The Mexican civil disobedience movement of former presidential candidate—and now “President”—Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been peaceful, as it’s been proudly said many times. No violence, no desecration of city property, no breaking of laws.
There’s been no harm done at all by the seven-week Paseo de la Reforma-to-Zocalo campout—that is if you disregard, as Lopez Obrador does, the peaceful rerouting of major traffic flows, thousands of businesses peacefully losing hundreds of millions of dollars of business, and more than 2,000 employees peacefully losing their jobs.
Things are so peaceful that Felipe Calderon, of the National Action Party (PAN), had to arrive by helicopter at the offices of the Federal Electoral Tribunal to get past a throng of peaceful Lopez Obrador sympathizers and accept the formal document saying he is President-elect of Mexico.
Last Thursday Lopez Obrador peacefully won the Battle of the Zocalo.
President Vicente Fox decided it would be prudent—and a good way to keep things peaceful—to relocate his traditional September 15 grito, or Cry for Independence, to the town of Dolores Hidalgo, in his home state of Guanajuato. That’s where Mexican independence began in 1810, though Presidents usually observe this ceremony at the Zocalo.
Lopez Obrador, master of confrontation that he is, forced the change. As his people decamped from the streets, many simply migrated to the Zocalo, which filled with his supporters long before the event.
Since Lopez Obrador is not a negotiator, it was Mexico City Mayor Alejandro Encinas who negotiated the quid pro quo under which the camp-out would end. Fox would retreat to Dolores Hidalgo for the grito and Encinas, not Lopez Obrador, would give the grito from the Zocalo.
It was a masterful insult to the president, and to the presidency. There was little Fox could do, short of using physical force, to halt the peaceful intruder.
With all these peaceful events going on, it’s useful to remember that there’s a vow, oft-repeated by Lopez Obrador and others in the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), never to allow the “imposition” of President-elect Felipe Calderon. So far there’s no mention of how to do that peacefully—let alone legally, or at all.
Lopez Obrador’s indignation arises from his assumption, presented as “fact” in the face of a court judgment and considerable evidence to the contrary, that the July 2 election was fraudulent, and that he should be the presidential victor receiving all those congratulatory messages from around the world.
He’s responded by urging his followers to engage in a “permanent battle” against the government. Some would say that’s a tad seditious.
Details of his battle plan were developed at a National Democratic Convention at the Zocalo Saturday, July 16, following the annual military parade. The decisions taken there will likely determine the response of the PRD to his extremist proposals.
Former PRD leader Cuauhtemoc Cardenas still wields massive clout as the party’s moral leader. He’s said the party will work with the new administration. That’s sensible, given its enormous gains in Congress. Others, like PRD congressional coordinator Javier Gonzalez, echo him.
This creates the potential for a confrontation between Lopez Obrador and Cardenas, and Lopez Obrador is already turning up the heat.
Far from promising to cooperate, he’s fomenting rebellion (his word). His convention elected him “legitimate president,” in defiance of Article 80 of the Constitution that says there can only be one Mexican president, and empowered him to appoint a “cabinet.” The convention also committed itself to impede Calderon’s inauguration.
Remarkably, in less than three months Lopez Obrador has moved from “count the votes” to “elect me president.” Of course, Lopez Obrador didn’t make the decision. Convention delegates decided, though a few, like Michoacan Governor Lazaro Cardenas, expressed other opinions.
All effective politicians owe much of their success to their outsized egos. A few, either because of spectacular success or frustrating failure, lose perspective. Dictatorships and revolts are the frequent results of this acquired defect.
Lopez Obrador, candidate-turned-self-described-rebel, uses demagoguery and creative semantics to impugn the legitimacy of an elected president, indeed of the entire system. He also uses incendiary rhetoric, vowing to make it impossible for Calderon to govern.
His long list of laudable goals aimed at helping the poor now play second fiddle to personal ambition.
So far, judging by the stable markets, investors remain confident that sanity will prevail in the end. But if Lopez Obrador’s strategies do impede government action, it could trigger a peaceful exodus of capital from Mexico.