Black Thursday 2005: A Coup d'Etat Begins Today in Mexico

In the hills outside of Mexico City, the temperature rose above 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Wednesday, heating the political pressure-cooker that, today, Thursday, April 7, may boil over beyond the city limits of the capital and even the national borders.

The world may learn today that the work of the Mexican revolution is unfinished. Eighty-six years ago this week Mexican revolutionary General Emiliano Zapata was assassinated in a State-plotted ambush, on April 10, 1919. Eleven years ago, also at this springtime of year, leading presidential candidate Luis Donaldo Colosio was assassinated on the campaign trail, in Tijuana: on March 23, 1994. What President Vicente Fox, together with his former adversaries of the once-monolithic PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party, which ruled Mexico for seven decades prior to Fox’s 2000 electoral victory), are attempting today is nothing less than a pre-emptive coup d’etat: a political assassination, dressed up in legal technicalities no more serious than a parking ticket, to remove Mexico’s leading presidential candidate from the 2006 contest.

At 9:30 a.m. (Central Time Zone) Mexico City Governor Andrés Manuel López Obrador will address a multitude in the Zocalo, the village square of this country of 100 million Mexicans, a crowd that as of 7:30 this morning included at least a million of them... From there he will go to the hall of the national Congress, in the neighborhood known as San Lázaro, and address the legislators, who will then debate and vote on whether to strip him of his political rights to run for president based on the thinnest of technicalities.

The rest of the country, awakening under this punishing heat wave, will watch the speech on television. Mexico’s mass media, which for a week has been a gaggle of “all Pope all the time” networks, last night pushed the death of Pope John Paul II – a pope that visibly loved Mexico and came here repeatedly - aside: John Paul is big news but today it is Andrés Manuel and his crucifixion at the hands of Pontius Fox and and the high priests of the PRI that spike the ratings, like the thermometer, into the red zone.

Unable to play and win by the rules of democracy – a word that supposedly means that the people decide their destiny – Fox and the PRI (urged on from Washington from the very day that Condoleeza Rice, in January, took the helm of the State Department) are likely to win a battle today – a vote in Congress – to declare López Obrador guilty until proven innocent and rob from the Mexican people the right to vote for him – he now towers 20 points, at 44-percent in the polls, over his nearest rivals – to be their president next year.

And that – as a 12-percent crash in recent days of the Mexican stock market presages – will set in motion a political war dance with steps already planned by Mexico City’s activist (and strategist) governor. López Obrador is ready to go to jail and lead the fight from there. And much of Mexico is declaring its will to, if need be, join him behind bars by launching what would be the country’s first-ever campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience.

López Obrador and Luther King

Mexico has never experienced such a phenomenon. All revolts here have historically been at the point of a rifle and a machete sword. But as Mexican journalist Carlos Ramírez – a staunch opponent of López Obrador – reported today, you can see in the words and phrases used in recent days by the Mexico City governor that he has been reading the rev. Martin Luther King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Likewise penned in the month of April (of 1963), King’s immortal essay is now the action manual for what will shake the rafters of history if Congress proceeds as expected today in what Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos (the 800-pound guerrilla looming over all these proceedings) has termed “a soft coup d’etat.”

Ramírez notes, with the alarm that clear-thinking opponents of López Obrador ought to have today if they can see the anti-democracy boomerang that they have thrown now hurtling back at them, that the civil rights leader King wrote from his prison cell:

“In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action.”

Ramírez notes:

“López Obrador’s struggle of peaceful and direct civil resistance is the same that Luther King defined. In his speech after learning of the (congressional committee vote to proceed against him), López Obrador announced: ‘This is only beginning. Now, with more reason, we must conduct a radical renovation, a true purification of public life.’”

In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” King wrote:

“As in so many past experiences, our hopes bad been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we decided to undertake a process of self-purification. We began a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?" "Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season….

“Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

“The purpose of our direct-action program is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation….”

As Ramírez (again, it is significant to note, these are the words of the leading journalistic critic of López Obrador) notes:

“López Obrador has magnified the desafuero to become a crisis that obligates the government and the judicial branch to submit to the rebel’s will… Luther King put forward a thesis on the capacity for the citizen to respect the laws or not in the function of dialectic definitions of just and unjust, exactly what López Obrador has done… López Obrador has assumed the role of qualifier of just and unjust laws: the law that provides for his desafuero is unjust and therefore should not be enforced… For López Obrador, the desafuero is unjust, and he asks to go to jail and affirms that, too, is a form of excersizing the law.”

Martin Luther King’s 1963 letter from jail was directed in part to “the moderate whites” who were sympathetic with civil rights but uncomfortable with nonviolent direct action. Today’s “moderate whites” in Mexico are the members of the upper middle class for whom Ramírez speaks. They want “democracy” without tension or unrest. But they cannot have one without the other, not if their “democracy” includes foul play like today’s likely coup d’etat disguised as a legal maneuver.

If Congress proceeds today with an act as barbaric and dictatorial as removing the top presidential candidate from the race because his city government built an access road to a hospital and with the pretext that the eminent domain proceedings on a small piece of land have been disputed, then 86 years of dormant tension from the date of Zapata’s assassination and the corresponding noncompliance with the Mexican revolution of 1910 will come roaring to the surface of the national body politic. Just as civil rights in the United States took a century from the abolition of slavery to come of age, the end of Mexican dictatorship continues to be an equally long struggle. And even his opponents will have to thank López Obrador for leading an uprising under the banner – for the first time in Mexican history – of nonviolence.

The Whole World Is Watching

There is little question in this correspondent’s analysis that the pressure on Fox and the PRI to cement their little coup d’etat today comes from above, from the Bush administration in Washington, which has decided it cannot abide another democratic decision by another large Latin American country that would place Mexico with Brazil,  Argentina and Venezuela (among others such as Uruguay) in a Bolivarian bloc of resistance to the imposed policies from the North.

Today, April 7, 2005, is the date that Vicente Fox – if he gets his way in Congress - destroys his own historic legacy as a transitional pro-democracy figure and goes down in history the same kind of authoritarian cretin as presidents Carlos Salinas and Ernesto Zedillo before him.

But while the government of Washington appears hell-bent on ripping democracy from Mexican hands once again, the reaction from Civil Society in the United States is, for the second time in the five-year history of this newspaper (the first being the rejection of the US-backed coup d’etat in Venezuela in 2002),  emerging in opposition to the dirty tricks from inside the beltway.

It is, indeed, front-page news today throughout Mexico that yesterday’s Washington Post, accurately calling the supposed case against the Mexico City governor “trivial,” editorialized against the desafuero of López Obrador:

“FIVE YEARS AFTER Mexico established itself as an electoral democracy, its Congress faces a decision that could undermine that hard-won progress and invite political turmoil. As soon as tomorrow, the Chamber of Deputies will vote on whether to lift the legal immunity of Mexico City's mayor, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist who currently leads the polls for next year's presidential election. If the measure passes, prosecutors plan to criminally charge Mr. Lopez Obrador with contempt of court in a municipal land dispute, a step that could block his presidential candidacy. The short-term winners of this maneuver would be the presidential candidates from the party of the current president, Vicente Fox, and the largest opposition party, which between them control a majority in Congress. But Mr. Lopez Obrador's disqualification would be a disaster for Mexico's political system, and perhaps for its long-term stability.”

The Post concluded:

“If Mr. Lopez Obrador is unable to compete for the presidency, then the landmark achievement of 2000, when Mr. Fox became the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election, will be tainted. Mexico will return to the era when it was ruled by fraud and force; the next president will be discredited at home and abroad. Mexicans clearly value their new democracy: Recent polls show that 80 percent of citizens oppose Mr. Lopez Obrador's disqualification, even though only 37 percent say they would vote for him. Their representatives should listen, and refrain from perpetrating an injustice.”

The Los Angeles Times similarly reported today:

“The possible ouster of a leading contender from the 2006 Mexican presidential race is rattling financial markets here, with investors wary of a full-blown crisis that could derail a promising economic recovery.

"Fear of political turmoil has sent Mexico's stock market tumbling 12% in recent weeks, as Mexico's Congress prepared for a crucial vote today…

"A feisty populist who leads all would-be presidential hopefuls in opinion polls, Lopez Obrador has won admiration of millions of average Mexicans for spending on anti-poverty programs as well as for his criticism of free-market economic policies that have failed to solve Mexico's employment woes…

"'I have rarely been as concerned as I am today regarding the course of political events unfolding in Mexico,' said Morgan Stanley senior Latin American economist Gray Newman in a report this week. He is predicting moderate gross domestic product growth, a weaker peso and a slowdown in foreign investment 'premised on a prolonged bout of political turmoil.'

"…in a nation where murders, drug crimes and massive corruption cases go unpunished, some Mexicans are incensed at what appears to them to be a case of selective enforcement over a relatively minor construction project…

"'There is a huge risk of this whole thing backfiring,' said Alberto Bernal, head of Latin American research for New York-based IDEAglobal. 'You get 500,000 people in the streets in support of Lopez Obrador and that's political noise that the markets don't like.'"

Even the New York Times has taken up the editorial position that Narco News was the first to express in English. In today’s editorial, the Times speaks:

“The campaign for president of Mexico has taken on the air of the bad old days, when the dictatorial PRI, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, loaded elections for its candidates. The top contender, Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico City, is expected to be barred from the 2006 race by a transparently political indictment on charges of ordering the construction of a service road to a hospital after a judge said no. We don't endorse his actions, but Mexico's voters should be allowed to make their choice, not have it made for them.

“…since the powerful can still get away with anything in Mexico, few people believe his opponents' pious claims that they are just trying to uphold the rule of law by indicting him. He may not be the right man for the presidency, but that issue should be for Mexico's electorate to decide.”

The Times, interestingly, insisted in its editorial that López Obrador “is no Martin Luther King.” In Timespeak, as educated consumers of the newspaper have learned to read between the lines, the insistence that he is not means that he frightens them precisely because he is. After all, to the elites whose spokespaper is the Times, not even Martin Luther King was Martin Luther King... until he was dead.

At very least, today, in the halls of the Mexican Congress, Andrés Manuel López Obrador is likely to be turned into an MLK-like historical figure, with millions – including some Authentic Journalists known to readers of this newspaper - ready to follow him into jail, or even into the beyond, in a pro-democracy crusade that will thunder through our América and the world more powerfully than the earthquake of 1985 from the metropolis built over La Gran Tenochtitlan of the Aztec civilization.

Stay tuned to The Narcosphere all day for reports of the immediate history underway from the Mexico City Zocalo (as of 7:30 this morning the gigantic plaza and surrounding streets were already full, meaning there are at least a million early comers to today’s demonstration against the desafuero) to the halls of San Lázaro, where the Fox administration, barring an 11th hour change in tactics by his new-found allies in the PRI, will condemn Mexican democracy to death by crucifixion.

It’s April in Mexico. An uncompleted revolution has slept for 86 years. The ghosts of Emiliano Zapata and his white horse still ride through these hills. And the cynical men in power have no idea what they are about to awaken on this Black Thursday of 2005.

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About Al Giordano


Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.