tigresa" Serrano, a one-time ranchero singer 
and in fact, the former very close friend of Gustavo Diaz Ordaz.

This September 1, if martial law is not declared and the new congress dissolved 
before it is even installed, the PRD delegation, which will no doubt be 
strip-searched by the Estado Mayor for incriminating banners, is sworn to create
a monumental ruckus, shredding the tarnished decorum of this once-solemn event 
forever to protest Fox's endorsement of electoral larceny. Some solons say they 
may go naked.

But no matter what kind of uproar develops, one can be secure that it will not 
be shown on national television as the cameras of Mexico's two-headed television
monstrosity â_" Televisa and TV Azteca â_" will stay trained on the President as
he tries to mouth the stereotypical clichés that is always the stuff and fluff 
of this otherwise stultifying séance. The images of the chaos on the floor of 
congress will not be passed along to the Great Unwashed.

There is a reptilian feel to Mexico seven weeks after a discredited Federal 
Electoral Institute (IFE) cemented Lopez Obrador into a second place coffin by 
awarding the presidency to right-winger Felipe Calderon by a mere 243,000 votes 
out of a total 42,000,000 cast. Both Calderon and IFE czar Luis Carlos Ugalde 
(Calderon was best man at Ugalde's wedding) make these little beady reptile eyes
as they slither across national screens.

Those screens have been the scenes of some of the slimiest and most sordid 
political intrigue of late. One of the lizard kings who is fleetingly featured 
on Televisa primetime is an imprisoned Argentinean construction tycoon, Carlos 
Ahumada, who in 2004 conspired with Fox, Calderon's PAN, and Televisa to frame 
AMLO on corruption charges and take him out of the presidential election."El 
Peje" (for a gar-like fish from the swamps of Lopez Obrador's native Tabasco) 
was then leading the pack by 18 points.

Charged by Lopez Obrador, then the mayor of this megalopolis, with defrauding 
Mexico City out of millions, Ahumada had taken his revenge by filming PRD 
honchos when they came to his office to pick up boodles of political cash. 
Although the filthy lucre was perfectly legal under Mexico's milquetoast 
campaign financing laws, the pick-ups looked awful on national television. 
AMLO's former personal secretary was caught stuffing wads of low denomination 
bills into his suit coat pockets as if he were on Saturday Night Live.

Ahumada subsequently turned the tapes over to the leprous, cigar-chomping leader
of Fox's PAN party in the Senate, Diego Fernandez de Cevallos ("El Jefe Diego") 
who in turn had them delivered to a green-haired clown, Brozo, who was then 
reading the morning news on Televisa. Then the Argentine blackmailer fled to 
Cuba in a private plane. Televisa would air the incriminating videos day and 
night for months.

Apprehended in Veradero after his lover Robles was shadowed to that socialist 
beachfront, Ahumada spilled the beans to Cuban authorities: Interior Secretary 
Santiago Creel, who was then AMLO's lead rival for the presidency, had cooked up
the plot with the connivance of reviled former president Carlos Salinas, Lopez 
Obrador's most venomous foe, the then attorney general, and Fox himself, to 
remove AMLO from the race.

The Mexican government did not ask for extradition and Ahumada's deportation 
from Cuba was not seen as a friendly gesture. Within a month, diplomatic 
relations between Mexico and Cuba were broken off and ambassadors summoned home.
The construction tycoon has been imprisoned in Mexico City ever since he was 
booted out of Cuba and was last heard from when he had his rogue cop chauffer 
shoot up the family SUV, a charade both Fox and Televisa tried to pin on AMLO. 
Ahumada had suggested he was about to release two more incriminating videos. 
These dubious events took place on June 6, the day of a crucial presidential 
debate between AMLO and Calderon.

Then last week, Ahumada abruptly resurfaced, or at least his videotaped 
confession to Cuban authorities did. Filmed through prison bars, he lays out the
plot step by step. Yes, he affirms, the deal was fixed up to cut AMLO's legs out
from under him and advance the fortunes of the right-wing candidate who turned 
out to be Felipe Calderon and not the bumbling Creel. The conspiracy backfired 
badly as his supporters rallied around him and Lopez Obrador's ratings soared.

The origins of the confession tape, leaked to top-rung reporter Carmen 
Aristegui, was obscure. Had Fidel dispatched it from his sick bed to bolster 
Lopez Obrador's claims of victory as the PAN and the snake-eyed Televisa evening
anchor Joaquin Lopez Dorriga hissed? The air grew serpentine with theories. 
There was even one school that speculated Calderon himself had been the source 
in a scheme to distance himself from Fox (there had always been bad feelings 
between them) and Creel, now the leader of the PAN faction in congress.

AMLO advanced a variant of this explanation: the specter of Ahumada had been 
resuscitated to divert attention from the evidence of generalized fraud the 
Coalition had submitted to the TRIFE and the panel's impending verdict that 
Calderon had won the election.

Perhaps the most nagging question in this snakepit of uncertainty is what 
happened during the partial recount of less than 10per cent of the 130,000 
ballot boxes ordered by the TRIFE to test the legitimacy of the IFE's results. 
Although the recount concluded on August 13, the judges have released no numbers
and are not obligated to do so. Their only responsibility is to certify the 
validity of the election.

Although AMLO's reps in the counting rooms came up with gobs of evidence -- 
violated ballot boxes, stolen or stuffed ballots, altered tally sheets and other
bizarre anomalies -- only the left-wing daily La Jornada saw fit to mention 
them. The silence of the Mexican media and their accomplices in the 
international press in respect to the Great Fraud is deafening, although they 
manage to fill their rags with ample attacks on Lopez Obrador for tying up 
Mexico City traffic.

According to AMLO's people, 119,000 ballots in the sample recount cannot be 
substantiated in about 3500 casillas, 58,000 more votes were cast than the 
number of voters on the voting list. In nearly 4000 other casillas, 61,000 
ballots allocated to election officials cannot be accounted for. The annulment 
of the casillas in which these alterations occurred would put Lopez Obrador in 
striking distance of Calderon and in a better world, would obligate the TRIFE to
order a total recount.

But given the cheesy state of the Mexican judiciary this is not apt to happen. 
One of the judges who will decide the fate of democracy in Mexico is a former 
client of El Jefe Diego for whom the PANista senator won millions from the 
Mexico City government in a crooked land deal.

Meanwhile, thousands continue to camp out in a hard rain for a third week on the
streets of Mexico City awaiting the court's decision. They have taken to 
erecting shrines and altars and are praying for divine intervention. Hundreds 
pilgrimage out to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe, some crawling on their 
knees, to ask the Brown Madonna to work her miracle. "God doesn't belong to the 
PAN!" they chant as they trudge up the great avenue that leads to the Basilica. 
"AMLO deserves a miracle" Esther Ortiz, a 70 year-old great grandmother comments
to a reporter as she kneels to pray before the gilded altar.

At the Metropolitan Cathedral on one flank of the Zocalo, a young worshipper 
interrupts Cardinal Norberto Rivera and is quickly hustled off the premises by 
his Eminence's bouncers. The following Sunday, the Cathedral's great doors are 
under heavy surveillance, and churchgoers screened for telltale signs of 
devotion to Lopez Obrador. Hundreds of AMLO's supporters mill about in front of 
the ancient temple shouting "voto por voto" and that Cardinal Rivera is a 

AMLO as demi-god is one motif of this religious pageant being played out at what
was once the heart of the Aztec theocracy, the island of Tenochtitlan. The ruins
of the twin temples of the fierce Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli and Tlahuac, the
god of the rain, are adjacent to the National Palace against which AMLO's stage 
is set. Lopez Obrador sleeps each night in a tent close by.

Many hearts were ripped out smoking on these old stones and fed to such hungry 
gods before the Crusaders showed up bearing the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

AMLO is accused by right-wing "intellectuals" (Enrique Krauze and the gringo 
apologist George Grayson) of entertaining a Messiah complex. Indeed, he is up 
there every day on the big screen, his craggy features, salt and pepper hair, 
raspy voice and defiantly jutted jaw bearing more of a passable resemblance to a
younger George C. Scott rather than The Crucified One. AMLO's devotees come 
every evening at seven, shoehorned between the big tents that fill the Zocalo, 
rain or shine. Last Monday, I stood with a few thousand diehards in a biblical 
downpour, thunder and lightening shattering the heavens above. "Llueve y llueve 
y el pueblo no se mueve" they chanted joyously, "it rains and rains and the 
people do not move."

The evolution of these incantations is fascinating. At first, the standard 
slogan of "Voto Por Voto, Casilla por Casilla!" was automatically invoked 
whenever Lopez Obrador stepped to the microphone. "You are not alone!" and 
"Presidente!" had their moment. "Fraude!" is still popular but in these last 
days, "No Pasaran!" -- they shall not pass, the cry of the defenders of Madrid 
as Franco's fascist hordes banged on the doors of Madrid, 1936 -- has 

In this context, "No Pasaran!" means "we will not let Felipe Calderon pass to 
the presidency." AMLO, who holds out little hope that the TRIFE will decide in 
his favor, devotes more time now to organizing the resistance to the imposition 
of Calderon upon the Aztec nation. Article 39 of the Mexican constitution, he 
reminds partisans, grants the people the right to change their government if 
that government does not represent them. To this end, he is summoning a million 
delegates up to the Zocalo for a National Democratic Convention on Mexican 
Independence Day September 16, a date usually reserved for a major military 

Aside from the logistical impossibility of putting a million citizens in this 
Tiennemens-sized plaza, how this gargantuan political extravaganza is going to 
be financed is cloudy. Right now, it seems like small children donating their 
piggy banks is the main mode of fund-raising. Because AMLO's people distrust the
banks, all of which financed Calderon's vicious TV ad campaign, a giant piggy 
bank has been raised in the Zocalo to receive the contributions of the faithful.

Dreaming is also a fundraiser. 10,000 raised their voices in song this past 
Sunday as part of a huge chorus assembled under the dome of the Monument to the 
Revolution to perform a cantata based on the words of Martin Luther King and 
Mohandas Gandhi. This too is a form of civil resistance, Lopez Obrador commended
his followers.

The first National Democratic Convention took place behind rebel lines in the 
state of Aguascalientes in 1914 at the apogee of the Mexican Revolution when the
forces of Francisco Villa and his Army of the North first joined forces with 
Zapata's Liberating Army of the Southern Revolution. The second National 
Democratic Revolution took place 80 years later in 1994, in a clearing in the 
Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas when the Zapatista Army of National Liberation wedded
itself to the civil society in an uprising that rocked Mexico all throughout the
'90s. Eclipsed by events, the EZLN and its quixotic spokesperson Subcomandante 
Marcos have disappeared from the political map in the wake of the fraudulent 

What this third National Democratic Convention is all about is now being debated
in PRD ruling circles and down at the grassroots. Minimally, a plan of organized
resistance that will dog Felipe Calderon for the next six years, severely 
hampering his ability to rule will evolve from this mammoth conclave. The 
declaration of a government in resistance headed by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador 
is one consideration. The National Democratic Convention could also result in 
the creation of a new party to replace a worn-out PRD now thoroughly infiltrated
by cast-offs from the PRI.

The Party of the Democratic Revolution has always functioned best as an 
opposition party. With notable exceptions (AMLO was one), when the PRD becomes 
government, it collapses into corruption, internecine bickering, and behaves 
just as arrogantly as the PAN and the PRI. No Pasaran?

Seven weeks after the July 2 electoral debacle, Mexico finds itself at a 
dangerously combustible conjunction ("coyuntura") in which the tiny white elite 
here is about to impose its will upon a largely brown and impoverished populous 
to whom the political parties and process grow more irrelevant each day. "No 
Pasaran!" the people cry out but to whom and what they are alluding to remains 
to be defined.

John Ross's ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible: Chronicles of Resistance 
2000-2006 will be published by Nation Books this October. Ross will travel the 
Left Coast this fall with both ZAPATISTAS! and a new chapbook of poetry BOMBA! 
and is still looking for possible venues. Send suggestions to •••@••.•••

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