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An Hour With Mexican Writers Elena Poniatowska and Paco Ignacio Taibo on the Mexican Elections, the Zapatistas and President Bush

StoryApril 18, 2005
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In Mexico, turmoil and confusion continue to surround the upcoming presidential election. Last week, the Mexican federal Congress voted to impeach one of the leading candidates from his job as mayor of Mexico City. The politician —- -— Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador —- -— is now facing arrest over a minor four-year-old infraction. Once an arrest warrant is issued, he could lose his political rights and be barred from running for the presidency. Lopez Obrador has been comfortably leading opinion polls for next year"s elections to replace Mexican President Vicente Fox who cannot run again.

Today we look at this and other major issues in Mexico today with two of the country’s best known writers: Elena Poniatowska is a founder of the newspaper La Jornada and Mexico"s first feminist magazine, "Fem." She is the first woman to win the Mexican National Award for Journalism. Paco Ignacio Taibo is a leading Mexican author. He has written more than 50 books, including novels, short stories, and essays, and is particularly known for his detective novels. He recently completed a novel with Zapaitista leader Subcommandante Marcos.

We also hear a new recording in English by Marcos recorded in the jungles of Chiapas. [includes rush transcript]

In Mexico, turmoil and confusion continue to surround the upcoming presidential election. Last week, the Mexican federal Congress voted to impeach one of the leading candidates from his job as mayor of Mexico City.

The politician — Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador–is now facing arrest over a minor four-year-old infraction. Once an arrest warrant is issued, he could lose his political rights and be barred from running for the presidency. Lopez Obrador has been comfortably leading opinion polls for next year’s elections to replace Mexican President Vicente Fox who can not run again.

Lopez Obrador has accused Fox of trying to orchestrate his downfall. He said "They have been using tricks, lies and misinformation in their campaign to bring me down." All but one legislator from Fox’s party–the National Action Party–voted for impeaching the mayor.

Last Friday, a federal prosecutor announced that instead of filing formal charges against Lopez Obrador, he may wait weeks or months until Mexico"s Supreme Court makes a separate ruling on the case.

Lopez Obrador has been campaigning on a populist platform that has been strongly opposed by the business community. He has called for a more state-supported economy and a renegotiation of free trade pacts.

Today we will spend much of the hour with two leading figures in Mexico.

Elena Poniatowska is a founder of the newpaper La Jornada and Mexico"s first feminist magazine, "Fem." She is the first woman to win the Mexican National Award for Journalism. In addition to her work as a journalist, Poniatowska is an accomplished author. Her latest work, is "La Piel del Cielo," but she is perhaps best known for her book "La Noche de Tlatelolco" published in 1971 in which she compiled testimonies about the Army’s massacre of student activists in Mexico City in 1968. She has been named as one of three distinguished persons to head the civic resistance movement against the impeachment of Lopez Obrador.

Paco Ignacio Taibo is a leading Mexican author. He has written more than 50 books, including novels, short stories, and essays, and is particularly known for his detective novels. He recently completed a novel with Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos.

  • Elena Poniatowska, founder of the newpaper La Jornada and Mexico’s first feminist magazine, "Fem." She is the first woman to win the Mexican National Award for Journalism. In addition to her work as a journalist, Poniatowska is an accomplished author. Her latest work, is "La Piel del Cielo," but she is perhaps best known for her book "La Noche de Tlatelolco" published in 1971 in which she compiled testimonies about the Army’s massacre of student activists in Mexico City in 1968. She has been named as one of three distinguished persons to head the civic resistance movement against the impeachment of Lopez Obrador.
  • Paco Ignacio Taibo, a leading Mexican author. He has written more than 50 books, including novels, short stories, and essays, and is particularly known for his detective novels. He recently completed a novel with Zapatista leader Subcomandante Marcos.
  • Subcomandate Marcos, excerpt from the new CD "Our Word Is Our Weapon" (Seven Stories). The CD features Marcos reading selections from the English edition of his book "Our Word is Our Weapon."

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

AMY GOODMAN: Today to talk about this issue we are joined by two leading writers in Mexico. Elena Poniatowska is a founder of the newspaper La Jornada and Mexico’s first feminist magazine Fem. She is the first woman to win the Mexican National Award for Journalism. In addition to her work as an a journalist, Poniatowska is an accomplished author. Her latest work is The Skin of the Sky, but she is perhaps best known for her book, La Noche de Tlatelolco, The Night of Tlatelolco, published in 1971, in which she compiled testimonies about the army’s massacre of students in Mexico City in 1968. Now she’s been named one of three distinguished persons to head the civic resistance movement against the impeachment of Lopez Obrador.

We’re also joined by Paco Ignacio Taibo, a leading Mexican author. He has written more than 50 books, including novels, short stories and essays, and is particularly known for his detective novels. He has won the Dashiell Hammett International Prize, and he has just completed a novel with Zapatista leader, Subcomandante Marcos. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! It’s very good have you with us.

Well, Elena Poniatowska, let’s begin with you. You have been named one of three representatives to talk about what is happening right now. Who are you representing, and what is happening in Mexican politics today?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: I don’t know who I’m representing, really. I don’t even know if I’m representing myself. I was just asked by Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who suddenly arrived at my house. I hadn’t even — I think I had seen him twice in my life, and he asked me to help him. And I was so indignant at what was happening that, of course, I said yes. So, we have been seeing two more people and I, Jose Agustin Ortiz Pinchetti, Chaneca Maldonado (Bertha Maldonado), Marti Batres. We have been seeing the Dean of the University, the people who work in markets, the people, the trambiarios, the railroad — it’s not the railroad, it’s the tram workers. We have been visiting them, speaking to them, and they are as indignant as we are. So, we have been going to unions, we saw judges, and that’s a full-time job. It starts at 6:00 in the morning and ends at 10:00 at night.

AMY GOODMAN: Paco Taibo, what exactly is happening?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Well it’s a pre-electoral fraud, as easy as that.

AMY GOODMAN: PRI, meaning the party?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: No, "pre" meaning previous.

AMY GOODMAN: Pre-election fraud?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Yes. Mexican politics has a long tradition of electoral fraud. The 1984 electoral fraud was something horrible for Mexico. It opened 20 years of Salinismo and the worst economic situation for the country, and so in this time they decided not to work in the election, but to do it previously. So, they try to block the run for Andres Manuel one year-and-a-half previous to the election. So they created this kind of strange — it’s really weird — the trick they created to impeach him. They said, "When you were head of the Mexico City, you covered this space which should run a little street in order to connect — " Nobody understands anything. It’s kind of Kafkiano, pure Kafka, no?

AMY GOODMAN: That he allowed the construction of a ramp onto a highway or something?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Yeah. Something — and you go there and you see where it is, and you cannot see it. So, in a country which the — the ones that — the head of the PRI in his last campaign, he has spent more money than Clinton in his campaign for the Tabasco small territory. He spent more money than Clinton in his last campaign here. And in this country, that was illegal, of course, the financing — the way he financed his campaign in a country where that kind of things happens, nothing happens, then you put in jail the Mayor of Mexico City, elected by 6 million citizens of Mexico because of these weird charges.

AMY GOODMAN: Something of years ago? That they are saying?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: You cannot believe it. So there was a strong reaction in the city and in the country. Stronger in the city, because Andres Manuel is linked very closely to the people of Mexico City as mayor of the city. He has a strong support, and the reaction was very, very angry. We were very angry. Everybody, and when I say everybody, maybe it’s one of the first times in Mexico in which a movement starts with this kind of majority, pre-established majority of the people in favor of Andres Manuel. He was leading the polls with 86%.

AMY GOODMAN: So during the time of the Pope’s death, we got very little coverage of this massive protest. I don’t know if the U.S. media would have covered it anyway, but something like, what, 300,000 Mexicans marched in the streets of Mexico City last week?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: I think more than that, in the Zocalo.

AMY GOODMAN: In the square?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Yes. 350,000 people now march, because maybe he’s a different kind of a politician. You know, we have always been used to. He is a man who speaks like you and me and Paco. He makes mistakes. He has another voice. His voice is different from the voice of the political men we are used to. I think that’s very important. Besides, people love him. He has given money for the first time in the history of Mexico to all the men and women. He has built a university. He has built schools. He has built hospitals. He hasn’t — it’s a great — in Mexico it’s a great victory not to be a thief. Imagine, not to steal. It’s already a thing that’s so important that everyone recognizes. "Oh, he’s not stealing," you know? So, that’s — I think he has done a job that touches everyone. And when you see the people that follow him, that day about the impeachment, you could see very poor women and very poor men in the plaza, and they were crying. They had tears coming down their faces. And they stayed there. The meeting was at 10:00. And it was 10:00 at night — 10:00 in the morning and 10:00 at night and you could — they were still waiting to know the results of if he was going to be impeached, or what was going to happen?

AMY GOODMAN: Why do you think the President, Vicente Fox, the former head of Coca-Cola in Mexico is so threatened by Lopez Obrador?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Because it’s clear that they were going to lose, the Panistas, the government of Fox and the PRI, the whole PRI. They were going to lose this next presidential election, so the only way they found to stop Lopez Obrador was this. As clear as that, and everybody knows that. It’s a kind of — it’s incredible. It takes me — it’s very difficult to explain how a country knows what’s happened, and there’s a double language who says, "the law must be for everybody." They say the politicians of the PRI and the PAN they say on television — and everybody knows that’s not true, that they are just closing the run of Lopez Obrador to the presidency.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break, but we’ll come back to continue this discussion about what is happening right now in Mexico and also talk about, does it fit into a trend right now in Latin America from Venezuela to Uruguay, to Brazil, of changing leadership, changing times. We’re talking to Elena Poniatowska and Paco Taibo, two leading writers of Mexico. They’re joining us in our New York studio. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: A crisis as the leading presidential candidate, the Mayor of Mexico City, Lopez Obrador, has been accused by the ruling party of breaking the law years ago in allowing the construction of a ramp onto a highway, something that people have not quite figured out yet exactly what it is that he was charged with, tremendous reaction in the Mexican population. Last week, a protest of perhaps a third of a million people in the streets of Mexico City. Our guests are two leading Mexicans, two leading Mexican writers. We’re joined by Elena Poniatowska, one of the founders of La Jornada, a leading paper in Mexico and Paco Ignacio Taibo who is a leading crime writer, winner of the Dashiell Hammett Prize, and has just written a book with Subcomandante Marcos, though it seems they never actually physically wrote it together, but we’ll talk about that in a minute. You were just saying, Elena Poniatowska, you wanted to add to why the President, Vicente Fox of the PAN Party, would be so threatened by this Mayor of Mexico City. After all, Vicente Fox himself cannot run again, according to Mexican law.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: No. He cannot run again and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was chosen by the Mexican people as a governor, governador, mayor of the city. No? He was chosen, so —- and he’s come to be loved as time goes by. Vicente Fox has lost all of his power, because he has not been a real leader or a good president. Besides, he has a little wife next to him, a woman that could be considered like a Barbie. You remember those little dolls? Only -—

AMY GOODMAN: We don’t have to remember them. They’re still in existence.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: But it’s a Barbie that you don’t make them like that anymore. She’s had I think a bad influence on him, and a bad influence on the country, and —

AMY GOODMAN: Regardless of what she looks like, why would she be a bad influence on the country?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Because what she says is not important. It’s only ambition. She doesn’t seem to know the country. What she does is she spends money on — oh, I don’t know, things that are not important, on herself, dresses and things like that. But what’s really important that this man has a new voice, and a voice this — Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, that convinces people, that convinces its fears, and the things he has done are also very important.

AMY GOODMAN: What has he done?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: He has done los segundos pisos. How do you say it?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: A highway inside Mexico City.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Mexico is the huge — the biggest city in the world. So he has built those bridges that go all over — I don’t know how you call them in English. And he has done hospitals, and he has cared for the people. First of all, the first thing he has done is that he doesn’t lie, which is very important. We are all used to all of this lying and things never happen, and he changes this.

AMY GOODMAN: It looks like President Fox did not expect the international reaction and condemnation to this attack on the Mayor of Mexico City, more relevant, the leading presidential candidate. So, he has been changing. Can you talk about what has happened, the — saying that maybe they won’t bring the charges, or maybe he will be charged, and then President Vicente Fox will pardon him?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Well, I think the key now is to delay the situation, because if you delay the situation, Lopez cannot run. So, it is not very clear. You never know when they are doing something and why. The time in which he has to — first he has be elected the candidate from his party, which he is not now. Then he has to incribe himself as candidate in the presidential campaign. And the trouble is that if they put him into jail in a certain moment, they won’t allow him to be candidate. So, this is not very clear. Anyhow, the reaction is very strong. It’s going to be stronger every day. We think that the 24th is going to be a huge demonstration in all of the cities in Mexico. Maybe we reach there more than a million people in the streets in Mexico City, the 24th. That’s what I think is going to happen.

AMY GOODMAN: April 24th is the date that has been set —

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Yeah, because the first demonstration was done in the morning, so, it — in a working day, so the people had to ride there were only old people and writers like us that can decide what time of the day they work. No? And students. But now, there’s a demonstration called in Mexico City for April 24, and in all of the cities — all of the big cities of Mexico at the same time. And I think this is going to be major, huge, because there’s a strong reaction from the bottom of society.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to talk about the society in Mexico today, and go to Subcomandante Marcos for a little background. A new CD has just come out. It was recorded in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico, and it features Marcos reading some of his most famous speeches in English, as well as essays from his book, Our Word is Our Weapon. Now, Paco Taibo, you have just written a novel with Subcomandante Marcos, and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But this is Marcos reading a speech that he delivered in Spanish in 1996, introducing the Zapatistas to those gathered for the First Intercontinental Enquentro, a gathering. Subcomandante Marcos.

SUBCOMANDANTE MARCOS: Brothers and sisters of Asia, Africa, Oceania, Europe and America. Welcome to the mountains of the Mexican Southeast. Let us introduce ourselves. We are the Zapatista National Liberation Army. For ten years, we lived in these mountains, preparing to fight a war. In these mountains, we built an army. Below in the cities and plantations, we did not exist. Our lives were worth less than those of machines or animals. We were like stones, like weeds in the road. We were silenced. We were faceless. We were nameless. We had no future. We did not exist. For the powers that be, known internationally by the term "neoliberalism," we did not count, we did not produce, we did not buy, we did not sell. We were a cipher in the accounts of big capital. Then we went to the mountains to find ourselves and see if we could ease the pain of being forgotten like stones and weeds. Here, in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, our dead live on. Our dead, who live in the mountains, know many things. They speak to us of their death, and we hear them. Coffins speak and tell us another story, that comes from yesterday and points to tomorrow. The mountains spoke to us, the Macehualob, we common and ordinary people. We are simple people, as Power tells us. Every day and in this night, power wants us to dance the extol and repeat its brutal conquest. The kaz-dzul, the false man, rules our lands and has giant war machines, like the boob, half-puma and half-horse, that spread pain and death among us.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt of the speech of Subcomandante Marcos. He is reading his own speech that he delivered July 27, 1996, in Spanish, here reading it in English. It was a speech he gave introducing the Zapatistas to an international gathering in 1996. Our guests are Elena Poniatowska and Paco Taibo. Paco, you have just written a novel with Subcomandante Marcos. How did you do this?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: I don’t know. It was kind of weird experience. I received a letter from him saying, "Do you want to write a mystery with me, mystery novel?" And I said, "This is too mad." And I said, "Well, yes. Let’s do it." So, we started doing it with strange rules. We have produce one chapter each, publish it in a newspaper, in La Jornada we did it, and one after the other. So when you started, you couldn’t stop. And then what you write, that was what is going to be used for the next one. So we were playing a kind of literary ping-pong, no? And we did it for 12 weeks until the book was finished. We never met on those days. We have only a strange — like Chinese secret agents — relation, receiving in the morning papers and letters. Once I was in a book fair walking, and somebody said, "Hey, you have a phone." Somebody I didn’t know. And I took the cell phone, and it was somebody talking from Chiapas, saying, "We can make changes in chapter four," that kind of things. And it was a nice experience, reorganizing this kind of visit to the Mexican inferno, no? Which is the mystery novel we did.

AMY GOODMAN: You are the most famous mystery crime writer in Mexico. Your work is known around the world. You have a kind of Sherlock Holmes figure, his name is —

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Balascoran Shayne. You cannot — you never — I cannot pronounce it — Balascoran Shayne. It’s a Mexican who has a Basque father and an Irish mother. And this is my — the detective I work with, and also in this novel.

AMY GOODMAN: He’s in this novel?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Yes. Marcos forced me to use Balascoran, because in the first chapter he wrote, there was a reference to Balascoran, so I have to use it in the second.

AMY GOODMAN: There’s a picture of you, you know, the author picture in the book, and it’s a picture of you, and behind you is a photograph of Marcos.


AMY GOODMAN: So you’re not standing with Marcos.


AMY GOODMAN: Do you know who Marcos is?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: No. No. And I used that picture in order to have conversations in the night. I turn myself and said, "Why are you doing this in chapter four?" So, you have to talk with somebody. I have the picture there.

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, so you were always talking to the photograph?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Yes. Usually I do that. I talk with photograph.

AMY GOODMAN: But let me ask that question again. Do you know who Marcos is?


AMY GOODMAN: Do you, Elena?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: No, I don’t. But I think Americans do, because the CIA said he was a man from Tampico, no? And his name was Rafael Guillen, no? But —

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: That’s what they said.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: That’s what the CIA said, but I only know that I saw a man when I saw him with a mask and a big pipe and a long nose. And very charming, green, very happy looking eyes. And who drank Coca-Cola.

AMY GOODMAN: He would make Vicente Fox very happy, as head of Coca-Cola.

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: When he was in the Coca-Cola, he been making awful Coca-Cola. Coca-Cola done by Mexican workers is very good, because they use sugar cane instead of that strange things. But the Vicente Fox time was bad Coca-Cola in Mexico.

AMY GOODMAN: What about the significance of the Zapatistas today on this — well, this year is the 11th anniversary of the Zapatista uprising? January 1, 1994, they rose up on the day that NAFTA was implemented.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Yes. I think they have lost power. They have lost power because it’s been very long. When time goes by, you lose power, but still what the Zapatistas did, for instance, as I’m a woman, I can speak about what they did for women. It changed completely the women who joined the Zapatistas, especially the peasants, the women, they changed also, because suddenly, they said, we are the owners of our bodies. We can take our own decisions. We want to decide how many children we are going to have. Before, they used to have I don’t know how many children. We want to be able to participate in political life. And we even want to be chauffeurs. We want to drive. We want to learn how to drive. And if you see a woman from Chiapas coming to the city, it’s really very extraordinary, because they are the poorest of the poorest, no? They seem to be able to take no decisions at all. And they have changed. He is the one, Marcos, I think he is the author of all of these changes. I think he has done it for them. No? That’s been wonderful. And of course, the country now cares for Chiapas. Chiapas was never taken into consideration. Indians, there are 10 million Indians in Mexico. No one spoke about them. They were servants of the whites. Now it’s not like that anymore. So the change is very, very — I think very striking and very important.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting you raise the issue of women, because when the Zapatistas first came out into public view to negotiate with the Mexican government after the uprising a few months later, I was reporting on what was happening in Chiapas for Pacifica, and we went to the Cathedral of Peace where they had been negotiating, but late at night, I got a message that they were going to hold a news conference for the first time, and I was able to join Mexican radio reporters in the cathedral for this news conference. We got up at something like, I don’t know, 4:00 or 5:00 in the morning. Didn’t know if this was actually going to happen. And then we went in, were ushered in, and the Zapatista leadership filed in. Subcomandante Marcos said he held the news conference first for radio reporters, because radio is the most important medium. And he said that the Zapatistas felt most misrepresented by the television in Mexico. And then we got a chance to ask questions. And I asked about the women, how many were there, what rights they had, were they fighting with the men? And when we got out, because this was only for Mexican reporters, but because I was staying in the outskirts I learned of this. The US reporters asked what I had asked, and I said, "Well, I asked about the women," and they were horrified. They said, "This is your first chance, your first question to the Zapatistas, and you asked about the women?"

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Well, it’s very important. There’s strong and strong and deep changes. In the novel, there’s a lot of space where Marcos writes about the rights of the women. One of the stories is told in the novel, with a secret detective — a Zapatista detective, is a story of a woman that decides to abandon his husband. And it’s kind of illuminating story, it’s a beautiful story inside the novel. It’s very, very important what they have achieved in the Zapatista territory about the equality.

AMY GOODMAN: Paco Taibo is our guest. He has just finished a book with Subcomandante Marcos that will be coming out in Spanish and in English. We are also joined by Elena Poniatowska, leading Mexican journalist. They have both come to New York, and join us in our Firehouse studio. We’ll stay with them for the hour. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We are joined by Elena Poniatowska, leading Mexican journalist, founder of La Jornada, author of a number of books, as well as, well, a writer of columns, articles for decades. Also joining us, Paco Ignacio Taibo, leading mystery crime writer, just wrote a book with Subcomandante Marcos that’s coming out in Spanish and in English. Talking about the situation in general in Latin America, expanding from Mexico, are we seeing a revolution, from Uruguay to Brazil, to Venezuela, Mexico now with the possibility of the election of Lopez Obrador, though it is not clear whether he will actually even be able to run?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Well, I think changes are being produced. The connection between the Argentinean, Uruguayan, Venezuelan governments and if same thing happen in Mexico, it’s going to be a huge change. Too many years of neoliberalism, too many years of failures of that project, and now people decided, no way, no more. So, you are seeing the beginning of a change in Latin America, not deep changes, but at least to stop the economic project that have been ruling Latin America for the last 20 years.

AMY GOODMAN: Lopez Obrador, calling for more state supported economy, a renegotiation of the free trade pacts of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: And not only that, most important than that, saying that we won’t sell electricity or Mexico oil companies, which is very important because —

AMY GOODMAN: They won’t be privatized?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: The Fox government was trying every month to sell them to private owners.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Fox’s relationship with Bush?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: They love each other. They really love each other. But in this kind of cases when you are the butler, you — there’s a different kind of love, you see? It’s not the same love from Bush to Fox, than from Fox to Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: I mean that the relation between the owner and the butler. Fox is the butler. No more than that.

AMY GOODMAN: You mean the bottler of Coke?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: No, the butler of Bush. El majordomo.

AMY GOODMAN: Elena Poniatowska, your thoughts on this issue of what is happening right now in Latin America, not only Uruguay and Venezuela and Brazil, but also Chile and Argentina.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Well, I’m not sure that, for instance, that Lopez Obrador likes Chavez so much, Hugo Chavez so much, but of course he has been linked to Chavez, to Lula, to Tabare in Uruguay because it’s this new way of — a way of also going to the left after having been so many years on the right with all this neoliberalism. But still, I don’t think he cares for Chavez that much, no?


ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Because he has been accused — Lopez Obrador, as Chavez, has been accused of being a populist and, of course, all the bankers, the businessmen, they are very much against Lopez Obrador. And Lopez Obrador insists that he has friends among bankers, friends among businessmen, that people — that they follow him, they don’t distrust him, they want to invest in his government, no? Because this cannot be a war between the rich and the poor, it cannot be a division, because first of all, the majority of the Mexicans, they all are poor, no? Like you know, I suppose it happens in all the world, except in the United States, no, the majority is not the poor.

AMY GOODMAN: Right now, we’re not only talking about the 11th anniversary since the Zapatista uprising, but going back further you are well known as the author of an investigation, a book, of the massacre of students in 1968 and that was what, some 37 or so years ago. Can you talk about the significance of that today, and for listeners and viewers around the country and world who are not even familiar what happened in Tlatelolco in 1968, can you explain?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Well, there was a–in the whole world, there was a student movement in 1968. I think it first started in Berkeley with the free speech. Remember? And all the hippies and the flowers and peace and love, no? It started like that. And then it went all over the world. There were movements in Tokyo, there were movements in Paris. There was one student who got killed. But he wasn’t murdered. He was just made a mistake, he fell down, no? But the only country in the world where students were killed —- afterwards, there was Tiananmen in China, but in Mexico at that time, the only country was Mexico City, and more than 250 students were killed. And this was because there were going to be the Olympic Games were going to be held ten days afterwards. The government was afraid; so fear is a very bad counselor, and they killed all those people. And this, at the beginning in Mexico, it was as if it didn’t matter what in other country would have created a civil war. And then it seemed as if everyone was asleep, but as the years go by -—

AMY GOODMAN: The government denied that they had done this?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: The government silenced everything. You couldn’t publish a word in the papers. You couldn’t speak about it. The government silenced. The government was very powerful at the time. So it continued, and the government — life continued being normal, and then after the years go by, the students started asking what happened, what happened, what happened, we want to know what happened. There was a book, I remember, on Hitler. A child, a student, a little boy was asking in school who was Hitler, and he was told that it was someone who built freeways, highways. So, we don’t want this to happen in Mexico. We want to know what — know all about our history.

AMY GOODMAN: Isn’t it said Marcos came out of that period, a professor at that time, at a university, or teacher?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Yes. I think he was indignant with Tlatelolco and I think it — Tlatelolco, I mean 1968 changed the mind of everyone, changed the mind of the whole city, changed the mind of politicians. Because every six years when a man was a candidate, he was asked about the killing, about the massacre on October 2, asking him what was his opinion. It was very–it was very important. I think it’s a turning point, and every democracy can start from 1968 in many ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Hmm. You’re shaking — you’re nodding your head, Paco Taibo.

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: I was thinking 1968, I’m one of the small characters in Elena’s book.

AMY GOODMAN: What did you do then?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: I was a student then in political science in 1968. And it changed the country, changed a lot. Because it created the — illustrated the middle class of the country. The idea that we must change Mexico. So, it started a fight that took 30 years. 30 years!

AMY GOODMAN: It was a one-party state for what, more than seven decades?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Yes, and a one-party state with complete censorship on television, radio, and media. Complete. In 1968, it was complete. You didn’t have a small hole to produce independent information. It was a congress with 99% PRI members, all of the states with PRI governors, all of the cities with PRI mayors.

AMY GOODMAN: PRI, the party PRI?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: All the unions were with the PRI Party, all of the unions with PRI officials. You are living in a society with not even a small space to breathe.

AMY GOODMAN: Were you there on that day of the massacre?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: I was not. I was in exile in Madrid. My father took me four days previous to the massacre and put me in the plane.


PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Because he was smelling that something like that was going to happen. So he put me on the plane. So, I arrived in Madrid, it took me seven days to go back to Mexico. And when I arrived, it was October 4, after the massacre.

AMY GOODMAN: When did the government finally acknowledge what they had done?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Through the years I think they never acknowledged it, really.

AMY GOODMAN: Even now?

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: They never said we are guilty. No, but now there is a position for the — there is a position — a sympathetic position towards 1968, because it has been so important. Every year, for instance, mothers go over there and they put lights on the–in the streets to remember the October 2, and there’s a huge march with young boys that probably were not even born at the time. They’re not 30 years old. And they — it’s a huge thing that they walk through the city, and they speak about this massacre.

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Last year, a radio program asked the audience who do you think killed the students in 1968. And 90% of the audience says, the government. So, this is a war that’s already been won in the public opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: Who had it —

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: There were too many books published in the years.

AMY GOODMAN: Who had about it been alleged previously had killed the students?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: The government said that nobody. They were non-existent. They threw the corpses — some of the corpses were thrown in the Pacific Ocean. They took them in planes and throw them.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: Are you sure of that? How awful.

AMY GOODMAN: And finally, do you think this year we’ll see a — see change in Mexico?

PACO IGNACIO TAIBO: Well, we hope.

ELENA PONIATOWSKA: I think there is a change. For instance, yesterday we were at Bryant Park with Mexicans that have come here without papers and everything, and the way they have built their lives, it’s very extraordinary. The way they cook — they all cook for different cooking. I thought it was all only Mexican food, but they cook Chinese food, or whatever. They work in kitchens. They build their worth. They’re very, very brave. They don’t ask much, but they are very — they love Mexico. They give you a feeling of their love for Mexico. And all these migrants that come here, they’re becoming a power, no? Maybe they’re more powerful here than they would be in Mexico? And that’s really very — very — I think it’s very important to see that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both very much for being with us, Elena Poniatowska and Paco Taibo, thank you for joining us for this hour.

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