This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial Creative Commons license
By Luis Lopezllera M.
Dear friends, this is a letter motivated by our traditional day of the dead, November 2nd, today remembered in kind by a struggle between our people and bloody weapons of the so called 'law', 'order' and 'institutions'. Latin America is trying to recover dignity facing the globalization challenges. And Mexico is now experiencing convulsive moments that remind us those years we had almost one hundred years ago that led our people to produce a historic Revolution. Now we should talk better about the need of a Mutation in order to overcome our geographical fate having the U.S. Inc., not its people, as a rapacious neighbor.
The people of Latin America is moving. After decades of dictatorships first, and then liberal democracies, both kind of regimes working within a mega businesses framework fostered by the U.S. empire, poverty increased in explosive dimensions in the middle of scandalous corruptions and lack of security for everybody. The situation became unsustainable and very tense. In 1994, many indigenous people in Chiapas, living in extreme poverty, declared a war against the Mexican government who did not think about the nation's integrity when it signed an unfair international agreement like NAFTA. It was a signal for everybody: one of the most humble people in the continent was saying "It is enough!"
At the beginning of this new century, coming as an irresistible wave from South America, step by step, crisis after crisis, several political national regimes have been democratically shifting in favor of the want and will of the majorities. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and most dramatically, Venezuela and Bolivia, are taking now measures in order to reform structures, going into the causes of poverty and not only for alleviating it. At least it is the intent. This of course is not well seen in the United States, especially the present president Bush and the interests supporting him.
But imagine when this wave reaches its immediate "backyard", Mexico, a country with specific weight and personality, with a past of several revolutionary exploits. Will the mega-businesses and their surrogate national managers permit a kind of "populist" regime nearby, especially when security is the key word today justifying their crimes all around the world especially in the Middle East? A few days ago, President Bush signed the law which orders the building of a double wall 1,200 kilometers along one third of its border with Mexico. The border now is militarized which in the traditional statesmanship means a threat of war. A threat not only against Mexico but all Latin America. This move tries to control the influx of illegal migrants looking for jobs they do not find within their countries. Besides, to stop the supply of tropical drugs desperately needed inside by the emptiness of some people. In the last 6 years, 4 million people have crossed the border, with thousands dying in the attempt. This wall is an infamous sign of the failure of the free market ideology: money can circulate freely but not people. This wall with an army behind is a premonition of a military 'solution' for the unresolved economic and politic problems in the continent.
What is happening in Mexico?
The present President Fox , a former entrepreneur working for Coca Cola and belonging to the rightist party, the PAN, was elected for a 6 years term in 2000, right and left voting together to expel the very corrupted "revolutionary" party, the PRI, after 70 years being in power and sclerosed at the end. Fox won because he promised not only effective democracy but a real improvement of poor people’s livelihood. Nevertheless once in power he adopted the same neo-liberal politics that caused the Chiapas uprising and all Mexico went worse than before except for the very rich linked to foreign interests. After 4 years everybody knew he was a fiasco veiled by charlatanry. He did not do anything substantial in favor of the people, he underscored private businesses and for the social issues he only followed publicized recipes of the international bodies. We know these recipes are only aspirins. He really in fact worked for international banks, family businesses and the duopoly of television chains.
During the Fox's regime, a new leader captured the attention of the masses. Antonio Manuel Lopez Obrador, "AMLO" for the journalists, "Peje" for the common people, belonging to the leftist party, PRD, was a successful governor of Mexico City giving emphasis to the condition of the poorest. He decided to compete for the new presidency. He has been enthusiastically supported by the masses of impoverished people in all Mexico. AMLO on the process has transformed himself from a classic politician into a charismatic one. He detached himself from the political caste, with his personal pros and cons.
Two years before the elections (scheduled for July 2006) it was obvious that people was going to give its support to AMLO for getting the Presidency. So the reaction came without losing time. The big entrepreneurs, the mass media, the PAN now colluded with its past foe, the PRI. Even the corrupted superior judges and the same President, started a mischievous campaign in order to discredit AMLO and to put him in jail with false public offenses. Because the 'Peje' promised to reduce the level of corruption of the bureaucracy at the top levels by first reducing their disproportionately high salaries, many of these officers joined together to fight against him. They almost succeeded but thanks to wide social pressure, Fox gave up and AMLO could finally be registered as a formal candidate.
Mexico has no real democratic tradition. Those who have been in power have had a tremendous advantage in order to co-opt votes, buying them with subsidies or worst with bribes or more simply by seeding fear. Openly or covertly, officially or privately, now under a different party, a lot of money, really a lot, was put in the dirty game, especially the chains of TV campaigning cynically against AMLO. But even with all these maneuvers the 'Peje' was confident on winning.
Unbelievably he lost by 0.5% of the votes. Both parties, left and right, keeping 15 million votes each. The rest of the votes were for the old party and the new artificial ones. No doubt, there was a fraud to deceive the people: an unfair and frightening media campaign during the last two years and some old and new dirty tactics over the polls, especially at the end of the vote count by using cybernetic formulas style USA & Bush.
The reaction of AMLO's partisans has been historic, with millions protesting on the streets mainly in Mexico City where he won easily. AMLO invited the official 'winner', Felipe Calderon, FC, to count again the votes with clear fair witnesses, but the PAN and its candidate, the electoral authorities too, refused to accept this ultimate proposition to resolve the uncertainty. Doubts and suspicions increased much more.
For 47 days, almost 9 kilometers of Reforma, the main avenue in Mexico City, were barricaded permanently by hundreds of thousands of people coming from all over the country to protest and to divert the traffic from this vertebral avenue. Every day there were meetings, conferences, art performances, chess and table games, even street sports. By night, people slept there under hundreds of big tents. We never have had a demonstration so energetic and so creative like this one. But I should say that the authorities of the city belong to the PRD and they have been very soft and even auspicious with the demonstrators. On the opposite side, many middle and high class people and big entrepreneurs with business along the avenue, in a city where there are 4 million cars (one thousand new ones〔ach!〕everyday coming in and demanding more facilities) were angry and protested against this kind of unusual demonstrations and permanent barricades.
When despite all social pressures for nullification of the elections the superior tribunal (each judge earns an immoral salary of US $35,000 dollars every month) declared FC the legal elected President, a great number of people amassed. One million and a half gathered at the main square, the 'Zócalo', claimed AMLO as the legitimate President. AMLO agreed to lead a permanent mobilization and he will assume next 20th November (the commemoration of the 1910 Revolution) an alternative presidency based on moral power in an unprecedented and multitudinous event. We had in the XIX century a similar situation during the French intervention. At that time the Republic defeated the Empire. Now it will be another kind of war, without weapons.
The country is now clearly divided: the north voted for the right and the south for the left. The right has on its side the law, the media, the corporations and the army. The left has the people, the intellectuals and artists, justice and some international sympathies. Two ways of doing politics, the formal and the substantial. Now the people together with specific sectors (universities, some journalists, NGO's) are entering into a new dimension of struggle where creativity, wonder and new kinds of power will emerge.
At the Congress, not one party has a definite majority. The PAN is the first minority, then the PRD and as the last one, the PRI. To have majority of votes, PAN and PRI will join together whenever it was necessary to defeat the PRD's motions. The new right and the so called old center have joined hands to fight against the emergent and dynamic left. This demonstrated the hypocrisy of many politicians defending the status quo. This is becoming clear in the face of another people's revolt in the south of Mexico.
Oaxaca remembers the Paris Commune of 1871
Oaxaca is one of the poorest states of Mexico. It has a majority of indigenous inhabitants. Chiapas is its neighbor to the South. Since May, people in Oxaca is struggling against the governor, Ulises Ruiz, who belongs to the PRI. This governor behaves like a dictator as though he is living in older times when Mexico had in practice only one party. So, 15,000 schools and 100,000 teachers had gone on strike, demanding the resignation of the governor or, as a last measure, the intervention of the federal government to oust him. The strike has gone on for more than 5 months. All this time the children could not attend schools. Repressive assault by government men have led to several persons being killed and more people joined the movement, creating the APPO, Asamblea Popular de los Pueblos de Oaxaca (Grassroots Assembly of the People of Oaxaca).
During all this time, protests and just demands have been practically ignored by the local congress dominated by the PRI and by President Fox at the federal level. So, almost since the beginning, the whole city has been taken by the people's movement including streets, squares, the official buildings and radio stations, the university, etc. A sort of popular governance has been practiced by APPO, a soft image of the Commune of Paris 1871, neutralizing the local police and controlling the public spaces. It has not been without deep sufferings since around 10 grass root people have been killed in the process.
The governor could not function any more but President Fox, the PAN (and the new formal president) fear that if they accept the fair demands of the people in Oaxaca and the present governor falls, the pattern will be repeated at the national level, and FC will follow the same fate facing the AMLO mobilizations. This is really the key issue and is already costing many lives. Because the PAN needs desperately the alliance of the PRI at the Congress, it is now conditioned by the corrupted remnants of the old party. So, the army was sent 'to occupy' the city of Oaxaca if the last dialogues between APPO and government at the federal level would fail. 'Dialogue' is a very ambiguous word, meaning for one side, to listen and to understand and for the other side, to command for obedience.
Last Friday, APPO's activists were attacked by paramilitaries (organized by the governor) and 4 people were killed, among them an American journalist. Around 30 more was wounded. It was evidently a provocation. The US Embassy made an ferocious declaration and it was the last drop (we should remember Nicaragua, 1979, when another U.S. journalist was killed by a soldier in front of a TV camera). President Fox gave on Saturday the fatal order and the federal police (mixed with disguised soldiers) implemented with helicopters, light tanks, bulldozers, tear gas, attacked the barricades and seized the main square of the city. People opposed massively the planned attacks trying to follow the instructions of the leaders for a non- violent resistance. But many uncontrolled violent reactions happened, like burning buses and cars. Once the military were inside the city the mobilizations seized the peripheral roads, rebuilt again barricades and the military were surrounded in turn. It was a game of cat and mice. The balance for now is 4 more dead, family houses broken in, 40 people put in jail and 30 more disappeared or kidnapped.
Today, 'Day of the Dead'
The core of APPO fortified itself at the university campus giving messages by radio and now, on Thursday November 2nd, the traditional Day of the Dead which is a deeply meaningful day, they are attacked and surrounded by the federal police, a total of 4,000 men. At the same time, paramilitaries belonging to the PRI and the governor's cadres started to attack with fire weapons the rest of the earlier built barricades and new ones too. The struggle is not only in Oaxaca City but on many roads and in smaller cities, and solidarity and support have emerged from the civil society, the people’s movements and especially the students who are demonstrating and seizing roads and streets. This may remind us of the 1968 massacre here and the 1989 demonstration at Tiananmen Square. Of course, the repression would not be so brutal today because media and human rights activists are every where.
I should mention that Subcommander Marcos, spokeman of the Zapatistas rebellion in Chiapas, who has played a very low profile on these events, has made solidarity declarations and even symbolic public performances in the border of Mexico with the U.S. In Mexico City, the blockades of crucial urban roads and marches continue though today and the weekend are bridged as a great holiday that weakens the capacity of mobilisation. These traditional days of respect and mourning for the dead I think were considered by the federal authorities to plan the 'invasion' of Oaxaca.
We need an organic society without borders
These convulsive moments may appear on the global level as only one more battle for freedom and dignity. But the social struggles have no comparative scales but common meanings. No doubt the Middle East is the battlefield where the U.S., now as the mega-soldier protecting the mega-businesses, tries to save the power of the dollar supported by the oil wells whose product is translated into its vanishing currency. First in Iraq and now in Iran, the euro has been taken as an alternative. In fact it is an impersonal worldwide revenge after the global fraud perpetrated by the U.S. during decades issuing trillions of dollars without any value, a colossal fraud financing the Cold War. Now, it is again a hot war responding to the U.S. interests, to maintain by force a primacy that is totally rejected by the peoples.
Mexico has suffered its historic fate being the militarily weak neighbor of a very aggressive power. We were in the past deprived by force of half our territory and now our oil wells are supporting the huge debt created by unfair agreements with international bankers. Here the 'maquilas' and our exported labor are mainly managed in order to permit foreign businesses to resist Chinese competition using also cheap labor. Now Mexicans and Latinamericans within the U.S. are becoming the second demographic force there.
Many changes in our continent are desirable, many in our countries and many also in the U.S. The collapse of many myths and historic borders are coming and our peoples should be prepared not only to resist the injustice and repression but to overcome them with love, effort and creativity. The elementary society whose aims in the middle of complexity are the common good and solidarity should stand up and be the compass among the confused game of powers. To be a sort of new pluralistic organic society creating right livelihoods with everybody, for everybody, with dignity and understanding.
Friends of IGGRI, of the former Other Stock Exchange, of many friendly networks, this is another local and global challenge. Surely you are facing yours. Let’s talk about that, lets engage more deeply, lets share lessons and solidarities.
Editor: photos taken from kaosenlared.net and EZLN .
This work is licensed under a Attribution Non-commercial Creative Commons license