On Tuesday, Mexico’s top electoral court declared conservative candidate Felipe Calderon the winner of the disputed presidential elections. This ruling comes two months after voters first cast their ballots in Mexico’s closest race ever. Rival candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said he will never recognize Calderon’s victory and has vowed to form a parallel government. We go to Mexico City for a report. [includes rush transcript]
On Tuesday, Mexico’s top electoral court declared conservative candidate Felipe Calderon the winner of the disputed presidential elections. This ruling comes two months after voters first cast their ballots in Mexico’s closest race ever. Initial results showed that Calderon narrowly beat rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador but there were widespread allegations of electoral fraud. For the past two months, supporters of Lopez Obrador have engaged in mass protests calling for a vote-by-vote recount. Yesterday, the Federal Electoral Tribunal rejected those allegations though they acknowledged what they called "election irregularities and errors." The court said they were not enough to conclude that the election should be annulled. Lopez Obrador has said he will never recognize Calderon’s victory and has vowed to form a parallel government.
- John Ross, author of many books about Mexico. His latest is "Making Another World Possible: Zapatista Chronicle 2000-2006." John’s most recent article about the Mexico elections is on the website Counterpunch.org. He joins us on the line from Mexico City.
- Gilberto López Rivas, anthropologist with the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City. He is also a frequent contributor to La Jornada.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to John Ross, author of many books about Mexico. His latest is Making Another World Possible: Zapatista Chronicle 2000-2006. John’s most recent article about the Mexico elections is on the website counterpunch.com. He joins us from Mexico City. Welcome to Democracy Now!, John.
JOHN ROSS: Hi, Amy. How are you doing?
AMY GOODMAN: Good. Can you talk about the announcement of the Federal Election Commission, that it’s Calderon who will be the next president of Mexico?
JOHN ROSS: The decision itself is quite illogic — illogical, I guess, would be the word. When we take a look at what they said, they actually declared that President Vicente Fox, who is from the same party as Felipe Calderon, of course, illegally and perhaps unconstitutionally interfered in the election and placed the election at risk. That’s their words. He placed the election at risk, that several business confederations that had sponsored a long and very prejudicial hit spot campaign, spots, television spots that went on for months that called Lopez Obrador a danger to Mexico, had illegally sponsored them, that they were not empowered to actually contribute to the airing of those commercials.
They subtracted thousands of votes, 10,000 votes, from Calderon’s totals, bringing him down to a 233,000 vote advantage out of 42 million votes cast, which indeed is less than the number of votes that the TRIFE annulled two weeks ago in a partial recount of less than 10% of the 130,000 ballot boxes that were —130,000 ballot boxes that were utilized on July 2nd in the election.
And yet, their decision was, as you just mentioned, that none of these factors affected the final results of the election and that Felipe Calderon was the new president. And, of course, the decision was designed, I think, in the end, to try and bring together some sort of reconciliation of the political forces that are extremely polarized at this particular point. But it’s very clear that it’s just going to prolong the struggle over the next six years, as Calderon tries to rule.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to John Ross, regular contributor to The Nation, CounterPunch, the Mexican daily, La Jornada. Can you talk about who was at Calderon’s rally last night and who was at Lopez Obrador’s?
JOHN ROSS: Calderon spoke to the country last night actually on television. Most of his campaign has really been a kind of a spot campaign, and he doesn’t bring together a lot of people. They have a first march gathering, I think, set for September 10th. So, most of his communication was by electronic media.
Lopez Obrador, of course, has for the last — since July 30th, has sponsored or put together an encampment that stretches for about five miles through the heart of Mexico City. Tens of thousands of people are encamped there and continue to be encamped there. And they were — once again, every night at 7:00, Lopez Obrador has conducted what is called an informative assembly, despite a driving rainstorm, which seems to have been the norm here for the last couple of months. Tens of thousands of people were in the Zocalo, extremely angry and trying to figure out what the direction of the campaign — and Lopez Obrador’s campaign continues — what the direction of that campaign is going to be.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on the telephone from Mexico City by Gilberto Lopez Rivas, an anthropologist with the National Institute of Anthropology and History in Mexico City, a frequent contributor to the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada. Your assessment of this announcement of President Calderon?
GILBERTO LOPEZ RIVAS: Well, I agree with John Ross. I think that this is the beginning of a new form of confrontation and struggle in Mexico, after this tribunal announcement of Calderon as the elected president of Mexico. I think that we have already many organizations, persons, intellectuals who are declaring, including myself and a great number of intellectuals in Mexico, that we are not going to recognize Calderon as the legitimate president in Mexico and that we will go into resistance of this government, that for us does not fulfill all what is a fair and proper election. I think that the tribunal’s behavior was that of a corrupted and state mentality that confirmed that the election was a fraud.
So, Ross mentioned the anger of the people, and that’s true. There are a lot of anger in too many people. And that together is what we call a kind of a rebellion and insurrection. Civil insurrection needs to be won. But I expect in the years to come a great confrontation and that Calderon is not going to be a president accepted by millions of Mexicans.
AMY GOODMAN: John Ross, the State of the Union address that Fox, the President now, Vicente Fox was not able to give, can you describe the scene, what happened in the parliament?
JOHN ROSS: Yeah. I think it’s kind of — I’ve got a long narrative up on CounterPunch. It’ll probably fill you out. But really it was a situation in which the 155 representative senators and deputies from the Coalition for the Good of All, from the three parties that have participated in Lopez Obrador’s campaign, took the tribune in congress. They occupied the tribune and refused to leave until troops that had been surrounding the congress for two weeks previous and large metal barricades, 6,000 troops, snipers up on the roofs, until they had all been removed, saying that this was a violation of the Constitution. It was clearly a violation of the Mexican Constitution. And Fox was not able to enter into the chambers to pronounce the political speech that goes with his annual State of the Union address. He had to, in fact, hand his address to the Secretary of Congress and leave.
And then, an hour later, rushed back to Los Pinos, the Mexican White House, was brought into the television studio there and was able to read his political message. It was kind of inter-cut with pictures of smiling Indians and smiling schoolchildren. And in fact, the Informe, the State of the Union message, was reduced to what I say, it was an infomercial, what we call a commercial or infomercial.
I think, in many respects, this has been going on for a number of years. Since 1988, when the PRD, then in formation, was cheated out of the election of Cuauhtémoc Cardenas, interrupted the speech of the president, Miguel de la Madrid every year. The PRD has expressed its opposition during this annual State of the Union address. And it is completely eroded that this really kind of ceremonial empty pompous ceremonial event that is really dedicated to the aggrandizement of the President over the other two houses of government here. And this was actually, I think, the final coffin nail here for this kind of event each September 1st.
And it showed the rest of the nation the great anger and, in fact, the commitment to resistance on the part of the congressional delegation of these three parties. We hope that they will stand together. That, it remains to be seen, how long this unity between those three parties is going to exist in the new congress. I think we are going to see Calderon as president try to split the coalition, to buy off the deputies and senators and to diminish at least the force of Lopez Obrador’s deputies and senators in the new congress.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask Gilberto the significance of September 16th, a major protest day, also Mexico Independence Day.
GILBERTO LOPEZ RIVAS: Well, there is the idea that the convention will be the beginning of a civil resistance movement, and we expect it to have about a million delegates to that convention. But besides this movement, there are important processes that we have to take into consideration, like, for example, what is happening in Oaxaca and also the Other Campaign of the Zapatista movement. And something that is not taking into account in the analysis, that is the armed group that are demonstrating in many manifestos during these days.
I think these four movements or processes have to take into consideration in the next years to come. Two forces that could be in a certain moment together or separated, but that are going to be the opposition movement in the next years. So the convention could be something that going to a kind of a shadow government. But the fact is that this is going to be the beginning of a new form of protest and resistance that are going to avoid all kind of good governance by the part of Calderon.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, John Ross, the role of U.S. companies in this election. You wrote an article in 2005, for example, about Wal-Mart.
JOHN ROSS: Well, Wal-Mart, Halliburton — how about that? — Kraft, a whole list of U.S. transnationals in this election are part of what is called a Council of Communication that indeed were the people that sponsored the spots, the hit spots against Lopez Obrador over many months. And it was a clear intermission in the Mexican election by transnational corporations.
AMY GOODMAN: Were these spots that had, for example, Hugo Chavez, Castro and Lopez Obrador together?
JOHN ROSS: Subcomandante Marcos, Hugo Chavez. We had spots of the city falling down. You know, they were scare spots and they always wound up with a big red letters imprinted on the screen that said that Lopez Obrador was a danger to Mexico. And it’s been clear from the beginning that the U.S. corporations backed Felipe Calderon, that Calderon has promised in fact to privatize Pemex, the national oil monopoly. Halliburton is here, and they definitely want a piece of that.
A lot of U.S. corporations want a bigger piece of what used to belong to the Mexican people, what used to belong to the Mexican state. And so, they are siding with Calderon, and their actual financing of the campaign was very obvious. Dick Morris, famous Dick Morris, rightwing Fox commentator designed a lot of those hit spots.
And it was clear that the White House and the State Department were very quick to recognize Calderon in the first days after the election. George Bush called Calderon from Air Force One. We again yesterday had the State Department reiterate that support of Calderon. And they clearly from the beginning, the ambassador, Tony Garza, here has made statements that were definitely in support of a Felipe Calderon presidency. They have got that now. And let’s see what they can do with it, because for the next six years, it’s going to be very difficult for Felipe Calderon to run this country.
AMY GOODMAN: John Ross and Gilberto Lopez Rivas, I want to thank you very much for joining us. Professor Lopez Rivas, anthropologist, National Institute of Anthropology in Mexico City; John Ross, regular contributor to The Nation, CounterPunch, as well as Mexican daily, La Jornada, and has written a number of books in Mexico, among them Rebellion From the Roots, The Annexation of Mexico, and also The War Against Oblivion, just completed Making Another World Possible: Zapatista Chronicle 2000-2006, that will be published in October.