Few things are more painful to watch than a country that suffers from amnesia; a country that decides to forget over six decades of corruption, violence, and impunity. The country pretends to have forgotten how difficult the road to real democracy in Mexico has been, and instead is determined to vote for the reelection of what writer Mario Vargas Llosa once described as the “perfect dictatorship.” We shall always “forgive, but not forget”, because a country that forgets its history is condemned to repeat it. Nearly a week before the Mexican July 1st elections take place, as the vote divides between giving an opportunity the left or handing back power to those that abused it, I am afraid Mexicans are voting for the latter.
After two terms lacking significant reform and plagued by drug blood, the National Action Party (PAN) lost significant popularity. Taking advantage of this, the PRI launched a massive campaign to regain its throne. They selected their candidate much in the way the party selected its successors back in the day: carefully handpicking a leader well associated amongst the party’s most influential members. They selected a charismatic good looking young person whose image could be polished to assure them victory, and during Enrique Peña Nieto’s term as governor the party invested massive amounts of money into a marketing campaign led by Mexico’s monopolizing media monster. Soon the guy became a sex symbol. He even managed to marry the leading actress in one of the television’s most popular soap operas in a country in which telenovelas are sacred in many households.
Less than a month ago, the Peña Nieto campaign seemed to be threatened for the first time with the rise of the #YoSoy132 student movement that advocated against the lack of transparency of media systems that favored him. While Peña lost some popularity, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador from the leftist PRD seemed to gain momentum and the PAN candidate, Josefina Vazquez Mota, fell behind. The elections turned into a battle between the corrupt legacy of the PRI and the new progressive leftist initiative that had never been granted an opportunity to lead the country. While many applauded the chance to defeat Peña Nieto, some Mexicans trembled with fear at the sound of change.
With “some Mexicans” I make an allusion to Vicente Fox, the man who won the presidential election in 2000 on behalf of the PAN and was in charge of democracy’s debut in Mexico after the PRI’s ousting. A few days ago, President Fox publically claimed that he was voting for Peña Nieto because the PRD candidate “was dangerous” and he needed to use his vote strategically to defeat him. I guess you need to be Mexican to fully understand the irony behind Fox’s statement. How can the man who led the struggle for democracy now support those that abused power?
While Fox and his supporters argue that he is an antiquated leftist demagogue and nickname him “Lopez Chavez,” the truth is that Mexico is afraid of a left that is moderate. It’s afraid of a left that is more akin to progressive governments like that of Brazil’s Lula than the overarching threats of Venezuela’s Chavez, yet willingly compares it with the latter. In part it has to do with the dense populist speech Obrador constructed in the 2006 elections, and his unwillingness to accept defeat against Calderón.
But most of all, this fear comes from a media campaign against Lopez Obrador that categorized him as a leftist dictator and was launched by the same media monopoly that now is in charge of Peña Nieto’s sex symbol status. A few weeks ago, the newspaper “The Guardian” published a series of pieces in which they demonstrated evidence of a campaign that aimed to taint the PRD candidate’s campaign, associating former President Vicente Fox with it.
Yet, today’s Lopez Obrador is someone that has matured since the 2006 election and does not pose any threat like the South American leaders he has been compared to back then and today. His team includes brilliant minds like Marcelo Ebrard winner of the World Mayor award for his term as leader of Mexico City. There is nothing in his discourse and proposals that should make Mexicans think that the PRD candidate is a dangerous man. On the contrary, he has set clear center-left economic goals as a priority. He has no background of corruption and had a very successful term as mayor of Mexico City. In response some of Mexico’s most respected academics like human rights activist Lydia Cacho and journalist Sergio Aguayo have come out to proclaim their support for the PRD, hoping to end the fascist discourse against him.
Today’s Mexico suffers from amnesia and it trembles with fear at the sound of change. I do not hold as true that the leftist candidate is the ideal candidate or the panacea to all of Mexico’s problems. However, Mexico’s vote is divided between values that go against democracy and a fright of the left that was forced upon them by the very people behind the PRI. As the PAN falls behind in the polls, the Mexican vote needs to be reasoned, but not reasoned with amnesia and fright.
Click here for Andrea S. Viejo’s interview with #Yosoy132 organizer Valeria Hamel