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READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Post-election challenge in Mexico

By Lance Selfa | September 29, 2006 | Page 4

ON SEPTEMBER 16, Mexico's Independence Day, a crowd filled the main government square in Mexico City to shout "vivas" for the country and the president.

What's remarkable, however, is that the president cheered by more than 1 million Mexicans was Andres Manuel López Obrador (known by his initials, AMLO), who only a few days earlier had been declared the loser in the 2006 presidential elections by fiat of the country's supreme electoral court.

The gathering in the Mexico City Zócalo that acclaimed AMLO as its president was the National Democratic Convention (CND)--the next step in the post-electoral campaign against right-wing President-elect Felipe Calderón, who stole the election through vote fraud and manipulation of the country's electoral machinery.

The CND departed the Zócalo with the intention to inaugurate AMLO as the legitimate president of Mexico a week before Calderón is set to accept the presidential sash. AMLO's "government" will then travel the country, building support for its calls to reform the country's electoral system and economy.

The CND has committed itself to battle Calderón's administration, which it calls "spurious" and "illegitimate," if it tries to push through the privatization of Mexico's main resource, oil, and its electricity.

Can the CND and AMLO's campaign accomplish these goals? To answer this question, we have to consider the nature of both.

Although AMLO and his election campaign did tap into the frustrations and aspirations of some poor Mexicans, it wasn't a campaign directly tied to the country's social or trade union movements.

AMLO won the votes of most of Mexico's social movement activists, but many of AMLO's leading advisers--as well as a number of prominent candidates who ran on his ticket in congressional and state elections--were ex-politicians of the former ruling party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

This means that the CND is a hybrid formation that mobilizes a base of ordinary people and social movements--upon which it depends for its strength. But at the same time, its leadership is largely self-appointed and composed of AMLO's advisers, including the former PRI apparatchiks.

The CND could provide a framework for Mexico's social movements to coordinate and focus their actions against Calderón and his accomplices. But this would mean the formation of, in the words of left-wing commentator Guillermo Almeyra, "thousands of CND committees" in communities and workplaces around the country that fight around class and social questions.

It's by no means clear that AMLO intends the CND to become this kind of movement. It's more likely that he and his advisers see themselves as a "shadow government" in the way that the official opposition in the British Parliament acts.

That raises another tension built in to the CND. While it took the radical action of pledging its allegiance to a government outside the country's institutions, it also recognized the deputies and senators elected to the Congress on AMLO's ticket--despite the fact that they gained their seats in the same fraudulent elections.

The CND will be working alongside the Broad Progressive Front (FAP), a coalition of parties in AMLO's electoral alliance, and other social organizations. Manuel Camacho Solis, one of AMLO's main advisers, told the leading Mexican political news magazine Proceso that the role of the FAP will be to conduct a "process of dialogue, negotiations and decisions...it's an institutional way out" for the CND.

In other words, while the CND is set up as a direct challenge to Mexico's political institutions, its key ally will be negotiating with those institutions. As the leftist La Jornada editorialist Marcos Rascon observed, "The leaders of the convention want to be on the barricades in the street...while at the same time not giving up their reservations for dinner in the oligarchy's clubs and restaurants."

AMLO's rhetoric lays out some stark challenges for the movement. He calls for it to prevent Calderón's inauguration and stop the privatization of the country's resources. Making that rhetoric a reality presupposes a much bigger and more radical movement than the CND represents at this point.

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