<i>"The Name of Our Country is América" - Simon Bolivar</i> The Narco News Bulletin<br><small>Reporting on the War on Drugs and Democracy from Latin America
 English | Español August 15, 2018 | Issue #57

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In Lead-up to National Chamber of Deputies Election, Oaxaca Teachers Choose a “Punishment Vote”

Oaxaca Prepares for a Rejection of all the Nation’s Political Parties

By Nancy Davies
Commentary from Oaxaca

June 28, 2009

One week ahead of the national elections for 500 new deputies (300 first-past-the-post and 200 by proportional representation) to sit in the Chamber of Deputies for the 61st Congress of the United States of Mexico, the Oaxaca Education Workers Union (SNTE, by its Spanish initials) Section 22 met in state assembly. With more than half the votes counted (information from Noticias, June 28, 2009) the teachers have endorsed a “voto de castigo,” a punishment vote. Oaxaca sends eleven representatives to the Federal District.

In 2006, the “punishment vote” meant one should vote for anybody except the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) or the Partido Accion Nacional (PAN), the two parties deemed responsible ― and never held accountable ― for the repression, assassinations, beatings, jailings, etc. against the teachers-popular movement. But reading past the headline, the article states: thus far counted, 16,754 union members voted punishment for all the political parties, 7,147 for annulling one’s vote, and 2,510 for abstention from voting. That represents a total of 26,411 votes out of the 32,793 thus far counted. In other words, only somewhat more than 6,000 teachers were thus far recorded in the assembly as in favor of some party candidate on July 5.

Options for an active vote include “none of the above”, a blank ballot, write-in candidates, or one of the party-nominated candidates. An abstention vote (staying at home), as often prevails in congressional elections, could be interpreted as apathy or indifference. The “none of the above”, or voto en nulo, is an active rejection of all the nation’s political parties, which include the Green Party (far right) and the Communist party of Mexico (far left), with (from right to left) PAN, PRI, PRD, Convergencia, PT (Workers Party) and a socialist party in between.

The political parties in Oaxaca are viewed as not representing the interests of the people. The situation nationally is the same. A national organization has formed calling for a national meeting, the Primera Asamblea por el Voto Nulo, on the day following the election to organize in favor of citizen input. As the site states, “annulling your vote is also voting. Anulling is a choice. When the vote is reduced to electing “the least bad” then voting is the same as accepting a mediocre deomocracy. In Oaxaca, “mediocre democracy” would be high praise.

Future mechanisms might include calling for the ratification of an office-holder’s post if she or he does not follow popular wishes. In Oaxaca, unbeknown to most of us, the Oaxaca state constitution already allows for referenda and plebiscite. The law was passed and then never implemented. The campaign presently being mounted by civil society, including lead organizations such as EDUCA, calls for a second generation of the Law of Citizen Participation (Ley de Participación Ciudadana) to seek ways to remove bad functionaries, consult the public about public works, present initiatives, or revoke the office of a political official.

The national campaign for citizen participation, like the Oaxaca campaign, does not have any intention of forming a new political party, but instead seeks to promote public participation. If no such possibility occurs in the near future, the obvious ire against political office-holders will increase.

In Oaxaca, which many consider ungoverned and ungovernable, Azael Santiago Chepi, the Secretary General of Section 22, worked with the delegates from around the state on topics such as the Popular Guelaguetza to be held on July 20, and the union’s new plans of action now that once again the governement contract offer has been rejected as insufficient becuase it does not fund school buildings, has nothing to say about modifying the federal program called Alliance for Quality Education, and does not include freeing the alleged killer of Brad Will and other political prisoners.

Unofficially, union plans include maintaining the “denunciation encampment” in the zocalo with additional teacher reinforcements, proceeding with a non-confrontational Popular Guelaguetza (which the union will fund with teacher donations), and a campaign to promote the punishment vote against all political parties “which do not represent the people, and betray them”. There is no withdrawal of the demand for Governor Ulises Ruiz to leave office, but nobody expects that he will, since the PRI and the PAN control the legislature. The governor controls the three branches of power (judicial, legislative and executive). There is no disclosure of workings in the state legislature, such as what laws, if any, a delegate introduced, or any rendering of accounts of how state and federal monies were spent. Impunity for crimes such as assassination, theft, narcotrafficking and diversion of funds is the norm among office holders, police, and the government elite. Of course poor people go to prison for common crimes.

The next union assembly will take place July 4. The election is July 5. The results of the election may be a foregone conclusion PRI and PAN, but the important numbers and perceptions will be based on how many Mexican and Oaxaca citizens reject, by formal tally, Mexico’s political parties.

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The Narco News Bulletin: Reporting on the Drug War and Democracy from Latin America