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López Obrador: That Demolisher of the Left

By Raúl Tortolero

Mexico City, 5 September 2006 | “To hell with them and their institutions!” boldly declared Andrés Manuel López Obrador last Friday, September 1st, the same day recently elected legislators from the PRD party prevented the delivery of the last Government Report by the outgoing Vicente Fox, of the PAN party, as he approached the rostrum of the Chamber of Deputies.

López Obrador was obliging enough to resign for good from institutional life, from Mexico's institutional path in the presence of his partisans and the capital city’s Zócalo, where he has been supporting a camp-in, as well as along the Paseo de la Reforma, for the last two months.

With this, the citizenry, including those who voted for him, are able now to realize what kind of mentality, of ideology, had always laid beneath this former politician from Tabasco.

This goes much beyond being of the left or of any other wing within the national political geometry: To submit a definite resignation from the institutions means to mock the democracy we have been weaving during several painful presidential terms.

What reason does the former PDR candidate to the presidency have for quitting the political path and inserting his fight into an extra-constitutional context?

None. He simply lost the elections and is not willing to admit it, despite the fact that the Federal Electoral Tribunal —an institution whose members were all approved and all the political parties including of course the PRD— has reiterated that Felipe Calderón won over López Obrador in an election, yes, with certain anomalies, but not so many as to make it necessary to completely nullify them. The results from ballot boxes where flaws were observed have already been eliminated.

That is to say, if López Obrador had won, there would not have been, following his peculiar optics, any need to abandon the institutions and to say to-hell-with-them, but since he lost, then we are told to discredit them altogether.

This is no exercise in politics, no matter what the approach. This means definitely leaving behind all political strategies and submerging the country into a crisis from which there is no visible possibility of emerging from soon.

This is the moment for politicians of the PRD who are still in their right minds, undoubtedly there are some, to keep their distance from these kinds of attitudes that are so harmful to the country, and thus save not just the future of the PRD, but also the democratic present that has been placed in doubt.

This is the moment when it is incumbent upon this country to assume mature postures, well away from inconceivable and unacceptable tantrums, away from all factions, however they might be found these days. And to think that at a certain moment López Obrador has quoted Mahatma Gandhi in reference to his positions. But there is a large amount of ground separating them. Gandhi did not make it a habit of saying go-to-hell to any particular institution, not did he ever cast in the direction of his adversaries words such as “traitor, liar, chatterbox, worthless jerk…puppet.”

The closest language, within this violent tenor, would, in any case, be what we have had the misfortune to hear from Hugo Chávez as he slanders Vicente Fox. The irony is that it was said that there is no relation between López Obrador and Hugo Chávez. It was affirmed by the most trustworthy of voices within the PRD that Chavez and AMLO were two very distinct persons, but in view of the turn taken by López Obrador’s one-person movement, we find more coincidences than differences. And that is very serious.

That same Friday the gentleman from Tabasco said there was a need to build “a representative Republic truly of the people.” What does this mean? Why didn’t he announce his true intentions during his electoral campaign?

The people who voted for him are showing their disappointment as well as their surprise. They had no idea how quickly López Obrador would show a face so closely resembling socialism of the 1970’s, one which has always placed its bets on authoritarianism.

No one could now believe that López Obrador’s post-electoral statements and strategies would try to seize power by whatever means in order to then begin to build a democracy, the same one that he now rejects, that is bothersome to him, that makes him so uncomfortable.

One cannot imagine a López Obrador saying to-hell-with-the-institutions only then to reconstruct a democracy. The only thing that can be built using this approach is an autocratic system.

AMLO places his bets on confrontation and unfortunately some people find in him a catharsis of sorts for venting all their resentments. Just a few days ago I witness a strange but symbolic scene that gives an account of what is happening in Mexico: A fellow came into the bank, BANCOMER-BBV, and in a rude manner was asking a cashier to cash a cheque from another bank at that very moment.

The young lady explained to him that cheques from other banks take three days before they can be paid into BANCOMER accounts. It is a normal procedure, but, emboldened by his cuadillo, this customer yelled several improprieties at the young lady and said to her: “At the end, when we seize power along with López Obrador, all banks will go to hell because they will again belong to the people!”

Those who voted for López Obrador could never have imagined scenes as lamentable as these. The PRD electoral platform did not consist of destroying the institutions, nor did it announce supra-constitutional socialist overtones, but all actions undertaken by López Obrador after July 2nd border more on these outdated ideas pertaining to class struggle than on stable proposals for growth and a fight against poverty without resorting to populism.

Within three minutes López Obrador went from being the head of a governmental entity having high popularity to being a promoter of an animosity between the popular classes and the rest of society, from being moderate to being an excluder, from being inside the law to acting outside of the law.

Public opinion polls have not yet been conducted concerning the popularity of the former candidates to the presidency, but if we recall what subtracted the most points from López Obrador’s rating during the campaign it was his having said to Fox, “Shut up, you chatterbox,” let us imagine how far his popular acceptance might drop while he utters these series of disqualifications, unheard from any other political protagonist going back many years.

López Obrador showed his colors all too soon: he will ultimately be remembered as the principal destroyer of the left in Mexico, someone who, because of resentment and without proof of electoral fraud, derailed his own party and involved the country in a situation of instability unseen in a long time. A demolisher of the left, and let us hope that that left is not the left that follows him, this caudillo demands a radicalism in rank and file that implies suicide for the feasibility of stable democratic options.

But that is not all: Furthermore, López Obrador said yesterday, Sunday, that the communication media are “liars and spinmeisters for the régime.” All without reservations. With this he is succeeding in having his followers cast insults and stones and even deal blows against journalists who are doing their job of covering the country’s events.

Now, we who are journalists in Mexico have not just narcotraffickers as the primary source of violence perpetrated against us, but now we may have to keep an eye on the angry López Obrador fans, who do not tire of threatening and insulting our work. How far will this go? When will we learn about the first fatal victim? There have already been cases of injured people.

What kind of a strategy is this? Benito Juárez, whom López Obrador often wants to resemble, is known for the sentence: “Respect for the rights of others means peace,” but peace is precisely what seems of least concern for this former politician. And choosing to be at odds with “the right wing,” the communications media and the citizenry who suffer blockades, as well as the business community in general, electoral and all institutions, the president, the PAN party, Felipe Calderón and many moderate stream PRD people (better said, non suicidal), what does López Obrador have left to do? Resort to arms as Chavez?

Translation by W.K.



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