The presidential elections of 1 July 2012 have provoked strong criticisms, both in terms of the pre-electoral process and election day itself. According to the vote count by the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), the candidate of the “Commitment to Mexico” coalition made up of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the Green Ecological Party of Mexico (PVEM), Enrique Peña Nieto, received 38.21% of the vote. Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), from the “Progressive Movement” alliance comprised of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the Labor Party (PT), and the Citizens’ Movement (MC), received 31.59% of the vote, an outcome much lower than had been expected before the election. In third place came the National Action Party (PAN) candidate, Josefina Vázquez Mota, with 25.41%, while Gabriel Quadri de la Torre, candidate for the New Alliance Party (PANAL), gained just 2.29%.
Quadri and Vázquez Mota publicly accepted their defeat even before the announcement of the Program of Preliminary Electoral Results (PREP). In their speeches pronounced minutes later, President Felipe Calderón and Peña Nieto announced the victory of the PRI. AMLO, for his part, made no public statement until some days afterward, when he declared that he would challenge the election results due to evidence of irregularities and violations of the electoral laws during the pre-electoral process as well as on voting day. Meanwhile, information began to circulate that, before the elections, the PRI in Mexico state had given out Soriana supermarket shopping cards and Monex credit cards in exchange for votes for Peña Nieto. The PRI denies this accusation. Even during the electoral campaign, a part of civil society had manifested its rejection of the PRI-Green candidate and/or the manner in which the electoral process was conducted (see sidebar). Due to the challenges to the electoral result, which will be evaluated by the Electoral Tribunal of the Judiciary Power of the Federation (TEPJF), that institution will rule on either validating the triumph of Peña Nieto or annulling the election.
In contrast to the previous presidential election, on this occasion the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) has not made a pronouncement regarding the electoral process. Nevertheless, the still-unresolved conflict in Chiapas was once again mentioned in national media at the beginning of August, due to the presentation of a book by Luis H. Álvarez (PAN), ex-president of the Commission for Concordance and Pacification (COCOPA) and peace commissioner during the Fox administration (2000-2006). President Felipe Calderón participated in this event, speaking of the “worst mistakes defended by EZLN,” a posture that subsequently was criticized by COCOPA which questioned the president due to his “lack of political and social sensibility […] [that] could be interpreted as an aggression, a disrespect, and a profound lack of knowledge of the historical struggle of Mexican indigenous people.” He added that the “repeated interest in speaking and theorizing about Zapatismo is out of place, in contrast with the absence and lack of interest showed in this regard during the six years of his governance.” In August was the ninth anniversary of the foundation of the Caracoles of Good-Government Councils, which were established by the EZLN after their definitive break with the institutions of the Mexican State, so as to strengthen their autonomy by advancing the autonomous systems of health and education and conflict-resolution outside the framework of the State’s justice institutions.
After more than two and a half years of negotiations among the different factions in the Congress and the federal government, on 8 August the Executive proclaimed a political reform that will change parts of the political system. Among the eight points added to the Constitution, the reforms include the introduction of citizen-sponsored candidacy to public office, the presentation of legal initiatives in the Congress by the citizenry, and popular consultation on major issues affecting society. These changes also introduce elements that seek to strengthen the federal Executive. The Congress rejected Calderón’s proposal for a second round in the presidential elections. Given the lack of faith the Mexican populace has in the political class, it remains to be seen if society will make use of the new mechanisms of participation in institutional politics. Also remaining to be seen is the reaction of the political class in light of the emergence of other actors in the institutional context, which until now has been monopolized by political parties.
At least in terms of appearance, in the last months of the Calderón administration, several advances in terms of human rights seem to have been achieved. However in the case of the General Law of Victims, one of the principal successes of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity (MPJD) in its dialogue with the federal Legislative and Executive, its implementation was delayed. Despite having been approved by both chambers of the Congress of the Union and declared as law by the Senate of the Republic, President Felipe Calderón imposed a constitutional challenge that was admitted by the Supreme Court. Clearly there are deep divisions between the federal government and the Congress, since the Executive is proposing to raise the issue to the constitutional level, so that no authority from any of the branches of government can evade its responsibilities. The president is also trying to have the perpetrator pay for the damages incurred by the victims, rather than have the State assume responsibility. Members of different non-governmental organizations indicated that with this demand, the president leaves the victims of his strategy of “war against organized crime” without protection.
In terms of advances identified by civil human rights organizations, on 22 June Calderón ratified and promulgated the Law for Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists that was approved by Congress at the end of April. In mid-August, the Supreme Court in several sessions reviewed various cases that involved members of the Armed Forces in crimes or human rights violations committed against civilians. In what were considered historic rulings, the highest tribunal of the country determined that the soldiers involved must be judged before civilian courts.
In Chiapas on 1 July there were also elections for governor, 122 mayorships, and deputies for the local Congress, in addition to the federal elections. The candidate for the Chiapas Unites Us coalition (PRI-Green-PANAL), Manuel Velasco Coello, won the gubernatorial elections with a clear majority (70.57% of the total vote), given the Green Ecological Party of Mexico its first governorship. The PRI-Green alliance also won two senatorial offices, 12 offices of federal deputies, 24 seats in the local Congress, and 90 of 122 municipalities. Velasco Coello indicated in his declarations during the electoral campaign that he would continue the policies of the present governor Juan Sabines of collaboration by the Chiapas state government with the United Nations regarding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and would continue with the cultivation of agrofuels and the construction of Sustainable Rural Cities, among other points. Nevertheless, considering that the PRI’s Peña Nieto will be the next president of the Republic, Manuel Velasco’s victory through the PRI-PVEM alliance signifies for Chiapas the return of the PRI to power at the state and federal levels. For this reason, it remains to be seen if this will imply significant changes from the policies of Manuel Velasco’s predecessors, or if these policies will merely be intensified.
These elections brought about several incidents that made Chiapas one of the most conflictive states at the national level. However, the head of the State Institute for Citizen Participation (IEPC) minimized the electoral incidents. But workers at this same organization denounced several irregularities to the press. Members of the #IAm132 student movement have also reported several of these irregularities, beginning even before election day.
Human rights defender Margarita Martínez Martínez and her familiy decided to flee the state of Chiapas due to new death threats and the disappearance they suffered on 30 June. In a joint bulletin published subsequently that was released by the family of Martínez Martínez and several human rights organizations, they explained that this decision is due to the fact that “the Mexican State has been incapable of protecting Margarita Martínez, given that despite having precautionary measures from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), she and her family have received several death threats.”
In observance of the International Day against Torture, the Fray Bartolomé de Las Casas Center for Human Rights (CDHFBC) presented the report “From Cruelty to Cynicism,” in which it documented 47 cases of torture in the period from January 2010 to December 2011. In the report it indicates that the “majority of the acts of torture registered during this period occurred in actions linked to the actions of the judicial system,in the implementation of a public security policy in the framework of the ‘war on organized crime’ declared by President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, and through actions implemented in the so-called ‘secure cities’ program promoted and implemented by the state government of Chiapas.” The report indicates that despite the elimination of criminal preventive detention (arraigo) at the state level, “various testimonies have revealed to us a different and even more grave reality: the existence of ‘security houses,’ spaces in which the lives of ‘detained’ persons are put at risk, thus complicating the work of documentation and adequate defense by human rights organizations.”
Following the favorable legal appeal and multiple mobilizations at the local, national, and international levels, on 26 July Alberto Patishtán Gómez was transferred from the Federal Center for Social Readaptation (CEFERESO) in Guasave, Sinaloa, to the State Center for the Social Reinsertion of the Sentenced (CERSS) No. 5 in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Patishtán Gómez, member of the “Voz del Amate,” an organization of prisoners who are adherents to the Other Campaign of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), had been forcibly transferred to Guasave in October 2011, when several prisoners of the CERSS No. 5 were on hunger strike to demand the review of their cases and their release. Meanwhile, the mobilizations continue to demand his liberation and that of Francisco Sántiz López, a Zapatista support base member from Banavil (Tenejapa municipality), who has been detained since December 2011, a circumstance that also has been denounced on numerous occasions by the Good Government Council of Oventik, who consider the charges to be fabricated.
On 14 June, 6 years passed since the beginning of the social conflict in Oaxaca, when the state government attempted to displace a sit-in of the teachers from Section 22 of the National Educational Workers’ Union (SNTE), which led to the founding of the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO). On this anniversary, the Oaxacan governor Gabino Cué Monteagudo led a public event recognizing the responsibility of the state government for the rights violations committed against the social movement. The state governor affirmed that all the government’s institutions have the obligation of recognizing and fully attending to the victims of rights violations committed in 2006 and 2007. The Gobixha Committee for Comprehensive Defense of Human Rights AC (CODIGO-DH) and FUNDAR Center for Analysis and Investigation declared that “this public act of recognition of responsibility on the part of the State of Oaxaca contributes to restoring the dignity of the victims and to their reintegration into society, as well as to a process of rebuilding the social fabric that will only be possible if it is based on truth and justice.”
Nevertheless, violent acts continue that are linked to the defense of land and territory. On 16 June, two members of the Coordination of United Peoples of the Ocotlán Valley (CPUVO) were injured in an armed attack that took place in the community of San José del Progreso. The CPUVO blamed the managers of the Cuzcatlán mining company, which operates in the municipality, as well as local authorities, for the aggression against the opponents to the mine. For their part, at the beginning of August communities of the Ikoots people in the Tehuantepec Isthmus declared their rebellion against the construction of a wind-energy park by the Spanish firm Mareña Renovable in the zone. As part of the conflict, the residents of San Dionisio del Mar had taken over the municipal palace last January. For this action, as was made public at the beginning of the month, they were threatened by the governor in a meeting they held last May. In light of the lack of attention of the State, the authorities from San Mateo del Mar reported that they would not participate in the elections on 1 July.
Another question covered by the media has been the temporary departure of Father Alejandro Solalinde Guerra from the country last May, in light of the situation of death threats that he had received for his work at a migrant shelter in Ixtepec. The priest returned to his activities as director of the shelter on 12 July, though the situation has not changed substantially in the time that he was out of the country.
On 1 July in Guerrero there were elections for president of the Republic, mayorships, local deputies, senators, and federal deputies. The candidates of the left for senator and federal deputies, as well as for mayorships and local deputies, won in almost all cases: all federal deputies, the two senatorial positions, 21 of 28 local districts, and 45 of 81 mayorships.
Beyond this, there continues to be a failure on the part of the federal and state governments to observe the sentences of the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACHR) on several cases in Guerrero. During the hearing organized by the IACHR in June to review the extent of observance of the sentence in the case of Rosendo Radilla (2009), Tita Radilla Martínez, daughter of the social activist who was arrested at a checkpoint in 1974 and remains disappeared to this day, expressed her dissatisfaction. On 16 July, national and international human rights organizations noted that two years had passed now since the IACHR handed down its sentences in favor of the indigenous women Inés Fernández Ortega and Valentina Rosendo Cantú, who were raped by soldiers in 2002, and “to date grave shortcomings persist in compliance with the rulings.”
On 9 August, Vidulfo Rosales Sierra, lawyer for the Tlachinollan Mountain Center for Human Rights, who had gone into self-imposed exile for some months after being threatened for his work as a human rights defender, returned to Mexico to resume his work. In a meeting with governor Aguirre Rivero, the state leader offered Rosales guarantees of protection, without further clarification.
Lastly, there is finally good news for the community and ejido members who opposed the construction of the La Parota dam. In July the cancellation of this hydroelectric project,planned to be located near Acapulco, was ratified. According to the Tlachinollan Mountain Center for Human Rights, this decision “confirms once again that in the legal struggle undertaken by the opponents to the project, it is the community and, ejido members and neighbors, united in the Council of Ejidos and Communities Opposed to La Parota (CECOP), who have legal victory and social legitimacy. Therefore, hopefully the recent decision can lead to the signing of the Cacahuatepec Accords, which to date have been postponed by the state Executive. These Accords could bring peace back to the region.”
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On 11 May 2012, at a campaign event for the PRI presidential candidate at the Iberoamerican University in Mexico City, there were protests over human rights violations committed under Peña Nieto’s administration in San Salvador Atenco, when he was governor of Mexico state in 2006. When the PRI machine characterized the protestors as “outside agitators” having nothing to do with the university, 131 students showed their student IDs in a video, affirming their participation in the protest. Support for the students on social networks gave birth to the #IAm132 movement, which is comprised mostly of young students from various universities in the country, public and private. They have defined their movement as non-partisan, but they have above all focused their criticism on the alleged alliance between Peña Nieto and Televisa, one of the two principal Mexican television conglomerates, given the favorable coverage it gave to the PRI candidate in its transmissions. #IAm132 organized several marches before the election, in addition to a debate among the presidential candidates that was made public via free media. Peña Nieto refused to attend this debate, considering it not to be impartial.
The day after the election, there were marches and rallies throughout much of the Republic that were organized among others by the #IAm132 movement. On 14 and 15 July in San Salvador Atenco, a “National Convention against Imposition” was held. Organized by the #IAm132 movement and the People’s Front for Defense of the Land (FPDT), among other organizations, more than 2,600 people from nearly 500 organizations in 28 states of the Republic discussed different proposals to “prevent Enrique Peña Nieto from assuming the presidency” in December.
In Oaxaca following election day, and in observance of the protest marches agreed to at the National Convention on 22 July, several protestors were arrested in the city of Oaxaca. Human rights organizations say, based on testimony they obtained, that during their detention these dissidents were tortured physically and psychologically, as well as beaten. Some youth were subjected to electric shock, death threats, and threat of rape; beyond this, there was sexual harassment and theft of their belongings. It should be noted that the events occurred two months before the “National Convention against Imposition” scheduled to be held in Oaxaca on 22 and 23 September.
Mobilizations have continued, and at the end of July, the #IAm132 movement released a manifesto in which it notes that “during this recent election day, profoundly antidemocratic practices prevailed, including State violence, the buying and coercion of voters, media manipulation, the nefarious use of polls and other illicit means that altered the essence of free suffrage that is informed, reasoned, and critical […]. We warn that in case the imposition [of Peña Nieto] comes to pass, the old political regime that practices State violence, repression, authoritarianism, generalized corruption, cover-ups, secrecy in public decision-making processes, coercion of voters, and other anti-democratic practices will be re-established […]. In light of this threat, we call for the union and organization of social forces toward the common goal of transforming the present state of Mexican society.”