You've come to an old part of SW Online. We're still moving this and other older stories into our new format. In the meanwhile, click here to go to the current home page.
Protests for election recount go on despite police attack
Defiance in Mexico

August 25, 2006 | Page 2

AFSANEH MORADIAN reports from Mexico.

THE FIGHT over who will be the next president of Mexico continues amid escalating repression--and with a massive protest against electoral fraud set for September 1.

Tensions in Mexico City burst open August 15 when police attacked protesters supporting Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known by his initials AMLO), presidential candidate of the center-left Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Using batons and tear gas, the Federal Preventive Police attacked a demonstration that included 11 members of the country's legislature.

The attack is seen as preparation for the announcement of a court decision declaring a new president of Mexico or nullifying the July 2 election. The announcement must be made before September 6.

AMLO is calling for a total recount following widespread fraud that allowed the other top contender, Felipe Calderón of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), to claim victory. Currently, only 9 percent of the votes are under review.

With the support of millions of workers and indigenous people throughout the country, AMLO has led an encampment of thousands in the center of Mexico City for several weeks.

Initially, AMLO's critique of free-market, neoliberal policies, in particular NAFTA, and calls for reforms to lessen the extreme poverty in Mexico had made him the overwhelming leader in early opinion polls before the presidential vote. Some on the far left, however, have criticized AMLO for his ties to billionaire telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, and for hiring key players from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled Mexico for 70 years until it lost the 2000 elections to PAN candidate Vicente Fox.

Now, however, AMLO's popular support has deepened again, as many see this election as a battle for democracy and the right for every vote to count.

AMLO is calling on his supporters to protest Fox's final scheduled national address September 1. PRD spokesperson Gerardo Fernandez said that if Calderón is awarded the presidency, the PAN candidate "will be a president under siege...he will not be able to operate outside his office."

Meanwhile, the popular movement in the state of Oaxaca is growing in response to recent police repression. Protests continue to demand the resignation of the right-wing governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz of the PRI.

Teachers in Oaxaca have been on strike for close to three months. After police attacked the strikers' encampment in the center of Oaxaca City June 14, even larger numbers rallied behind the teachers as the struggle to force the governor to step down spread.

More recently, gunmen shot into a demonstration, killing a teacher, 50-year-old José Jimenez. Following the killing, police arrested one of the leaders of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO). APPO responded by detaining for several hours four people associated with the killing and the arrests.

In addition, the health care workers union in Oaxaca has joined the teachers and declared a strike that, it says, will not end until the governor steps down. The union has closed all of the 650 clinics in the state, large parts of hospitals and administrative offices, leaving open only emergency care and care for those hospitalized with a collective staff of 500.

APPO has called for a general strike involving all teachers, health care workers, telephone workers, universities and municipal workers if the governor does not resign by September.

At the same time, the Zapatista Front is organizing, going beyond its base among the indigenous peoples of Chiapas, where it first arose in a mid-1990s rebellion.

Its focus is on San Salvador Atenco, where police carried out a horrific attack in May that involved beatings, rape, torture and arrest--retribution ordered by authorities against the town for organizing protests that blocked an airport expansion.

Zapatista leader Subcommander Marcos toured Mexico during campaign season, offering Mexico's poor the alternative of building a movement from below rather than voting for any of the candidates on offer. Marcos spoke in Atenco a few weeks ago, declaring that the struggle to free the 27 political prisoners will continue.

With both the movements and the government preparing to fight, it's difficult to predict what will happen next. But what's clear is that millions of Mexicans are directly involved in protesting to change the course of politics as usual.

Home page | Back to the top