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[Nettime-bold] Fw: En;LAWeekly/John Ross,A Fox in Mexico's Halls of Power?Jul 08

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From: Chiapas95 <owner-chiapas95@eco.utexas.edu>
To: chiapas95@eco.utexas.edu <chiapas95@eco.utexas.edu>
Date: Sunday, July 09, 2000 2:48 PM
Subject: En;LAWeekly/John Ross,A Fox in Mexico's halls of poweer?Jul 08

>A Fox in Mexico's Halls of Power
>He's no saint, but Vicente Fox pulled off a victory that was both
>unthinkable and necessary
>by John Ross
>MEXICO CITY, JULY 4  As preliminary results from Mexico's most hotly
>contested presidential election ever began to roll in Sunday evening, July
>2, thousands of railroad workers and their families gathered in the giant
>parking lot of the long-ruling (71 years) Institutional Revolutionary Party
>(PRI) bunker in northern Mexico City. With rank-and-file PRIstas, one never
>knows how much of an outburst of support is sincere, and how much bought
>and paid for, but those gathered were clearly poised to cheer home yet
>another victory. Instead, they gradually fell into a sullen silence, their
>noisemakers clacked to a dead stop, and the truculent trumpet blasts were
>By 9 p.m., a dark rain cloud blotted out the sky over this teeming capital
>and a chill, dank wind raked the PRI compound, presaging electoral doom. By
>11, the exit polls and the quick counts  salient features of the most
>U.S.-like election in Mexican history  signaled that it was all over. With
>a double-digit lead, rightist Vicente Fox had become the first opposition
>candidate to win the presidency of Mexico since the birth of the PRI seven
>decades ago.
>Inside an auditorium named for the stern general who founded the state
>party in 1928, PRI leaders wept openly as outgoing president Ernesto
>Zedillo (on the big screen) and his hand-picked successor Francisco
>Labastida conceded the death of one of the longest-lived political
>dynasties in the known universe.
>In the parking lot, the sullen railroad men and the lottery-ticket hawkers
>and the PRI ambulantes (street venders) folded up their banners and trudged
>off into the uncertain night. The mariachis packed away their instruments,
>the stage was torn apart, and the sound system that was to have brought the
>PRI's "Fiesta of Triumph" to the nation was dismantled. After midnight,
>only the garbage flapping in the wind remained  the garbage, and a strobe
>light someone had forgotten to unplug, sweeping the abandoned parking lot
>from one dark corner to the next, searching for survivors.
>The July 2 Mexican election was supposed to have been a dead heat between
>Labastida and Fox  virtually every poll, an infant science here, indicated
>that the race was headed into the twilight zone. But those Mexicans who
>went to bed Sunday night, or early Monday morning in some cases, did so
>with Fox holding a seemingly insurmountable lead. Of course, a
>fraud-tainted PRI resurgence when no one was watching was Fox's worst
>nightmare, but by mid-morning Monday, the historic victory was holding
>fast. Preliminary results give Fox 43 percent, with Labastida trailing at
>36 percent. The third-place finisher was Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, longtime
>leader of the left-center Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), with 17
>Experts scurried to explain their errant prognostications, which had
>asserted that the race would be too close to call. In the end, it became
>clear that the pollsters had failed to take into account how cautious 71
>years of authoritarian, one-party tyranny had made Mexico's electorate.
>Many had just lied to their inquisitors, and those 10 percent to 19 percent
>of voters designated "undecided" were very decided all the time  they just
>didn't want to say it out loud.
>Fox's victory was confected from a potpourri of constituencies, all of
>which portend a shift to the right at the top of the Mexican ladder. Warm
>support from big-business circles swelled Fox's campaign coffers, and he
>will gladly reciprocate   the one-time head of Coca-Cola in Mexico and
>Central America is as committed a globalizer as his predecessor Zedillo.
>Fox and his National Action Party (PAN) will enthusiastically spur the
>dog-eat-dog, neo-liberal bent of an economy that has made a few Mexicans
>very rich and cast 26 million more into extreme poverty.
>In addition to the bankers and the industrialists, Vicente Fox appears to
>have overwhelmingly captured Mexico's Catholic vote. Wrapping himself in
>the banner of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the nation's most holy icon, and
>condemning abortion as "murder," the PANista earned the sub rosa support of
>the conservative hierarchy.
>On the other side of the political ledger, Fox attracted several prominent
>associates of the PRD and, most probably, a measure of support from
>rank-and- file PRDistas themselves, who, in the alleged privacy of the
>voting booth, marked their ballots for the PANista. Despite political
>beliefs directly at odds with those espoused by Fox, they were apparently
>willing to do almost anything to dump the PRI.
>Even with the monumental victory (43 percent of 38 million votes cast with
>95 percent of the precincts counted), Fox's triumph is not exactly
>unconditional. During the boisterous post-election rally under the gilded
>Angel of Independence on a downtown boulevard here, Fox was warned by the
>huge throng of celebrants "not to fail us."
> "We will obligate him to govern well," growled Alfonso Munoz, an
>inner-city newspaper vendor.
>The dimensions of the Fox victory are even more impressive because he beat
>the most egregious and well-oiled PRI vote-buying machine this reporter has
>experienced in four presidential elections in Mexico. Reports of
>shenanigans emerged right up until the eve of the balloting, which was when
>the PRI governor of Michoaca'n was audited on tape, purportedly plotting
>distribution of US$80 million in budgeted state moneys to potential voters.
>This scene and various reports of coercion and bribery, all of it
>attributed to the no-longer-ruling party, made headlines every day.
>Election Day unfolded in relative tranquillity with only scattered
>incidents of violence reported around the country. The autonomous Federal
>Electoral Institute (IFE) provided a measure of integrity to the election
>that previous campaigns had never had. But although the IFE helped insure
>fraud-free voting at the ballot box itself, it had no control over the
>wholesale buying of votes by the PRI in advance of the election.
>Still, Vicente Fox obliterated the PRI. His big numbers also seem to spell
>the end of the electoral line for longtime left-leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas,
>whose PRD captured just 17 percent of the popular vote, about the same as
>what Cardenas took home in his failed 1994 bid for the presidency. Cardenas
>supporters and many observers will always believe that, in 1988, Cardenas
>outpolled the PRI presidential candidate, but was denied victory because of
>the PRI-controlled vote count.
>A three-time reject for the top job, Cardenas will be 73 by the time the
>next presidential race comes around in 2006. Waiting in the wings is his
>much younger prote'ge' Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who handily won the
>Mexico City mayoralty on July 2. Lopez Obrador's victory renewed the PRD
>mandate in the Western Hemisphere's largest city, a mandate that began in
>1997 with a Cardenas mayoral landslide.
>At the congressional level, Fox's coattails were broad enough to win the
>new president a short legislative majority. Preliminary results give the
>PAN a slight (224-209) advantage over the PRI in the lower house, with the
>PRD garnering just 60 seats. Over on the senate side, at this writing, the
>PRI holds a six-vote edge over the PAN, a balance which will give the PRD,
>with its 16 votes, some needed bargaining power.
>An alliance between the PRI and Cardenas' party against what Cardenas
>labels the "fascist" Fox cannot be discounted. On election night, in the
>desolate PRI parking lot, disaffected Institutional militants argued for a
>return to the social left-center roots of the once-ruling party, a Cardenas
>goal when he was still a member of the PRI.
>Although the Mexican government's economic policies will not budge from PRI
>standards, Fox's band of victory will allow him to move on widespread
>corruption. The indictment of high-profile PRI officials is a seemingly
>inevitable scenario  despite the new president's election-night promise
>that he will not conduct a witch-hunt. Of course, Fox is keenly aware that
>corruption is so ingrained in the fabric of Mexican political life that
>trying to clean house could bring down the house itself, and that a sort of
>unstated amnesty could prevail.
>Mexico's first opposition president also will have a golden opportunity to
>fix other long-standing social problems, such as the still-simmering
>conflict with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) in Chiapas.
>Like all Mexicans, the Zapatistas have only known PRI governments, and
>their disposition toward a Fox presidency is uncharted ground  several
>years ago, the EZLN's charismatic spokesperson Subcomandante Marcos
>characterized Fox as "a consequent politician."
>One scenario being discussed here would have Vicente Fox appoint Cardenas
>as a peace ambassador to Chiapas  the former left candidate supports
>military withdrawal from the conflict zone and congressional passage of a
>law that would grant Mexico's 56 indigenous peoples limited autonomy.
>Another scenario, however, has the military, to which Fox has no ties,
>seeking to define its influence in the new regime by flexing its muscle in
>Perhaps the most exhilarating feature of the Fox victory is that it offers
>an unprecedented panoply of scenarios for a Mexico that changed irrevocably
>on July 2, a change that did not end Sunday but rather opens the door to
>the possibility of much deeper change ahead.
>"When I woke up this morning," testified waiter Armando Penalosa, serving
>morning-after coffee at La Blanca restaurant in the city's old quarter, "I
>felt like a big weight had been lifted from my chest."
>Copyright CR 2000, L.A. Weekly Media, Inc
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