by Roman Mungia Huato / May 2005 issue of Socialist Action
Mexico protests halt ‘preemptive electoral fraud’ On April 28, the Mexican president, Vicente Fox, was forced by huge mass protests to retreat from the
attempt to remove the most popular prospective candidate for next year’s presidential election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Fox dropped his attorney general and a number of other judicial officials involved in prosecuting Lopez Obrador and called for changing the law under which he was accused. The following article describes the development of a case that has convulsed the political life of Mexico.
GUADALAJARA—On April 7, the Mexican Chamber of Deputies passed almost unanimously a resolution removing the immunity of the head of government of the Federal District (including Mexico City), Lopez Obrador. The formal reason for the adoption of this resolution was an alleged failure to observe judicial order suspending the construction of a road over a property of disputed ownership.
The pretext was ridiculous, not only because the offense for which he was accused is a minor matter and the dispute was easily resolvable but because none of Lopez Obrador’s predecessors (and in fact no elected official in recent memory) has been subjected to a similar sanction.
This congressional resolution has rocked the political life of the country because its objective—inspired by an alliance between the president, Vicente Fox, and the top leader of the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party, the historic state party], Roberto Madrazo—was to remove Lopez Obrador from the next presidential election in 2006.
According to Mexican law, once he lost his immunity, Lopez Obrador could be brought to trial, and, being formally charged with breaking the law, he would have to resign as head of the government of the Federal District and could lose his political rights.
This case is all the graver because Lopez Obrador is topping the popularity polls nationally, and if the Fox-Madrazo maneuver proved successful, it would
amount to "preemptive electoral fraud."
The politicians who favored the move by Fox and Madrazo claimed that this decision was simply an application of the law. But one need only note the
impunity of those who commanded massacres in the 1960s and 1970s to show that in Mexico the law is applied according to political convenience and not the good of the society. The illegal connivance of the judicial and legislative and executive authorities is well known. Everyone knows that the presidential authority operates outside the law and outside the Constitution.
The population responded to Congress’s action with demonstrations numbering in the tens of thousands in Mexico City and other cities where Lopez Obrador called rallies and demonstrations. The biggest so far
was on April 24, which the Federal District police estimated at 1.2 million people and the [right-wing] TV stations at 600,000.
There is a deep-going crisis of the government that had promised "change." The businessman’s government of Vicente Fox has not carried out any transition to democracy [the PAN was the first opposition party to win a presidential election in what had long been a one-party state].
With the neoliberal policies initiated by Miguel de la Madrid [1982-1988] and deepened by Carlos Salinas de Gortarti, Ernesto Zedillo, and finally by Fox, we Mexicans have seen a growing shredding of the government’s veil of political legitimacy by a succession of corruption scandals, violence, crimes,
frauds, plundering of the country’s wealth, venality, demagogy, drug trafficking, cynicism, and impunity enjoyed by the officials and big money.
Parallel to this have been growing mass poverty, destruction of the environment, unemployment, and the surrender of national sovereignty. The Congressional resolution represented an authoritarian political maneuver reminiscent of the worst years of the one-party state of the PRI. Its objective was to impose a stronger neoliberal presidency in 2006. In its alliance with the PRI, Fox and his party, the PAN [National Action Party] are trying to maintain the presidential power to continue pushing privatization of the public patrimony with "structural reforms."
Already before the elections, two governmental projects are being counterposed. One is that of the PRI-PAN, sharpened neoliberalism based on
authoritarianism and the far right, and the other is Lopez Obrador’s, a less energetic neoliberalism with some concessions to social welfare, such as payments of about 60 dollars a month to seniors over 70. In practice, Lopez Obrador’s government has clearly been favorable to the big capitalists, offering fat public works projects to a major group of them.
Even aside from the deep-going corruption of Lopez Obrador’s party, the PRD [Party of the Democratic Revolution], his project is not a real alternative for
the country. In order to achieve such an alternative, the working people, who are a majority of the population, would need a government of their own, one
representative of their interests. But this notwithstanding, it is clear that the congressional resolution has provoked a greater polarization of the society and that it is an attack on democracy and the rights of citizens.