Unanimously, the electoral tribunal of the Federal Judicial Power, the TRIFE for short, decided to reject the demand of López Obrador’s coalition to recount the votes, one by one, polling place by polling place. Using the petty, casuistic, legalistic argument, that the coalition failed to prove the existence of irregularities but in half the districts and, in them, only in about 11,800 polling places (out of about 134,500), the TRIFE rejected the full recount.
While the TRIFE ruling is not surprising to those who know a little of the history of the Mexico’s judiciary, it is a big let down to — among many others — the working poor (about half of Mexico’s population), a significant portion of whom decided to pursue an improvement in their social condition within the parameters set by López Obrador, namely, first, the ballot and, now, the defense of the ballot by means of pacific, non-violent civil disobedience.
As a reminder of the volcanic forces stirring up in Mexico’s social subsoil, we could allude to the conflict in Oaxaca, where the teachers were engaged in a protracted battle for better wages and a larger education budget with an increasingly repressive state government backed up by the federal government. Or we could mention that, in southeastern Mexico, in Chiapas, over 12 years ago, a group of Indians abandoned any hope that the civic, peaceful ways to address their social disadvantage would do them justice. Organized in the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, they launched an armed insurrection.
While their armed struggle was suspended, their demands have not been met nor have they abandoned their arms or militancy. The PAN, with Vicente Fox, promised to solve the conflict in Chiapas in 15 minutes, but that turned out to be one among the many promises the PAN and Fox did not keep.
While the rich and the middle class in Mexico would like for the working poor to disappear from the political stage and only show up to do the menial work that keeps things running, they are not going to disappear. In fact, without a change in economic policy along the lines laid out by López Obrador, it is very hard to imagine a serious reversal in the trend towards more inequality and social injustice in Mexico. Therefore, the conditions that generate social discontent in Mexico will persist and, most likely, even grow. This at a time when the U.S. economy may get into a rough spot and the demagogues in U.S. Congress may make it harder for Mexican workers to migrate.
The TRIFE has proved to be blind and deaf to the plight of the working poor. With legal technicalities, it has provided cover to the fraud. In a previous blog note, I expressed concern that the TRIFE might be unable or may not want to join the dots: the irregularities shown by López Obrador’s coalition was a sample that justified opening all the electoral packages — like the tip of an iceberg. The main argument could not be technical. In Mexico’s context, the victims of electoral fraud, López Obrador and (more importantly) those who supported him with their votes, had to be treated like the victims of a political rape. The TRIFE couldn’t place on them the whole burden of the proof. The argument had to be political and just plain common sense in nature:
Given Mexico’s recent and remote history, a history of fraud and political deceit, and given the close distance between the main candidates in the official questioned IFE count (0.5% difference), a “small number” of irregularities — either in the districts and polling places spotted by the Coalición por el Bien de Todos or in other places where things appeared okay — should have been sufficient to cast a shadow of suspicion over the entire process. It was incumbent upon this high court to clean the election in the eyes of the public.
The way millions of Mexicans will read the TRIFE decision is as follows: the political establishment — its political institutions and its de-facto powers (elite business groups, the media, the Catholic church, etc. with an enormous influence in Mexico’s politics and state policies) — has spoken through the TRIFE. Instead of persuading the public that the election was clean, instead of gaining the confidence and credibility of the public, they have stated clearly that they don’t care for public confidence or credibility.
They will not admit a recount (they must know something!) and rather impose their candidate. They are willing to pay the price of having an illegitimate president: public discredit and, very likely, public unrest. And since the people in the movement for democracy are not going to give up their struggle to have their collective will respected, the state will have to resort to force. That is the message. The TRIFE, its magistrates, want to be remembered as enablers of a spurious and repressive president.
The people who are defending democracy in Mexico City’s streets have yet to speak. This evening, the Permanent Assembly in El Zócalo will convene and reach a decision about an appropriate response to the TRIFE’s validation of the electoral fraud. I have heard that the participation in the encampments is in the way up, there is more enthusiasm and determination that in the first few days — and there is more organization. It is very likely that they will ratchet up their methods of struggle. I can only wish them the best in the struggle ahead. (Note to the pundits: It’s not López Obrador who is driving these tactical decisions. He is only listening well to what his main constituency, the working poor, “los de abajo” are saying.)
From this blog, if I may, I insist on the need for the movement to remain united and grow from where it is. People should speak their mind about the right way to conduct the movement, its stragegy and methods. There must be respect for differences in perspective. But there must also be unity in action. Unity, unity, unity! It will be a long struggle, but it is “por el bien de todos” (for everyone’s good).