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Morena on the March: History in the Making

from the Dec. 7, 2022 Bulletin

AMLO governance INE reforms Morena Marcha 2022

The México City-based writer and photogapher José Luis Granados Ceja, a former teleSUR staff writer, currently works on a freelance basis. Ceja’s journalism focuses on contemporary political issues, particularly those that involve grassroots efforts to affect social change in México and throughout Latin America. His regular efforts include a monthly column here in the México Solidarity Bulletin. Earlier this fall, one of his columns focused on how right-wing journalists are influencing US public opinion about AMLO.

 

Oh my! You attended the Morena march on Sunday, November 27. Tell us about it!

 

November 27 will go down as a historic day. México the day after the march would not be the same as México the day before. Throngs of people came from every state of México, and Mexicanos came from the United States as well, all together some 1.2 million strong.

This march had no specific event to celebrate, no impending election to influence. This march didn’t protest any specific policy. The marchers were simply showing their enthusiasm for the reforms that have improved their lives since Morena took the reins of government. They were giving their president, AMLO, an outpouring of love. I found the mood all day jubilant, the enthusiasm palpable.

 

The people filling the streets treated AMLO almost like a rock star. They came eager to get a glimpse of him. They hoped to be close enough to shake his hand. To meet as many people as possible, AMLO walked the entire 2.5 miles from México City ’s Angel of Independence monument to the Zócalo, a six-hour walk in the blazing sun, with no military or police presence. 

 

“The people,” AMLO has always said, “will protect me.” And indeed the entire event went peacefully. As a leading local official put it: “Not even one plate was broken.” 

Just two weeks earlier, between 80,000 and 160,000 critics of AMLO marched to protest his plan to reform the National Electoral Institute, the INE, the federal agency that oversees elections. They called his reforms a blow to democracy.

 

That protest’s real purpose amounted to an attempt to unite an opposition bloc to Morena in advance of the 2024 election. 

Photo: José Luis Granados Ceja

Claudio X Gonzalez, the son of a business magnate, organized the protest, and he had in the crowd a who’s who of the right-wing PAN party, people like former Mexican President Vicente Fox and Margarita Zavala, the wife of former President Felipe Calderon.

 

Opposition leaders appear convinced that the 2018 election that put AMLO in office represented just a “hiccup” in Mexican political history. They want to return to business as usual. They filled their demonstration with vitriol, hate, and racism. They threw insults at AMLO, calling him “indigenous” and “low-class” — words some of us might see as positives! The ugly mood of that rally could not be more different from the festive, joyful energy of the Morena rally.

But do you see any validity to the desire to preserve the INE as is? What reforms is AMLO proposing? 

The INE has organized elections, its job. But AMLO is taking aim at the financial privileges of the members of the INE General Council, people paid out of public resources as much as $418 a day US, 49 times more than the Mexican minimum wage and twice as much as México’s president! Besides a salary, they each get their own expense account.

Photo: Luis Castillo

AMLO has pledged “republican austerity.” The word “austerity” makes us think of neoliberal policies that cut public benefits and impoverish the poor. This AMLO “austerity” does the opposite. It puts the bloated bureaucracy on a diet and cuts benefits for those at the top. As AMLO has said, “You can’t have a rich government and a poor population.”

 

The need to cut the bloat also explains why AMLO is proposing to trim 200 diputados not directly elected from any particular geographic district from the lower house. These diputados, chosen from party lists, have no accountability to any constituents. They are only accountable to their party. Cutting these positions would make Congress more democratic and also mean big savings. That makes this proposal very popular with Mexicans.

AMLO’s final financial reform would cut public subsidies to political parties. They get monthly payments for their everyday expenses, coming to $550 million in US dollars a year.

 

AMLO wants only to pay for party expenses during elections. 

The increases in the Mexican minimum wage over AMLO’s term of office

So the reforms go far beyond the reforms particular to INE, the only reforms the opposition rally mentioned. But México’s working people correctly see all the proposed reforms as ways to strengthen democracy. 

 

In spite of this huge show of popular support, political observers don’t expect AMLO’s reform proposals to pass. Why?

 

Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote in Congress, and Morena does not have the numbers. But Claudio X and his buddies, all euphoric in public after their protest, have been privately worried. Their oppositional coalition of PAN, PRI, and the PRD remains precarious. AMLO has been able to peel away some PRI and PRD votes in the past, and, given what happened with the big Morena march, some of the opposition may be nervous about being too oppositional. 

 

How does the US media coverage of the pro-Morena march compare to the coverage of the pro-elite rally? 

The sparse US media coverage painted the PAN protest as a huge slap in the face to AMLO and his policies. That coverage served as an echo chamber for the accusation that AMLO rules as an anti-democratic demagogue, someone as bad or worse than previous PRI presidents. 

 

Media stories, for example, repeated the false claim that people were bribed and then bused to the rally. Marchers humorously refuted that charge. One sign read: “No vine por mi torta, vine por mis huevos!” Rough translation: “I didn’t come because of a sandwich, I came because I have balls.”

 

The huge Morena march should put to bed any doubts about what the masses of México’s working people think of their president.

Photo: Daniel McCool

What do we in the US left need to know? 

 

This is how history happens! It’s too early to call the Morena march a “watershed” moment, although I hope that will turn out to be true! The social movements and the left in and out of Morena have just criticisms of AMLO and this government. Sometimes, for example, his republican austerity cuts go too far, But Sunday’s march could tip the balance of forces to the left. It’s now up to us to take the next steps. 

 

AMLO is not a socialist, but what he is now calling “Mexican humanism” moves us closer to a socialist path. I’d suggest that the US left pay a lot of attention to what’s going on in México. Right under your noses, the beginnings of a socialist endeavor are stirring.

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