MEXICO CITY -- The Marcos Factor has unexpectedly become a wild card in Mexico's closely fought July 2nd presidential election.
While out of earshot plying the back roads of provincial Mexico with his "Other Campaign," an anti-electoral crusade designed to weld underclass struggle groups into a new left alliance, the ski-masked Zapatista rebel mouthpiece once known as Subcomandante Marcos, now doing business as Delegate Zero, stayed aloof from the electoral mainstream, although he attacked it relentlessly. But Marcos's arrival in the capital at the end of April has propelled him back into the national spotlight with less than 50 days to go until Election Day.
Poll results are brazenly for sale in the run up to Mexican elections and all are equally untrustworthy. For almost 30 months, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the former Mexico City mayor and candidate of the leftish Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) led the preferences, sometimes by as much as 18 points.
But by April, under an unanswered barrage of attack commercials labeling him a danger to the nation in big block letters across the television screen, AMLO's lead had frittered away into a virtual tie with rightwing National Action Party candidate Felipe Calderon. Polls paid for by the PAN even give Calderon a ten-point advantage. On the other hand, Mitofsky Associates, contracted to produce monthly polls by the television giant Televisa, which tilts towards Calderon, gives the PANista just a one point edge with a two-point margin of error. All pollsters have the once-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party's Roberto Madrazo running a distant third with 23-28%of voter preferences.
AMLO's diminished numbers were further complicated by Marcos's arrival in the capitol. Delegate Zero has blasted the PRD and its candidate unceasingly in stump speech after stump speech across much of Mexico for the past five months. Although the Other Campaign focuses on the deficiencies of the electoral process and the political parties to meet the needs of the people, Marcos always reserves special invective for Lopez Obrador and the PRD -- the Other Campaign is, after all, a battle for the hearts and minds of the Mexican left.
But perhaps the cruelest blow that Delegate Zero has yet struck against his rival on the left came when he declared under the heat of national TV cameras that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador would be the winner of the July 2nd election. Marcos's "endorsement" is seen in some quarters as being akin to Osama Bin Laden's 2004 U.S. election eve TV appearance that frightened millions of voters into re-electing George Bush.
In truth, Marcos's appearance in Mexico City at the end of April generated little press interest and numbers at marches and rallies were embarrassingly small. But two days of bloody fighting between farmers affiliated with the Other Campaign and state and federal security forces at San Salvador Atenco just outside the capitol, which resulted in hundreds of arrests, rampant violations of human rights, the rape of women prisoners, and the most stomach-wrenching footage of police brutality ever shown on Mexican television, put Marcos back in the media spotlight.