Democracy Now: Peña Leads Mexico Vote


Democracy Now*

Enrique Peña Nieto

HAVANA TIMES — Mexico’s old ruling party, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), is set to return to power after early election results indicate the PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto has won the presidential election.

Peña Nieto’s chief rival, the leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has not conceded, but the PRI has already claimed victory. López Obrador had received a surge in popularity in the weeks before the vote, thanks in part to a growing national student movement against the PRI’s return.

We go to Mexico City to speak with John Ackerman, editor of the Mexican Law Review and a professor at the National Autonomous University, UNAM, in Mexico.

“Peña Nieto is pretty clearly the candidate who will give continuity [to] [outgoing Mexican President Felipe] Calderón’s drug war strategies and total subservience to the dictates from the U.S. government, in terms of continuing on with this violent drug war, and particularly having Mexico do [its] dirty work,” Ackerman says.  “I don’t know how much longer [the Mexican people] are going to be able to really deal with and have patience for this humanitarian crisis that we’re going through.

And so, the good news is that the students are still in the streets. … López Obrador has received basically the same amount of votes as he did six years ago. Fourteen, 15 million people voted for him. And so, this means that there’s going to be a strong opposition.”

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Mexico, where Mexico’s old ruling party, the PRI, is set to return to power. Early election results indicate the PRI candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto, has won the presidential election, but his chief rival, the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has not conceded. Peña Nieto belongs to the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, the party that ruled Mexico from 1929 to 2000, for more than 70 years. Peña Nieto claimed victory in a speech to supporters last night.

ENRIQUE PEÑA NIETO: [translated] I assume with emotion, I assume with great commitment and full responsibility, the mandate that the Mexicans have given me today. In the past three months, the politicians, the candidates have spoken every day. Today, July 1st, it’s been the citizens who spoke, and they did it with absolute clarity, when they voted for a change with direction. Thank you to all Mexicans.

AMY GOODMAN: The PRD’s candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, came in second. He’s a former Mexico City mayor who lost narrowly in 2006 to President Felipe Calderón. He received a surge in popularity, thanks in part to a growing national student movement against the return of the PRI to power. The movement, known as Yo Soy 132, has been inspired by Occupy Wall Street and the protests in Spain. On Sunday night, López Obrador said it’s too early to concede.

ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: [translated] The information that we have indicates something else to what is being officially said. I do not disqualify what they are making known officially, but, simply, we do not have all the facts. What is lacking is legal scrutiny. We are lacking the legality of electoral process.

AMY GOODMAN: Placing third in the election was Josefina Vázquez Mota of President Calderón’s PAN party. Support for Calderón’s policies have plummeted due to his role in expanding the drug war. Since taking office six years ago, more than 50,000 people have died.

To talk more about the elections, we go to Mexico City via Democracy Now! video stream to John Ackerman, the editor of the Mexican Law Review, a professor at the National Autonomous University, UNAM, in Mexico, also columnist for Proceso magazine as well as La Jornada newspaper.

John Ackerman, welcome to Democracy Now! Start off by talking about the results of the election. Not all the votes have been counted at this point.

JOHN ACKERMAN: Right, Amy. And a pleasure and honor to be with you again.

The election results are not officially in yet. All we have now is a preliminary count, which began last evening and is now around 80 percent done. It will actually be finished today in the afternoon. There was sort of a statistical survey done of some of the ballot boxes and the results, and that’s what led the IFE to announce initial results last night, but that’s just sort of a statistical survey of the results. The preliminary count is not going to be over ’til tonight. And actually, the formal results will not be until end of this week. And those results will then have to go to the electoral tribunal. We have a special supreme court for electoral matters in Mexico, and they are the only ones who can actually—those judges are the only ones who can actually pronounce president-elect. And that will be probably in a few weeks, if not into August.

And so, López Obrador’s attitude here, I think, is extremely cautious. Six years ago, we’ll remember that he suffered what many people thought was open fraud. The elections this time around were not necessarily cleaner than six years ago. There were lots of accusations, hundreds of hundreds of accusations of irregularities, of ballot boxes being stolen, of counts being done wrong, of ballots being filled out outside of the ballot boxes by political operators, in addition to the normal sort of machine politics and pressures on the voters. So, López Obrador is waiting to recognize his defeat. I think this makes sense, given the precedent of the 2006 elections.

The most likely scenario is that the PRI will end up coming back. And this is a powerful message—not necessarily a good one, Amy—but it looks like the PRI may come back to power. Now, Peña Nieto, as we talked about last week, is not exactly a moderate and a reformer. He is from the more old-guard wing of the Party of Institutional Revolution.

AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of international election observers monitored Sunday’s voting process. Paulo Ferreira said the lack of faith in Mexico’s electoral institutions may be rooted in Mexico’s past.

PAULO FERREIRA: [translated] Mexico has surprised me, that for an evolved and advanced country with a common electoral process, the voting mechanics are still tainted following decades of an insecure process from the point of view of confidence and transparency, because there was a manipulation of the vote by the people that took the votes and transported the ballots. This lack of trust in the electoral process has occurred in every country that has favored illegitimate processes and processes that were manipulated.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s a Brazilian election observer, Paulo Ferreira. Your response, John Ackerman?

JOHN ACKERMAN: Yes, well, we have to—we have to wait for a few days to see how all the complaints come in, in terms of what happened yesterday. Yesterday was a very chaotic day, as you can imagine. For instance, this small example there was a citizen-run website which was set up to receive complaints about voting irregularities. That website was under constant attack by hackers from 6:00 in the morning until midnight. Even though that was the case, it still received over 500 different sorts of complaints, many of them actually quite extreme in terms of ballot fraud.

Now, no one is talking about open fraud. Not even López Obrador is saying that the election has been stolen from him. But I think it does make sense that the electoral authorities and citizens to, you know, go carefully over what exactly happened yesterday and see what the final results are.

There’s also lots of accusations in terms of Peña Nieto going over the spending limits. Mexico has very serious controls on spending, and most of the evidence indicates that he has gone over at least two or three times the spending limits. This would not mean that his victory would be taken away from him. Mexican law does not allow that to happen. But this would speak to serious questions in terms of equal competition, in terms of the legality of the process.

AMY GOODMAN: One of the key concerns for many in Mexico is drug-related violence. Journalist José Reveles noted in an interview that none of the main presidential candidates had addressed the issue in their campaigns.

JOSÉ REVELES: [translated] Curiously, in the comments of the candidates, the topic has been almost absent. Everybody speaks a little bit about insecurity, what they will do with the army in the streets, gradually returning them to their barracks, as well as establishing a national police force. But they haven’t proposed any sorts of measures to take down the levels of violence that we are living. It is a human tragedy. It is something that’s already gone too far—an increase of violence, extortion, death, kidnapping and displaced people. We’re talking about 70,000 people dead.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s jounralist José Reveles. Your response, John Ackerman in Mexico City?

JOHN ACKERMAN: Yes, I think José Reveles is right about this. This is really the sad part about this election, if the PRI comes back into power. Peña Nieto is pretty clearly the candidate who will give continuity and continuation with Calderón’s drug war strategies and total subservience to the dictates from the U.S. government, in terms of continuing on with this violent drug war, and particularly having Mexico do the dirty work for this drug war. Peña Nieto has been very clear. I mean, he’s talked about changing strategies, as all the candidates have done so, but it looks pretty clear, especially because of his new appointment of Oscar Naranjo, the ex-police chief with Uribe in Colombia, that he is basically going to continue on the same line. And this would be very dangerous. The Mexican people—I don’t know how much longer they’re going to be able to really deal with and have patience for this humanitarian crisis that we’re going through.

And so, the good news is that the students are still in the streets. They’re still a very important social movement. López Obrador has received basically the same amount of votes as he did six years ago. Fourteen, 15 million people have voted for him. And so, this means that there’s going to be a strong opposition against Peña Nieto, who in the end will probably come in as president with less than 40 percent of the popular vote. This is because there’s three candidates. And so, we’re going to have sort of a real pluralistic politics, which hopefully will be able to keep Peña Nieto in control and be able to bring Mexico back onto the path of institutional development and strengthen its democracy.

AMY GOODMAN: Over the weekend, thousands of students marched against Mexico’s old ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, the PRI, and its popular Enrique Peña Nieto. Students called for, among other things, democratization of the media.

CARLA LEYVA: [translated] This movement represents many things. As students—that is, as members of an association—we make many demands. They are not just student issues, but social issues, such as a democratic media.

AMY GOODMAN: What about this, John Ackerman of Proceso and La Jornada? Talk about the role of the media in the election of, what looks like, Peña Nieto.

JOHN ACKERMAN: Very important, Amy. The students, first of all, continue to protest. Today, Monday, the day after the elections, they have planned a march through downtown Mexico City calling for more democracy and calling for these demands for democratizing the media. This is particularly important today, because Peña Nieto is the candidate of the corporate media. And as we talked about last week, corporate media in Mexico is over the top. Two companies control over 95 percent of the audience, of the channels—one company, almost 80 percent, Televisa. And they are the ones who really fabricated Enrique Peña Nieto’s image and have—are the principal group responsible for his victory, if that turns out to be the case. And so, Peña Nieto, once he becomes president, if that happens, will most likely want to pay back these television companies by giving them even more power once he arrives. And at that moment, it will be absolutely crucial for these students and for Mexican society, in general, to be very vigilant, very participative, to assure that this does not happen and that in fact we actually go in a more progressive, democratic direction in terms of media, because that’s one of the crucial reforms that we need today in Mexico to open up public dialogue and assure more broad-based popular participation in politics.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, John, on Sunday, Mexico’s ruling party presidential candidate—this is the PAN party candidate, Calderón’s party—Josefina Vázquez Mota, said her party must not view the election as a defeat, but a time to reorganize.

JOSEFINA VÁZQUEZ MOTA: [translated] This is not a defeat. This is the beginning of a harder road of greater unity, of reflection and reorganization of the party, for government officials close to the people to recover their convictions of liberty and indisputable service. Have no doubt: despite the difficulties, we are the only and best option—democratic, of the people, and for liberty in our homeland.

AMY GOODMAN: Josefina Mota in her concession speech, again, of the PAN party, of Calderón, the current president’s party. John Ackerman?

JOHN ACKERMAN: Yes, well, this was an interesting concession speech, and it also was immediately followed a few minutes later by President Calderón himself coming out and recognizing the victory of Peña Nieto and the PRI. This was a little bit strange because they moved really quickly, both Calderón and Vázquez Mota, to recognize Peña Nieto’s victory, and this sort of confirms the idea that perhaps all along Calderón has been wanting Peña Nieto to win and that there has been kind of a coalition between the PRI, the old-guard party which may come back now, and the PAN, which is the ruling party, joining together in order to avoid a leftist victory by López Obrador. That was certainly the impression that many of us had yesterday watching these speeches, that in fact, technically, Vázquez Mota is right: the PAN has not really lost. They have just sort of handed over power back to the PRI, and many of their own privileges and their own interests will remain intact.

And so, the division within Mexican society continues between a large group of people supporting López Obrador—the students and social movements—and this de facto coalition between PAN and PRI, who have now passed the power in 2000 to the PAN and now back to the PRI. And so, things kind of seem—are going to stay the same as the status quo for the next few years, as they have been in the past years. And we’ll see how the political situation starts to work out very soon.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet who lost his son, Juan, to a drug cartel—he was killed last year—led a caravan through Mexico, now is in the United States and in August will lead a caravan across the United States from California to Washington, D.C. How significant is his movement, as he stands up against the so-called war on drugs, says he wanted to be not just in Mexico but to where the demand is, where the guns flow from, in the United States?

JOHN ACKERMAN: Very important, Javier Sicilia’s role over the last year in Mexico. He has really unmasked the drug war, demonstrating that it’s just not the case that the people who have been dying are criminals or deserve to die. These are normal Mexican citizens. The drug war has been a war conducted against Mexico’s people in general.

I think this march through the United States is going to be very important in terms of demonstrating to the U.S. population how directly responsible they are for the violence in Mexico, both through drug use and through the sale of weapons. This is very important for the U.S. population to become more conscious of their role in what’s happening south of the border.

Once again, I’m not too optimistic about the Mexican side of the equation with Peña Nieto coming in. We’ll see what happens in the United States in terms of the elections in November. That’s going to be very important in terms of U.S.-Mexico relationships. But it looks like, regardless of what happens in the United States or in Mexico, it’s going to be society, civil society on both sides of the border, that we really need to come together to impose a change in politics in the relationship between Mexico and the United States, in particular to bring peace to North America and to reduce the amount of violence and death, which affects Mexico in particular, but I think is really a serious harm on all of North America and affects all of us.

AMY GOODMAN: John Ackerman, I want to thank you for being with us, editor of the Mexican Law Review, professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, UNAM, also columnist for Proceso magazine and La Jornada, the newspaper.

(*) See this program on Democracy Now.