The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


June 16, 2021/ This weeks issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team


The Day Before, the Day Of, the Day After

A big event! The preparation takes the most time, the resources, teamwork, focus, enthusiasm. That holds true for all big events, whether they be weddings or holiday celebrations. We’ve all been there. Elections have the same elements, only far more complex because you can never make elections just your event. You’ve got competitors who are going all out to make the elections their event.


Morena activists began their prep early for the Mexican midterm elections. Long before the June 6 Election Day, they jumped into races, touted the departure from business-as-usual under Morena leadership, and hit city streets and dirt roadways. The parties opposing Morena were preparing as well. They put aside differences and joined strategically together, totally focused on spoiling Morena’s fiesta.


Finally, the day of the elections. The right's strategy falls short, even with the media predicting doom if Morena won and the Catholic Church actively pushing against that possibility. The opposition parties fail utterly to persuade voters that going back to pre-Morena days would be a good idea. Midterms usually end with oppositions to governing parties gaining a majority. Not this time. Within Morena ranks, joy and celebration!


And then the day after. The fiesta has ended. Heads clear. People see they have a mess to clean up. Their next big event, they realize, needs to be better. In this week’s issue, we talk with Morena activist Pedro Gellert about what comes next, about how Morena must face that mess and now get its own house “back in order.”


Pedro Gellert, a veteran left journalist and translator, has been an active Morena rank-and-filer in México City since before the party became “Morena”! He brings a wide-ranging perspective to his analyses of Mexican politics.


The June 6 elections marked the midpoint of AMLO’s six-year, term-limited presidency, with all 500 seats in the Chamber of Deputies up for grabs. How did Morena do?


Morena did not meet its goal of getting a two-thirds majority of congressional deputies, the number needed to enact constitutional reforms. But the percentage of those voting for Morena stayed basically the same as in 2018. Despite the pandemic and its effect on the economy, support for the Fourth Transformation — Morena’s project to radically transform Mexican society — remains strong.


So why did we lose seats? This year, the right-wing PAN, the neoliberal PRI, and the lost-sheep PRD banded together and put up single candidates, rather than each party running its own candidates as in the past. Morena also had its own coalition, but the other two parties, the Workers and Green Parties, only each account for 3 percent of the vote. If this election had been a street fight, it would been like Morena taking on three attackers at once. And we still won a clear majority.


Did the June 6 elections bring greater diversity among the deputies?


The INE, México’s National Electoral Institute, instituted affirmative action rules requiring that every party run a certain number of women, LGBTQ, black, disabled, migrant, and indigenous candidates. But, no big surprise, white men tried to take over the few spots not available to white men by claiming gay or indigenous status. In one case, a man who claimed to be bisexual was — what’s the opposite of “outed?!” — by members of the LGBTQ community.


Out of 32 states, 15 held elections for governor. What happened?

In 10 states that had PRI or PAN governors the past three years, Morena won, not just in the more progressive south, but in the north as well. Sonora, Baja California, and Baja California Sur all flipped for Morena, a very significant result. Breaking the governors' power mainly their control over state fundswill help break the power of the PRIAN, the anti-Morena coalition.


Given these results, what do you see as the future of the three conservative parties?


The three parties will try to block whatever Morena wants to do. But to simply oppose is not a winning strategy. Even anti-Morena pundits complain that the conservatives do not have an alternative program. Key PRI and PAN figures also face more corruption scandals that will keep them in the public eye. This August, a national referendum will decide whether previous presidents should be prosecuted for corruption. AMLO, the anti-corruption crusader, wants a mandate for prosecution from the people.


Any unexpected results on June 6? 


The biggest surprise and upset — came in México City, a long-time bastion of the left. Progressives hadn’t lost an election there since 1997. The current mayor, Claudia Scheinbaum, was not up for re-election, but Morena lost many important municipal presidencies. The reasons still need sorting out, but the most important that have been pinpointed so far include a complacency that we would automatically win, the poor performance of elected representatives in office, and the effects of the constant media campaign attacking Morena, AMLO, and the “4T,” the Fourth Transformation. Other contributing factors included the imposition from above of unpopular Morena candidates, the near collapse of Morena as an organization beyond its electoral focus, and the voter disenchantment that incumbents almost always face.


What are Morena’s political priorities for the second half of AMLO’s term going to be?


One key goal will be to change the Constitution to codify AMLO’s social programs and put Mexico’s energy resources under national control. Morena also wants programs such as the payment of stipends to seniors made irreversible” and for universal free health care to be constitutionally enshrined. The courts have recently ruled against many key Morena reforms, and, without a constitutional change, we can’t guarantee the reforms that have already been enacted.


Morena will try to negotiate with some PRI and Citizens’ Movement legislators to get the needed two-thirds majority, but I’m pessimistic. In México, congressional deputies don’t represent their districts. They vote their party line. It’s going to take more than skillful negotiating. It’s going to take a popular mobilization.


That brings us to Morena, the party.  What must happen now within the party?


Morena, as an organization, stands in shambles. It has evolved from a social movement to a party/movement to a party. The party did not run the June 6 elections on a grassroots basis. It didn’t mobilize rank-and-file members and that generated considerable discontent in the ranks. With the elections now over, it’s imperative for Morena to get its house in order. But doing so might be complicated given the absence of concrete mechanisms to ensure an open democratic debate and decision making within the party. 


Subscribe to the México Solidarity Bulletin — and spread the word, too!


AMLOs Morena Wins the Mexican Midterms


Journalist Kurt Hackbarth, founder of the independent media project MexElects,” is currently coauthoring a book on the 2018 Mexican election. We’ve excerpted this passage from his Jacobin analysis on the June 6 midterms.


In the end, none of it was enough. A pile-on alliance of right-wing parties, the vociferous backing of business associations, the overt partiality of the National Electoral Institute, the NGO-funneled financing of USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, desperate scenes of vote buying and disruption of precincts, and a near-uniform wall of major media, including last-minute anti-AMLO screeds in every outlet from the Economist to the Nation: none of it was able to prevent the Morena coalition from romping to victory in the Mexican midterm elections of June 6, retaining its majority in Congress and seizing two-thirds of the governor races in dispute.

The overall results give Morena and its supporters a lot to celebrate. It showed resilience in its first outing as a party of government, demonstrating that it could win nationally without AMLO at the top of the ticket, in an off-season election that typically punishes the party in power, in the face of a united opposition, and in the context, moreover, of a pandemic whose repercussions have toppled presidents and prime ministers elsewhere in the world. Citizens on the streets also played a direct role, stepping in to foil repeated attempts at electoral crimes, with the backing of the National Guard, which made arrests in situations that have historically gone unpunished.


Armed with this endorsement from the Mexican public, the challenge for Morena in the coming session will be to maintain its momentum, to resist the temptation to coast, and to avoid, above all, getting prematurely entangled in the politics of the presidential race to come. It has been returned to Congress to deliver and — as the shot across in the bow in Mexico City has shown — what has been given can just as quickly be taken away. Manos a la obra.


Recent news reports and commentaries, from progressive and mainstream media,
on life and struggles on both sides of the US-México border


John Ackerman, El futuro de la Cuarta Transformación, La Jornada. Morena va encaminado a convertirse en un nuevo partido de Estado, capaz de ganar cada vez más elecciones. Sin embargo, décadas de lucha serán en vano si este logro termina siendo a costa de los principios esenciales del movimiento que llevó López Obrador a la Presidencia: de no mentir, no robar y no traicionar.


David Raby, Victory for the left in México, Morning Star. Fifteen of Mexico’s 32 states held elections for governor, with all but one of these positions held by Morena’s opposition before June 6. Morena won two-thirds of the seats.


Luis Hernández Navarro, México: Midterm Elections and the Fourth Transformation, Resumen. Despite setbacks in a number of states, México's right emerges from the elections with enough strength to block or veto government initiatives and to publicly carry on a true conservative opposition. [Original in Spanish.]


Jennifer Piscopo and Lorena Vázquez Correa, Mexico’s political parties did the minimum to meet gender parity rules. Female candidates scored big anyway, Washington Post. Parties picked men to run in the most politically relevant races. Voters, even so, elected six women as governors. Since 1953, only nine women have served at the gubernatorial level.


Viri Ríos, ¿Cuál castigo a López Obrador? New York Times. La coalición de Morena perderá curules (de tener 308 curules, que había ganado en la elección de 2018, ahora solo tendrá 279). Sin embargo, esta reducción es mucho menor que el promedio de 47 escaños que típicamente pierde el partido en la presidencia en una contienda intermedia.


Después de 72 años en el poder, el PRI pierde en Colima, El Universal. En las últimas décadas, Colima se ha sumergido en un estado de violencia y corrupción. Indira Vizcaíno de Morena ahora será la segunda gobernadora en la historia de Colima.


Massimo Modonesi,  Elecciones en México: el obradorismo en su laberinto, Nueva Sociedad. La Cuarta Transformación caminará sobre un terreno pantanoso y dependerá más que antes de sus aliados. El frente «todos contra AMLO», hegemonizado por la derecha, muestra a su vez sus propios límites a la hora de generar entusiasmo social.


Max De Haldevang, México’s Unecological Green Party Is Now Key to AMLO’s Agenda, Bloomberg. Over the past two decades, the Greens have backed governments from three different parties with radically differing agendas.


Michael Stott, Latin America’s leaders united by unpopularity. But AMLO not among them, México News Daily. The president has remained popular during Covid crisis while protests rock other countries.


Ed Sykes, Indigenous communities in Mexico say ‘no’ to political parties and demand self-rule, Phoenix Media Co-op. Some Indigenous communities refused to participate in the June 6 local elections. The party political system, they insist, has been no benefit.


The Mexico Solidarity Project brings together activists from various socialist and left organizations and individuals committed to worker and global justice who see the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of México as a watershed moment. AMLO and his progressive Morena party aim to end generations of corruption, impoverishment, and subservience to US interests. Our Project supports not just Morena, but all Mexicans struggling for basic rights, and opposes US efforts to undermine organizing and México’s national sovereignty. 


Editorial committee: Meizhu Lui, Bruce Hobson, Bill Gallegos, Sam Pizzigati. We welcome your suggestions and feedback. Interested in getting involved? Drop us an email!


Web page and application support for the México Solidarity Project from NOVA Web Development, a democratically run, worker-owned and operated cooperative focused on developing free software tools for progressive organizations.