Monday, July 10, 2006

AMLO Goes Back to What Works

The New York Times reports today on Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's promise that without a full recount of the Mexican vote which declares him the winner, Mexico will experience unrest:

Leftist Predicts Unrest Without Complete Recount of Mexican Election
Published: July 9, 2006

MEXICO CITY, July 8 — While the announced winner of last Sunday's presidential election, Felipe Calderón, kept a low profile on Saturday, his leftist rival led a rally of at least 150,000 people, charged the polling had been marred by fraud and suggested there would be civil unrest without a vote-by-vote recount.

"If there is not democracy, there will be instability," said the rival, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, at a news conference just hours before he addressed his angry and defiant supporters in Mexico City's central plaza.

At 5:50 p.m., he took the stage in the Zócalo, the historic central square in front of the National Palace, to fire a broadside at what he described as an oligarchy of top-level politicians and businessmen.

"We are aware we are confronting a powerful group, economically and politically, that are accustomed to winning at all costs, without moral scruples," he told the crowd. He maintained that this group had "conspired against democracy" and that "they are the ones who now want to put a servant in the presidency."

...He said his opponent's supporters had resorted to fraud and vote-buying in northern states where the conservative party is dominant, like Jalisco and Guanajuato. He also said he had been the victim of a smear campaign on television and radio that far exceeded campaign spending limits.

He said that the Federal Electoral Institute should have recounted Sunday's ballots during the official tally. He pointed out that mistakes favoring Mr. Calderón were found in about 2,600 cases where officials did recount votes, when tally sheets were missing or contained errors.

...On Friday afternoon, Mr. Calderón seemed confident that no legal challenge would stand up in court.

"My triumph is clear and definitive," he told a meeting of foreign reporters. "There are no legal elements that sustain the possibility of a complaint. In this election, the votes have already been counted, vote by vote, at the time they should have been counted, at the closing of the polls, as happens in all the world."

Mr. Calderón's campaign cited the volatile protests Mr. López Obrador led after his 1994 loss in arguing that he could be a danger to Mexico. And several political analysts have said that Mr. López Obrador's behavior since Thursday has proven Mr. Calderón right.

...Mr. Calderón would seem a certain ally for the United States, and political analysts have suggested that a Calderón presidency could signal an end to the advance of left-wing politics across Latin America, as neoliberal economic policies from Washington have fallen from favor.

On Friday, he said he would not seek to renegotiate agricultural clauses of the North American Free Trade Agreement, and that he would urge the United States and Canada to join with Mexico to create a fund for the construction of infrastructure and other development projects to generate jobs in high-migration states in Mexico.

"The solution to migration is not walls," Mr. Calderón said. "The only real solution to stop or slow the migration phenomenon is the generation of good-paying jobs."

In calling for protests and marches, AMLO is going back to what has worked before. The Fox government sought to indict AMLO for a minor legal violation in 2004 - a move that would have rendered him ineligible to run for President in 2006. AMLO called the move politically motivated, and organized protests that reportedly brought out more than 1 million supporters. That March led the Fox government to give up:

Two and a half weeks later, on April 24, López Obrador convoked a “silent march” through the streets of Mexico City in opposition to the desafuero. An estimated 1.2 million people took part, making it the largest protest march in Mexico’s protest-laden history. It tipped the scales. Three days after the march, Fox fired Attorney General Macedo de la Concha and called for reconciliation. A week later the new attorney general dropped all the charges. The desafuero had become moot.

In 1994, AMLO was ruled the loser of the Tabasco governor's race (strangely, to Robert Madrazo), in a race that many thought was stolen. A probe showed irregularities at almost 80 percent of the polling stations, and Madrazo broke campaign spending rules. AMLO organized strikes and protest marches, which led to the probe. And while Madrazo served his full term, AMLO's fame and influence were established.

So in calling for protests and marches, AMLO is only going back to what has worked before. And if he can actually produce a million people at marches in Mexico City, will Calderon, the IFE and the Trife stand strong?

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