Saturday, 9 June 2012


For the past few weeks, Popocatépetl has been emitting ash and smoke and keeping everyone on alert. Many Mexicans call the volcano Don Gregorio, and think he’s casting a watchful an eye on everyone below; in that case, Don Goyo’s recent puffs of smoke might be a reflection of his uncertainty about the upcoming July 1 or perhaps they are just signaling the return of dinosaurs[1] ( or ). One day during the first week of June, there were 50 emissions and rumblings. If Don Gregorio is concerned, he has a lot of company in that significant percentage of the population who can’t decide or won’t say what they will do come voting day. Among the approximately 80 million registered voters, 25% of them remain undecided. (,0,6755995.story ). Although this is a significant number this late in the campaign, it is a still a major decline from the 50% who were undecided two weeks ago.
Mexico’s march towards democracy has been twisted, slow and tedious, and it has largely remained within a closed network of political parties, government and political actors who are follow rules that owe more to the past than the present. All political parties are shackled by top-down structures that are more authoritarian than democratic, and yet they must win enough votes from a Mexican population that has little confidence in what they say and who believe that politicians are involved for their own personal enrichment.
At this point, no party has an absolute majority nor insurmountable lead, and the presidential election will decided by the undecided vote. The last four elections have been won by razor thin margins, and all signs are suggesting that we should expect the same results on July 1, 2012. Three parties have a natural and historical constituency that keeps it in play, but to reach the top there must be a strategy about undecided voters. With 20,000,000 possible votes at play, the last few weeks of the campaign will be focused squarely on them, and the party strategies will be designed to either attract significant numbers from among the undecided vote, or to undertake a strategy that suppresses it and keeps it disaffected.
Don Gregorio puffs of smoke are currently ashen, but perhaps his anxiety will be appeased on July 1 turn white to celebrate the election of Mexico’s new president. What he will do is as unpredictable as what the Mexican people ultimately decide.
The lead-up
When the presidential election campaign officially began, it seemed that Enrique Peña Nieto was the preordained winner who would lead the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) back to Los Pinos ( ) after 12 years of Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) presidents. Mexicans became familiar with the smiling image of Peña Nieto for more than two years before he became the actual nominee. Mexico’s wealthy elite and dinosaurs within the PRI anointed this former governor of Mexico State about 3 years ago, and they used the influence and money of powerful media magnates to saturate the news with favorable coverage of their golden boy. It was long suspected that there was  collusion among the elite to bring him to the forefront, but there is also growing evidence that it was well orchestrated plan to raise his image and undermine the most likely candidate from the left — Andrés Manuel López Obrador. ( Other hopefuls from the opposition PRD and the ruling PAN were unable to capture the public imagination in the way that Enrique Peña Nieto had, and both parties and their candidates seemed doomed to fail in the expected PRI landslide.
Enrique Peña Nieto’s opponents were not only battling a re-energized PRI that might stop at nothing to gain the presidency, they were backed by parties that seemed badly fractured and tainted by public distrust and non-confidence. Both major challengers to the PRI faced an uphill battle to attract attention in a country deeply divided by a drug war and mistrust of government. Neither seemed capable of convincing citizens that one of them was best suited to lead Mexico during the next 6 years. Confronted by the harshness of a faltering economy, high levels of poverty, endless reports and documentation of corruption, non-confidence in a justice system that provided no justice, and an economy that promised few opportunities for their children—millions of Mexican voters had decided by early 2012 that they preferred the authoritarian and hierarchical style of PRI government that Mario Vargas Llosa once called a perfect dictatorship while millions of others decided that they didn’t care or that it didn’t matter.
In fact, the lead for Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) had become so entrenched that even major embarrassments would have little effect in dissuading people to choose him. At Guadalajara’s influential book fair, Peña Nieto was unable to identify 3 books that had influenced him; he mentioned the bible and confused the names of two of Mexico’s most famous literary icons and couldn’t correctly provide the exact title of one book. When the tweeter-universe and caricaturists ridiculed his obvious vacuousness, his daughter made things worse with tweets demeaning critics of her father by referring to them as “los proles” —a derogatory reference to lower class and common people. A backlash against Peña Nieto was spurred on by public intellectuals ( ) and widely re-circulated in the social media did little to harm his entrenched popularity. He made other public gaffes that revealed his basic ignorance about the cost of living, and when called on to explain why he didn’t know such things he argued that those kinds of things concerned only housewives. Peña Nieto’s subsequent public appearances and rallies were carefully controlled to emphasize the adoring crowds of women cheering for him like a movie star. In late winter, it seemed certain that EPN was Mexico’s Teflon Man who could do no wrong and that he and his glamorous second family would be occupying Los Pinos and hosting the likes of Carlos Salinas de Gortari and the PRI dinosaur Emilio Chauyfett.
The Challengers
Meanwhile, opposition parties were struggling to come up with a winning strategy to compete with the steamroller express with the initials EPN at the front in bright lights.
Right of centre, Josefina Vázquez Mota emerged as a surprising choice to lead the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN) after winning a protracted internal battle with Santiago Creel, a respected PAN activist and descendant of the Creel-Terraza family who had founded the party. Her eventual campaign motto — “Josefina Differente”— suggests why she was the party choice. PAN had to devise a way to distance itself from Felipe Calderon without openly criticizing him; she seemed to get along with Calderon, but was nevertheless not the same as him. She is a woman, not seen to be too closely linked to the party elite, and she had managed some of the social issue portfolios. Enough party faithful were fed up with Felipe Calderón and turned to her when it became apparent that the party faced an uphill battle to retain Los Pinos in light a drug war with 60,000 estimated dead and 20,000 missing. But the party was not only saddled with the responsibility for narco-victims— influential party members (including Calderon’s family) were linked to an investment scandal involving shoddy day care center that made use of government funds and from their subsequent legal impunity when those investments turned tragic. Specifically, no one was held accountable when one of those private day cares, La Guarderia ABC, burned in flash fire that killed 49 children and left scores of others injured on June 5th, 2009. Influential party members and members of Calderon’s family had been investors in a day care that used public funds, but they also cut corners and neglected safety measures for the sake of profit. The ABC daycare was in a building shared with an automobile repair shop that caught fire, and children could not escape through locked doors.
Furthermore, PAN’s right-of-centre policies that were encouraged entrepreneurial investment and profit offered little in the way of direct measures to combat poverty and raise employment levels, and as many as 52,000,000 Mexicans remain below the poverty level after 12 years of those business friendly policies. PAN’s preference for private education over public education, and a paucity of programs for young people left many prominent intellectuals publicly denouncing the government and insisting that more needed to be done for the 7,000,000 NiNi’s of Mexico (young people neither in school nor employed). And Josefina also appealed to the conservative Catholic base with her traditional values and beliefs and her ability to speak calmly about why the party was resistant to extending rights to women and gays.
For a short period, Josefina Vázquez Mota managed to ride a popularity wave, and early polling figures suggested that enough people might be convinced to turn to her instead of the heavily promoted Enrique Peña Nieto. But, the initial wave didn’t gather momentum, especially after a series of stories were published questioning her personal health and stamina — most fuelled by inuendo and undocumented reports that were clearly intended to play into the notoriously infamous Mexican “machismo”.
The leftist and progressive candidate, Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, faced his own battle to capture public attention and convince enough voters that he was a credible option to the smooth and polished image represented by Enrique Peña Nieto. AMLO, affectionately called by his supporters, or El Peje (after a Tabascan gar called pelejegarto) as derogatorily referred to by his enemies, would never be described as possessing movie star looks or an easy charm. Although he is always meticulously dressed and groomed, he comes across more as a rumpled and gruff curmudgeon who sees plots (complots) against him on all sides. He was an immensely popular mayor of Mexico City following Cuahtemoc Cardenas, and he managed to legally survive a few scandals and charges of corruption while he was in office, but he has never been completely successful in convincing many others that he was not involved personally. Several of his close advisors went to jail for corruption, but he nevertheless emerged as the candidate for the leftist PRD and its allied parties in the 2006 presidential election.
Although he had a strong populist support, his ascendency during the pre-election campaign of 2005 alienated some left leaning intellectuals in the progressive leaning Distrito Federal sentimental favorite who would have preferred PRD’s moral leader Cauhtémoc Cárdenas Solorzano. In the 2006 election, he was the preferred choice in most public opinion polls before election until uncommitted voters moved toward PAN during the final days of the campaign. Apparently, he was unable to capture the undecided voters who were arguably persuaded by statements by public intellectuals negating his democratic credentials. In particular, an essay by Enrique Krauze ( ) labeling him as a Tropical Messiah with a non-democratic streak was the most important factor in pushing enough undecided voters towards PAN and Felipe Calderón Hinojosa.
Andrés Manuel, as he is now affectionately called, didn’t act in a manner that would dispel those “messianic” and “authoritarian” labels when he refused to accept the results of the 2006 election. There is much evidence that there was fraud in that election, but unlike Al Gore in the USA, AMLO refused to quietly fade away and instead declared himself “the Legitimate President”. He held public meetings and travelled around the country making proclamations that should normally be made only by the chief executive of a country. The Mexican Congress and Senate were divided among the three parties with no clear majority after the 2006 election, and this allowed the leftist parties and the PRI to block many of Felipe Calderón’s official acts as president of Mexico. For instance, Felipe Calderón was forced to deliver State of the Union speeches in unusual circumstances that barely met the requirements of constitutional protocol.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s rigid intransigence lasted for at least three years, but he adopted a different tone approximately 2 ½ years ago. For optimistic leftists, this change was akin to Paul’s sudden conversion on the road to Damascus. For those on the right, the change was just another example of how devil can speak from both sides of his mouth. But whatever was behind his conversion, the fact is that Andrés Manuel López Obrador began to forge a populist force that called MoReNa — El Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (Movement for National Renewal). The name is an obvious reference to Mexico as a people of brown-skinned mestizos, and is structured to provide more voice to populist causes. Furthermore, Andrés Manuel began to speak about the importance of creating a Republica Amorosa — a caring republic that would take look after all of its citizens and work toward restoring the social links that had been broken by government failure, widespread corruption, a justice system that seemed incapable of controlling crime, and incredible levels of poverty. But the new AMLOVE wasn’t making much of a headway in convincing the undecided voters that he and MoReNa were the best option.
Something akin to a miracle did seem to happen with the fractured forces of Mexico’s left that had given every impression of fading into oblivion and crashing into a thousand pieces. They managed to pull themselves together to cooperatively establish a Progressive Movement that selected Andrés Manuel López Obrador as its presidential standard bearer in a bloodless campaign. Prior to AMLO’s re-emergence in a kinder and gentler skin, everyone expected and perhaps secretly hoped that Mexico City’s current mayor, Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, would be the perfect candidate to lead leftist and progressive forces in the 2012 election campaign. After all, Ebrard had earned an international reputation and even the honorific title as the World’s best mayor for his oversight of Mexico City’s conversion into a modern and tolerant metropolis. But after a complicated poll among the PRD faithful, Ebrard and López Obrador held a joint press conference where they announced that results were most favourable to Andrés Manuel and that he would be the party’s choice and the person around whom the left should coalesce. The other parties of the Progressive movement accepted those results and also named him as their candidates.
The opposition emerges
By mid March, two opposition leaders had emerged out of fractured party bases to become the standard standard bearers of their parties in the fight against a resurgent PRI and the perfectly sculptured figure of Enrique Peña Nieto. A minor and irritating complication was the presence of a fourth presidential candidate, Gabriel Quadri, who represented a single interest party PANAL and its powerful cacique-for-life leader Elba Esther Gordillo of the National Teachers Syndicate. None of the three major parties wanted anything to do with her nor wanted to show any signs of courting her influence—at least in public. She is uniformly seen as using Quadri as another means to tap into public funds allocated from the Instituto Federal de Elecciones. The New Alliance party (PANAL ) would receive a great deal of money if it maintained an official party status.
Polling Results and trends
The first polls after the campaign official start indicated that Enrique Peña Nieto had an insurmountable lead with close to 50% of the declared voters choosing him, and Josefina Vázques Mota followed in second place while Andrés Manuel placed a distant third. The first wave of spots from the Progressive Movement and from PAN— in television, radio, and newspapers had little effect in influencing those initial results.
Negative articles and reports began to appear about Josefina Vázquez. Many focused on her stamina and health, and others focused on her disagreements with Felipe Calderón and other party leaders. In fact those negative reports were most obvious signal that the PRI machine considered her the only true opposition, since Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador was so far behind in the polls.
Andrés Manuel continued to walk softly and avoid yielding a big stick or sticking his foot in his mouth as he had done in previous campaigns. He calmly maintained his call for a the creation of a a Republica Amorosa. He even said that he had forgiven former president Vicente Fox, whom he had previously accused of being the principle architect of attacks against him during his mayoralty of Mexico City and the major force behind his electoral defeat in 2006. The dramatic change in AMLO’s rhetoric became a target for humorous and not so friendly barbs in leftist media sources such as La Jornada and the weekly political magazine Proceso.
The first few weeks of public opinion polls must have created great consternation within the Progressive PRD-PT-MoReNa campaign teams, and there were several calls for the reappearance of the old AMLO who never minced words or overlooked any opportunity to speak his mind. And there were stories from journalists who with PRI links that AMLO was becoming increasingly grumpy and angry with his campaign team.
A Tipping Point
And then the unexpected happened on May 11— the embarrassing visit of Enrique Peña Nieto to Iberoamericana university in the Santa Fe region of D.F. where it merges into Mexico State. This should have been safe territory for Enrique Peña Nieto. It is a school for the elite of the elite in Mexico, especially those with Catholic conservative ties. He arrived with his scripted team and supporters referred to as “acarreados” in Mexico. They marched in confidently with their pre-printed posters, meticulously starched white shirts with EPN brocades amidst orchestrated cheers. All seemed to be going according to script until a question was raised about why Enrique Peña Nieto had decided to call in 700 Federal Police and deploy 815 State police to help local police break up a public protest in Atenco by flower vendors. There were dozens of raids and forced removals, and more than 200 people where arrested for participating in the protest. A documentation of complaints filed to the State and Federal Human Rights commission profiled many cases of torture, humiliation and false arrest as well as 47 charges of sexual abuse. The leaders of the protest were sentenced to prison terms as long as 75 years and only a few lower level police were charged with any offences.
In response to the question, Peña Nieto argued that the State must sometimes resort to force to protect the greater good and he also suggested that those few police who had caused the trouble had been punished. The fact is that overall more than 2,500 police had been deployed to put down the protest, and only 22 minor charges had been laid and 16 of those were quickly dismissed.
The students in the audience groaned in disbelief, and a chorus of chants spontaneously arose in protest. The memories in Mexico are long, and previous PRI presidents such as Diaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverria had used force and an elite military squad (Los Halcones) to shoot and kill students during protests in 1968 and 1971. Peña Nieto’s answer immediately linked him to the most horrific traditions of the authoritarian PRI and he managed to do so at a university that was private and privileged and where students are more concerned about moving into the entrepreneurial world than they are about reading Foucault or poetry.
Amidst shouts of “fuera” — get out—Peña Nieto’s handlers became obviously concerned, and rushed him out from hall into corridors and the covered walkways of the campus. For awhile, they  huddled while trying to decide what to do. Some students had followed them and many of those videotaped this group of men who had been thrown an unpredictable curve. A video was soon uploaded to YouTube showing a clearly shaken and worried Peña Nieto who had lost his composure, and showing his handlers rushing him first to a bathroom and then to a waiting limo to be rushed from a private university campus. The video went viral, but might have sunk quickly into oblivion were it not for the reaction of Peña Nieto’s handlers and for the claims on Televisa that the event was staged by opponents to make him look bad. They suggested that the event had been planned in advance by a cadre of leftist and rightist forces with prepared signs and an organized plan to shout him down ( ).
In response, the elite students at Iberoamericana produced another video where they displayed university student registration documents for 131 students who were at the meeting and who attested that nothing had been planned ahead of time. That video and related tweets also went viral and the tweet hashtag #somos131 rushed through social media like a tsunami. In short order, students around Mexico picked up the chant and a student uprising was literally born overnight under the mantra of movimiento #YoSoy132. Even though it began with a specific rejection of Peña Nieto’s justification for the use of force, it also focused on the media and specifically on the Televisa accusations that the only reason for the protest was an organized attempt to discredit an “honourable man” through dirty tricks.
A full blown protest movement” and a so-called “Mexican Spring" emerged from those video uploads and tweets, and there have been several public demonstrations against Peña Nieto in most large cities of Mexico. Some of the protestors have marched under a very specific mantra that targeted Peña Nieto and linked him to the Halcones and the shooting of students in the Sexenios of Diaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverria (#MarchacontraEPN). But, the majority of student protestors seem to have identified themselves with the more generic label of #YoSoy132. The student protest #YoSoy132 also targeted Televisa and its newspaper chain Milenio for their biased favoritism toward Peña Nieto, and there have been calls for "turn-off" Televisa. The movement was fed even more fuel when neither of the two monopoly networks chose to broadcast the first presidential debate on their main television channels, and instead relegated the debate to less viewed channels with a smaller national reach. Two semi-final football matches were broadcast.
The student movement #YoSoy132 continues to grow in strength, and has called for a national student march on Sunday June 10 in many cities of Mexico. There have been protests in symbolically important sites in Mexico City such as the Plaza de Tres Culturas and site of the 1968 massacre of students, and protests in front of Televisa and in front of the heavily criticized Estela de Luz In Mexico City. On June 10 the marchers will convene at the Zocalo at noon and march to the Angel of Independence and then to the Torres of Satelite and then return to the Emblematic Angel on Reforma.
The hashtag #MarchaYoSoy132 has served as the main voice of communication and coordination for the students, but there are also meetings and planning committees all around the country. For instance, there have been several all day meetings at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) where many students are working to create an organized structure with a unified vision that represents a strong voice for change. More than 54 campuses from the Distrito Federal and Edomex sent representatives to those meetings, and student organizers took care to demand student credentials and the presentation of names whenever anyone spoke during the meeting. They were concerned that they might be viewed as political activists who had infiltrated from opposition parties— or that they might be infiltrated as were the student protests in 1968— and they have taken great care to avoid the mistakes made during student protests in Mexico on the UNAM campus in 1968. The students are speaking with a strong voice indicating that they are not working in favour of any party — specifically, that they are not affiliated with Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Even though their communiqués and statements are short on specific detail, it’s very clear that they are calling for transparency and a willingness to listen to the voices of ordinary Mexicans.
Poll Turnaround
And unexpectedly, the most respected newspaper in Mexico, Reforma, published a credible poll indicating that Lopez Obrador had closed to within 4 points of Peña Nieto at the end of May. Those are remarkable results representing a swing of more than 15 points in López Obrador’s favour in one week. He also went from third place to a virtual tie with Peña Nieto when the margin of error is included. Meanwhile, Josefina Vázquez sank to the bottom and all signs suggest that her campaign will continue to deteriorate and lose support.
Her deteriorating public support and reports of widesprea discontent in party backrooms led to a comical incident where former PAN president Vicente Fox made a public statement indicating that Mexicans should unite behind the front-runner so as not to disrupt the advance of democracy. Without mentioning Peña Nieto by name, Fox had yanked his support for Josefina Diferente and called for a restoration of PRI to the presidency. PAN party leaders were apoplectic, and castigated Fox for being an ingrate while PRI leaders profusely thanked him for his wisdom and concern for the country. Meanwhile, Andrés Manuel jumped to support Josefina Vázquez and called Fox a traitor for making such a rotten statement.
However, Josefina did not return the favor and instead launched a series of questionable spots suggesting Andrés Manuel has dictatorial urges and that he will call in troops to the streets to settle unrest. The ads show pictures of tanks and armies occupying cities, and obviously use one sentence from one of López Obrador’s speeches that have been taken completely out of context. She has defended the spots and refused to back down. It’s clear that her party is badly fragmented and that many people are jumping ship and refusing to work for her or to support her in the remaining two weeks of the campaign. In Mexico City and the Distrito Federal, PAN leaders are openly admitting that they are expecting their worst results in decades in local elections, and its party standard bearer for mayor of Mexico City (Miranda de Wallace) has been chased from public events on University campuses that she tried to attend.
Josefina is fighting on bravely and visited her alma mater and the site of Peña Nieto’s Waterloo, Iberoamericana. She faced students, answered all of their questions and apologized for many of shortcomings of her party — including the tragedy of the ABC day care and the Calderon government failure to prosecute the owners. There is also a telling video of her being challenged by Santiago Creel’s daughter during that meeting; it can’t be a good sign when the children of your own party members publicly take you to task even when they know they are being videotaped.
Foto taken of Camacho Cartoon— Reforma - June 7
To fight back, PAN campaign headquarters in DF have opened up what they call a new museum of horror in the lobby where they claim document the abuses and corruption of 15 years of PRD government in D.F.
PRI party organizers have also begun to ignore Josefina and focus their campaign squarely against AMLO. Their intent is to promote the old idea that he has an authoritarian streak and represents an old order where he had been involved in corruption. They accused Lopez Obrador of misspending and abusing campaign funds for personal use, and they demanded that he account for campaign spending.
López Obrador called their bluff and released his financial statements mid-election campaign — an incredibly unusual move for any politician. Not to be deterred, PRI and their journalist supporters changed tactics and called for AMLO to account for how he raised and used money in the period after the 2006 election. He was not a candidate and has no legal obligation to account those funds, but his critics continue to raise questions about that period to plant the seed — or to pile on the manure— of an idea that they want to grow. They have resorted to the standard electoral tropes of calling someone corrupt, even though they are also guilty of the very charges they are throwing against the Progressive Movement.
Unfortunately for them, PRI credibility received a major body blow when the United States Government took legal action against former PRI governor Thomas Yarrington. His property in the United States was seized under laws that linked it to illegal drug funds and money laundering. PRI has moved to revoke his party status.
PRI has also resurrected the “tropical messiah” argument and planted the seed that AMLO will quickly abandon his Republica Amorosa mantra and turn into Latin America’s latest reincarnation of Hugo Chavez if he wins the presidency. Lopez Obrador has been on the hotseat all week and has been barraged by questions about his true democratic credentials.
Photo from Reforma: Camacho June 8
And AMLO may not have helped his cause when he refused to make firm commitment to honour the election results of July 1. He said that he would respect voter choice, but that he was also worried that the other parties were gearing up to throw mud, pull dirty tricks and to manipulate the election. He also suggested that those parties know he is the front-runner and that they are doing everything to throw mud at him and distort the electoral process. He has asked how anyone who respects democracy could accept the results of any election that has been manipulated. In response, the Instituto Federal de Elecciones has issued statements condemning AMLO and assuring the public that the elections will be fair.
In Friday’s edition of Reforma (June 8), there is an editorial cartoon of AMLO wearing his Republica Amorosa shirt complete with a heart and an arrow through it to indicate his martyr status, and he is using a saw labeled corruption to cut a hole in the floor through which me will fall. The cartoon is titled “Autocomplot”- in clear reference to Andrés Manel López Obrador’s constant reference to “complots” against him.
The nuisance of the fourth candidate.
Not much has been said about Quadri, because the fact is that everyone knows he cannot win and that he is in the race to funnel funds to the National Teachers Synicate and to Elba Esther Gordillo. There are many rumours, and many documented, indicate that Elba Esther Gordillo has also become worried that AMLO could win. Publicly, she continues to support her candidate Gabriel Quadri, but she has also told her closest advisors that they should do whatever they can to help Enrique Peña Nieto.
She also has the potential to throw a monkey wrench into the election and she clearly did so when she ordered the SNTE to march to Mexico City and occupy the Zocalo in protest of the PAN education policy to carry out student competency tests (ENLACE).
Mexico City’s Zocalo has been occupied by several hundred rural teachers who travelled primarily from Michoacan, Guerrero and Oaxaca to sleep overnight under canvas covers, and march in the daytime to nearby headquarters of Secretaria of Education or further afield to the SEGOB (Secretary of State). Many in the Zocalo openly admit that they are under pressure and orders from syndicate bosses. It is ironic to see many of these protestors sitting at the back of protests reading La Jornada or Proceso, that are clearly leaning toward AMLO.
Can the traditional parties manage the forces of change?
The report above described how the traditional political forces of Mexico hope to maintain control of the political process and retain their power and position of privilege. But the fact is, those old strategies may not be guarantee the result that they want so badly to achieve. Forces in the wind, like Don Gregorio's puffs of volcanic ash, may be beyond their ability to control or to understand.
Many people in Mexico, perhaps the majority, are fed up with politicians and would vote for nobody or Don Gregorio Popocatépetl if that was a realistic option. And changing times and economic forces may make it impossible for traditional party machines to manage this disaffected vote or to suppress those voters from moving toward the opposition.
The PRI would prefer to suppress Mexico’s 25% undecided vote and make certain that they don’t appear at the polls on July 1. The PRI can continue to control its followers with the promise of patronage and favors, but it is less and less capable of being able to fool enough of the undecided into voting for them. Perhaps one clearly indicator of this was the message on a placard held up by one of the #YoSoy132 protestors in Guadalajara that said “I may be young, but I know what’s going on”. PRI’s only hope in winning the election is to suppress this disaffected vote and to keep the 25% undecided away from the polls by raising enough doubts about the alternative — specifically about AMLO. It’s better campaign strategy for the PRI to encourage the idea that all politicians are corrupt and self-serving, because they know that the PRI true-believers are still going to vote for them with the hope of receiving something back, or sadly with the simple hope of some females of electing a handsome man with a soap-opera star wife.
PAN is in serious trouble, and there is very little that it can do to convince voters and the undecided that it should be given another chance after 12 years of ineptitude on all levels. People are seriously fed up with the bloodshed associated with failed drug wars, and they know that many people are struggling to make enough money to eat. The failure of the Calderon government to battle corruption and prosecute wrong-doing is highlighted daily with events such as the order to lower the national flag to half-mast in honour of the deaths of the 49 children at la Guarderia ABC.
The PRD and its Progressive movements are also in a quandary, and they have no idea how to marshal the forces of change that are not only in the wind — they are in the heart and soul (carne y hueso) of people everywhere. AMLO is desperately hoping that the idealistic protests of #YoSoy132 will result in the movement of undecided voters toward him and his party — but there is no guarantee that this will happen because #MarchaYoSoy132 continues to insist on a neutrality. There are many people who are tweeting that the march should be silent in order to emphasize that their voice has not been heard. The students and #YoSoy132 may choose to vote for no-one, and they are beyond any manipulation. Any attempt to make it look like they are being used will result in a backlash. And the sad reality is that most of the politicians in Mexico have not realized that Social Networking is an interactive media and not just a way for politicos to spread their message from another pulpit. Many politicos in Mexico have tweet accounts, but they aren’t following others — they are simply using tweets to prove that they have followers.
No Mas Sangre and its effect
Of course, there is also another popular public protest that can also affect the decision of the 25% undecided. The movement and march for peace with justice and dignity with Javier Sicilia at its head has castigated all of the candidates and accused them of being only interested in their votes and not interested in listening to their concerns. As Sicilia told the candidates — we are not meat for your campaigns. And sadly, there has been almost no discussion of the violence that has brought Mexico to its knees in spite of the incredible toll of bloodshed over the past 6 years. There has been a complete inattention paid to the victims of crime, and victims of crime must organize and form protests to have prosecutions opened. Javier Sicilia and his followers met individually with all of the candidates last weekend, and afterwards he had no kind words for any of them.
Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador was especially taken aback by the harsh words of Javier Sicilia who reinforced the public conception that AMLO is authoritarian and only wants people to listen to him while he is less willing to listen to the aggrieved. Javier Sicilia and other related protest actions such as the #NoMasSangre social network campaigns have not been organized in a way that suggests which way they are leaning, and the decisions of its followers and supporters are unpredictable. They may simply stay away from the ballot box.
In the 2006 election, the influence of the intellectuals and public commentators was arguably very important in leading the last minute swing away from Andrés Manuel López Obrador and to Felipe Calderón Hinojosa. In the 2012 election, the intellectuals and influential columnists seem to be “holding their nose” and calling for people to support anyone but the PRI, and with the decline of Josefina Vasquez Mota they have event begun to suggest that it’s time to give AMLO a chance. What more harm could he do than PAN, and at least there is the chance that democratic forces and a strong democratically oriented cabinet might move the country into the future. Even Enrique Krauze has given his begrudging support to AMLO. And before his recent death, Carlos Fuentes made statements that suggested it is also time to give the left a chance.
It is clear that the public intellectuals and writers have thrown their support and weight behind the #YoSoy132 movement and they see it as Mexico’s rebirth of the democratic forces of the 1968 generation that was brutally suppressed by Diaz Ordaz and Luis Echeverria with the Halcones and later in a dirty campaign to maintain PRI hegemony. The intellectuals are hoping that their ideals that faded into practical conviviality and acceptance will be reborn in a new generation of young people who want Mexico to be different.
The older generation of intellectuals, who are children of the post world war Boom generation and survivors of the dirty war against them in the 1970’s and 80’s seem to placed their hope in the young who are undecided and uncommitted to any of the traditional parties. And, they appear willing to listen to the young instead of trying to push them in any specific direction.
Another unpredictable force
And no one, absolutely no one, has tried to predict powerful influence of drug lords and drug cartels. There has been no discussion of a best strategy to deal with the largest cartels (7 of them), nor any discussion of how drug money may be influencing campaigns— especially in some regions of the country. Some areas of the country are much more vulnerable to the drug influence than are others, and the sad fact is that in a close election the influence of drug money on campaigns may influence (or buy) enough votes to make a president. All parties are vulnerable, and willing participants in the charade of drug money in campaigns, and the drug lords are clever enough to hedge their bets by supporting members of all of the parties.
And the most visible symbol of public dissent and protest will be the student marches on Sunday June 10th. How this march influences the general public, and the concrete response to #MarchaYoSoy132 by police and municipalities is capable of tipping the election in any number of different and unpredictable directions. If any candidate is able to demonstrate that they are truly listening to the protests of the young and the victims of violence, they will certainly swing enough of the undecided voters toward their side and may be able to win the election.
It is probably too late for Josefina Vasquez to right her sinking ship, but Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador has the most to gain by showing that he can listen. He will be under attack from both the PRI and PAN, and they will continue to use the old rhetoric of corruption and authoritarianism in an attempt to make it stick. He needs to realize that he already has a dedicated core of supporters, but he needs to attract enough of the 25% undecided to make a difference.
Mexico continues its slow progress toward democracy, and it has become a cliché to say that any election is the most important in a country’s history. But, there is no doubt that this July 1 election may determine the future of Mexico. A 2010 book titled “La Otra Historia de Mexico:Diaz y Madero” ( describes the historical tension in Mexico between forces of authoritarianism and altruism, and those same forces have resurfaced in this election just as the resurfaced in the student protests of 1968 and 1971. For Mexico to become a modern country in the world that is less violent and less corrupt, it is clear that those forces of altruism and concern must establish a foothold and be encouraged to move as an institutionalized voice. The voices of altruism are loud and clear in the movements Movimiento y March por la Paz con dignidad y justicia, #NoMasSangré, #Marchayosoy132, and #YoSoy132.
The party that is most willing to listen to those voices and open up spaces for them will ultimately be the one that prevails. If it doesn’t happen in this election, one can only hope that those voices of protest will be strong enough to ensure that they prevail in the next.
Jim Creechan
Mexico City, June 8, 2012

[1] In opposition circles, the PRI are often referred to as dinosaurs

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