Latin America is in the midst of a continental revolt against the governments and ruling elites which have relentlessly followed neo-liberal free-market policies for more than a decade. Over 215 million, a staggering 41%, are “living in poverty” in Latin America while an additional 18% are facing hunger.
As a result there has been an explosion of mass opposition. Struggles of workers, peasants, indigenous people, students and others exploited by capitalism and imperialism have erupted in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and many other countries. In Venezuela, and Bolivia, mass movements resulted in the election of left populist governments that challenge US imperialism.
The July 2nd elections in Mexico were a bitterly polarized electoral contest described by the New York Times as a contrast between “promise and fear.” The “promise” part represented the empty promises for jobs and a decent life by the Harvard-educated, millionaire right-wing candidate of the National Action Party (PAN) Felipe Calderon. The “fear” was for the high anxiety of the Mexican and US ruling class over a possible victory by the radical populist Lopez Obrador, candidate of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD).
Obrador was ahead in the polls for months before the elections and all exit polls indicated a lead for the PRD candidate. Yet, after the election, and with three million votes reported “missing,” both Obrador and Calderon claimed victory. At the time of this writing, there were reports that Calderon was “ahead” by 0.6%, (Calderon and Obrador had roughly a reported 36% each and the PRI candidate had 21%) and there were going to be several recounts of ballots. On July 5, a later partial recount showed Obrador again in the lead, resulting in the Mexican stock market index falling 4% and the peso plunging against the dollar because of the uncertainty and tension. In the US and Mexican corporate media there were fears that there may be clashes as the polarization and anger against fraud threaten to explode to the surface.
History of fraud
The events that followed the election of July 2nd bear an eerie resemblance to the presidential elections of 1988 when the insurgent left candidate of the PRD Cardenas, was defeated by massive fraud after a “computer collapse” and the award of the election to Salinas of the corrupt PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). Salinas, and after him Zedillo and current president of the PAN, Vincente Fox, went ahead with a massive program of privatizations and attacks on the living standards of millions of Mexican workers and peasants while opening the country to the plunder and exploitation of US capital through NAFTA.
Millions of displaced and impoverished Mexican peasants and workers especially from the south had to emigrate internally to the new factories in the maquiladoras or as undocumented immigrants in the United States in order to survive. As a result of NAFTA, the real wages of unskilled workers have further declined since the collapse of the Mexican economy in the 1980s and Mexican workers are now facing mounting wage pressure from China.
The imposition of Felipe Calderón as President would mean the continuation of the same policies, which are threatening to cause an explosion. The election took place as hundreds of thousands of miners, teachers and other workers were staging strikes and demonstrations across Mexico. The death of 65 coal miners in Coahuila state in February was followed by an explosion of struggles by miners and metal workers demanding an emergency wage increase, safe working conditions and an end to privatizations.
In July, 70,000 teachers in the state of Oaxaca were striking for higher wages. Following attacks by 1,700 riot police, teachers armed with sticks and stones fought running battles and eventually overpowered them. The movement in Oaxaca has broadened into a popular rebellion. Meanwhile hundreds of unions, and community organizations representing over 10 million workers are calling a nationwide general strike for July 28.
The mass support for the campaign of Obrador, was an indication of the determination of the working class and the most oppressed to defeat the neo-liberal policies. Lopez Obrador campaigned as a populist adopting the slogan, “For the Good of Everyone, the Poor First.” Obrador pledged to renegotiate sections of the North American Free Trade Agreement in order to protect domestic producers from US agricultural imports. At the same time, he has repeatedly made clear to business and banking groups that he can be trusted to safeguard their interests and balance the budget.
A government led by Lopez Obrador would be a major irritant to George Bush who has thus far only had to deal with the compliant right-wing president Vicente Fox. His victory could possibly open the floodgates to a new wave of struggles by the Mexican workers and peasants and will have important repercussions north of the border on the Latino population in the US especially over the issue of undocumented immigrants. The remittances of Mexican immigrants in the United States-approximately $18 billion a year-is now the second most important source of foreign exchange, after oil, flowing into Mexico.
The only way to defeat the electoral fraud organized by the ruling class and its operatives is for the independent unions and community organizations that supported Obrador to call mass demonstrations across Mexico, organize action committees and prepare for a general strike to bring the country at a standstill. However, it is unlikely that Obrador and the PRD will take such action as his program and policies hardly touches the heart of the crisis in Mexico - capitalism. The only way to reverse the attacks on the living standards of the mass of the population is to break completely with capitalism by nationalizing the banks, big industry and the large commercial enterprises.
socialistworld.net will carry further material on the important developments in Mexico in the next few weeks.