Mexico’s “New Democracy” Has Not Yet Been Born
The Nation Will Spend the Next Three Years Without a Credible Presidency
By Al Giordano
Part I of a Series: Fox at Half-Life
July 22, 2003
It’s been widely reported that the party of Mexican President Vicente Fox suffered a devastating defeat in the July 6th midterm Congressional Elections.
What has not been well reported, though, is the reason Fox and his political forces got pummeled: Two weeks prior to the July 6th vote, the campaign very suddenly became a referendum on Fox’s three years of delivering Mexico’s national sovereignty to foreign powers, first and foremost those in the United States.
The electorate’s rejection of Fox’s National Action Party (PAN, in its Spanish initials) is striking because only two weeks prior to Election Day – according to the party’s own opinion surveys – the PAN was in the lead with 41 percent of voter preferences in a multi-party field.
Yet by the July 6th election, Fox’s PAN received only 31.87 percent: just a sprinkle over eight million votes in this nation of 100 million people.
Eight percent is, obviously, a very small base of support from which to govern.
Polls published by the national Mexican dailies El Universal and Reforma in the final weeks also charted, like the PAN’s own survey data, the unexpected instant collapse of the Fox vote. Something clearly happened in the final two weeks of the campaign to send Fox’s numbers from the stellar to the cellar. What was it?
Some commentators blame the record-low voter turnout, yet without analyzing its causes. Fifty-nine percent of registered voters, especially among the tens of millions of youths of this young country, voted against voting by staying home. After 1997, when nearly 65 percent of voters participated in the last midterm elections, the 41 percent turnout this year – the lowest in Mexican history – marks a very steep fall.
This mass abstention was not, however, a rejection of what Ginger Thompson of the New York Times and other messengers of the neoliberal party line errantly call Mexico’s “new democracy.” Rather, the decision by most voters to abstain from a system rigged by foreign dollars served as a rejection of US-style simulated democracy.
The mass absenteeism was a direct consequence of a news story that shook the nation’s front pages and TV news programs fifteen days before the vote: a story that erased any illusions about “democracy” in Mexico.
The News Story that Changed the Election
The decisive factor in the fall of Fox came on a Friday evening, June 27th:
That’s when government prosecutors confirmed the accusation – made on these pages for the past three years – that Fox’s 2000 campaign had been largely funded by the gringos.
On that Friday, the Mexican government’s Specialized Unit Against Money Laundering revealed that, of the $54 million dollars in Fox’s 2000 campaign fund that the unit had investigated, “15 to 20 percent” came from foreign interests, mainly from the United States.
Narco News reported on this foreign money trail to Fox’s campaign three years ago, as it was happening, and detailed the narco-style money laundering methods utilized by the Fox campaign and its foreign investors to hide these contributions from authorities on both sides of the border. That report was one of the eight Narco News reports for which the National Bank of Mexico, also known as Banamex, also known as Citibank, sued this publication (unsuccessfully) in August 2000.
But by Saturday, June 28th, three years and four days later, this was not just front-page news throughout Mexico, but for the first time the Associated Press reported (a watered-down version of) the story in English.
And yet, the gringo and European media spin on the story that destroyed the Fox presidency constituted a classic example of how these agencies simulate the news. Reuters titled its story “Mexican Prosecutor Clears Fox Group of Money Laundering.” The AP story by Lisa J. Adams spun it similarly: “Probe: No Corruption in Fox Campaign.”
The Mexican electorate, however, saw right through the similar spin offered by much of the commercial press and broadcast media South of the Border. One wonders if Adams and other foreign correspondents in Mexico lazily overlooked, or intentionally censored, the glaring facts of the story that demonstrated illegal financing of the 2000 Fox presidential campaign.
First, there’s the fact that the Mexican prosecutors stated they had investigated $54 million dollars of Fox’s 2000 campaign money.
That dollar figure, by itself, reveals an electoral crime. Here’s some simple math: In the year 2000, it was against the law for any campaign to spend more than $48 million. The fact that Fox spent $54 million, by itself, destroys the wire agencies claims that his campaign was somehow “cleared” of “corruption.”
Now, dig a little deeper: The roughly $8 million U.S. dollars in documented illegal overspending corresponds, not coincidently, to the “15 to 20 percent” of Fox’s campaign money that came from foreign sources. The Fox campaign never intended these illegal foreign contributions to be discovered.
And then there’s the bizarre manner by which the money arrived to Fox’s campaign (and to at least one national TV network, TV Azteca, to pay for Fox’s campaign ads): In our June 2000 story, “Citibank Implicated in Money Laundering for Fox Campaign: U.S. Interests Are Found Along the Illicit Money Route,” we reported:
One fact that particularly drew our attention at The Narco News Bulletin was the way that certain monies had been broken down into smaller sums and then re-assembled (a classic money-laundering maneuver to avoid official suspicion).
Under US law, all checks and money transfers of $10,000 or more receive greater bank scrutiny and must be reported to federal treasury officials.
Interesting, then, that the first two checks, photocopied below, were each for $8,500 US dollars, even though they came from the same sources and had the same destinations.
The second two checks, for roughly $30,000 US dollars each, were then channeled from these funds to TV Azteca to pay for Fox’s ad campaign.
On the eve of his historic election of July 2nd, 2000, Fox denied the allegations.
According to El Universal of June 22, 2000:
Vicente Fox responded to the accusations. He accepted that the checks are real, but assured, “not one centavo has entered from outside the country; they are donations by people, from simple people to professionals and businessowners.”
Today, three years later, the Mexican people know the truth: in flagrant violation of Article 33 of the Mexican Constitution, which forbids foreigners from meddling in electoral politics, United States business and political players – and some Europeans – pumped millions of dollars into Fox’s presidential campaign. Fox lied when he denied it. Now he’s been caught. And the July 6th election marks the opening round in a process that will rapidly grind his past political prime into hamburger.
The Fox Era Is Over
The Fox era is over, just as the epoch of his predecessor, Ernesto Zedillo of the PRI, saw the beginning of his own party’s end of dominance in the mid-term elections of 1997 when it lost, for the first time in 67 years, the lower house of Congress. Zedillo’s final three years were a nightmare for that presidency, and Fox is about to get his.
The center no longer holds in Mexican politics: The vacuum invites open rebellion from all sides, especially from below. There are, as we type, old alliances falling, new alliances forming, a fighting spirit rising from an outraged populace, and the U.S. Embassy has lost its 35-year dominance over Mexican politics.
But the fall of Fox (and PAN) does not necessarily mean the rise of any other political party. Rather, the 2003 election more likely marks the implosion of the political party system resulting from an overdose of money counted not in pesos, but in dollars. The three major political parties in Mexico are now heading toward their own internal Civil Wars; battles to the death from which no compromise will come from any player. None of these parties will look familiar – you won’t recognize them through their bandages and wounds – three years from now when Mexico holds its next presidential election.
As the establishment version of “democracy” decays, the spaces widen for a more authentic democracy from below. “México bronco” – as seen in places like San Salvador Atenco last year when, with machete swords and sickles held high up in the air, peasant farmers stopped a multi-billion dollar airport project north of Mexico City – is likely to erupt from many corners, simultaneously, over the coming three years of political void.
As the three major parties begin the self-massacring process with brutal internal fights for power, there are two main rivals to fill the power vacuum of the Fox presidency over the next three years.
One aspirant to the power-behind-the-throne comes from above: Former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the man who stole the 1988 election, governed illegitimately for six years, constructed the modern Narco-State, and ran off with billions of dollars (one estimate places his wealth at $14 billion which, if true, would make him the fifth wealthiest man on earth) is back in Mexico – after years abroad, mainly in Ireland – and rebuilding his old power network. He was there on Election Day, smiling for the cameras, as he cast his vote.
Salinas’ rival to fill the vacuum left by Fox’s implosion comes from below…from 62 distinct corners of Mexico… and a significant swath of Civil Society (the people without political parties, including much of the majority that abstained from voting this year)… and here comes the national indigenous movement – you heard it here first; most journalists and “intellectuals” had pronounced it dead – is now going to fill the gap, with all the moral authority it has always deserved, and now can harvest.
First, the indisputable facts:
- Fox’s National Action Party (PAN, in its Spanish initials) lost 56 of the 209 seats that it had won in the national House of Deputies in the year 2000. Now, with 153 seats, the president’s party has only about 30 percent support in the lower House, and the president can’t even control his own party’s legislators.
- The former ruling party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) won at least 224 seats (and maybe more, depending on various ongoing legal and recount disputes in some districts).
- The center-left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD, in its Spanish initials) almost doubled its Congressional representation to 96 seats, but has a terminal crisis to contend with: It has ceased to be a national party. Half of the PRD’s electoral base is now focused inside the megalopolis of Mexico City, under the leadership of Governor Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, a 50-year-old, hyper-competent, Tabasqueño who, despite his public proclamations to the contrary, enters, now, a death match with the grand old founder of the party – Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas – for the 2006 presidential nomination. However, it is important to note that in 24 of Mexico’s 31 states, the PRD did not win a single Congressional seat: its electoral base is restricted to patchwork pieces of seven states and the Federal District.
- None of the “mini-parties” that vied for viability for the 2006 presidential elections come out of the elections two weeks ago as major players for the future. The opportunistic “Green Party” (that’s PVEM, in its Spanish initials) had allied with the PRI this year. The Green Party, founded by a millionaire for whom green means money (it was surreal to see the Green Party use highway billboard ads to urge the beautification of Mexico), has long been defined by its mercenary nature. It had allied with Fox’s PAN in 2000, then jumped onto the PRI’s arms for 2003. The Greens will get between 17 and 25 Congressional seats (the party is already disputing eight seats with its “ally” of 2003; the PRI; is there no honor among thieves anymore?); the Workers Party (PT in Spanish initials) gets only six seats in Congress; and the fractionalized Convergence for Democracy party gets five.
- “México Posible” – the libertarian leaning, pro-drug legalization, pro-choice, pro-feminist party (see Narco News, December 2002) – did not gain enough votes to maintain its national status for the 2006 elections. It is now a footnote to history: a stillborn experiment.
The electoral massacre of Fox’s PAN party two weeks ago echoes what happened in 1997 to the formerly ruling PRI party at its mid-term election: it presages an unpredictable scenario for this country, with a potential of – finally – cutting the umbilical chord of servitude to Washington that has marked Mexican-American relations for decades, and most markedly so since the US-ordered massacre of student leaders in Tlalteloco Plaza on October 2nd, 1968, on the eve of the Mexico City Olympics, that ushered in thirty-five years of a repressive client state that Vicente Fox had promised to exorcize, but only ended up becoming its auctioneer and clown-in-chief.
In other words: Whatever preconceptions, kind reader, you have about “Free Trade,” the US-imposed Drug War, “globalization,” United States influence here, and Mexico under Fox, have just hit a big fat speed bump on the road to the New World Order.
Not since the Revolution of 1910 – the first of the 20th century; that which guided and inspired the Soviet Revolution of 1918 – has the United States been in a weaker position vis-à-vis its neighbor to the South.
Question: What killed Vicente Fox’s presidency?
Answer: His servitude to a foreign power.
The 2006 presidential elections will thus belong to the political forces that understand, first, that the days of delivery – the “sovereignty auction” of a nation’s resources and political system – must definitively end and that, second, are able to convince a skeptical Mexican public that they can and will usher in a new era of authentic sovereignty from remote-control rule.
Much has been made of the fact that Fox’s 2000 election ended 70 years of single-party rule. But Fox was never destined to be anything more than a transitional figure. He changed the party colors and raised expectations but he merely shifted the tyranny from one system of control – a strong state – to another: the tyranny of the market as defined by a foreign superpower.
In other words, ask most Mexicans what they think of their “new democracy” and they’ll tell you: It would be a very good idea. But it did not happen in 2000. It has not happened yet. And it cannot happen through a gringo-modeled election system that keeps the nation vulnerable to the whims and interests of the highest bidders.
Mexican democracy, in sum, is still waiting to be born.
Go to next communiqué
Read All the Recent Zapatista Communiqués and analysis of them:
Marcos Ends Silence: “To The National and International Press”
Prologue: Zapatistas Serve Warning to the Paramilitaries
I. “Dawn in the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast”
II. Marcos to NGOs: Zapatistas Don’t Want Charity, but Respect
III. Old Antonio’s History of the Upholder of the Sky
IV. A Zapatista Plan for Reality
V. Education and Health in Autonomous Lands
VI. In Chiapas, Zapatistas Refine Democracy from Below
VII: Details on Zapatista Gathering, August 8-10, in Oventik
The Specter of Indigenous Mexico
Mexico’s “New Democracy” Has Not Yet Been Born
Zapatistas, Post-Mexican Elections, Make Their Move
Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español
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