Can the man who stole the election actually govern Mexico?
MEXICO CITY (Sept. 14th) - In an epiphany of how he might have to govern Mexico if, in fact, an aggrieved left opposition allows him to assume the presidency December 1st, right-winger Felipe Calderon had to be helicoptered to the bunker in the deep south of this conflictive capital, where the nation's top electoral tribunal doing business as the TRIFE was to hand him the certificate attesting that he had, in the judges' less-than-august opinions, won the hotly-contested July 2nd election from leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO.).
Upon emerging from the chopper, which had been accompanied by a military gunship, the stubby, balding Calderon, his eyes darting like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights, was quickly hustled into the TRIFE headquarters by the back door, a full 90 minutes before the actual ceremony was to commence, a subterfuge necessitated by the presence by thousands of AMLO's enraged supporters, some of whom had already stripped naked.
Calderon's witnesses - members of his campaign team and functionaries of the archly-rightist PAN party who had the misfortune to arrive by land -- were greeted by clods of earth and screams of "Rateros!" (Thieves) and "Fraude!" (Fraud.) The ritual unfolded under a steady barrage of rotten eggs and tomatoes that AMLO's people kept hurling at the TRIFE bunker, a kind of Aztec version of a U.S. missile silo, to express their unhappiness with the seven-judge panel that had neither heard nor seen any evil in the maladroit machinations of President Vicente Fox, the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), and the PAN to steal the election from their candidate.
On September 5th, just hours before the constitutional deadline for confirming the next president of Mexico, the TRIFE had finally handed down its eagerly anticipated decision. In the learned justices' unanimous judgment, outgoing president Vicente Fox's unconstitutional intromission in the electoral campaign on behalf of Calderon had put the validity of the July 2nd balloting "at risk."
Moreover, months of venomous anti-AMLO hit pieces designed by U.S. carpetbagger Dick Morris that labeled Lopez Obrador a DANGER to Mexico in big red letters "unquestionably" impacted the results and were illegally financed by big business councils that included such transnationals as Wal Mart and Halliburton, a patently criminal act.
In addition, the election was riddled with "arithmetic mistakes." The TRIFE's own recalculation of the actual vote count, effected by its much-maligned twin the IFE, demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that Calderon had been credited with hundreds of thousands of votes that could not be substantiated by the number of ballots inside the ballot boxes. A partial recount of 9.7% of the 130,000 "casillas" (precincts) had turned up a total of 237,000 questionable votes that the TRIFE had chosen to annul, a quarter of those cast in the sample, and more than Calderon's supposed margin which had been reduced to 233,000 out of a total 41.5 million cast.
Having duly noticed these egregious outrages, the seven judges concluded that they could not calibrate the impact of such organized criminal activity upon the final outcome and awarded the presidency to one Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa to the great delight and immediate congratulations of Mexico's masters in Washington D.C.
Did the TRIFE go into the tank? Three of the justices are expected to be promoted to the Mexican Supreme Court when and if Felipe Calderon takes over the presidency. A fourth, Alejandro Luna Ramos, who will remain at the helm of the electoral tribunal, is a business partner of PAN topdog "El Jefe" Diego Fernandez de Cevallos - El Jefe won millions for the Ramos family from the Mexico City government before AMLO became mayor in a shady land deal involving the site of the Aztec football stadium. A Ramos sister sits on Mexico's Supreme Court.
Lopez Obrador has suggested that the judges were willing recipients of "canonazos" (cannonades of pesos) to help them better contemplate the "validity" of the election. Porfirio Munoz Ledo, a hoary political chameleon who was Fox's ambassador to the European Union, describes a post-electoral huddle at the home of Chief Supreme Court Justice Mariano Azuela, a Fox ally, where the Presidente warned the "TRIFitos" that should they declare the election null and avoid due to the overwhelming evidence of fraud, the Mexican economy would collapse and anarchy would reign in the streets. Although Munoz Ledo is an unsavory sort, his sources are usually impeccable.
Now that the TRIFE has legitimized the fraud, the IFE brain trust under the beady gaze of the chief architect of the July 2nd debacle, Luis Carlos Ugalde, is moving quickly to destroy the evidence. Following the modus operandi established after the stolen election of 1988 when the then-ruling PRI in connivance with the PAN ordered the ballots to be burnt by the military, the IFE has refused petitions from 16,000 suspicious subscribers to PROCESO magazine and a blue-ribbon commission of prominent members of the civil society to allow them to conduct a citizens recount of the ballots that are now, once again, under the protection of the military. Never! Ugalde and his mafia scoff. The ballots are "inviolable!" "The property of the people!"
But, on the other hand, the ballots are not "documents" open to public scrutiny as guaranteed by law, the IFE contends, and therefore are eminently "burnable" under current electoral stipulations. Ugalde's ruling was described as "metaphysical" by National University law professor John Ackerman. According to the IFE's hypothesis, the ballots were "documents" before they were marked by the voters but now they have been reduced to symbolic "expressions of the people's will" and thus are candidates for the incinerator.
AMLO is sworn to preventing a repeat of the 1988 flimflam and his people are pleading with Azuela's Supreme Court to stay the December date set for the burning - after all, an Ohio court just stepped in to save what ballots remain from Bush's stealing of that state's electoral votes in the smarmy 2004 presidential balloting. Not without a certain sense of déjà vu all over again, the final arbiter in this dispute may well be (who else but?) the TRIFE.
As illustrated by his armed airlift to the TRIFE silo, Felipe Calderon has a problem meeting the people he intends to govern over the next six years. In his first junket as president-elect, Fecal (as his detractors have dubbed him) took a sentimental journey to his native Morelia, the capital of the narco-ridden western state of Michoacan, where he was scheduled to lay a wreathe at the feet of that city's namesake, Jose Maria Morelos y Pavon, a black defrocked priest who led the guerrilla war against the Spanish Crown several centuries before the 44 year-old Calderon first slithered from the darkness of his PANista mother's womb.
Calderon's family on all sides is a founding pillar of the PAN, an Opus Dei-like creature of Catholic bankers formed to denigrate Mexico's beloved depression-era "Bolshevik" president Lazaro Cardenas, also a Michoacan native whose grandson, also Lazaro Cardenas, now besmirches that hallowed name as governor. Indeed, Calderon 's trip to Michoacan was designed to split Lopez Obrador's three-party Coalition for the Good of All - young Cardenas is titularly a member of the PRD, AMLO's home party, founded by his father Cuauhtemoc after he was swindled out of the presidency in 1988.
But Felipillo never made it to Morales's feet (the good padre probably exhaled a sigh of relief). Hundreds of AMLO's faithful tore down the barricades, tossed the usual rotten eggs and tomatoes at Calderon's entourage, battled Cardenas's state police and the elite Presidential military guard, and generally made the venue so unsafe that the wreath-laying had to be called off and the president-elect sped into a nearby locked-down convention center for a speech to a carefully-culled audience of "perfumados" (literally the perfumed ones.)
The draconian security measures at the convention center - sniffer dogs, metal detectors, pat-down searches - were not unwarranted. On the eve of Calderon's confirmation, in Michoacan's second city Uruapan, the capital of the state's "hot lands" where drug cropping accounts for the whole economy, a ski-masked commando burst into a local dance hall, forced the patrons to lie face down on the dance floor under pain of being Swiss cheesed by the automatic weapons they were waving convincingly, and carefully removed five severed human heads from black plastic bags which they artfully arranged in the center of the "pista" (dance floor) with the accompanying message: "the family does not kill for money. It does not kill women. It does not kill innocents. Those who deserve to die, die. Justice is divine."
This country has been visited by unspeakable acts of narco-terrorism in the months that Calderon has been blaspheming Lopez Obrador as "a DANGER to Mexico" (thanks Sasha for this observation). Such beheadings are now a regular feature of the cityscapes in Acapulco and Tijuana. Corpses are strewn in Baghdad-sized numbers each month in the rural outback of Sinaloa, Jalisco, Guerrero, Michoacan, and Chiapas. Judges are gunned down on their way to court at La Palma, Mexico's maximum narco-lockup - published reports speak of a "psychosis of fear" spooking the nation's judiciary. The brains of industry and the stock market are not immune from being splattered all over the street. Last week, the top official of a privatized customs agency part-owned by Fox's financial secretary Francisco Gil, was cut down by professional hit men on a busy Mexico City street as the end-of-the-administration chickens begin to come home to roost. La Jornada, the left daily, has even gone on "suicide" watch - officials often blow their brains out or sever their veins with box cutters at such moments in the Mexican political dynamic.
The TRIFE's confirmation of the stealing of the 2006 election has generated an avalanche of accolades for Felipe de Jesus - Bush and his crony ambassador Tony Garza were first in line to extend their congratulations all over again (they did so hours after the deeply flawed preliminary vote count came in July 2nd.) Spain's Rodriguez Zapatero and his pals at REPSOL were right behind, looking to get in on the ground floor of the fire sale of privatization Calderon has pledged for PEMEX, the once-nationalized state petroleum enterprise. The U.S. State Department's "democratic" answers to Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales, Alan Garcia and Oscar Arias, along with Salvador's fawning Tony Saca chimed in. Improbably, so did Nestor Kirschner - can Fidel and Lula be far behind?
But to my ear, the most appropriate toast to Felipe Calderon 's confirmation as the next president of this dangerous neighbor nation was one that was not sounded (at least not yet.) In 1994, after Ernesto Zedillo had finally relieved the reviled Carlos Salinas at the wheel of state, the still missing-in-action Subcomandante Marcos scribbled salutations to the new prez that began, much as does this chronicle, "Welcome to the Nightmare."
This past Sunday, Lopez Obrador's weekly packed-as-usual revival meeting in the Zocalo transpired parallel to Felipe Calderon's "victory" celebration, held appropriately enough in a bullring in an affluent district of the capital. AMLO's numbers as always dwarfed his diminutive rival's - the PAN reportedly padded out the crowd by requiring the compulsory attendance of Catholic school children and their parents. and the wealthy burghers in the south of the city were said to have obligated their servants to attend.
While the President-elect swore vengeance on his enemies across town, AMLO did not. As always, he let his furious flock call Fecal bad names but eschewed even mentioning his rival. Lopez Obrador had other plans. The seven week, seven mile encampment of his followers that so vex upper and middle class "capitolinos" would stay in place through Friday night, September 15th, the eve of Mexican Independence Day when AMLO intends to deliver the "Grito" of "Viva Mexico!" to the multitudes gathered in the great square, an honor reserved for the President of Mexico.
But rather than challenging the Mexican military, AMLO's people will then dismantle their encampments and retreat from the Zocalo for 12 hours to allow the Generals and Admirals to conduct their traditional Independence Day parade. "The army belongs to the people, not the government - we have no argument with this institution," AMLO explained seeking to mollify his militants who are reluctant to step back. "Many members of military families voted for us July 2nd. And besides the troops are so badly paid that they can't even support their families."
Once the military procession which always features tanks and jet fighter planes is done with - Vicente Fox will wave it on from a balcony of the National Palace and receive it at the newly refurbished (by the PRD Mexico City government) Angel of Independence - an expected million delegates to Lopez Obrador's National Democratic Convention (CND) will retake the Zocalo and sit in session to install AMLO as the legitimate president of Mexico.
But Fox, who was prevented from delivering his State of the Union address to congress September 1st when Lopez Obrador's senators and deputies stormed the tribune, is said to be obsessed with decrying his final Grito from the presidential balcony overlooking the Zocalo. Cornered between his hubris and personal ambition for a notch in history, and the huge angry crowd seething in the plaza below, the outgoing president could make a fatal mistake by turning the military and/or the military police on AMLO's people to force them out of the Tiennemens-sized square that sits at the heart of Mexico's political life, a move that indeed invokes both Tiennemens and Tlatelolco where in 1968 hundreds of striking students were massacred by the paranoid, anti-communist president Gustavo Diaz Ordaz, and a wound that has never closed here.
As Sub Marcos so eloquently waxes: "Welcome to the Nightmare."
John Ross's "ZAPATISTAS! Making Another World Possible - Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006" will be published in October by Nation Books and the Blindman will set out on a tour of the left coast from border to border and beyond to flog it. But before the flogging comes the honeymoon. Sasha Crow and John Ross (they met while human shielding in Baghdad) will be traveling in Turkey and Greece for the next few weeks.