AMLO outside the Senate, Monday, October 26

Worker's Party Deputy Mario di Costanzo Tears Apart Carstens Economic Plan

Friday, November 21, 2008

Three Minutes Sixteen Seconds / PRD R.I.P./ We're not Paying for Your Crisis

Three Minutes Sixteen Seconds
The following from Rocio Ortega, newly-unemployed radio producer, Oaxaca: "This past November 6th, the program 'Music Non-Stop' (which I was the producer of on 96.9 FM) had on as its guest the artist and curator Olga Margarita Dávila for its segment, 'Biographies and Personalities'...In order to put into context the founding of 'La Curtiduria,' a space devoted to promoting contemporary art and taking in artists from all over the world, Olga cited the Oaxaca conflict of 2006 in the following manner:

And amongst all the ups and downs life has provided me with, one of them has been to come to Oaxaca and work here thanks to Demian Flores at the Curtiduria, which is a contemporary space for the arts, for artist's residences, for projects and workshops, education. It's a space that was born out of the movement of 2006 as an inclusive space, as a response to everything that moved this great conflict, this great force, this big, little transformation that we all experienced, even more those who were behind the barricades and involved in the whole process. This allowed the Curtiduria ['The Tannery'] to be named what it was: in an abandoned space in the old tannery area on 5 de Mayo Street in Jalatlaco, we inaugurated this space in 2006 with the help and logistics and strength of a large community of creators and artists who...asked what can we do and how can we do it, who are we as artists and what are we to do with this occupation of life, and we decided to open this space. And I joined in at the end of 2006, the beginning of 2007 intermittently at first, coming and going, I had commitments in Los Angeles and Tijuana, and little by little I kept getting more involved until, starting in the middle of last summer, I began to stay in La Curtiduria and began to make Oaxaca my home. Now I have been living in Oaxaca definitively for the last six months, with a great deal of pleasure, and tranquility....

"This audio segment lasted 3'16", and preceded some music that the guest shared with our listeners. The listeners, however, were not able to hear it. On orders from Mercedes Rojas Saldaña, director of CORTV, the transmission was interrupted and music was broadcast with the excuse of technical problems, thus censuring the program's content.
"If this were not enough, and without any reasons, the head of programming informed me by phone that I was being suspended (on the 11th, one week later), that my programs would not be going on the air anymore and that my professional relationship with the station was being terminated. He alleged they had tried to contact me to tell me that the people invited onto Music Non-Stop 'weren't Oaxacans' and as well that the program's music 'didn't convince them.' Along with this the program 'Music para Respirar' (Music for Breathing), which I am also the producer of, will be taken off the air - a progam devoted to genres such as world beat, new age, ambiental and hetero...
"If this is not to be seen as a lack of ethics and professionalism, a demonstration of ignorance and incompetence, a brazen and high-handed act, an attack of free speech and fundamental rights perpetrated by the director of a station paid for by our taxes, I demand an explanation and make a call to the support, friendship and gratitude of those who that afternoon, on this station, could not and now will not be able to hear me any longer.

Rocio Ortega,
Oaxaca, Oaxaca November 18th, 2008

If two radio progams can be pulled from the air and a producer fired for comments as innocuous as Olga Margarita Davila's, if people are being kidnapped in broad daylight only 7 blocks away from where the Governor is gearing up for his State of the State message (, is it not clear that Oaxaca is suffering through the worst of both worlds: on one hand, the arbitrary repression of a police state, and on the other, the lack of any state-provided security whatsoever?

(Spanish speakers can read the full text of Rocio Ortega's comments at:

Friends, please break out your mourning clothes to attend the political wake of the year (no, not Mouriño): the PRD is dead, cut down in the flower of its youth at only 19 years old. The party, founded by Cuauhtemoc Cardenas and the coalition of parties that had supported him in the 1988 presidential elections, died last week when the Federal Electoral Tribunal - the same one that installed electoral deliquent Felipe Calderon into the presidency of the nation, installed electoral delinquent Jesus Ortega into the party presidency of the PRD. The decision, an unprecedented meddling in internal party affairs which flagrantly overruled a wise internal party decision to simply annul the damned thing, was made even with the Tribunal itself admitting that a mere 22.88% (!) of precincts contained anomalies, and in grand Mexican style, included in its final count the results of polling places which were never set up on the day of the election! As I understand it, the high-minded ethical reasoning of the Tribunal goes thus: even if Ortega did do what they say he did, as long as what he did didn't "change the final results" (however circumlocuitously those are gotten at), his little shenanigans - oh you, Chuy! (slap slap) - are A-okay in the ledgers of justice. Kant is dead: there are no wrong acts as such, only wrong, results subject to change.
With this, the circle is closed, and the party is pulled off the life support it had been on since its circus-like internal elections earlier this year. Felipe Calderon, with the help as always of his state-level surrogates (namely the governors of Oaxaca, Chiapas and Veracruz, from whence came the phantom results from inexistent precincts) have succeeded not only in installing their own man in the presidency of the PRD - one who will make a "modern" left that "Mexico can be proud of" (I can see the 30-second spots now), but in converting the party, born in the aftermath of one electoral fraud and toppled by another, sixteen years later, into yet another co-opted organ of the state. The clear intent is to remove any institutional channels for the mass popular movement led by López Obrador, and by attempting to marginalize him within his own party, make him look even more extreme and that much more cut-off from the normal political life of this grand, inclusive republic. With Jesus Ortega and his new-left "chuchos" in control of the party's apparatus, expect a bland and innocuous slate of compromised candidates for next year's legislative elections, absent any Lopez-Obradoristas or other rabble rousers. Expect, too, a sound thrashing for the PRD at the polls, not only due to the pre-announced (Garcia Marquez style) defeat of the left by the right (he who controls the electoral mechanisms controls the votes), but due to massive defections of the what was formerly the base of the PRD brand in favor of the other two members of the Broad Progressive Front: Convergencia and the Worker's Party (PT). For what it's worth (a bag of chips? cup of watery decaf?), this blogger, for one, will be voting PT/Convergencia.

We're Not Paying for Your Crisis
The three-time Berlusconi government in Italy (talk about electoral masochism) has recently introduced an educational counter-reform which, among other enlightened measures, slashes elementary school class time, eliminates up to 100,000 teaching positions, reduces the number of degree programs offered at the college level, and opens up the university system to privatization by stealth by allowing them to create "foundations" to traffic in private dollars for supposedly public ends. The massive protests stemming from this (surrounding the Senate building a la Mexicana, among other things - we should send over the Adelitas as back-up) have as their rallying cry: "We're Not Paying for Your Crisis."
I loved that. We're not paying for your crisis. The world financial system, by means of rampant speculation, disproportionate greed and sheer, deregulated stupidity, has dug itself into the biggest hole it has managed since 1929, and already, the cuts are coming everywhere to compensate it all. But not where the cuts should be made - in the boardroom - but in the living room, the classroom, and the lecture hall. This is also, in Naomi Klein's paradigm, the use of a "shock" (world financial crisis) to force through draconian cuts in education which, just as in Mexico, has the goal of dismantling one of the last functions of government (with its accompanying unions) that hasn't been privatized or sold off. Now I am no fan of public education as it exists in any country I know of - where the main goal has historically been that of producing docile capitalist cogs rather than questioning, creative human beings - but the practical matter is, public education and teacher's unions are pretty much the last thing standing the way of the final dismantling of many nation-states, and thus must be disposed of when the shock is right. Hence, Mexico's Alliance for Education, the closing of the normal schools, the ongoing war against dissident sections of the national union.
All this not to mention the twenty-some-odd increases in the gas tax this year in Mexico and the application of the flat-rate, regressive 16.5% IETU tax, which has nailed those of us who actually try to be honest and declare our earnings with the Revenue Department (que pendejos somos...!). We're not paying for your crisis. You broke it, you clean it up.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why Obama and not Obrador?

For this blogger, the festivities and rejoicing of last Tuesday night, where Barack Obama swamped John McCain in the electoral college and the Democrats picked up decisive majorities in both Houses of Congress, came with a bittersweet edge. Watching the returns at an election party, surrounded by cheers and clapping as the networks projected an Obama victory and the epicenter of the global party erupted in Chicago's Grant Park, I turned to my wife and said: "Mexico deserved this two years ago." At that moment, applauding along with the rest, part of me was back on that infamous night of July 2nd, 2006, watching the networks, and then the President of the IFE, proclaim the race to be too close to call, watching the helicopter shot from above following Lopez Obrador's car as it wound its way through the Mexico City night, watching as he arrived in the Zocalo to ensure his puzzled and mystified supporters that he was not going to accept the doctored results being offered up by official channels, that the fight would go on. The next morning, July 3rd, all of us got up to see that Obrador had taken a decisive lead in the district-by-district vote count, one he maintained throughout the entire day, only to lose it at 3 AM in the morning as the yellow and blue lines crossed on the chart and Calderón was annointed with a virtual victory of one-half of one percent. Losing honestly, disappointing though it would have been, would not have been a problem; it was having the thing snatched away through dead-of-night machinations that hurt so much.

So what did Obama do that Obrador didn't? First off, it is important to point out that the similarity between the two men is substantial. In general terms, as Jaime Aviles pointed out in yesterday's Jornada, "Both [of them] - the 'legitimate president' of Mexico and the president-elect of the United States - agree that, in order to reduce the devastating effect of the crisis amongst the most vulnerable sectors of the population, it is necessary to strengthen the role of the state, revive the internal market, stimulate the creation of jobs and rescue the poor." That last one may be a bit of an overstatement: whereas it was Obrador who made a focus on the poor the centerpiece of his campaign ("For the well-being of all, the poor come first"), Obama's campaign, with its obsessive focus on the middle-class (read: swing voters) ignored the poor just about as much as the McCain camp did. Nevertheless, the platforms of both the Democratic and PRD candidate were strikingly alike in a series of key areas: Obama: tax cuts for the middle class to be paid for by tax increases for those making over $250,000; Obrador: lower gas and electricity costs for individuals and businesses to be paid for by having the rich actually pay taxes instead of deducting and deferring them away. Obama: energy independence through alternative energies and increased domestic oil production; Obrador: energy independence through increased oil production and the construction of three new refineries. Obama: an immediate stimulus package including money for public works, extended unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments; Obrador: an immediate stimulus package including money for public works, a modern train link to the US, and a national public pension for those 70 and over. And so on.

Obama and Obrador are also alike in another very important way: both have attempted to create a political structure independent of the traditional party system, Obama through his website, network of donors, and community organization, and Obrador through the "redes ciudadanas," the "citizen's networks," before the election and the several million-member strong "legitimate government" after it. It is in the differing successes of these networks, in fact, that a large part of the differing fortunes of the two men can be pinpointed. Obama succeeded in raising tremendous amounts of money through his network within a plutocratic elections system that heavily favors the haves over the have-nots in terms of campaign cash. In the US, public financing, and the limits associated with them, are optional. In Mexico, public financing is obligatory, as is, theoretically, the spending limits associated with them. Obama's network, inspired by the candidate's charisma, succeeded in identifying large numbers of new voters and getting them to the polls. Obrador's network, inspired as well by its candidate's charisma, motivated a large number of voters, but failed in organizing sufficient oversight of the actual voting and vote-count processes, and, like Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004, did not succeed in racking up a large-enough advantage to counteract the shaving-off of votes through identical means of electoral fraud: the purging of voter rolls, the manipulating of ballots and the untoward interventions of the US Supreme Court, on one hand, and Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal on the other. To this should be added two more important factors: the identical negative campaign tactics which Obama was more successful in both utilizing and neutralizing, and which I believe American voters have become more inured to after seeing them in use over and over again, year after year. In Mexico, these tactics, especially the 30-second attack ad, are much newer on the scene, and consequently had a much more visceral effect. And lastly, the economic crisis, which detonated just in time for Obama this past October. Would he have won, or won as handily, in July of 2006?

Overall, though, it must be admitted that Lopez Obrador had to fight a much more uphill battle, with more against him. In the US, for example, the Clintons grumbled and groaned, but did eventually get out and campaign for Obama. How much of a difference would it have made here, for example, if Cuathemoc Cardenas could have put his ego just a couple of inches aside and hit the hustings for his party's candidate. Plus, Obrador had Mexico's absolutely hermetic, all-powerful political, financial and media elite to contend with. As José Agustin Ortiz Pinchetti writes:

"The election of Barack Obama induces us to make some unpleasant comparisons. Let's compare the evolution of American society with our own over the past 40 years. In 1968, Martin Luther King was assassinated and the Mexican government ordered the slaughter at Tlatelolco. Since then, Americans have succeeded in dismantling white hegemony and banning racism without a civil war breaking out. Obama's triumph is symbolic; for many years, racial minorities have opened a breach in the elite due to a system of meritocracy. We, meanwhile, have founded in a decadence that now threatens us with collapse. Our racism has only become more acute, without our being capable of admitting it. A minority of Creoles that doesn't represent even 5% of the population continues to impose an economic dictatorship on the rest of the classes and castes. Control over the media provides a soporific effect while poverty and destitution increase. The American crisis detonated our own, but we have neither their resources nor their flexibility. Our country has not grown in 25 years because 50 groups control the market and prevent competition. Whereas Amercian democracy has just demonstrated its vigor, our own democratic transition has been shipwrecked."

Agree or not with all of Pinchetti's black-and-white comparisons made in the glow of this past Tuesday - and I do not see America anywhere near as rosily as Pinchetti paints it here - it is a fair assessment of Mexico, and by extension what Lopez Obrador in his campaign, was and continue to be up against. This does not excuse Obrador his campaign's failings, but fraud is fraud, and one can only hope that Mexico will only need one 2006, while the United States needed both a 2000 and a 2004, to realize that "Yes, we can."