Mexico: Lopez Obrador puts a halt on election protests. What’s next for ‘El Peje’ and his followers?
Economic protests and a new party, could be in store.
By MANUEL RUEDA
The runner-up in Mexico’s presidential election laid out his plans for the future during a highly anticipated speech in Mexico City’s Zocalo Square on Sunday.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that he will not recognize his opponent, Enrique Peña Nieto, as the legitimate president of Mexico.
But the politician nicknamed El Peje — after a tenacious river fish — refrained from calling on his supporters to stage further election protests, and instead urged his followers to keep their eyes on a series of neo-liberal economic policies that Peña Nieto plans to introduce in Mexico during his presidency.
“We can obtain partial victories, as we create the conditions to see justice triumph over power,” López Obrador told thousands who went to see him at Mexico’s most emblematic public square. “It all depends on not losing your faith…and in understanding that (social) transformation is slow but sublime.”
Lopez Obrador supporters packed Mexico City’s Zocalo square on Sunday. (Photo: Manuel Rueda)
López Obrador got 31 percent of the vote in the July 1st presidential election, seven percentage points less than the winner, Enrique Peña Nieto. However, the leftist candidate questioned the legitimacy of the election, and unsuccessfully tried to get Mexico’s highest electoral court to annul the result.
On Sunday, López Obrador accused Peña Nieto’s party, the PRI, of winning the election by buying votes, and by committing other irregularities.
But sensing that a Peña Nieto presidency is now inevitable, López Obrador also focused on the PRI’s economic plans, urging his followers to resist labor reforms supported by that party, that would make it easier for companies to hire and fire workers.
López Obrador also targeted energy laws that could facilitate private investment in PEMEX, Mexico’s state-owned oil company.
“We will resist the privatization of oil with all our strength,” López Obrador said on behalf of his National Regeneration Movement, MORENA. “We will oppose any constitutional reform, that will hand [Mexico’s] oil over to local and foreign firms.”
A woman shows her support for Lopez Obrador, also known as AMLO in Mexico. (Photo: Miguel Angel Carrillo)
It is the second time that the 58-year-old López Obrador loses a presidential vote. On Sunday he announced that he will resign from the PRD, the left-wing party he has belonged to for the past two decades.
“I am confident that this decision will help to renovate and strengthen [Mexico’s] progressive movement,” said López Obrador, who had recently clashed with PRD leaders, that have accepted the result of the Presidential vote.
López Obrador also proposed turning his social movement, the National Regeneration Movement [MORENA] into a political party. As a political party MORENA could receive government funding, and nominate political candidates, without the approval of Mexico’s existing left-wing parties.
Many Lopez Obrador supporters believe that the July election was fraudulent. (Photo: Manuel Rueda)
Following the speech, López Obrador supporters expressed their views on what this shift in strategy -from protesting election results to opposing PRI policies- meant for Mexicans who still believe that the July elections were fraudulent.
“I think it was a moving speech,” said 28-year-old José Solis, who runs a photocopy shop in downtown Mexico City. ”If this de facto government is already in power, it makes sense to try to gain some concessions from them.”
Solis said that earlier this year he joined the YoSoy132 student movement, and along with his buddies he has organized cultural and political events in his neighborhood. On Sunday, three of Solis’ friends wore star wars costumes to the Lopez Obrador speech and carried anti-Peña Nieto posters in their glove covered hands. One of the protesters wore a very popular, Darth Vader mask.
Protesters dressed as Star Wars characters made their point during Sunday’s speech. (Photo: Manuel Rueda)
“What we want to express here, is that even the most repressive empire in the fictional world, acknowledges that there are even more evil empires in the non-fiction world,” Solis said, referring to Enrique Peña Nieto and his party, the PRI.
Esther Hernandez, a social psychologist, said that she was glad that López Obrador had called on his followers to conduct peaceful acts of resistance, that did “not hurt third parties.”
“He calmed down the temperament of young people,” Hernandez said. “There are many out there who’d be willing to take up arms,” she speculated.
“Not my president,” Anti-Peña Nieto merchandise on sale at the Zocalo. (Photo: Manuel Rueda)
Hernandez argued that Peña Nieto had won the elections because Mexicans lack political education.
“Peña Nieto was sold to the Mexican people like a fast food product, like Coca Cola or McDonalds” Hernandez said. “But people don’t think about all the things he drags along with him,” Hernandez added, pointing out that while Peña Nieto was governor of Mexico State, that area of the country had the highest rate of female murders in the country.
In a pedestrian street that leads up to the Zocalo, a lone protester stood with a sign that read “Mexico, don’t give up.” He told us that he had been at the same spot, holding that sign, for three hours prior to the beginning of the speech.
“I never participated in politics before,” said the protester, who identified himself as David Luna. “But this time it’s worth it,” Luna added.
David Luna stood with this sign at the same spot, for more than three hours. (Photo: Manuel Rueda)
“What difference does it make to you if Peña Nieto becomes President of Mexico,” I asked Luna.
“It affects me in many ways,” Luna said. “There is a lot of corruption in the street. Policemen in Mexico don´t miss out on a chance to ask for bribes from citizens. Taxes are way too high, and our health system is horrible,” Luna added.
Luna’s sign had a message on either side. (Photo: Manuel Rueda)
In Luna’s opinion, Lopez Obrador won the July election and was robbed by the electoral tribunal and the rest of Mexico’s institutions.
It is a view that is still shared by many Mexicans, including taxi driver Oswaldo Flores.
“Of course he won the election this time and also in 2006” Flores said earlier on Sunday, as he drove a journalist towards Mexico City’s Zocalo square.
“But this is Mexico. You wouldn’t think they would let him win here, would you?”
(Main photo: Screen capture, Univision Noticias)