Mexican migrants living in the United States radically changed the way they voted and contributed to the triumph of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will be the next president of Mexico. Central Coast residents are waiting for things to change for the better in both countries.
This was the third time that Mexican migrants living abroad were able to vote by mail in their country’s presidential election. During the two previous elections, the majority of migrants who voted supported the right-wing National Action Party. In 2006, 58 percent voted for Felipe Calderón and in 2012, 42 percent voted for Josefina Vásquez Mota. This year, 64 percent voted for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, a centrist candidate.
López Obrador, a charismatic character, built his triumph on the basis of an electoral campaign of almost 12 years, during which time the neoliberal policies of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto exacerbated the dispossession of popular classes for the benefit of the big national and foreign businesses, giving rise to what Telésforo Nava, in his article published here, calls the popular encabronamiento, or anger. López Obrador generated high expectations in his election campaign, but the messages he has given after his triumph are confusing.
One of his first actions was to invite a sinister character to join his security team. Manuel Mondragón y Kalb was involved in the repression of young people protesting the electoral fraud committed by the government for the benefit of the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, Enrique Peña Nieto, who organized a massive purchase of votes that supposedly gave him the victory. These young people demanded the government recognize López Obrador’s triumph in 2012, but Mondragón y Kalb was the head of the federal police when he ordered them to be repressed. University professor Francisco Kuykendall was seriously injured by the police and he died later. Nearly a hundred young people were beaten, tortured and detained without charge; their defense was long and costly.
Citizens immediately protested using the “blessed” social networks (as AMLO calls them) under the hashtag “Mondragon isn’t change.” The cyberprotest prompted López Obrador to deny that Mondragón would join his cabinet. That did not happen with Manuel Bartlett, appointed to lead the Federal Electricity Commission. The president-elect held firm despite the protests. Bartlett, a former member of the PRI, was the mastermind of the electoral fraud that snatched the triumph from Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in 1988 when the system allegedly and infamously “fell.” Back then, Bartlett was rewarded by President Carlos Salinas with a cabinet position as Secretary of Public Education.
AMLO’s ambiguous statements about the construction of a new airport in Mexico City and his refusal to back off the energy reform that allows U.S. oil companies to profit from Mexican oil have also been questioned. The most recent scandal is the claim that his government will issue guidelines to be followed by citizens through a “moral Constitution.”
Aware of the Mexican government’s record of electoral fraud, López Obrador’s triumph has been welcomed in the world. In a rare diplomatic move, U.S. President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter: “I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit Mexico and the United States!” However, the initial positive relationship lasted little more than two months, when Trump repeated on Twitter the message that “Mexico must pay for the border wall,” to which Marcelo Ebrard, future foreign relations secretary, replied that U.S. government officials “can take the decisions they deem appropriate (regarding the construction of the wall), but Mexico will never accept any type of participation, not in its payment or its policy. That will be permanent. “
Latin American presidents expressed the desire that Mexico prioritize relations with countries south of the continent. “We are sure that your government will write a new page in the history of Latin American dignity and sovereignty,” wrote Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, on his Twitter account. Ebrard said that 111 heads of state have been invited to López Obrador’s inauguration on December 1 among them Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Donald Trump and Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China.
Internally, one of the political groups most affected by the policies of previous regimes, indigenous Mexicans grouped in the National Indigenous Council, will be the most cautious when facing the new government. “We do not expect anything from López Obrador, our proposal lies in organizing from below, among the peoples and communities,” said Maria de Jesus Patricio, spokesperson for the National Indigenous Congress. “Our fight is against capitalism.”
In a series of press releases, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, a member of the Indigenous Congress, compared capitalism to a farm and presidents to their foremen. “They will be able to change the foreman, the mayordomos and caporales, but the landowner remains the same.” The EZLN indicated that until now there is no indication that the López Obrador government will be a progressive government, “None,” one of the press releases said. “All the effort that López Obrador and his team have made is to ingratiate themselves with the great capital.”
Ramiro Medrano, a Watsonville resident, agrees with the Zapatista vision. “López Obrador is not a socialist,” he said. “He’s not going to make big changes, but I’m hopeful that the changes he makes, even if small, are positive.” Medrano defines himself as a Chicano concerned about what happens in Mexico, the country of his parents. He did not vote in the Mexican elections, but he says that if he had been able to vote he would do it for López Obrador. “He was the least bad,” he said.
Asked if he believes López Obrador will defend the interests of Mexicans abroad, he emphatically replies, “More than Peña Nieto, yes.”
Martha García, national representative of the Morena party, explains López Obrador’s plans for migrants. “First of all, there are human rights. Mr. Obrador knows that Donald Trump’s government violates the rights of migrants.” Originally from Mexico City, she immigrated to California 30 years ago for lack of educational and work opportunities in Mexico. She lives near Los Angeles. “He said it in Placita Olvera when he came a year ago, he wants to convert the consulates into advocacy agencies, for migrant to have a legal defense, I hope that will be at no cost,” she said.
Garcia says he has thought about returning to Mexico, “Many of us want to die there,” he confesses. “But if not, migrants also have power here, within the monster that attacks Latin America.”
This leads García to explain the second important point in López Obrador’s agenda for migrants: an orderly migration. “He proposes that migrants return of their own free will, supported by economic programs in their countries,” she said. “All this directed for an immigration reform.”
In Monterey County, Lopez Obrador’s triumph was greeted with joy and hope. “It gave me great pleasure to see him win,” says Ramiro Martinez, resident of Salinas and the city’s founder of the Morena committee. “I have been supporting AMLO for a long time, as a person, not as a leader of a political party.”
Martinez, 38, from the state of Hidalgo, organized a group of friends and family members in California to vote for López Obrador and encouraged family members in Mexico to do the same. “There must be a change (in Mexico), we must build a country without corruption,” he said.
To the question of what his committee is going to do now that his candidate won, he replies, “we must work together with him, we as citizens, we must think differently. We are no longer opposition,” Garcia says. “We are government. As militants, our mission now is to defend and support, not defame.”
García says that those who criticize López Obrador do not understand his strategy. “He will govern for all of Mexico but he will be unforgiving with those who make mistakes.”
Andrés Manuel López Obrador will be sworn in as president of Mexico on Dec. 1. Expectations for his government are very high and Mexican citizens want to contribute to a real change. Actor Diego Luna launched the campaign “The day after” which was intended to fight for a platform of 12 points, beginning on July 2, to “adapt to a new reality and reconcile our differences.” Unfortunately, we have not heard about this initiative again.
In the third part of its communiqué, the EZLN proposes that the National Indigenous Council incorporate “rural and urban workers and disposable workers who have their own history and struggle, that is, identity,” and to create a global organization called Resistance and Rebellion Network to incorporate “all those who rebel and resist in all corners of the world.”
Adolfo Gilly encourages citizens to write letters to the new president telling their history, their struggles and sorrows, to somehow keep alive a memorial of grievances that must be addressed.
What is certain is that having a centrist government opens the possibility of escalating the struggle for social justice successes. And the country demands it — the neoliberal governments left Mexico a huge cemetery. The pain of mothers and fathers looking for their missing children should be a factor of unity among Mexicans. The initiatives mentioned above point to this, and just like all roads lead to Rome, all initiatives must lead to agreements.
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