THE opposition Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD) has launched a campaign of ‘civil resistance’, after more than one million Mexicans rallied on Sunday to denounce ballot rigging in Mexico’s presidential election.
Millions of supporters of PRD candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador are demanding a vote-by-vote recount, after it was announced that Obrador had lost the election by 0.6 per cent to his right-wing rival Felipe Calderon.
The Harvard-educated Calderon, a former energy minister, was the candidate of the ruling National Action Party (PAN).
Obrador headed Sunday’s massive march in Mexico City to demand a recount of the July 2 poll.
People from across the country travelled to the capital to take part in the protest which ended in the Zocalo, Mexico City’s vast central square.
The crowds were in a determined mood, with bands playing, firecrackers ripping through the sky, and parents singing and dancing with their children, waving yellow PRD flags.
‘Stop this lie!’, ‘Stop this fraud!’, ‘Respect our vote!’ they demanded, with cries of of ‘Down with Calderon! – We want Obrador!’
Angry workers at the protest described the right-wing government as ‘liars’ and ‘thieves’ and denounced the privatisation programme of the PAN.
‘All their families and all their people, they have broken our nation. They have stolen everything they can,’ said one worker.
Many people carried banners and placards with similar statements, such as ‘No to the nasty fraud’.
Obrador has asked the Federal Electoral Tribunal to order a full recount of ballots, saying that there were huge irregularities in the original count and a later recount of tally sheets.
He said there were nearly a million and a half votes that were not accounted for.
He has also cited government support for Calderon, unfair financial backing and unfair intervention on his rival’s behalf by business and church groups.
By law, no president-elect can be declared until the appeals process is completed.
The tribunal has until September 6 to certify a winner.
Obrador said the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE), headed by Luis Carlos Ugalde, had no right to declare Calderon the winner of the election.
The authorities claimed that Calderon had won by a margin of around 244,000, with 41 million votes cast.
But opponents said the vote had been rigged.
PRD supporters said there were voting irregularities in at least 50,000 of Mexico’s 130,496 voting stations.
They charged the right-wing with organising a dirty campaign and submitted dozens of boxes containing videos, campaign propaganda and other evidence to back up their case.
Meanwhile, Calderon is going ahead and assembling a ‘transition team’ and preparing to take office on December 1, with the right wing saying that there is no legal basis for a recount.
Obrador asked his supporters to meet again on July 30 in the Zocalo and said the rallies would continue until there is a complete recount.
He said the stain of a fraudulent election cannot be erased nor counted with all the water in the oceans.
Mexico did not deserve a spurious president with no moral or political authority, he added.
‘As of today, we will work out the plan and what I can say is that the first civil resistance actions will begin this week,’ Obrador told a left-wing radio station.
Manuel Camacho Solis, a main political adviser to the PRD leader, said: ‘The protests are going to increase in the next two weeks all over the country.’
As a local politician in his home state of Tabasco in the 1990s, Obrador blocked oil wells and encouraged tens of thousands of people not to pay energy bills in protest at ballot-rigging.
Last year, as Mexico City mayor, he led huge street protests that eventually forced President Vicente Fox’s administration to drop a legal case that would have kept him out of the presidential race.
Mexican workers have been on a collision course with the right-wing government, with a series of violent confrontations with the authorities this year in which groups of striking workers have been brutally attacked and even killed.
Workers and peasants came from mountain towns and sprawling industrial cities to take part in the latest mass protest over the election result.
They gathered outside each of the country’s 300 electoral district offices, before heading to the capital.
In Tabasco, Obrador supporters wearing yellow and carrying placards that read ‘Vote by vote! No to electoral fraud!’ began a 60-mile march to Veracruz, where they boarded buses for the rest of the 373-mile journey to Mexico City.
Some chanted ‘Obrador, our friend, the people are with you!’ as they walked along the highway.
In the coastal states of Veracruz and Guerrero, Obrador supporters demonstrated outside electoral offices and then joined caravans heading to Mexico City.
‘There is no problem of ungovernability right now, but as more time passes, there will be,’ Manuel Camacho Solis warned.
In his election campaign, Obrador promised to govern for the poor and forgotten, with plans for government welfare programmes and public works projects.
Mexico has been gripped by bitter class struggles resulting from the government’s privatisation and ‘economic reform’ programme.
On February 19, there was a huge explosion at the Pasta de Conchos coal mine, killing 65 miners. Forty of the dead miners were contract workers, with no union or safety committee.
Workers made allegations to their union that they were required to carry out welding whilst high concentrations of explosive methane gas filled the shafts, in the days before the accident.
Then in April, the huge Sicartsa steel mill in Michoacan was occupied.
The workers stopped work, accusing the government of trying to take over their union.
Local police made an unsuccessful attempt to evict them on April 20, shooting and killing two and wounding and injuring 41 others.
Miners belonging to the same union in Sonora shut down Grupo Mexico’s two copper mines, making the same protest.
In Oaxaca, teachers went on strike for higher salaries and an end to alleged human rights’ violations.
On June 14, helicopters bombarded teachers occupying the city’s central square with tear gas. Police beat scores of them.
Three days before the Oaxaca battle, the authorities had apparently promised business leaders that the ‘mano dura’ (heavy hand) would be used to put down protest.
The Mexican trade unions have warned that these big business interests are out to ‘exterminate’ them and completely dump Mexico’s long-standing ‘social contract’.
This was supposed to prohibit strikebreaking and give workers the right to health care and housing, job security, strictly limit working hours and provide severance pay for laid-off workers.
But when the Sicartsa mill was sold off, the unions say that half the workforce were put on temporary contracts and lost their labour rights.
Mexicans headed for the polls in the middle of this turmoil, with Obrador pledging in his campaign that ‘there will be no intervention in the life of the unions.’