In a telling display of how desperate the corrupt Mexican elite is to keep political power in their hands, on April 7 México’s Congress officially began the process of putting their country’s most popular politician, Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the PRD (a capitalist populist party), behind bars.
The motive is clear: Obrador is a staunch opponent of the neo-liberal policies that have dictated Mexican politics for the last twenty years, and he currently has an 80% approval rating as mayor of Mexico City and a 15 point lead over his nearest competitor in the 2006 presidential race. Obrador has carried out anti-poverty programs, public works programs, and opposes privatization of the oil and energy industries.
Because they cannot beat Obrador democratically, Mexico’s two neo-liberal parties, the right-wing PAN (President Vicente Fox’s party) and the center-right PRI (in power for 70 years until 2000), banded together to eliminate Obrador from presidential contention on a legal technicality.
However, that same day, the Mexican people stood up in strong defense of democracy and the left. Between 500,000 and 1.2 million people crammed into Mexico City’s central plaza to hear Obrador outline his strategy for what promises to be one of the biggest protests in Mexican history.
Obrador made plans for the next major protest and asked everybody to play an active role in building the peaceful civil resistance movement. He emphasized individual actions (discussion, leafleting, and voting) as well as organized actions, calling on his supporters to "intensify the creation throughout the entire country of Citizens’ Committees in favor of the Alternative Project for the Nation."
On April 24 there was a silent march of 1,200,000 from Mexico City’s Museum of Anthropology to the city’s central plaza, making it the biggest act of civil resistance in Mexican history. In the face of these mass protests - according to some reports the largest in Mexican history and certainly the largest since 1968 - Fox has been forced to back down and declare that Obrador will be allowed to run for President in 2006.
Obrador’s alleged crime dates back to 2000, when as Mexico City mayor, Obrador ordered the expropriation of an unused strip of land to build a service road connecting a hospital to a poor community. A judge later ruled that Obrador stop building the road, but Obrador refused, arguing it was the peoples´ land, and it had been stolen from them decades earlier.
Either way, the severity of the proposed punishment far exceeds any precedent in Mexican history. In 1988 Carlos Salinas (PRI) was literally given the presidency after ballot boxes had clearly been stolen and tampered with, and in 2000 President Vicente Fox was slapped with a mere fine after being charged with violating campaign finance laws. Thus, the attempt to imprison Obrador is obviously politically motivated.
But the PRI and PAN are taking a huge political risk by persecuting Obrador. The poor and working class view Obrador as their defender, so they are now very willing to defend him.
How will Obrador and the PRD make use of this volatile situation? They correctly criticize neo-liberalism, but their aim is to establish "capitalism with a human face." This is not possible, especially in the crisis-ridden and impoverished countries of Latin America. One only needs to look at the recent experience of Lula’s PT government in Brazil to see that if governments remain within the confines of capitalism, they will be compelled to carry out attacks against the working class and poor.
To fight against neo-liberalism and capitalism, it is necessary to build an independent mass movement of the working class and the poor. The citizen committees Obrador calls for will only be able to develop if they become genuine committees of struggle, made up of delegates elected at mass meetings in all workplaces, universities, and working-class communities. Delegates elected to such committees should be elected and subject recall and link together on a district, city, regional and national basis. Such committees of struggle could begin to present the alternative to capitalism and fight for a workers’ and peasants government as an alternative to the capitalist rulers.
The working and poor peoples of Mexico need their own political party, democratically run from below, to represent their independent interests. Such a workers’ party needs to be armed with a revolutionary socialist program to overthrow the undemocratic system of capitalism, introduce a democratic socialist plan of production to develop the economy and raise living standards, and appeal to the workers and youth of Latin America and the U.S. to join in a common struggle for a democratic socialist confederation of the Americas.
With the U.S. government attempting to stem the growing tide of struggle and radicalization throughout all of Latin America, it is incumbent on socialist, anti-war, and labor activists in the U.S. to build support and solidarity within the U.S. for these struggles.