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2006-07-17

Lopez Obrador Leads Over 1.1 Million Supporters in Mexico City to Call for Presidential Vote Recount

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In Mexico, over 1.1 million people rallied on Sunday in Mexico City to demand a full recount in the country’s contested presidential election. Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador called on the crowd to commit acts of peaceful civil resistance to force a recount. [includes rush transcript]

We take a look at the disputed Presidential elections in Mexico. Yesterday, populist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador led a huge march of 1.1 million supporters through the capital on Sunday to pressure the court to order a ballot by ballot recount of the election that took place two weeks ago. On July 6th authorities announced that conservative candidate Felipe Calderon, a former energy minister, had defeated Obrador by a razor slim margin. This was after electoral officials recounted ballot tallies from the initial vote. The recount showed that Calderon won the presidency by the closest margin in Mexico’s history–around 220,000 votes of 41 million cast–or just over half a percentage point.

Lopez Obrador filed soon filed claims challenging the election results in Mexico’s electoral court. He is alleging fraud and government interference. The march yesterday is the second large-scale protest in a week demanding a recount.

  • John Ross, a regular contributor to the Nation, Counterpunch and the Mexican daily La Jornada. John has also written three books chronicling the Zapitista movement in Mexico. They are "Rebellion From the Roots", "The Annexation of Mexico" and "The War Against Oblivion." He has just completed "Making Another World Possible: Zapatista Chronicle 2000-2006" to be published by Nation Books in October 2006.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to our guest in Mexico City, John Ross. John Ross is a regular contributor to Counterpunch, to the Mexican daily La Jornada and to The Nation. His latest book, Making Another World Possible: Zapatista Chronicle 2000-2006, will be coming out in October. Welcome to Democracy Now!, John.

JOHN ROSS: How are you doing, Amy?

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the events of yesterday?

JOHN ROSS: Quite impressive. A march of variously between 1.1 million, which is a police estimate, and 1.5 million, which is the party estimate, which is Lopez Obrador’s estimate. It was impossible to tell whether it was 1.1 or 1.5. I was locked into the Zocalo, the great central plaza here, and you couldn’t move in any direction, so it was impossible to judge what was going on outside the Zocalo. But there was a 15-kilometer length march all the way from the edge of town into the center of the city.

Andres Manuel — and it’s interesting to note, the 1.1 and the 1.5 million are kind of up for grabs, because if it is 1.5 million, it is the largest political demonstration in the history of Mexico. If it’s only 1.1 million it’s 100,000 short of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s previous record of 1.2 million, when they tried to keep him from the ballot.

And indeed, there will be another march in two weeks, and I think that will definitely settle whether or not this was the largest or not. I think it’s really important to understand that just eight days ago after the election, Lopez Obrador called the rally for the Zocalo and put a half-million people in the Zocalo. Yesterday’s rally doubled that, a little bit more; if we accept the PRD figures, it tripled it. And, you know, when they tried to prevent Lopez Obrador from being on the ballot in the spring of 2005, he held a rally on April 7, 2005 that brought 300,000 people to the Zocalo, a little bit more, and then just two weeks later he tripled that with the 1.2. So what’s important here is the growth in the numbers of people that are coming together around this issue.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, John Ross, talk about the election and what you know at this point of the charges of fraud. And what is the process that will take place now?

JOHN ROSS: There is an electoral tribunal, nicknamed the TRIFE, because the Federal Electoral Institute is the IFE and the tribunal is the TRIFE. It has another name, actually. Andres Manuel’s people have submitted the complaints, anomalies in 53,000 out of the little over 130,000 polling places in the country, and those will all be arriving at the court this week. The notification was filed last week. And they’re also, at the same time, trying to disqualify the election on the basis of some structural inequalities, everything from the way the media handled this to the intervention of the President, which was patently unconstitutional, throughout the election, and other structural anomalies that made this not a level playing field.

And the court does have the ability to do that. This is a court of seven justices. It was established in 1996, basically as a result of the great election fraud here in 1988 and eventually evolved into this tribunal. It has been quite active. The judges, seven of them, as I mentioned, over the past ten years have annulled elections and called for recounts in elections and done that on a statewide basis and on a district basis. They have never been faced with this in a presidential election. They do have the powers to either order a vote-by-vote recount, as Lopez Obrador is calling for, or to annul the entire election. And really the purpose of these enormous — and I just can’t describe how enormous they are — meetings, as they are called, informative meetings, assemblies, informative assemblies, is really to impress upon these seven judges that this is an historic moment in Mexico — it really does feel like an historic moment — and they have an historic responsibility here to do what the people demand, which is to open up the ballot boxes and count the votes one by one.

AMY GOODMAN: John Ross, you have said that Lopez Obrador is considering calling on all PRD elected officials not to take office December 1, if the ballots aren’t recounted, a strategy that could trigger a constitutional crisis.

JOHN ROSS: Well, that’s one of the options. There’s many options here, and I think we’re working on some of the first levels here, and that would only, of course, come after the court had not ordered a recount or if they had confirmed the Calderon election.

Very dramatically yesterday, Andres Manuel called for, as I mentioned, another demonstration in two weeks, which will be enormous, but also called to strengthen — there are now encampments in front of each one of the 300 electoral districts in the offices all over the country — and called to reinforce them and make them into autonomous bodies that can take decisions on civil disobedience and civil resistance. His call was for civil resistance, and we’ll see the beginning of that this week. I expect it will take the form of boycotts and informative picket lines, before it gets to the point of blocking highways and roads and streets, which is, you know, an ultimate strategy here.

AMY GOODMAN: John Ross, I want to thank you for being with us. We’re certainly going to continue to follow this, and we will link to your articles at our website, democracynow.org. John Ross, longtime journalist, based in Mexico City. His book is coming out in October, Making Another World Possible.

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