More on Mexico: What to watch for

Remember my questions about the Mexico election dispute? (See below: posting of 2006/08/27.) Fred Rosen has given me permission to post his very thoughtful replies. He's a keen observer, and was definitely the right man to ask about these issues.

Hi Geoff,

Good questions; the subject of lots of speculation and few hard answers.

First, lots of panistas and other anti-perredistas, more-or-less sure of their victory have endorsed a recount for the sake of legitimacy. The word is that Fox, for reasons unknown, convinced Calderón not to take that position. Maybe he (and other high-ranking panistas) knew of some fraud (perhaps, as you suggest, by PRI operatives in northern Mexico). Maybe they foresaw AMLO's civil disobedience and welcomed it as a way to marginalize (they thought) AMLO and the PRD. Maybe they think they can coopt the neoliberal wing of the PRI and rule a polarized Mexico more effectively than Fox was able to rule a "consensual" political class that emerged from the "voto útil." I think (thinking as a panista) that was a huge mistake. Combined with the bronca in Oaxaca and the regular drug-cartel shootouts, Mexico may well become ungovernable. Not good for business (though maybe good for the other half of the PAN culture: the Catholic Church).

Second, AMLO's political future is pretty cloudy no matter how this turns out. He is already mistrusted by the loyal cardenistas in the party for being too much of an opportunistic centrist. The street actions may have been directed at those militants who, based on no policy proposals whatsoever but rather on AMLO's willingness to take the struggle to the streets, now accept him as a "moral leader" of sorts. On the other hand, he is now mistrusted by those center-left voters whose votes he got on July 2 but who now may feel that he has auto-demonized himself, much the way he was pictured in the PAN commercials calling him a danger to Mexico. The street actions are mobilizing fewer and fewer people and are alienating a crucial sector of the electorate.

As for the PRD, they just won in Chiapas against a multi-party coalition. As a "collection of tribes" they have a lot more contenders than AMLO, and they (as a party) are not taking the brunt of the blame for the disruptions. PAN so effectively demonized AMLO as a human being that very little of it stuck to the party.

I don't think we know yet how this will all play out for the PRI. They have been marginalized -- for now. They have some pretty savvy operatives (like Elba Esther Gordillo) and could bounce back under new leadership. Most of those operatives are playing a waiting game now to see how they might play their strongest cards in the upcoming legislative season and the Calderón sexenio. My gut feeling, however, is that Elba Esther and the salinista neoliberals will drift into the PAN while the social democratic corporatists will join with their "primos hermanos" in one wing or another of the PRD. We'll see.

un abrazo,

Naguib Mahfouz -In Memoriam

The man credited with inventing the modern Egyptian novel, Nobel-prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, has just died at age 94. As my little homage, I give you links to my notes on his audacious early novel Children of Gebelawi (which provoked a knifing attack on him by a God-crazed Muslim), and his politically daring short novel The Day the Leader Was Killed -- about frustrations of the Cairene lower-middle class running parallel to but separate from the crises leading to the death of Anwar al-Sadat on October 6, 1981.

Here's Naguib Mahfouz - Biography

And here is today's obit from the Washington Post: Nobel prize winning author Naguib Mahfouz dies


Some Palestinian voices: Captured Prisoners

Moving testimonies by Palestinian former prisoners and "detainees" (imprisoned without charges and often without provocation) of the Israeli military can be seen and heard here: Captured Prisoners

That the Israeli punishment of the people they have conquered is generalized, arbitrary and cruel, and that it has gone on for decades, is not surprising. That is what occupying forces do. It is what U.S. forces are doing in Iraq (not just in Abu Ghraib, but the rapes of teenagers, the destruction of whole cities and all the rest), what the Spanish conquistadores did when they mutilated and massacred inoffensive people in the "New World," the Japanese to the Chinese in Manchukuo and elsewhere, the Germans of the 1940s everywhere in Europe that they conquered. Israelis are only human, which means they can be as savage as the rest of us, no matter what their humanitarian traditions.

What I find harder to explain, and impossible to justify, is the elaborate structure of denial of this cruelty and savagery, maintained by U.S. and British opinion-formers (Rupert Murdoch and friends, other TV and newspapers, preachers, politicians). And especially their insistent claim that Israel is a "democracy." Democracy means "government by the demos, i.e. by the people governed." But in Israel half of the demos it governs is crushed under its army's boots -- including those Arabs to whom it has deigned to grant citizenship and especially all those in the occupied territories to whom it has not.

People in most of the world are not taken in by this; it seems mainly a U.S. and British self-deception (and not all the Brits are convinced, either). So, though it doesn't solve anything, it gives a certain sporting pleasure to see and hear George Galloway go after one of those media people committed to supporting the deception. Check out YouTube - George Galloway Vs. Sky News - SKY NEWS KO'D!!!


Mexico: All politics is intra-party

Fred Rosen, based in Mexico City, just sent me his latest column on Andrés Manuel López Amador's (AMLO's) campaign for vote-recount: Everybody’s right and everybody’s wrong (Miami Herald/El Universal, Saturday, August 26, 2006). He argues that "AMLO’s evidence of hands-on, election-day fraud has been weak and, in many cases as deliberately oblivious to the facts as the PAN’s general campaign," but that the campaign run by the apparent victor, Calderón was dirty and possibly unfair -- unless you believe, like U.S.party operatives, that slander is "fair" in politics. And, says Fred, while "public opinion" according to polls doesn't entirely trust López Obrador, it/they (the public) generally think a recount is in order. He concludes, "A certain acceptance of contradictions, a certain being-of-two-minds seems necessary to understand the frequently bizarre, occasionally surreal post-electoral process Mexico is now living through."

I just sent Fred this note, which I share with you:

Well, all your points seem well-argued, but where does that leave us? Or rather, where does it leave the Mexican electorate?

Some questions that I hope to see explored (maybe someone already had and you can point me to the analysis):

(1) If Calderón is truly convinced that he won a majority, why does he not endorse AMLO's demand for a recount? Or more specifically, what would be the political (or other) costs to him of doing so?

As a first guess, I'd think maybe he owes rather specific debts to PRI operatives, who most likely were involved in whatever vote-tampering took place. If he allows them to be embarrassed, they can surely make life very difficult for him (by claiming greater fechorías on the part of the PAN, for example, or by sabotaging a future Calderón government from their seats in Congress). He probably also fears embarrassing copartidarios who may also have been involved.

(2) What political future might AMLO have if he conceded? Probably not much: His heir as gobernador of the D.F. seems better positioned to take the reins of the PRD, don't you think? Or maybe not -- might the PRD split? It's more of a federation of groups than a tightly unified party on the PRI model, was my impression. And that federation could just fall apart into its component pieces (especially since the new Mexico City mayor's bona fides have been questioned by rivals in the PRD, and given obvious though muted friction between AMLO and Cárdenas). If I'm right, then AMLO's insistence on his recount campaign is as much a question of internal PRD politics as of a supposed national interest.

(3) What might be the PRD's prospects if AMLO conceded? Could Calderón reasonably expect to govern if PRD legislators, and the Mexico City government, opposed him fiercely? Is it reasonable to suppose that the PRD as a party might do quite well for itself, and position itself for power in the next sexenio, if AMLO were out of the picture?

That's my guess, but I'm just observing from a distance, and there must be many important issues I haven't considered.

(4) And what does the PRI have to gain or to lose in the outcome of this recount campaign?

In short, what I think would be most useful would be to look at the internal dynamics of the three major parties to clarify why they're doing what they're doing and possible results.