Half a million demonstrate in
the Zocalo square
On the same day that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador officially announced his intention to run for the presidency in front of some 500,000 supporters, he was also stripped of his political immunity, and could face trial over charges for ignoring a court order to stop building a road to a hospital. If the case against him is not resolved before the middle of January 2006, he will be ineligible to run in the campaign next year.
Obrador spoke to a crowd of hundreds of thousands, who had gathered in his defence in the Zocalo main square just before he entered Congress to defend himself against the charges. In the end Congress voted 360-127 to allow López Obrador to be charged with contempt of court.
The case against Obrador stinks of hypocrisy, and is clearly a political manoeuvre on the part of the Mexican ruling class. The Fox government repeatedly speaks of how this is a case about “the rule of law” in Mexico, but the reality of the situation is that the case has nothing to do with the rule of law, and everything to do with the political machinations of Mexico’s ruling class to prevent the popular Mexico City mayor from running for office. They are terrified that the election of Obrador, a left-winger who is popular with the masses, could lead to a situation similar to that of Chavez in Venezuela.
“At least one PRI congressman, Roberto Campa Cifrian, seemed to agree that the issue was more about the mayor’s leftist politics than whether he broke the law.
“‘The problem is not that López Obrador is a dangerous delinquent, the problem is he is a dangerous politician,’ Campa said. ‘When President Fox was elected in 2000, he was also called a messiah, a radical, but no one thought of eliminating him from the race. His government meant democracy had arrived. The only reason for this is to twist the law to get rid of a political adversary.’” (Miami Herald, April 8, 2005)
Compare the case against Obrador to allegations of massive fraud in Mexico that affect Fox’s government, such as the $140-million Pemexgate scandal, that has gone unpunished. In that case, funds that were supposed to be for oil union workers were allegedly funneled to the PRI. Fox himself has been implicated in a campaign spending case dating from the 2000 election, which has yet to come to trial. In a nation where murders, drug crimes and massive corruption cases go unpunished, it is absolutely scandalous that Obrador has been impeached on charges for ignoring a court order to stop building a road to a hospital.
Leonardo Cordova, a Constitutional expert at the National Autonomous University expressed concern over the fact that the case against Obrador had gone so far, given that his alleged crime is harmless, that there is massive opposition to the process, and the fact that no public official in Mexico has ever been prosecuted for ignoring a court order.
“‘This would be a first for Mexico,’ Cordova said, shaking his head. ‘Hundreds, thousands’ of judicial orders are issued every day, he said, many of them ignored by public officials. A prosecution for defying an order is so rare that there is no penalty listed in the penal code for such an offense, Cordova said.” (Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2005)
Samuel Gonzalez, a Mexico City criminal law expert, described the vote as “an abuse of the impeachment process” because high officials should be impeached only for “high crimes and misdemeanors. That has not been the case here.” (Los Angeles Times, April 8, 2005). So much for the “rule of law”!
In his defence, Obrador turned the tables on the prosecution and exposed the real motivations for the case against him. It is not Obrador who is guilty, but the ruling class, the PRI and the PAN:
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador
“They don’t judge me for violating a law, but for the way I think and what that represents for the future of Mexico,” he said. “There are two competing projects at stake: One on behalf of globalization, the other on behalf of the nation. They don’t like that I give support to the most humble and forgotten people and they don’t want that applied at a national level. This is what is at the core of the matter.”
He attacked “those who think they are masters of this country, the leaders of the PRI and the PAN parties, who want to sell our petroleum and electric industries, who have put our financial institutions into bankruptcy, who have created a nation plagued with inequality. They have delivered this country into the hands of the greediest minority. They want to tax food and medicines but they exempt their protectors from paying taxes. They have ruined the productive capacity of this country and obligated millions of Mexicans to go to the United States to earn a living.”
“I accuse President Vicente Fox Quesada of dishonorable acts with the proposition of tying up the national institutions to fight a political battle,” he said, the accused turning prosecutor.
“I accuse the chief justice of the Supreme Court, Mariano Azuela, of subordinating justice to the temporary interests of the powerful when he attended a private meeting with the president, forgetting that it is his duty not to participate in abuses but to protect people from them.”
“Those who accuse me try to justify their efforts in the name of the law. All authoritarian acts hide behind legality. They are making themselves ridiculous...
“They are going to put me in jail for trying to open a street to a hospital, a grave crime. Is that the ‘state of law’ they are calling for? What state of law is there for those who can’t buy innocence? The majority of judges don’t have the red-blooded courage to resist the pressures of the executive branch. It is about money and those who want a country that is exclusively for the wealthy.” (taken from Narcosphere)
PRD members in the Assembly
This kind of language must be sending shivers down the spine of the Mexican ruling class. It definitely connects with the experiences and the accumulated anger of millions of Mexican workers and peasants who have not benefited at all from the economic growth of the last few years.
The Mexican ruling class has badly miscalculated the impact of this case. They were stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. They could not allow Obrador to run for the presidency and win. This would have posed a direct threat to their interests and privileges. His election would be an expression of the anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist sentiments of the masses. It could open the floodgates to a mass revolutionary movement, similar to Chavez in Venezuela. In fact the mass media in Mexico have repeatedly made this comparison.
They could not allow that to happen and they decided to stop him. But the attempt to impeach him has been like throwing fire on the flames and has aroused the anger and indignation of the masses, who are overwhelmingly against the desafuero. The masses have rallied to his defence, and the mobilization of the masses means that Obrador has even more support now than in the past. Half a million gathered in the Zocalo on Thursday, matching two similar size demonstrations last April. The rally lasted for more than 10 hours and some of those present had spent the night in the square. The movement of the masses could even force the ruling class to give up the case against him and allow him to run anyway. This victory for the masses would show them that they can struggle and win, and would give them the confidence to go on the offensive and carry the movement forward. Obrador would win the election with even more support from a radicalized, mass revolutionary movement.
The Mexican ruling class pretends to stand for the “rule of law” and “democracy”. Obrador is desperate to re-assure the Mexican ruling class and US imperialism that he does indeed uphold the rule of law. Yet the ruling class itself violates the law, and has created a very thin legal cover, in the form of trumped charges against him. Obrador and the PRD leaders continue to call for “peace” and “calm”, and have specifically asked that no roads or highways be blocked. These pleas for calm reflect the real mood of the masses in Mexico and the explosive nature of the situation. Obrador wants to lead a peaceful movement of civil disobedience in his defence, he wants to look respectable, under the excuse that he does not want to give into the “provocations” and “logic” of his adversaries. Obrador will be left standing still, appealing to the law, and to peace and calm, as the ruling class breaks every law in the books to stop him. The PRD leaders have now called for a mass demonstration on April 24th, but this is to be a silent march. The PRD leaders, scared of the revolutionary potential of the movement of the masses, will try to divert it into all sorts of legalistic cul-de-sacs. But the mood of anger is such that it could explode and go beyond their intentions at any time.
The masses have been aroused to struggle, and can see the sham that is “democracy” and the “rule of law” in Mexico. From the point of view of the ruling class these are very dangerous conclusions. The struggle against the desafuero therefore has very deep political implications. The Mexican workers and peasants and farmers, want genuine democracy, and want to see a real improvement to the quality of their lives. The ruling class is opposed to this, cannot afford even the moderate reforms that Obrador has already initiated and will stop at nothing to prevent this. This whole crisis reflects the weakness of Mexican capitalism and the weakness of the PAN government which has not been able to introduce the radical counter-reforms demanded by the ruling class and imperialism (privatization of the oil and electricity industries, reform of the labour laws, etc). Every time he has attempted to do so he has been stopped by a mass movement of the workers. This shows that the balance of forces is favorable to the masses.
A strong, militant lead from Obrador and the PRD leadership, would unleash the enormous revolutionary potential of the Mexican workers and peasants. The movement to defend Lopez Obrador should be linked to the movement for the transformation of society. The argument should be that capitalist democracy has nothing to offer and that genuine democracy can only be implemented once the economy is in the hands of the working class. The masses in Mexico could lead the struggle for the genuine socialist transformation of Mexican society. This is the way forward for the Mexican workers, and their struggle would be a guiding light for the Latin American revolution! Now is not the time to halt the struggle or slow it down – the mass movement must press forward and go on the offensive, now is the time to take up the slogans “Against the impeachment, overthrow Fox!”, “If there is an impeachment, there will be a revolution!”