Lopez Obrador’s New Challenge
January 16, 2013
Undeterred by the official rejection of his legal challenge to the July 2012 election results, buy Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador presses on with his opposition movement. Like he was still on the campaign stump, health the left opposition leader is touring Mexico and building up his new political party, the National Movement for the Regeneration of Mexico (MORENA), as the latest political force on the scene.
In remarks made this month in the southeastern state of Campeche, Lopez Obrador countered rumors that he would meet with new President Enrique Pena Nieto. He repeated criticisms that the Mexican political leadership was plunging ahead with the neo-liberal policies of the past few decades.
“There are no indications that the situation is going to improve,” Lopez Obrador said. “On the contrary, Mexico will sink as a people and as a nation because of the imposition of an economic policy designed to benefit a tiny minority, one percent of the population, at the expense of the suffering of the remaining 99 percent.”
The immediate objective of Lopez Obrador’s current trip is to oversee the formation of 251 MORENA municipal committees in the states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Chiapas, and Veracruz.
“We are a party-movement, close to the people,” is how Carlos Gomez, finance secretary for MORENA in the state of Jalisco, described the organization. In an interview with FNS, Gomez said MORENA intends to sign up 1.5 million members, an amount far higher than official Federal Electoral Institute requirements for registering a new political party.
“This is not much for us, but a lot for (parties) that don’t have strength,” Gomez insisted, pointing to Lopez Obrador’s nearly 16 million votes in the 2012 race, a showing which officially put the former Mexico City mayor in second place and represented about one million more votes cast for the candidate than in his first, unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2006.
In an another example of the transnationalization of politics, Gomez said MORENA is organizing in the far-flung Mexican Diaspora, especially in U.S. localities including California, Chicago and El Paso, Texas.
Abandoning his center-left PRD party to focus on MORENA last year, Lopez Obrador has since been regularly assailed by detractors from across the spectrum. Facing a challenge to his party base, former PRD President Jesus Ortega, who clashed with Lopez Obrador over tactics, strategy and vision, was quoted in the Mexican press this month predicting that MORENA would constitute an “extremist, polarizing left.”
In a recent column, political analyst Humberto Aguilar Camarena termed Lopez Obrador a “cheap product easy to sell.” But Lopez Obrador’s greatest challenge, Aguilar wrote, was “father time,” or the nearly six years remaining until the next presidential contest that could render the politician irrelevant.
Although the Tabasco native has been dismissed as a political has-been on more than one occasion, he has shown a remarkable ability to not only survive but expand his base as well.
MORENA is headed up by a 30-member national executive committee that counts among its ranks well-known activists and political personalities including former labor organizer Bertha Elena Lujan, PRD co-founder Marti Batres and human rights pioneer Rosario Piedra Ibarra.
MORENA and Lopez Obrador are emerging as the most visible critics of the Pact for Mexico, the labor, energy, security, education and social reform package promoted by President Pena Nieto and endorsed by the leaders of the PRI, PAN and PRD parties. If the pact succeeds, MORENA and its leader could be politically isolated; if on the other hand it flops, the left opposition could get a big political boost.
In an editorial published in the current edition of its monthly newspaper and titled “The Pact against the People,” MORENA blasted the agreement as meaning “more sacrifices for Mexicans and more privileges for the same ones as always.” The January 2013 issue features cartoons that ridicule the other political parties, refute the notion of Mexico as a democracy and take on energy reform, criticizing initiatives to open Mexican oil fields to foreign investment as a surrender to the dictates of Washington and multinational corporations. A cartoon strip depicts the succession of PRI and PAN Mexican presidents from Miguel de la Madrid to Enrique Pena Nieto riddling the barrel of the national oil company Pemex with weapons ranging from knives to bazookas.
“Despite its corruption and dismantlement, Pemex continues being a strength for the country,” reads the cartoon’s text. “It contributes 1.2 billion pesos a year to the state, close to 40 percent of the national budget…”
According to MORENA activists, the movement plans to distribute millions of copies of its newspaper across Mexico.
Although it is in the process of re-organizing as a political party, MORENA is not rushing to participate in the state and local elections scheduled for July of this year. Instead, the nascent party plans to compete in the 2015 Congressional races.
Jalisco MORENA leader Carlos Gomez said his organization will spend the next two years registering new members and “raising consciousness.” Asked what differentiates MORENA from other political parties in the eyes of a politically-skeptic public, Gomez said the party-movement’s statutes and rules will be very strict in regulating the behavior of its elected representatives, with anti-corruption a fundamental principle.
“Lopez Obrador could be judged on anything, except corruption,” Gomez maintained. “People know he’s not corrupt. There’s never been a politician more attacked in Mexico than him, but he remains on the scene after two election attempts. Gomez is also wagering that the public will identify with MORENA if and when potentially unpopular proposals like an expected increase in the sales tax to the 17-22 percent range are unveiled.
“The only opponent to this will be MORENA, because all the other parties signed a pact of complicity,” Gomez added. “We are a very noble country. People are hit time again, but there is a limit. We are trying to change in the most peaceful, electoral way, because we don’t want violence.”
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Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico
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