How Should Left Respond to Stolen Mexico Election?

by Randy Shaw on July 7, 2006

If forced to choose between cowardice and violence, we will choose the latter —-Cesar Chavez, quoting Gandhi

If America cared about democracy, our political leaders would be demanding that Mexican Presidential candidate Lopez Obrador either be declared the winner of the July 2 election or that a full precinct-by-precinct internationally-supervised recount immediately commence. Yet a nation that has spent $300 billion and ended hundreds of thousands of lives to allegedly bring democracy to Iraq is silent—and perhaps complicit— as democracy is subverted in adjacent Mexico. Mexico’s progressive forces have already had the 1988 presidential election stolen from them, and walked away without a fight. The Mexican left cannot allow another hijacking of democracy without permanently disillusioning its base, and progressives across the world must get their national, state and local governments to join the demand for a recount.

When I read Wednesday night that progressive Mexican presidential candidate Lopez Obrador had taken the lead once most of the three million previously uncounted ballots had been counted, I immediately assumed that the Mexican elite would again manipulate the totals. By early Thursday morning, the conservative Calderon was back in front and again claiming victory.

But the psychological impact of Obrador’s taking the lead is huge. It provides an empirical basis to claims that the election is being stolen, a factor that loomed so large in the Bush-Gore contest that the Supreme Court had to intervene and stop the counting before Gore pulled ahead.

Since Monday’s initial results showing conservative candidate Felipe Calderon in the lead, the American media has pushed Obrador to gracefully accept defeat. He was essentially told to shut up and go along with the ignoring of over three million votes, and to ignore widespread evidence of inflated vote counts for his opponent (Thursday’s New York Times has an article confirming the latter. In six polling sites where the reporter observed recounts, all of the pre-recount totals had been miscounted to Obrador’s detriment)

The San Francisco Chronicle has provided good coverage of the election from reporter Robert Collier, but its editors—as is often the case—have reached opinions contrary to available facts. On Thursday, the Chronicle attacked Lopez Obrador for his “efforts to stir up passions and paranoia even before the vote count is official.” They gave the progressive leader “low marks for leadership,” and urged him to accept the election outcome.

The American media sure didn’t talk this way when the Ukrainian election stole the presidency from the American-supported candidate. Then the talk was all about the need for a recount and a new election.

The Friday, June 7 New York Times editorialized in favor of a full recount. Yet the Chronicle maintains it is “paranoid” to ask why 8% of the votes cast in a national election were not counted—a claim whose legitimacy was soon upheld by Mexican election officials.

It is fair to say that the single biggest regret American progressives have expressed over the past years is the failure to mobilize to stop the theft of the 2000 election. Gore and Lieberman were clearly the most to blame for this, but progressives sat on the sidelines while conservatives were flown across the country to intimidate election officials in Florida (absent such intimidation, enough votes might have been counted for Gore to take the lead before the Supreme Court stopped the count).

Mexico’s left went through our 2000 experience in 1988, when progressive Cuahtemoc Cardenas was deprived of the presidency in an election that even former right-wing Senator Jesse Helms declared was fixed. It took years for the Mexican left to recover from this “defeat,” and if it allows another election to be stolen, forget about asking the poor and disenfranchised to vote in future elections.

Lopez Obrador and his backers understand full well that they must now use all means necessary to reverse this hijacking of democracy. Progressives in the United States and across the world must lend their voices to Lopez Obrador’s cause, and national, state and local governments should be pushed to pass resolutions demanding that the Mexican government launch an internationally-supervised recount.

In a country that was founded by taking up arms against the British, and whose Founding Fathers used violence whenever necessary to get their way, it is now curious for the American media and political establishment to be calling for “calm” in Mexico. America is the last country in the world that should be lecturing others about the need for “calm” and to “maintain order”—we have a long history of using violence to subvert democracy.

The Mexican left must bring the nation to a halt because the alternative is the abandonment of democracy and any hope for economic justice. Mexico’s political elite has again decided to play by its own rules, leaving the left unbound by the rule of law or limited to the commonly accepted tactics in a democratic society.

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