The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


June 9, 2021/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team


Sunday’s Elections — and Our Neocolonial One-Way Street

Sometimes we can see our destination straight ahead, but we can’t get there. A one-way street — going in the wrong direction — leaves us thwarted. One-way streets, we’ve all learned, can be obstacles to forward progress.

People in the United States, even many on the US left, seem to see US/México relations as a one-way street. These folks expect Mexicans to be concerned about what’s going on in the US but don’t themselves feel any particular reason to be concerned about what goes on in México.


This past Sunday, Mexicans went to the polls in arguably their most important elections in a century. Previous Mexican governments — under the PRI and PAN parties — had been willing overseers for the neoliberal US agenda, cheerfully cutting the legs out from under workers in both the United States and México. AMLO and Morena, as John Ackerman points out in our Reflections this week, have given México a historic opportunity to bury this agenda. And that prospect has obvious implications for working people in the United States: If México refuses to participate in the race to the bottom, US workers can stop racing as well.


Three years ago, AMLO and Morena ousted the PRI/PAN crowd for the first time in over 70 years, and Sunday represented the first electoral test for Morena as a governing party. But the US press coverage of México’s 2021 elections has essentially ignored the huge differences between the two Mexican electoral coalitions and concentrated more on the murders of local-level candidates where drug cartels hold sway. It still leads if it bleeds. 


The less grisly US coverage has, almost universally, taken an “even-handed” approach that’s papered over the election’s high stakes. “On the one hand,” the coverage goes, AMLO has done this good thing, while “on the other hand” he’s made this mistake. This bogus “even-handedness,” this unconscious neocolonialism, seems to infect both the right and the left, with US “experts” breezily passing judgment on AMLO and Morena and thinking we have nothing to learn from them — and nothing at stake in their struggle. 

Our task as US progressives: to expand this one-way connection to México into a two-way street. If we can do that, we’ll all get to our destinations a lot faster.


Progressives in México, meanwhile, are working hard to do their part. Did Morena on Sunday repeat its stunning and overwhelming 2018 victory? Not quite. To truly consolidate the party’s progressive agenda, Morena needed to win two-thirds of the seats in the legislative House of Deputies. That two-thirds majority would have enabled Morena to amend the Constitution and make the gains of the last few years irreversible. On Sunday, Morena did win a clear majority of seats, but didn’t reach the two-thirds benchmark.


But Morena activists remain optimistic. The results give Morena progressives the impetus to make needed internal changes to the way the Party operates. In next week’s issue, we’ll have much more analysis on Sunday’s voting.


Bruce Hobson, a México Solidarity Bulletin founder and co-editor, served as an international observer during the June 6 Mexican midterm elections. We interviewed Hobson, here with Martha García Alvarado, the secretary of Mexicans Abroad and International Policy for Morena’s National Executive Committee, on his observer experience just after the voting Sunday.


Some might see international observers as people the US sends to México to ensure fair elections there. Is that the case?


Not at all. Morena, México’s left majority party, invited me to be an international observer for the June 6 election. All political parties in México can invite international observers, who watch for voter intimidation or manipulation. I was invited because of my activism in the México Solidarity Project.


The US has never had much interest in ensuring free elections in México. We need to remember that one party — the PRI — practiced electoral fraud whenever expedient for 70 years. The 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with Morena winning a legislative majority in both houses, represented a sea change in the political life of the country. The Mexican people have always wanted their votes to be truly “libre y secreto” — free and secret — as signs at every polling station in this year’s election proclaimed.

So was fraud avoided?


As usual, there were attempts here and there to influence the vote. The old corrupt practice of buying votes has diminished greatly since the 2018 Morena victory, but the conservative candidate practice of passing out free light bulbs or promising washing machines for votes hasn’t entirely ended. In Nacozari de García, Sonora, people defiantly stopped a PAN municipal candidate from bribing voters with food.


Canada raised fears about the safety of observers at polling places. Your sense of that safety in México City?


I felt no fear anywhere. Security has been people’s number one issue for years. But today you can walk through many neighborhoods of México City and not feel apprehensive. You can see police officers, many of them women, on many city street corners. They’re approachable and friendly rather than threatening or intimidating, and they see their role as maintaining a reassuring presence. And wonderfully, unlike in years before, young gay men and women holding hands or kissing can now stroll, without fear, through the city’s historic center.


A lot of news coverage before the elections focused on the many candidates who’ve been murdered during the campaign season. Who’s been targeted and why?


Principally, because of the rise of the cartels, violence in México still remains very real. During the presidency of PAN’s Felipe Calderón, the government met the violence of the cartels with the firepower of the military. That strategy cost thousands of lives.


The violence during this year’s election season has had less to do with the elections or politics per se and more to do with the internecine struggles between the drug cartels. Drug lords who have worked out deals with local political leaders to protect their “business” don’t want their apple carts upset. So they target the opposition party, whichever party that might be. That’s why the murders have been at the municipal level. Candidates from every party have been killed.


This midterm election has made few headlines in the US and isn’t being reported as anything particularly significant. Do other countries feel the same way?


Many people throughout Latin American and the Caribbean, especially those organizing for justice in their own countries, consider this year’s election in México as absolutely significant. One invited Chilean panelist at pre- and post-election conferences, Alejando Navarro, captured that sense well. He called a victory for Morena “a blow against neoliberalism and fascism” that “strengthens Latin American unity against the intervention of foreign powers, especially the US.” Several other internationals echoed that same sentiment at the conferences I attended.


Your biggest takeaways?


As the hemisphere’s second-largest city, Mexico City has a population of 12 million people, about 20 percent of the country’s population. Over 20,000 candidates from all 32 states ran for election at the federal, state, and municipal levels, an incredible statistic when you think about it. So it struck me profoundly how well the National Electoral Institute structures the electoral process to make it possible for people to vote everywhere.


On the day of the election, I visited polling stations in a few of the city’s largest delegaciones, sub-municipalities. I saw polling stations on virtually every city block. Most older and disabled citizens had only short distances to go from their homes to the election stations. When lines became long, new stations were set up.


The contrast with the US, where voter suppression against communities of color has become absolutely central to Republican Party strategy, could hardly be more striking. The Mexican government actually makes it easy to vote. To make voting convenient for working people, the balloting took place on a Sunday, from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mexico’s 2018 presidential election had the largest turnout in history, and the June 6 election had one even larger.


I also felt, as I spent time with other international observers, a strong sense of Latin American solidarity. I had as my goal, representing the México Solidarity Project, to show that activists from the US can also join that fellowship of comrades whose countries may not yet be ready for a “4th transformation,” as in Mexico, but who all want to see transformation for our countries and our world.


John Ackerman, one of México’s leading public intellectuals, writes biweekly columns for both La Jornada and Proceso. A professor at the Institute for Legal Research at the National Autonomous University of México (UNAM), Ackerman has published numerous books and scholarly articles in English, Spanish, and French on the Mexican political system. We’ve excerpted this analysis from the original Spanish, entitled “Enterrar al neoliberalismo en las urnas,” that appeared in the La Jornada May 31 issue. We also have a full English translation.


Bury Neoliberalism in the Ballot Box

The renewed attack of the international financial press against Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s government on the eve of the elections on Sunday June 6 is a reminder that the present government is one of the main opponents to the global political hegemony of the transnational companies and financial capital.


Neoliberalism is not only the imposition of a package of “pro-market” economic policies, but a scheme to subordinate the public interest to private interests. Neoliberalism means the loss of democratic processes and of national sovereignty, by leaving public policy in the hands of technocrats who serve private banking and corporate interests. Neoliberalism also promotes individualism, competition, consumerism, machismo, racism, and treachery. The neoliberal cultural project seeds fear and social division in to destroy communitarian bonds and democratic traditions, the medium for critical consciousness and popular resistance.


In 2018 the Mexican people rose up against the neoliberal hydra with an overwhelming vote in favor of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. With this historic act, 30 million people defeated the monster of false democracy, authoritarian neoliberalism, and neocolonial submission that characterized the government for so many decades... A vote for Morena is a vote against the neoliberal system. It’s placing a bet for a truly inclusive, plural, and democratic future.


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


John Ackerman, Avanza Morena, La Jornada. El avance de la Cuarta Transformación en el norte del país es particularmente llamativo. La izquierda ha sido históricamente débil en los estados fronterizos.


AMLO: No perdimos la mayoría, es propaganda de los conservadores, Polemón. El tabasqueño dijo en su rueda de prensa que la “mayoría calificada” legalmente no existe y los medios de comunicación han manejado el término en forma dolosa, para difundir una aparente derrota de su administración en los comicios electorales.


A False Messiah? The Empire Strikes Back at AMLO, Resumen. The June 6 midterm elections in an imperial historical context. (Spanish-language original.)


Ebrard: ¿Qué diría EU si México financiara ONG para derrotar a Biden? Polemón. Si México financiara en Estados Unidos a una organización no gubernamental cuyo propósito fuese derrotar al Gobierno del Presidente Biden, ¿qué creen que nos diría el Gobierno de EU?


‘Unethical liars:’ AMLO replies to hard-hitting editorial in British newspaper, México News Daily. The Mexican president deems critique by the Economist as “very propagandistic.”


In Mexico, campaigners fear attacks that have killed 34, KSAT. Some 34 formal or would-be candidates who already have been killed in the run-up to Mexico’s June 6 midterm elections. Experts say drug cartels often attack innocent candidates to force them out of races and leave the way clear for cartel favorites.


Ryan Devereaux, Biden’s Border Agenda Collides With the Realities of Mexico’s Violence, Intercept. In regions wracked by the drug war, the US and Mexico remain hooked on militarization.


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!


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