Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 321 | Abril 2008



A Thousand and One Demonstrations: For Life, Petroleum and Rights...

In 2007, over 12 million people demonstrated against government policies in Mexico’s capital. Already in 2008, millions more have come to express their various demands in the Zócalo. A thousand and one demonstrations against privatizing petroleum, human rights violations, the free trade agreement, the high cost of living, corruption, impunity and lack of justice,… Mexico is in ferment.

Jorge Alonso

Mexico is polarized, with overlapping conflicts in every aspect of national life. In late 2007, The New York Times noted that a sizeable proportion of the Mexican population believed something crooked had happened at the ballot box during the last presidential elections. In March 2008, when the judicial branch turned down a request from citizens demanding the right to learn the truth about the 2006 elections by getting access to the ballots, it was a clear sign that the government had something to hide about what really happened.

Increasing impunity

The government’s proclaimed war on organized crime hasn’t prospered and violence has become daily news. A World Bank assessment of political stability and violence places Mexico at appalling levels.

In an attempt to strengthen his government, the controversial President of the Republic has changed his team but the results have been counterproductive. An illustrative case was the Secretary of the Interior, Juan Camilo Mouriño, who was accused of disrespecting the law by holding positions reserved for Mexicans by birth even though he was born in Spain. Subterfuge and inconsistencies over documents proving his origins aside, he had used a Spanish passport in 1996. Experts in Constitutional Law point out that he never presented a letter formally renouncing his Spanish citizenship.

López Obrador has said that Mouriño’s appointment to the Department of the Interior was linked to efforts to speed up the passing of Mexican petroleum into private hands. And he documented the charge that Mouriño had engaged
in a conflict of interest when, as a shadow official under Calderón, he benefited his family with contracts from PEMEX, Mexico’s state oil company. It would become a huge corruption scandal. Several days after the charge was made, Mouriño defended himself by alleging that while he had indeed signed the contracts exhibited, they were legal.

Despite demonstrating that he had acted “within the law,” a study showed that 85% of those polled felt his action to have been unethical. But, counter to its founders’ principles, the governing National Action Party (PAN) covered it up and took the attitude that an attack on any one of them constituted an attack on them all. The PAN government shares impunity with the previously long-governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The hackneyed rule of law is manipulated to protect powerful people who commit crimes and deepen corruption.

If 2007 was marked by impunity, the situation has only worsened in the first quarter of 2008. Powerful people who commit crimes are rewarded—as in the case of the PRI governors of Oaxaca and Puebla—while many innocent people are kept in jail under fabricated charges. There are intermittent charges of torture, a widespread and deeply rooted practice. Social struggle is criminalized. Rape has become a state policy against dissidents. The number of political prisoners and disappeared is growing. And independent human rights organizations demonstrate that the government is hemming them in.

Human Rights Watch strongly criticized the conduct of the official human rights agency: it abandons cases in progress, tolerates abusive practices and promotes impunity by maintaining that the army itself should investigate atrocities it commits. Researcher Sergio Aguayo says that while human rights are being massively violated, Mexicans must put up with a bureaucratized ombudsman, a complicit Senate and a President who busily protects the powerful and ignores the victims.

Human rights:
A terrible image

In February, observing the lack of progress in investigations into the murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, the more than 500 disappearances related to the dirty war and the criminalization of social protest, the head of the United Nations Human Rights Commission declared impunity to be Mexico’s biggest challenge. She also advised that if the army is carrying out police functions it should have civil oversight. She received data proving that the military had violated human rights in the fight against organized crime—raping women, committing murders, detaining people arbitrarily, robbing and looting. A network made up of 59 human rights organizations in 20 federated entities assembled dozens of cases and launched a campaign against the repression. The International Civic Commission for Human Rights Observation, a civil society group formed in 1997 to monitor human rights in Mexico, affirmed following its sixth visit to Mexico that the state’s image as one that respects human rights is unsustainable. Impunity emboldens abusive elements in society and the government’s authoritarian temper remains unchanged.

In an effort to counter all the negativity, the Calderón government has increased spending on publicity and at the same time is increasingly censuring the media. Independent media are finding spaces closed to them. Calderón refused to tolerate journalist Carmen Aristegui—known throughout Latin America via CNN—giving a voice to his opponents. Through the collusion of government authoritarianism with the de facto power of money and the electronic media, Aristegui’s important news program was shut down. There was an attempt to present it as a contract issue, but it was obvious that it was censorship. Thousands of radio listeners sent electronic messages protesting the disappearance of the successful morning program Aristegui had been directing on W Radio for five years.

Mexicans killed in the
attack on the FARC

One case that shows how Calderón considers himself a servant of the Bush government’s interests more than the President of all Mexicans was the March 1 attack by the Colombian army on a FARC position in Ecuadorian territory, in which four Mexican citizens visiting the camp were killed and a fifth was wounded. The Mexican government should have demanded an investigation into the deaths and asked for compensation. The facts show they were not combatants. The Right used the situation to attack the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), where some of those massacred were students. From a legal perspective, Mexican authorities had no reason to concern themselves with why their citizens had made the trip, and still less with the reasons for their conduct overseas; if they had committed any crime, Ecuador would have had jurisdiction. The Mexican government should only have demanded satisfaction for the killing of its nationals. But Calderón didn’t say or do anything. The parents of the Mexicans killed denounced their government’s complicit silence, calling it “state cowardice in the face of a state crime” and announced that they would file a claim with international organizations against Colombia.

Analyst Granados Chapa condemned the Mexican government’s hostile, shabby, clumsy and illegal attitude: first setting out to determine whether or not the Mexican citizens in question actually deserved government protection—as if such protection were conditional. Rather than protest to Bogota, it expressed concern over the relationship between Mexicans and a terrorist organization such as the FARC.

A month after the attack, the Attorney General’s Office declared that there were no indications the FARC was recruiting Mexicans and the Senate asked the federal government to condemn the massacre. But it remained silent. The Latin American Rural Sociology Association denounced the unpunished killing of students who went to Ecuador out of genuine academic interest; they were not in a country that was party to the conflict and international negotiations were underway at the time over a humanitarian exchange of prisoners between the FARC and the Colombian government, making an armed incident in the area impossible to foresee. The Association criticized some media outlets’ treatment of the incident, which demonized social science academics in an attempt to justify such a terrible crime. It also expressed concern over the media campaign against internationally prestigious Mexican institutions of higher education.

The case of Lydia Cacho

The executive branch doesn’t have a monopoly on corruption or the sponsorship of impunity; the whole state, including the legislative and judicial branches, is involved. After demonstrating the complicity of high level officials with pedophile rings, journalist Lydia Cacho—who documented their power and impunity in her books as well as in her own life—faced a Supreme Court resolution that left her and the citizens of Mexico without recourse and protected the powerful people she had exposed. Impunity was legitimated. Retired minister Juventino Castro admitted that the Court’s prestige was undermined by the decision against Cacho.

Alicia Pérez Duarte—since February 2006 head of the special prosecutor’s office for crimes related to violence against women—resigned in December out of embarrassment over the behavior of the Court ministers. She could no longer continue to work within a justice system so out of line with her principles. She revealed that the attorney general had ordered her to drop the accusations against judicial police who had directly violated Lydia Cacho’s rights and condemned the attorney general and the Supreme Court for giving protection to pedophiles. She also spoke out about the government’s desire to cover up the actions of Puebla’s PRI governor, who ordered that psychological torture be used against the journalist.

It was public knowledge that the PAN government agreed to protect the governor in exchange for his party’s support for the energy reform project. Protestors gathered in front of the Supreme Court building shouting that the ministers were “corrupt!” and “child molesters!” and fouled the entrance gates as a sign that the behavior of most of the Court’s ministers “stinks.”

“I won’t leave Mexico”

In response to Cacho’s vulnerable position, French diplomats and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a well-known Spanish politician, all recommended that she leave Mexico to protect herself from revenge by the criminal mafia she uncovered. But she responded that she would not give up. She said she’d received hundreds of messages of support from the families of victims of kidnappings and killings and survivors of the criminal organization. She declared that she would not leave the country, give her freedom up to the political-business-criminal mafia or grant them the power to make her flee.

The journalist recalled that half a million people a year flee Mexico due to poverty, violence and corruption. She said she would not add herself to this enormous outflow because millions of people in Mexico dream of a different kind of country. The corrupt are only a few and those who want real change are the majority.

Opposition to the “Gestapo law”

Lydia Cacho has continued her struggle as a journalist and citizen. She denounced the legislature’s attempt to approve what she called a “Gestapo Law.” Over the protest of citizens, the political class was planning to pass a law that would allow entry into houses without a warrant—giving the system’s most corrupt sectors even more weapons against citizens.

The United States was pressuring Mexico to become a police state and this bill provided the tools, further incriminating social protest. Many organizations marched in protest against it. The debate was joined by journalists who denounced the army’s entry into their homes and indigenous people from Guerrero who complained of abuses by soldiers. The president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Sergio García Ramírez, called the planned reform a step backward, a worrying and deplorable attack on rights. After a lot of debate, which made it clear that the reform would place Mexico far behind in terms of respecting basic rights, the legislators removed a part of the law that would allow the repressive forces to enter homes without a warrant, but left in other parts that will have negative impacts on human rights: for instance, under the law, the Public Ministry, in accord with a judge, can suspend anyone’s civic guarantees by accusing them of organized crime.

Huge inequalities

Mexico remains a country marked by huge inequalities. Every year, a handful of businesspeople, protected by the political powers that be, increase their capital so stupendously that they appear on lists of the world’s wealthiest. Mexico’s political class is among the best paid in the world: one way of getting rich in Mexico is to attain high government office. The Supreme Court ministers are the most voracious, with approved annual salaries of close to four million pesos (over US$382,000), which is why they rub shoulders with the rich, watching out for their cronies’ interests, and remain aloof from the misery of the majority of citizens.

Some 50 million Mexicans are locked into poverty. Calderón promised to be the “employment President,” but official figures show that unemployment in 2007 reached the highest level since 2004. Those who have a hard time getting and keeping employment are trapped by what the Mexican Labor Front calls a policy of labor instability. Economists say the Mexican economy has entered into a steeper decline than anticipated and that the domestic consequences of the US recession are only somewhat mitigated by high petroleum prices.

Against NAFTA

This situation has been triggering constant mobilization. The first few months of 2008 saw the emergence of a strong, broad-based movement of peasant organizations against NAFTA. UNAM studies reveal that the basket of basic goods is already out of reach for over 90% of Mexican peasants. The movement’s strategies include marches all over the country, tractor caravans to the capital, the takeover of international bridges and highway tollbooths and legal appeals against the free trade agreement’s agriculture chapter.

Movement members have condemned the agricultural and trade policies in place since 1982 as a war against peasant and indigenous agriculture; they say that 14 years into NAFTA, while agro-food exports have increased, imports have surged to the benefit of only 2% of the nation’s productive units. They also argue that emigration and food dependency have increased, that agriculture policies have been an ecological disaster and that Mexican peasants are in no position to compete with the world’s most highly subsidized and technologically advanced agricultural sector.

No corn, no country!

These issues have formed the basis for the “No corn, no country!” movement, which is demanding renegotiation of NAFTA’s agriculture provisions and the rescue of Mexican agriculture. Toward the end of January, the movement filled Mexico City’s Zócalo, supported by union and grassroots organizations. The Justice Department weighed in on the side of the powerful, rejecting most of the demands for appeals against NAFTA. While the peasants were showing that the Mexican countryside is in ruins, the PAN government showed its inability or unwillingness to dialogue with them. There was so little interest in finding a solution that government interlocutors didn’t even meet with the peasant groups even though the movement took almost half a million signatures to the Senate demanding renegotiation of NAFTA. Despite government maneuvers aimed at dividing the movement, the various peasant organizations forged a political pact that supported the food sovereignty movement, joined the movement for energy sovereignty and made demands on behalf of workers’ rights and democratic freedoms.

They said they would carry on with their struggle against neoliberal policies and in defense of social ownership of the nation’s land and water in their traditional collective ejidos and communities. They spoke out in favor of strengthening the domestic market, rejected initiatives to promote a state of emergency and militarization and defended freedom of association and expression and access to information. They also demanded recognition of a multifunctional agro-food sector characterized by ecologically sustainable development.

A country in ferment

Popular ferment has erupted in thousands of ways in response to a collective memory of offenses that stretches way back in history. Several strikes have been held, one by Cananea’s miners. The PAN government responded the same way the government of Porfirio Díaz did before the Mexican revolution: with repression. It sent the forces of public order to try to recover the installations from the workers and return them to the owners. The workers defended themselves, and some fifty people were wounded. The union used legal means to battle the government-supported company. A hundred thousand miners across the country went on strike protesting the violation of the right to strike. A national movement demanded that police forces leave the Cananea mine, but only three quarters of them were withdrawn.

The government endorses the unions manipulated by owners and demonizes the democratic ones. Meanwhile, dissident teachers sick of the antidemocratic leadership of teachers’ union chief Elba Esther Gordillo, a government ally, have mobilized to demand that she be investigated and removed from office.

Workers have also been struggling against the State Workers’ Social Security and Services Institute (ISSSTE) law, which would have them lose half their retirement funds to the mercy of private companies. They’ve launched thousands of appeals, but the Supreme Court has been excessively slow in responding. The privatization of retirement funds has become big business for the financial institutions that administer them and a great loss to the workers. It’s the usual neoliberal prescription: privatize profits and socialize losses.

In Oaxaca, local and federal governments continue to violate human rights with impunity. A police chief who had been
a key figure in the repression of the grassroots movement was shot down and there was an attempt to attribute it to the People’s Revolutionary Army (EPR). The guerrilla group disclaimed responsibility for the killing and suggested that the police chief had become a liability to those in power and that responsibility for his death should be sought in the state government of Ulises Ruiz. Social campaigners continue to be tortured, killed and disappeared, causing many to wonder where the Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) is. Writer Gustavo Esteva replies that it can be found “among the people, at ground level,” and that in addition to fear, frustration and anger, increasingly intense preparations—both action and reflection—for what’s to come are taking place in Oaxaca. For now, what’s visible are teachers’ mobilizations and hunger strikes.

No more peaceful means

Indigenous people facing trumped up charges in Chiapas have also initiated a much-publicized hunger strike. And the Huichol people of Santa Catarina, in Jalisco, are opposing the construction of a highway through their territory. They say the government is only trying to control them, not to understand them. They claim that militarization and highway construction are destroying communities.

Their stand was backed by the National Indigenous Congress, which held a session in the spot the Huichol were occupying to prevent the machinery from getting through. The Congress expressed its opposition to the privatization of energy companies, which it sees as the patrimony of the people of Mexico. It also opposed the planting and sale of transgenic corn and the use of corn for agro-fuel.

In late March, dozens of indigenous people in the Guerrero mountains condemned what is known as Plan Mérida as a measure intended not to combat drug trafficking, but to combat armed movements and social organizations struggling against poverty, and announced they were joining the Insurgent Peole’s Revolutionary Army (ERPI). They warned that they wouldn’t wait until 2010 to start a revolution—that they’d already started it. They said governments had always been deaf to indigenous people, and they no longer see any chance of progress through peaceful means.

Privatize PEMEX?

One of the strongest and most broad-based movements has been the struggle against the privatization of petroleum. Seventy years ago, President Cárdenas expropriated Mexico’s oil resources to the enthusiastic support of the vast majority of Mexicans. It belongs to the nation. With the rise in the oil prices in recent years, transnational companies and private enterprises are hungrier than ever to get their hands on this great wealth. Oil earnings in 2007 reached nearly 432.8 billion pesos and the Mexican government is under pressure from the multilateral financial institutions to privatize the industry.

Rather than being treated as the shared wealth of all Mexicans, oil has been a treasure chest for federal and state governments that distribute its profits lavishly in high salaries for officials and squander it on the media campaigns politicians use to secure their careers. The antidemocratic and bureaucratic oil union has also its teeth sunk into oil profits. And petroleum earnings compensate for the government’s failure to collect taxes from the very wealthy. The national oil company still exists, but it’s vulnerable; its lack of maintenance and appropriate growth offer the pretext for privatization.

National resistance

In early 2008, mobilization was organized to halt maneuvers by the PAN government—supported by the PRI, since the governing party has protected major PRI politicians—to either change the Constitution to allow de facto privatization or overturn its prohibition on privatization by altering secondary legislation—the latter an unconstitutional tactic they’ve already used on labor. The reform isn’t openly called privatization—they refer to it as “opening the doors to private capital investment in crude oil extraction.”

Since mid-January, López Obrador has been challenging Calderón to engage in a debate over PAN’s plan to privatize oil, and demanding accountability regarding the oil profits petroleum. The parties that make up the Broad Progressive Front announced that they were preparing a national civil resistance plan to prevent any energy sector reform leading to open or veiled privatization. They won’t wait for the blow to come, but will try to prevent it. The Lucio Cabañas Revolutionary Movement gave notice of its opposition to privatization on the grounds that it would constitute an attack against the people. Carlos Montemayor wrote that converting public income into private profit was not a way to democratize oil but rather capitulation by the state and a new way to rob the nation.

A crime against the nation

The South Group—made up of outstanding academics such as Héctor Díaz Polanco, John Saxe-Fernández, Gabriel Vargas Lozano, Guillermo Almeyra and many others—published a communiqué showing that PEMEX is Mexico’s most profitable company and that oil income represents about 50% of the federal budget. Privatizing this company would be unpatriotic. They warned that anyone who wants to privatize PEMEX is conspiring against the nation.

The Group analyzed how the inefficient and biased management by many Mexican governments has led the country’s economy into a serious crisis. A large domestic debt from investment projects recorded as spending, along with the US economic crisis, is having a strong impact in reduced purchases of Mexican exports and reduced jobs for Mexican migrants, leading to lower remittances, the country’s second biggest source of foreign currency.

They made it clear that in response to this situation, the PAN and its allies in the PRI are trying to demonstrate the urgency of privatizing PEMEX, alleging that it’s in crisis. The South Group showed that it isn’t PEMEX that’s in crisis, but the socioeconomic model. They unveiled the government’s lie that its intention isn’t to privatize PEMEX, but only to reform it, clean it up and democratize it. What’s really being proposed behind these empty words is the privatization of a strategic enterprise. The Group called on Mexicans across the country to mobilize against private participation in PEMEX. Its destiny should not be decided in backroom negotiations amongst a few, but in widespread discussion and by taking defense of the national interest to the streets.

Standard & Poor’s revealed that Calderón planned to turn oil over to private capital in 2008, against the current of what’s happening in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. And in an interview given in Mexico, the director of the association of engineers from PETROBRAS, Brazil’s oil company, stressed that Brazil is today looking to recover control of its oil in response to pressure from the United States to privatize Latin America’s hydrocarbons sector. According to López Obrador, Mouriño, the contested Secretary of the Interior, was the main advocate of privatizing PEMEX. February saw many protest activities in many states against opening up PEMEX to the private sector.

“A deep water treasure”

One fact to keep in mind is that PEMEX is in debt because it pays more in taxes than it makes in profits. Advocates of continued state ownership for PEMEX have revealed that the para-state company has granted US$70 billion in investment contracts to private domestic and foreign companies over the last ten years. These contracts were made possible by issuing medium- and long-term debt to the companies through a scheme of deferred-expenditure investment projects (PIDIREGAS), which will be paid off out of revenues expected from the projects themselves. This indebtedness means that PEMEX will have to pay out 150 billion pesos in the next 25 years for the credit received—all within a scheme lacking transparency. It was also revealed that the Federal Electricity Commission, PEMEX and the Energy Secretariat signed a 15-year contract last year to supply liquid natural gas to the Spanish transnational Repsol, committing a US$16 billion budget.

In other words, this is evidence that steps compromising the national interest have already been taken. The alternative would have been to strengthen the company rather than bleed it, allowing its earnins to be reinvested in its modernization. What had to stop was the practice of misspending petroleum earnings to benefit PAN politicians and the new state bosses.

As part of its privatization offensive, the government used substantial sums from PEMEX to fund a manipulative media campaign. It paid 218 million pesos for television ads and paid news directors and television programs that supported the proposed “alliance” between PEMEX and private capital. According to the ads, “there’s a treasure deep in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico” that PEMEX lacks the technology to extract, so it needs help from those with know-how. But partnering with foreign companies to extract oil and share half the earnings with them—as non petroleum-producing countries such as Cuba do—would see Mexico ceding US$500 billion.

When Mexico’s oil was expropriated 70 years ago, it was said that Mexicans wouldn’t know how to extract it. But we did know how, and later we created specialized research centers. Now we’re hearing the same old song again. One point that wasn’t brought to public attention was that when oil prices were low, extracting it from greater depths cost more than could be earned by selling it. But the situation has changed drastically with the high prices of crude. Only 102 of the 952 oil wells in the Chicontepec zone are operating; 850 have been abandoned and could be revived.

Playing with fire

Academics, scientists and responsible politicians closed ranks in defense of nationalized oil. Former Secretary of the Interior David Ibarra noted that PEMEX is being deliberately broken up, and business opportunities are being transferred mainly to the foreign private sector. The objective of PEMEX is no longer to promote growth; it has become a short-run mechanism for balancing the public budget and foreign accounts. José Antonio Almazán sounded the alarm: faced with the impossibility of constitutionally reforming Article 27, the PAN-PRI alliance was seeking a counter-reform through regulatory laws. He recalled that this ruse had already been used by Salinas de Gortari to meet NAFTA requirements in the electricity sector and now they were trying to hand over the country’s oil wealth to meet their pledge to the Alliance for Security and Prosperity of North America (ASPAN).

Calderón sent the PRI a document setting out the need to open up PEMEX, but not indicating the amount of resources transnational companies would obtain. Calderón visited Oaxaca’s contested PRI governor Ulises Ruiz—who Calderón knew would stick to his position despite public condemnation thanks to support from his party and the complicity of the PAN, which had given him protection. During the visit, Ruiz gave his backing to the federal executive’s plan to reform PEMEX and criticized “the populists” who opposed it. But in their efforts to “open up” PEMEX, advocates of privatization forgot that national exclusivity in energy has been a fundamental issue in the Mexican people’s long struggle to defend their sovereignty. The privatizers were playing with fire.

Brigades in defense
of Mexico’s petroleum

In a ceremony led by López Obrador commemorating the expropriation of the oil industry, thousands packed the Zócalo in Mexico City to demonstrate that they would defend it. A week later, the crowds returned to the Zócalo to show that they were ready to prevent any form of privatization of PEMEX. During this event, Rosario Ibarra read a letter from the young Mexican woman who was wounded by Colombian troops in the FARC camp in Ecuador. She explained that she and her companions had been there in response to an invitation from the armed group to learn about its peace proposals. The people observed a moment of silence for the four massacred Mexicans.

López Obrador insisted that the internal problems his Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) is experiencing wouldn’t hamper the defense of oil and announced the formation of brigades: 1 of intellectuals, 10 of 10,000 women and 36 of men. He maintained that defending oil meant keeping the door closed to foreign companies and refusing to stand by and allow the Constitution to be violated with impunity through risk contracts that would permit a legal amendment. He dissembled the government’s arguments and said that behind the lies about lack of money and technology to modernize PEMEX could be found the Calderón-Mouriño group and their secret agreements with foreign companies.

The agreement that emerged from this mobilization was to go beyond symbolic protest and organize an active defense of Mexican oil. While the highest levels of the PRD were showing their true colors in a ruthless struggle for control of the party apparatus, the rank and file of López Obrador’s movement made their devotion and commitment to the national interest felt.

Millions of mobilized Mexicans

During 2007 over 12 million people demonstrated in the Republic’s capital—and many more across the rest of the country. So far in 2008 several million have already shown up in Mexico City’s Zócalo to protest neoliberal policies. All of Mexico is simmering. In one huge event, Pablo González Casanova stated that neoliberalism was committed to swallowing the nation whole.

Many contradictions are evident at various levels and around various disputes today. Some are secondary, expressed mainly at the leadership level, but there are also contradictions of principle, relating to conflicts between opposing visions for the country, pointing to a deep polarization. There are very heterogeneous and pluralist grassroots movements that mange to agree on some points. Their members are workers, peasants, teachers, students, indigenous people and groups of many different kinds. The repertoire of struggle is as diverse and pluralist as the movements. Some have opted for armed struggle, others for direct civil action. Some highlight peaceful resistance and call on their supporters to avoid provocation by the powers that be. All these movements are confronting globalized and local economic interests, and in the process corrupt and cynical politicians who negotiate among themselves to maintain their impunity.

The political class, using terms from political theory to try to justify their misdeeds, is corrupting concepts like democracy, justice, truth and law. This multi-striped political class has shown little sensitivity to people’s suffering. Party leaders, caught up in intra- and inter-party battles for political power and its privileges and economic benefits reveal the depth of the crisis of professional politics. The PRD’s dirty internal elections once more proved EZLN Subcomandante Marcos right in his critique of the anti-democracy and corruption of the party’s leadership.

Below and on top

The crisis of politics at the top is not surmountable. Huge numbers of those at the bottom are rejecting the oppression, exploitation and contempt faced by the majority. Some grassroots mobilizations are already very visible. And they arise to support other forms of mobilization hidden in every corner of the country. The media are incapable of perceiving this and the grassroots groups don’t yet want to be too visible. A silent but determined resistance to all kinds of power is being constructed in day-to-day life, and another politics is being rehearsed, profoundly different from the tainted politics of those at the top. From below, another country may emerge.

Jorge Alonso is a researcher with CIESAS West and envío correspondent in Mexico.

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