Why Mexico Needs a Socialist President!

In the following article, Manuel Aguilar Mora, the candidate of the Socialist Coalition for president of Mexico, explains the decision of the Mexican revolutionary socialists to offer a political alternative in the July 2 presidential election.

The Socialist Coalition includes the Partido Obrero Socialista-the Mexican section of the International Workers League, founded by Nahuel Moreno-and the Liga de Unidad Socialista, an organization in solidarity with the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. Socialist Action maintains fraternal relations with both organizations.


With a little more than two months remaining before the July 2 presidential elections in Mexico, the political panorama of the country is becoming clearer and clearer. The government political machine, greased by millions of pesos, is working at top speed to prepare the way for its first president of the second millennium.

If the PRI [Partido Revolucionario Institucional] maintains power in these elections, it will set a record for being the only dictatorship that emerged early in the 20th century that has survived into the next.

To be sure, the longest lasting dictatorship of the century is in crisis, and given its age, this can only be a terminal one. But the way things are today, the Mexican people are facing a stark reality. It is almost certain that the country will enter the new century with a PRI dictatorship on its back, just as it entered the last under the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.

The last year of the current president’s term seems to be one of relative recovery, after five very difficult years. The price of oil [Mexico’s main export] is favorable, and the Clinton government has opened a $5 million credit line (“financial armor,” as they call it) as security against any vicissitudes.

[President Ernesto] Zedillo and his secretaries of state are congratulating themselves on being the first government to guarantee a presidential succession “without problems” or “turmoil,” after the last four conflict-ridden episodes.

On the economic level, after three very difficult initial years, Zedillo managed to ride over the worst potholes on his road. Here are few examples of the excellent services that the Zedillo government has provided for the Mexican capitalist system and its major imperialist partners:

  • It privatized most of the rail network.
  • It “rescued” the investments of the biggest construction companies in superhighways that proved too expensive for private and public transport, at the cost of 30 billion pesos [about $3.2 billion].
  • Above all, it did a bailout of the banks, transforming the enormous deficits of the Fobaproa [the bank savings insurance fund] into public debt. This has been called the biggest fraud in Mexican history. The cost in 1998 was 600 billion pesos. Today, with the interest, this amounts to close to 900 billion pesos [almost a $1 billion]. It is estimated that Mexican tax payers are going to continue to bear this burden for the next 30 years.

This year, in order to accommodate the European imperialists as well, Zedillo signed a free trade treaty with the European Union.

The government’s own figures show how well the rich have done in his term of office since 1994. The top 10 percent that were getting about 35 percent of the national income are now getting 38 percent.

On the other hand for the great bulk of the population, conditions have deteriorated dramatically. Recently, the World Bank itself has published statistics that show the impoverishment of the masses. According to this institution, 42.5 percent of the population is “living” on $2 or less a day.

Moreover, Julio Boltvink, a sociologist specializing in the study of income, shook up government circles by showing that the official statistics conceal the reality of poverty in the country. He pointed out that during Zedillo’s term in office, the percentage of the population living in poverty jumped dramatically from 50 percent of the population to 70 percent today.

However, the most scandalous of Boltvink’s discoveries was that within this percentage of the poverty-stricken, the worst off (those getting barely a dollar a day) had increased still more, from 10 to 20 percent of the population.

Given this reality, how could we be surprised at the skyrocketing of crime, the drug traffic, emigration to the U.S., the desperation among broad sectors of the population, and above all the growing political discontent? It is obvious that there is a socially explosive situation in Mexico.

Loyal opposition

Another question that quickly comes to mind is how to explain the surprising survival of such an inhuman, despotic, and oppressive system. The answer has to be sought in the political realm, in particular in the role played by the bourgeois opposition, mainly the Partido de Accion Nacional (PAN) and the Partido de la Revolucion Democratica (PRD).

The total transformation of the two main bourgeois opposition parties into a loyal opposition integrated into the system has been completely confirmed in the six years of Zedillo’s term.

The PAN was decisive for approving the multimillion-peso bank bailout. In 1997, Cardenas, the PRD candidate, won control of Mexico City, the political center of the country, with a large majority. But he did not manage to demonstrate any difference between a PRI government and an opposition one.

Rampant corruption continued without letup. There was no real, qualitative decline in crime. Contracts signed by the Mexico City government itself were the first steps in the privatization of the electrical industry. Poverty continued to dominate the streets of the capital.

The result of all this is that neither Fox, the PAN candidate, nor Cardenas, the third-time PRD candidate, have anything to say different from Labastida, the PRI candidate, nor any different program to offer.

The lack of bourgeois democratic traditions in Mexico is clearly exemplified in the bossism that prevails in the two bourgeois opposition parties. Both Fox and Cardenas have managed to impose their dominance on the blocs that support them. Besides the PAN and the PRD, these blocs include small parties that serve no purpose but to give a false pluralist appearance to campaigns of the big parties.

The PRD will face a very grave crisis after July 2, when Cardenas will lose his third try for the presidency. To a large extent, the PRD was founded with the perspective of Cardenas winning the presidency.

The PAN is a right-wing, old-style conservative party with more tradition. But it has also suffered from the impact of the populist reactionary bossism of a provincial capitalist rancher like Fox.

This is the political context, dominated for decades by the bonapartist dictatorship of the PRI, in which we have to work to build a democratic, socialist, revolutionary, and independent alternative.

Giant mobilizations throughout the country

The class struggle has been producing deeper and deeper conflicts. The Zapatista uprising in Chiapas in 1994 was a formidable challenge. After this, guerrilla groups began to multiply in the more backward southern states, such as Guerrero and Oaxaca. In recent days, the press has whipped up a big furor about the appearance of a guerrilla group in a rural part of Xochimilco in the Federal District itself.

During Zedillo’s term, there have been gigantic mobilizations by middle-class sectors in the countryside and the cities against the banks’ usury. In 1997 and 1998, there were probably more and larger street demonstrations in Mexico City than in any other city on the globe-demonstrations by neighborhood people, teachers, students, artists, peddlers, peasants, Indians, and workers.

The workers started mobilizing. At the beginning of Zedillo’s term, the outstanding example was the mobilizations of the Federal District bus drivers. They were defeated. At the end of his term, the outstanding example is the mobilizations of the electrical workers against the privatization of the electrical industry.

The May Day labor marches in 1995 and 1996 were also impressive. From 300,000 to 400,000 workers marched independently of the government union organizations.

In response to the massacre of peasants in Acteal in the state of Chiapas by reactionary paramilitaries, in Mexico City alone a half a million people demonstrated. There were also protest demonstrations in almost all the country’s important cities.

More recently, the turbulent student strike at the National University of Mexico [UNAM] has shown that a key sector that has usually heralded major political conflicts in the country is beginning to mobilize.

It is clear that revolutionary socialists are facing a great challenge. It was this that led the Socialist Coalition (formed in 1997 by the Partido Obrero Socialista and the Liga de Unidad Socialista) to intervene in the present electoral campaign.

Without ballot status, without the vast financial resources of the bourgeois parties, the Socialist Coalition decided to run an independent presidential candidate in order to inject into the debate now going on in the mobilized sectors of the population, not just in the vanguard, the question of independent socialist political organization-that is, of a workers party.

The programmatic campaign waged by the Socialist Coalition is also designed to explain the need for political and organizational unification of all the struggles, independently of the PRD, the party that up until today has exercised the predominant influence in these sectors.

The PRD’s rightist and crudely electoralist lurch has made such proposals more understandable. It is bringing both critical sectors and new layers of social fighters closer to the Coalition’s independent, revolutionary, and internationalist class-struggle ideas and program.

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