Mexico: Elections and resistance
OPT-SME contingent in a parade protesting the disappearance of the 43 students.
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By Nevin Siders Vogt, Mexico City
June 22, 2015 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal – With the growing intersection among the campaigns for justice for the 43 disappeared students and the resistance movements’ struggle against the privatisation of natural resources and nationalised industries, the rhythm of resistance activities has not slackened over the last year, despite the mid-term elections. This is why the People’s and Worker’s Political Organization (OPT) sees the urgency to taking stock and projecting what immediate steps to take. This report is based on the gathering Mexico City’s OPT branch in Tlalpan organised preparatory to the campaigns it will participate in for the latter half of the year.
The world press covered the elections held throughout the country on June 7. Governors of half of the states were contested, along with half of each chamber of the national legislature and a large number of local officials in all jurisdictions. The capital, Mexico City, is demarcated into 16 districts (Delegaciones), and all 16 district heads changed.
Numerically, the readjustment among the dominant parties would seem great, since many governorships and nearly all the district heads changed colour. Taken as a barometer of the level of satisfaction with the national policies of President Enrique Peña Nieto, nearly all commentaries of all orientations deduced the result as an expression of distrust in the leadership. In particular, Nieto’s own party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) lost the majority of seats it held and only gained in those localities with the highest indices of violence (for example see: http://regeneracion.mx/sociedad/pri-gano-elecciones-en-las-zonas-de-mayor-violencia/).
Despite the generalised rejection, the government used this poll to legitimatise itself, spewing adjectives such as “impeccable” and claimed the vote to be a true exercise in democracy. But the reality was stained by the militarisation of the country, uncontainable daily violence engulfing whole states. The election itself displayed high levels of abstention and generalised social discontent reflected in myriad forms: boycott called in protest to the 43 missing students from Ayotzinapa, voided ballots and calls to not vote. Those who did go to the ballot boxes made protest votes, which is why so many state, county and Mexico City districts changed parties.
The increasing fracturing among the dominant parties cannot be overlooked. Following in the tradition about half a century long, grouplets of malcontents stomped away from the PRI to found ephemeral single-person rivals.
This time around the New Alliance Party (PNA) was notably disgusting. Headed by Elba Ester Gordillo, who remains a political prisoner, no one came out in her defence because her administration as secretary general of the National Union of Education Workers (SNTE) was among the most corrupt and violent in the history of Mexican trade unionism. Another nearly comic instance was the new Humanist Party (PH), which was founded by former diehards from across the spectrum of the disgraced (http://www.animalpolitico.com/2014/07/quienes-lo-conforman-y-que-quiere-el-nuevo-partido-humanista/).
A third ring in this circus was the National Movement for Regeneration (Morena), led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, former Mexico City mayor and, before that, one of the leaders of the PRI. In between the PRI and Morena, he had been one of the central personalitiesof the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), and has now done to the PRD what he did to the PRI. Morena won a plurality of Mexico City’s districts, which will soon leave abundant evidence of its continuity with its predecessors.
Now, for those of us who believe that a better world is possible, we should continue organising among the various sectors in resistance, construct alternatives for unity so that organisation goes beyond momentary conjunctures. This is why the OPT will press on supporting the movement led by the Mexican Electrician’s Union (SME) that brings together users of electricity who are resisting privatisation, and lend aid to the ever more frequent protest caravans to foster systematic awareness among women and youth.
In March, the parents of the 43 disappeared students from Ayotzinapa broadened their form of protest by organising a caravan that went around the country, plus another that crossed the United States in preparation to taking their case to the United Nations Human Rights Commission (http://mexico.cnn.com/nacional/2015/03/16/familiares-de-normalistas-de-ayotzinapa-inician-gira-por-43-ciudades-de-eu; http://www.un.org/spanish/News/story.asp?NewsID=31157#.VYbijkZbifg; http://www.informador.com.mx/mexico/2015/574038/6/padres-de-dos-normalistas-de-ayotzinapa-llegan-a-onu-con-esperanza.htm).
Independent of that, the Yaqui people launched a three-pronged caravan that visited nearly every state in Mexico for the purpose of bringing together, coordinating and disseminating the diverse resistance that is arising day by day throughout the country (as reported previously in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal http://links.org.au/node/4449). The concrete demands of the Yaqui communities are defence of water, territory, work and life, and despite the fact that most of the diverse struggles taken up confront adverse conditions, contact was heightened among these sectors and information now flows more smoothly.
Committee of electricity users
It was thought that shutoffs of electricity would reduce during spring as a purely electoral ploy, yet in fact they returned. The red tape strewn by the Federal Consumer Protector (Profeco) seems to systematically ignore the complaints in Mexico City’s Tlalpan district, where the committee unites thousands of users. To confront this offensive, the Tlalpan User’s Committee held well-attended rallies and then decided to push a local action plan with three mobilisations and a long-term project for territorial control that begins on July 2, aiming to form independent neighbourhood self-management. At first it will attempt to prevent shutoffs and go on to support other neighbourhood-based struggles with political and community projects.
Educational reform and resistance to privatisation of water
Other movements of resistance that arose in this year have opposed “educational reform” (a regular feature in every presidency), which is labour “reform” more than educational “reform”. Obtaining and retaining tenure is now conditional on evaluations. Teachers do not oppose evaluations in and of themselves, but rather the mismanagement and widespread corruption that is now more evident than ever. Cutbacks and arbitrary reappointments throughout the educational sector are handled by secretary of education Emilio Chuayfett Chemor -- the same person who was run out of the interior secretariat after the 1997 Acteal massacre the last time the PRI was in power. Where the first steps in this reform have been implemented, such as the technical secondary schools, those who have been named principals and vice-principals are the people with the fewest scruples and least pedagogy.
Additionally, in March, there was a bill in the lower house of the federal government (the Chamber of Deputies) which would have the effect of privatising water. Quickly marches arrived to the chamber’s gates in the understanding that water is a human right.
Women’s Commission and youth sector
The OPT is preparing an educational process on feminism oriented toward the youth — of both sexes — with workshops and open houses designed to construct a feminist position that can be promoted in diverse sectors.
Equally as important are the activities central to the youth, starting with a summer camp in political education.
Memory and creative outreach
Conscious of the need to produce a medium for information that provides both a collective graphic and written memory of activities done, as well as disseminate notice of future activities and positions among the diverse sectors among which the OPT participates, an information and creative production commission will again foster film production and a blog or newsletter.
[Nevin Siders has recently joined the ecosocialist OPT. He is a tenured teacher at the National University of Education Sciences (UPN).]