At the beginning of September, with less than a year left in his term, Mexican President Vicente Fox presented his fifth governmental report. This brief speech was mainly a formality and devoid of “hard facts“. President Fox focused his message on two main ideas: the transition to democracy and the call for the development of accords. This call, aimed primarily at Congress, seems paradoxical given that no significant accords have been reached in the past five years. Additionally, since the current pre-electoral battles further define and reinforce party lines and interests, the possibilities for reaching consensus on reforms are increasingly limited.
The minimal impact of this speech is related to the fact that the inter-party political debate is currently centered around the upcoming Presidential election of 2006. Pre-candidacies have already been defined and as a result internal conflicts within the political parties have been intensified.
Following their defeat in the 2000 Presidential elections, after seventy-one years in power, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) has maintained its position as the primary political force in Mexico at the local, state and national level. The gubernatorial elections in the state of Mexico last July were perceived as a sort of barometer, indicative of the electoral preferences to come in 2006. The PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, defeated his contenders by a margin of nearly two to one.
One of the two pre-candidates for the PRI is Roberto Madrazo, who as the national president of the PRI has great control over the party structure as well as influence in local elections. Madrazo competes against Arturo Montiel, former governor of the state of Mexico and current leader of the Unidad Democrática (Democratic Union), an organization also know as Todos Unidos Contra Madrazo (TUCOM- United against Madrazo). The battle between the two has been waged in the media and has been somewhat overshadowed by the renewal of the PRI leadership, deepening the divisions within the party.
In August, Mariano Palacios Alcocer was appointed PRI president over Elba Esther Gordillo, the anti-Madrazo secretary general of the PRI, who it was presumed would fill the position. With the hope of revoking this appointment, Elba Esther Gordillo instigated a trial before the Tribunal Electoral del Poder Judicial de la Federación (TEPJF- Electoral Tribunal of Federal Judicial Power). Amidst the tensions, the TEPJF finally validated the appointment provoking Elba Esther Gordilllo´s resignation from her position as secretary general. In doing so, she opened up for herself the possibilities of becoming a pre-candidate, of supporting a different pre-candidate, or even of joining another party.
Within the Partido de Acción Nacional (PAN- Nacional Action Party), the contenders include Alberto Cárdenas Jiménez, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, and Santiago Creel Miranda. Creel is recognized as the candidate supported by Vicente Fox, as he served under Fox, until recently, as the Secretary of the Interior. Initially, Miranda was considered the favorite of the three. Amidst a major deployment of economic and media resources, the competition between the three trends represented by the various contenders could lead to a situation of greater division within a party already weakened by its time in power.
The internal election will be semi-closed with a first round executed in three phases, state by state, between September and October. The second round will take place in November with simultaneous voting throughout the nation. On September 11, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa won the first phase of regional voting. Hinojosa´s lead over Creel is thought to be, in part, the result of a vote of protest by PAN members against the Fox administration.
On July 30th, following his resignation as Jefe del Gobierno del Distrito Federal (Head of Government of the Federal District) Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) registered himself as a pre-candidate in the presidential race. Given his great popularity, he is thought to be the definite PRD candidate. The controversy surrounding his possible involvement in illegal activity (which would have excluded him from the presidential election; see previous bulletins) ultimately increased his popularity. On the other hand, as Head of the Federal District Government his social policy based on redistribution assured him a broader popular base. This same policy has caused him to receive criticism for propiating a clientele relationship with his beneficiaries as well as for his role in increasing the Federal District´s debt from 28.718 billion pesos in 2000 to 41.4 billion pesos in 2005. [exchange rate: US$1= 10.7 pesos]
Another “Achilles´ heel” for López Obrador is the fact that 24 of his 50 electoral proposals rely on approval by the Legislature, not the Executive Branch. This makes these proposals nearly impossible given how unlikely it is that the PRD gain control of Congress
At the end of September, approximately 250 political, social, civil, campesino, and labor organizations formalized the Coalición Ciudadana Nacional por la Transición Democrática con Justicia y Equidad (National Citizens Coalition for Democratic Transition with Justice and Equality). Until then, it was known as the Frente Amplio de Izquierda (Broad Leftist Front). This coalition has included leaders of the PRD, the Partido del Trabajo (Workers´ Party) and the Partido Convergencia (Convergence Party). It is important to note that among the instigators of this group is Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, historical leader and three-time Presidential candidate for the PRD, currently marginalized from the party.
The National Citizens Coalition’s primary goal is the promotion of democratic transition, through the necessary Reform of the State, emphasizing the political project itself, rather than any of the politicians leading it. The Coalition does not stand any real chance of presenting a candidate that could actually compete against AMLO for the leftist or popular vote. Nevertheless, the strength of the Coalition as an organized base of political support could obligate AMLO to enter into a debate about his policies, in the process negotiating positions and conditions. If AMLO were to win, the Coalition could be converted into the sort of organizational support base that AMLO currently lacks, despite his popularity. By offering this much needed support, the Coalition could also act as a counterbalance to AMLO´s power, influencing policy and decision-making in his administration.
Within this political framework, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) was transitioning from the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona to the launching of the “Other Campaign” (see “Feature“). The EZLN cut off its relationship with the political parties after the so-called legislative “betrayal” in 2001. That year Congress approved a constitutional reform on indigenous rights and culture that dramatically differed from the agreement reached in the San Andres Accords, signed in 1996 between the Zapatistas and the federal government.
At the present time, the EZLN believes that there is nothing to debate with those from “above,” those institutions and political parties that according to the Zapatistas only seek power for the sake of power, waste resources, and have no contact with the needs of the people. With the Sixth Declaration, the Zapatistas confirm that they do not expect anything from the current administration, or from the next administration no matter who it is. Nevertheless, the Zapatistas launched their new initiative precisely at a moment of transition of power in Mexico.
The new strategy maintains the military “rearguard” on the part of the Zapatistas. It proposes emphasizing the need to continue the process of developing and strengthening autonomy in Chiapas. Additionally, another proposal has been offered, suggesting a struggle “from below and from the left” on the national level. This dimension has existed from the beginning as is evident in the name of the EZLN, the army of “national liberation.” The new strategy also includes an effort to deepen the global dimension of the movement.
Amidst the crisis in representative democracy and the rupture with the institutional, Zapatismo proposes something more than a strategy: a methodology constructed from below, from those from below for those from below. This methodology is embodied by the Other Campaign, as it seeks to initiate a radical transformation of the State. The Other Campaign directly and critically confronts the logic of electoral politics and campaign practices, so heavily reliant on money, power, and means, as well as the processes of negotiation between the major political forces. The Other Campaign has been steadily gaining support. At the beginning of September, 162 social organizations, 55 political organizations, 453 non-governmental organizations, groups and collectives, 103 indigenous organizations, and 1,625 individuals had pledged their support for the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona. 2,069 people attended the Plenary Session.
The position of the Sixth Declaration vis-à-vis the political parties and López Obrador generated great controversy. The national leadership of the PRD defined the language used by Subcomandante Marcos as “excessive” and denied their betrayal of the indigenous cause (referring to the law of 2001). For many supporters of López Obrador the positioning of the Sixth Declaration can be seen as anticlimactic, running the risk of dividing the left at a moment when there is thought to be a real chance of the”left” (AMLO) winning the presidential election. However, for the EZLN, voting for the “lesser of two evils” is simply not an option. Nevertheless, despite reports to the contrary in various news outlets, the Sixth Declaration is not calling for abstention from voting: “The proposal of the Sixth Declaration is to align itself with unregistered political organizations, which is not to say that these organizations do not struggle to gain power, nor does it imply that their strategies do not include electoral efforts. Just as the Other Campaign enters into the electoral campaign, we do not want it to be used to register a candidate.” Nor is the Sixth Declaration a “prozapatista” call for unconditional support for its political proposals and organization.
His doubts regarding the Other Campaign: “The choice that Marcos made to use violence is a choice that cancels democracy. I prefer the option of citizens with first and last names, who show their face, and who participate in politics. This means that we construct a democratic life, also with the risks that included in the past loss of employment or life that.” Nevertheless, the Other Campaign is a political, pacifist initiative, just like every other Zapatista initiative since the twelve initial days of war in 1994.
The Executive Spokesperson of the Presidency, Rubén Aguilar Valenzuela, expressed support for the Zapatista´s decision to participate politically. He stressed the potential influence of the Zapatistas in the upcoming electoral process of 2006. With regards to the Zapatista´s plan to tour the nation, Valenzuela voiced his approval adding that the Mexican government will work to facilitate this process. The federal government expressed a willingness to dialogue with Sub-Commandante Marcos, over the place, hour and above all the themes that he wanted.
During the Plenary Session of the Other Campaign, Marcos received a letter containing an invitation to a secret meeting with the Peace Coordinator of Chiapas, Luis H. Álvarez. The EZLN rejected this invitation. Álvarez confirmed the delivery of this letter and the intention of creating a dialogue for the exchange of ideas and perspectives on the situation of the indigenous communities of Chiapas.
The third week of September, a meeting was held between the Secretary of the Interior, Carlos Abascal Carranza, and seven members of the COCOPA (the Commission for Concordance and Pacification created by legislators in an effort to construct dialogue between the EZLN and the Federal Government). The goal of this meeting was to analyze the proposals made by the EZLN commanders in the Plenary Session. They recognized the legality of the Zapatista movement. Although the perspective of the government is publicly expressed as support for the Zapatista proposals, there have been reports of repressive actions. For example in Oaxaca there have been reprisals against those attempting to distribute information about the Other Campaign.
In mid-August, when asked if the Federal Army had received any instructions related to the upcoming tour by the Zapatista delegation, the commander of the seventh military region of Chiapas, Juan Morales Fuentes, stated that this event does not pose any threat to social stability. At the end of August, the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN- Center for Research and National Security) submitted a report to the National Defense Secretary, in which they identified eight armed organizations that are currently operating within Mexico. The report affirmed that only five of them “have the potential to affect social peace and national security”: the Ejército Popular Revolucionario (EPR- Popular Revolutionary Army) and four organizations derived from it. The EZLN was not included among these groups.
Locally, the political agenda has revolved around the upcoming elections for governor, which will take place just after the federal elections, in August 2006. In early September, the Controlaria de la Legalidad Electoral (Controller of Electoral Legality) began administrative proceedings against several politicians aspiring to become candidates: federal deputies Emilio Zebadúa (PRD) and Manuel Velasco (PVEM- Green Party of Mexico), senators Rutilio Escandón (PRD) and José Antonio Aguilar (PRI). They are accused of campaigning before the designated legal campaign period. Various news sources affirmed that this measure is being taken to support the present state Secretary of the Interior, Rubén Velázquez, who is thought to be the candidate chosen by the current governor, Pablo Salazar.
In the next state elections, many predict a great wave of abstention by voters, thereby facilitating a return to power by the PRI. The PRI could win because of its strong presence and establishment throughout the state. Additionally, the current polarization within the national system of political parties makes it unlikely that an inter-party coalition could be formed the way it was in the last gubernatorial election. The current governor was elected because of the support he gained through a coalition of eight parties.
In the northern region of Chiapas, the context is marked by a exacerbation of tensions amidst rumors of the reactivation of the group “Desarrollo, Paz, y Justicia” (DP&J- Development, Peace and Justice), which has been accused of paramilitary activity. In August, the Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Bartolomé de las Casas (Fray Bartolomé de las Casas Human Rights Center), once again denounced the forced displacement of several families as a result of aggression and threats linked to DP&J, in the community of Andrés Quintana Roo, in the municipality of Sabanilla. The displacement occurred in June, July, and August, affecting twenty families, totaling 117 persons. The state government has used the term “self-displacement” to refer to this situation. Nevertheless, the level of fear in the area is very real and obvious, similar to the situation in the municipality of Tila.
Also in the northern region, on September 6th, in the community of Belisario Domínguez, in the municipality of Salto de Agua, a conflict occurred between Zapatista supporters and the rest of the population, resulting in a number of injuries. At the center of this conflict once again appears the question of basic services, causing tension within the divided communities, as mentioned in previous SIPAZ Reports. The Zapatista families tried to stop the other community members from disconnecting their electricity and preventing the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE- Federal Electrical Commission) from entering the village. The rest of the community organized themselves and followed four employees of the CFE to outside of the community, with the goal of “trying to form an agreement with the CFE with regards to their problems.”
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On September 15th, ecologist Felipe Arreaga Sanchéz´s innocence was officially recognized, more than ten months after he had been unjustly imprisoned. Nevertheless, he still lives in fear for the safety of his family and that of other environmentalists and human rights activists in Guerrero. Furthermore, thirteen other campesino ecologists are still being accused of the same crimes for which Arreaga was held. This group of thirteen includes leaders of the Organización de Campesinos Ecologistas de la Sierra de Petatlán y Coyuca de Catalán, A.C. (OCESP- Organization of Campesino Ecologists of Sierra de Petatlán and Coyuca de Catalán). Among these leaders are Rodolfo Montiel, a political prisoner since 1999, and Albertano Peñaloza Domínguez, who lost his two sons in an ambush against him.
The construction of the hydroelectric plant “La Parota,” near Acapulco, has caused major social divisions and increasing violence. The members of the Consejo de Ejidatarios y Comuneros Opositores a La Parota (CECOP- the Council of Ejido Members and Comuneros/Community Landholders Against La Parota) have heavily questioned the role of the CFE (Federal Electrical Commission) in creating community divisions. These divisions are the result of the CFE´s dissemination of biased and untruthful information and their offer of money and services to all those who pledge their support for the construction of La Parota. The state government has been accused of not addressing the demands of the “comuneros,” prioritizing investments in the state, and using police forces to intimidate opponents of the hydroelectric project. On August 23rd, approximately one thousand “comuneros” from Cacahuatepec, who support the La Parota project, attended a twenty-minute meeting organized by the CFE. The meeting-place was surrounded by 500 police officers and opponents of La Parota were banned from attending. Those present at the meeting approved the start of the process of expropriating the lands where the hydroelectric plant will be built. A violent confrontation ensued. On September 18th, Tómas Cruz Zamora was assassinated after having participated in the CECOP Assembly. The governor was expected to attend, but did not show up. There is widespread fear of further violence in the area.
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