Voto por voto!

A drama of Mexican civil resistance in five acts

Act One: The Middle Class

MEXICO CITY (August 4th) -- Jacinto Guzman, an 80 year-old retired oilworker from Veracruz state, plants himself in front of the headquarters of the Halliburton Corporation on the skyscraper-lined Paseo de Reforma here and recalls the great strikes of the 1930s that culminated in the expropriation and nationalization of Mexico's petroleum reserves.

Dressed in a wrinkled suit and a hard hat, the old worker laments the creeping privatization of PEMEX, the national oil corporation, by non-Mexican subcontractors like Halliburton, which is installing natural gas infrastructure in Chiapas. But he is less agitated about the penetration of the transnationals in the Mexican oil industry, or even Halliburton's craven role in the obscene Bush-Cheney Iraq war, than he is about the fraud-marred July 2nd presidential election here.

The sign he holds reads "No A Pinche Fraude" (No to Fucking Fraud!), referring to Halliburton's membership in a business confederation that financed a vicious TV ad campaign against leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who insists that he won the July 2nd election from right-winger Felipe Calderon, to whom the nation's tarnished electoral authority, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) awarded a razor-thin and much questioned "victory."

Mr. Guzman's appearance at Halliburton on a Friday at the end of last month was one of myriad acts of civil resistance invoked by Lopez Obrador at a July 16th Mexico City assembly that drew more than a million participants. The campaign is designed to pressure a seven-judge panel (the "TRIFE"), which must determine a winner by the first week in September, into opening up the ballot boxes and counting out the votes contained therein -- "voto por voto."

Zeroing in on U.S. transnationals that purportedly backed Calderon, AMLO's people have invaded Wal-Mart, picketed Pepsico (its Sabritas snack brand was a big contributor to the right-winger's campaign), rented rooms in big chain hotels (Fiesta Americana) and dropped banners from the windows decrying the "pinche fraude," and blocking all eleven doors at the palatial headquarters of Banamex, once Mexico's oldest bank and now a wholly owned subsidiary of Citygroup.

"Voto por Voto!" demonstrators chanted as the bankers smoked and fumed and threatened to call the police.

Demonstrators also blocked the doors at the Mexican stock exchange and surrounded the studios of Televisa, the major head of the nation's two-headed television monopoly, both heads of which shamelessly tilted to Calderon before, during, and after the ballots were cast.

"!Voto por Voto! Casilla por Casilla!" (Vote by Vote, Precinct by Precinct.)

Seated on a tiny folding chair outside of Banamex, Elena Poniatowska, one of Mexico's most luminous writers and the recent winner of Spain's coveted Cervantes Prize, reflected on the civil resistance: "We have always seen the workers demonstrate here in the Zocalo, but this is all very new for our middle class. The middle class protests too, but in the privacy of their own homes. Now we are out of the closet."

Ironically, the concept of peaceful civil resistance by the middle class was pioneered by Felipe Calderon's own party, the PAN, after it had been cheated out of elections in the 1980s by the then-ruling PRI. The PANistas uncharacteristically blocked highways and went on hunger strikes, and even imported Philippine trainers, veterans of Corazon Aquino's civil resistance campaign against Ferdinand Marcos, to teach their supporters new tricks.

Recently AMLO's party, the Party of the Democratic Revolution or PRD, stole a page from the PANista bible by holding a rally at a Mexico City statue of the right-wingers' father figure, Manuel Clouthier.