Mexican AG Resigns as Fox Backs Down from Electoral Coup

This hemisphere’s political class received a strong message this month: make a promise to break from old – to turn your country in a new direction, to govern for the people instead of the corrupt elite – and you’d better keep it.

When Lucio Gutiérrez stood for president in 2002, he promised such a change, a new path for Ecuador to end the country’s subservience to U.S. economic and military policies and take power out of the hands of the domestic oligarchy. But Gutiérrez instead deepened the country’s neoliberal economic program and cozied up to the Bush administration, counting on the hope that his constituents and allies would keep their mouths shut out of loyalty. It’s an old trick used often in Latin American history. But the Ecuadorian people didn’t turn a blind eye this time, and the president was forced to flee as the people rose up and filled the streets of the capital.

As many readers have probably already seen, Mexican President Vicente Fox suddenly backed down this week from the “desafuero,” his crusade to haul popular Mexico City governor Andres Manuel López Obrador into court and therefore bar him from running for president next year. He too, like Gutiérrez, thought the people had become passive after they voted him into office, but a million protesters outside his office on Sunday proved him wrong... Just over three years since a military coup was foiled by the people in Venezuela, a pre-electoral coup has been blocked by the masses in Mexico. On Wednesday night, Fox announced on live TV that Rafael Macedo, the attorney general that he appointed upon becoming president (at Washington’s behest) and who had led the legal process against López Obrador, had “resigned.” He further announced that:

“The Justice Department (procuraduría) will exhaustively review the process against the Mexico City head of government, looking to best preserve the political harmony of the country within the framework of the law.

“As president, one of my greatest concerns has been to broaden the political rights of the citizens, and adapt our legislation to international law.”

Fox has now lost what remained of his credibility. He was voted into office riding on promises to end the impunity and corruption that had characterized the 70-year rule of the PRI, opening up and democratizing the country. As the years went by, Mexicans began to realize that in many areas Fox was as bad or worse than his PRI predecessors. Presidential corruption scandals continued apace. And now, the man who had supposedly broken the ruling party’s grip on politics and opened the system to all, was trying to prevent the most popular presidential hopeful from even running, with the vital help of the PRI itself.

His claim throughout the process had been that the desafuero was necessary to preserve the rule of law that he had ushered in, insuring that “no one is above the law” (Fox and Macedo, of course, had committed the same common, minor offense – ignoring a court order – for which they were stripping López Obrador of his political rights). Now, incredibly, he claims that Macedo’s resignation and the almost-certain abandonment of the charges against López Obrador represent the defense of democracy and the rule of law. Huh?

Anyway, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is understandably freaked out. Without the López Obrador factor, the PRI is the most likely to win the presidency and regain its domination of the federal government. Many Mexicans are completely disillusioned with electoral politics after the experience of Fox. Without an exciting newcomer like López Obrador, they will stay home in 2006, leaving the PRI’s loyal base, cultivated over 70 years of political bullying, to vote in their man.

PRI leader and likely presidential candidate Roberto Madrazo lashed out in a press conference yesterday at Fox’s betrayal of their common cause:

“This is the moment to tell [the president] clearly, firmly, and respectfully, that the country’s domestic politics are in chaos, and unfortunately its external politics as well. Mr. President, dedicate yourself to resolving the country’s problems, think more about Mexico. Stay away from controversy, do not get involved with electoral issues, do not complicate this process as you have already sufficiently complicated national life.”

Trying to save face, Madrazo continued by claiming that there would be “no political cost for the PRI” and that “I have always said that I would like to see the governor on the ballot. The party is prepared for that and I am sure that we will beat him in the elections.” What Madrazo objected to, he said, was the “chaos” and “ungovernability” in which Fox had placed the country.

That “chaos” that Madrazo so fears is the long-overdue expression of the true democratic aspirations of the Mexican people. A oft-heard comment in coverage of the march that pushed Fox into ending his crusade was that many were not marching for López Obrador himself so much as against the ugly politics that the people have so clearly rejected in the past. In this way, though the political context is very different, the marchers had in mind the same feelings as the “forajidos” in Ecuador, and those all over América who have struggled as part of the political changes sweeping Latin America.

The U.S. State Department has still had nothing to say so far about all of this upheaval right next door. While Condoleezza Rice travels around South America to shower praise on Colombia’s Uribe and voice her “concern” over other governments’ moves towards regional integration and independence from foreign domination (more on that later…), all State has to say about Mexico comes in the form of more shrill travel warnings about the threat to U.S. citizens from narcos across the border.


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About Dan Feder

I was a member of the Narco News team in various capacities, from webmaster to Editor-in-Chief, from 2002-2008. Since 2006 I have also been a member of the International Peace Observatory, which performs human rights accompaniment for Colombian campesino organizations in conflict zones. I am now living in Boston and working as a website developer for DigitalAid, Inc.