website of the committee for a workers' international, CWI
"Se ve, se siente, tenemos presidente"
Juan Guerrero, Mexico City
One hundred and forty-one days after the right-wing parties stole the presidential elections in Mexico, the popular protest movement, headed by the ex-presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (ALMO), was out in force, on 20 November, for its own inauguration ceremony, in the Zócalo, Mexico City`s main square.
Crowds gathered from 3pm onwards, and by the start of the ceremony, at five in the afternoon, one of the biggest central squares in the world filled to the brink. People who arrived late tried to follow events in neighbouring streets. The crowd, made up of members of the PRD (Partido de la Revolución Democrática (AMLO’s party), the PT (the workers’ party), a coalition partner of the PRD in the Por el Bien de Todos (For the good of all) alliance, and members of community organisations. They braved the cold and waited quietly for the arrival of AMLO, on the same day as the official anniversary of the historic Mexican Revolution.
That a multitude of more than 300,000 people occupied the square was a defiance of the right wing parties and the officially elected president Calderon. For months, the media predicted the death of the protest movement and the political bankruptcy of AMLO and the PRD. Straight after the stolen elections, AMLO called on his supporters to occupy the Zócalo and to make a tent city. For 48 days, the protesters camped in the square, protested throughout the country, and did everything in their power to reclaim the election which so clearly had been stolen from them. Now they where back in Zócalo in great numbers and the official anniversary celebrations, organised by the Fox government, disappeared into insignificance. Most official acts of remembrance were cancelled. The few impersonators of the Mexican Revolution’s heroes, Pancho Villa and Zapata, who showed up on horseback in other parts of the city (playing subservient roles in modern ceremonies of remembrance that are void of any real revolutionary significance) were an illustration of the helplessness of the ruling class rather than the usual sycophantic celebration with which the multi-millionaire robbers ruling Mexico try to claim some revolutionary antecedent.
When López Obrador appeared on the stage in the Zócalo the crowd started shouting slogans: "Es un honor de estar con Obrador" (‘It is an honour to be with Obrador’) and "Si se pudo" (‘Yes it could be done!’). The inauguration started with a proposal from the head of the National Democratic Convention, an organisation made up of the different parties in the Obrador alliance, and trade unions and community organisations. The proposal, arrived at through consultation with over one million delegates was to mobilise on 1 December, to protest against the fraudulent inauguration of Filipe Calderon. The speaker asked the multitude in the square if they agreed and were prepared to occupy the Zócalo, at 7 am, on 1 December. Immediately all hands were raised, as if it was the action of a single person.
Then the alternative government of 12 people (6 women and 6 men), was proposed to the crowd. After this, López Obrador was presented with a badge depicting an eagle, with spread wings and a snake in its beak. In his speech, Obrador referred to this symbol as the republican eagle, the symbol of the Juarez presidency, during the first Mexican Revolution. Obrador differentiated his symbol from the official symbol on the Mexican national flag, by shouting: "Down with the ugly eagle! Down with the eagle of the conservatives and the reactionaries of Mexico!"
Obrador’s went on to say: "It is a pleasure to see you standing here. To see the Zócalo filled again and vibrating with enthusiasm reaffirms what I have always thought: with people like you nothing is impossible. Here is the proof of what we are and of what we will be capable of building".
The speech set out 20 programmatic points of the alternative government, points around which "a government of the people" will be organised, "the organisation of a most important civil movement that has ever existed in our history, we will built it from below - the political, economical, social and cultural transformation that Mexico needs".
The biggest cheers arose when López Obrador attacked the ruling class and the present and future ‘official’ government of Mexico. "A government divorced from the people is nothing more than a facade, an egg shell, a bureaucratic apparatus; the legitimate government is the organised people". He called for the setting up of a ‘truth commission’ to investigate the illegal enrichment and rampant corruption which accompanied the privatisation of former nationalised industries, and also to investigate the ‘old boys’ network’, the political parties and the corrupt practices around which government contracts are granted.
The first measure of his popular government, Obrador said, would be to "confront the economic monopolies" and to propose a "law on competitive prices" which will do away with "exaggerated prices the Mexicans pay for services and goods."
He listed prices Mexican people pay and compared them with the prices a US citizen would pay for the same goods and services. "It is not acceptable that Mexicans pay 223% more for cement, 260% more for broad band internet, 65% more for telephone, 116% more for household electricity, 116% more for cable television and 26000% more charges for the use of a credit card".
Other points in the 20 point programme, included free education, a national minimum wage enshrined in the constitution, protection of Mexican industry from international competition, rights for the indigenous people and all other minorities, no to privatisation, and yes to the protection of the national resources of the country
Obrador received the biggest cheer of the evening when he said a people oppressed could not be expected accept oppression peacefully. "When there is no justice, there can be no peace!" And he announced support for the rebellion in the Oaxaca region of Mexico, demanding the resignation of the state governor Ulises Ruiz, and the withdrawal of the militarised police from Oaxaca (see previous reports on socialistworld.net).
Obrador made references to the ‘barons’ of the Mexican economy, who enriched themselves during the neo-liberal policies of the de la Madrid, Salinas, Zedillo and Fox governments. In fact, as in other Latin American countries butchered by neo-liberalism, while the population suffered the "liberalisation" of the market, these policies created a few wealthy monopolists.
The 10 most important barons had, by 2005, amassed a fortune of 30 billion dollars or 5% of the Gross Domestic Product, a quarter of which is in the hands of the richest Mexican, Carlos Slim Helú, who is also ex-campaign leader of right wing presidential candidate Salinas.
Mr. Slim controls 94 percent of the telephone communication by landline and 75% of the mobile network. Lorenzo Zambrano, the cement king, controls 90% of the Mexican market, and his industrial group is third in cement production world wide. By the beginning of the process of privatisation, his personal wealth amounted to 55 billion pesos, and 5 years later he had tripled his fortune. Germán Larrea, the head of the industrial group Grupo México, owns 95% of the exploitation and trade of the copper industry. At the beginning of the Fox presidency, Germán Larrea’s net wealth was 700 millions pesos. By 2005 it had grown to 7.2 billion pesos. These monopolists made huge profits while poverty rates stayed the same or grew over the last decade. Between 43% to 51% of Mexicans live in poverty, and nearly 80% of all rural families live in poverty. Government aid is virtually non-existent or does not help. One newspaper recently reported that poor families in Oaxaca, Puebla, Hidalgo and Veracruz give government distributed baby food to their livestock animals because their children will not eat it.
This radical left populist programme presented by Obrador has every chance to act as a catalyst and a propeller for the struggle of the Mexican masses. The PRD, while it is not a workers’ party in the sense that it defends the class interests of the working class, can for now be a force around which groups of struggling workers gather. While Obrador included in the 20 points the need to democratise the trade union movement, and supported secret ballots - a fundamental task for worker-activists, socialists and revolutionaries - he did not at all refer to democratising the PRD, the need for a workers and poor peasants’ government or the need to break with capitalism.
The radical demands put forward by Obrador will be supported by socialists and revolutionaries all over the world. However, in order to guarantee the implementation and sustainability of these reforms then the grip of the capitalist barons and reactionaries over the Mexican people, supported by imperialism, must be broken and along with it the capitalist system. The floodgates will open in Mexico, and in this struggle millions will stand side by side seeking a better life, a society more just and equal, and end to the carnivorous plundering of the tiny elite. Throughout this movement, revolutionary socialists will explain and point to the fundamental tasks the mass movement has to undertake, including the creation of a mass workers’ party, with democratically elected representatives on a workers’ wage and subject to recall. The unions need to be reclaimed and rebuilt. A programme of genuine democratic socialism calls for workers’ control and management, and the immediate implementation of an emergency plan to rebuild society.
A people can be subjected, exploited, and abused for a long time. Working people can try to make ends meet, bow their heads, and endure terrible suffering. However, exploiters be warned, once the masses seek change, to stand up and to fight for their rights, no multi-million dollar army can stop them, and no amount of repression will knock down the masses. In Mexico today, we are witnessing the first steps in this process.
Committee for a Workers' International
PO Box 3688, London E11 1YE, Britain, Tel: ++ 44 20 8988 8760, Fax: ++ 44 20 8988 8793, email@example.com