Massive anti Peña demonstration in México DF on July 7.
There is widespread dissatisfaction, frustration and despair. Everyone in the country is experiencing such feelings over the political system to different degrees. The national presidential election was held on July 1st, and Enrique Peña Nieto had the largest vote making him the presumptive winner, with some 38% of the total, meaning around 19 million votes. Nothing is official just yet, with the election still to be validated, but on July 7 major demonstrations against Peña Nieto took place across México, today, July 12, the leftist challenger, Andrés Manuel López Obrador will present a major lawsuit to annul the election, and the call is out for further protests and demonstrations on July 14 with many more to come.
So, presidential elections had a winner who took victory by a large margin, but, there have been no celebrations by the triumphant party or their voters, and, a majority of the population repudiates Peña Nieto. How could this be? We’ll try to look at and explain the major reasons.
a composite picture of the anti Peña protests of July 7 that is going around the internet
The Mexican state is mired in a crisis. Rule of law over all kind of matters had always been very deficient and decaying, and now, drug cartels in fact overtly rule over authorities in vast parts of the country, especially in the north. Mexicans, as most peoples all over the world, had always been highly skeptical of government, but the fall of PRI in 2000 and the coming of democracy had raised massive hopes of change which have since been tragically deflated.
In the end, democracy never fully arrived in México, indeed there have been changes and achievements, but never to the extent that people dreamed of. Theorists of democracy have definitely concluded that democracy is necessarily much more than the universal right to vote and minimally legitimate elections; true democracy then becomes much harder to grasp and live by. It implies legality, equality, rule of law, absence of corruption, and many more conditions, all of which are completely absent in the lives of ordinary mexicanos.
Legacy of and methods PRI use when in power
In México, power and money have always ruled. And that has held true from the lowest levels, to the highest spheres. From skipping the line of citizens waiting in the booth to place their vote as Enrique Peña Nieto (PRI presidential candidate) and Pedro Joaquín Coldwell (national leader of PRI) did this July 1st to much more serious matters. A documentary called “El Túnel” was put out a couple years ago, and it argued that people with power and money enough never make it past the corridor that connects the courts to prison; those who did trespass it were the poor and helpless, and irrespective of their guilt or innocence it was nigh impossible to come out once past that point. Let’s say there was a car crash somewhere and someone was injured or killed, it has happened often enough, that with the appropriate phone calls and with bribes large enough, the responsible driver could walk free immediately and the case be shut down, even if intoxication or speeding were involved. And from those everyday matters, impunity holds true also in the realm of the business of the state. There are myriad cases like this, but let’s just mention the case of Paulina Romero Deschamps for illustrative purposes. In May 2012, national newspaper Reforma, presented pictures that Paulina Romero Deschamps had in her Facebook account (the pictures are still going around the internet). She holds no job anywhere, and her father’s legal salary is some 1,800 dollars a month. But Carlos Romero Deschamps, her father, is the president of the union of workers of PEMEX, the national oil company, and the published pictures showed the despicable brat touring the world like only a multi millionaire could. Those pictures had her flying in numerous helicopters, touring in Versailles, shopping at Harrods, popping open bottles of wine worth 1,000 dollars, or posing with bags worth up to 12,000 dollars. This scandal obviously hit the eligibility of Enrique Peña Nieto who, like Romero Deschamps, is affiliated to PRI, and the pictures made the rounds in all the political magazines and national newspapers, but what came out of all this? Absolutely nothing as is the norm in México. The spoiled bastard took down her Facebook account, she and the rest of the juniors PRI has spawned will lay low for some time and that’s it. No investigation, no inquiry, no one will ever be questioned over these overt displays of corruption, and no one will ever step in jail for these wrongdoings, Romero Deschamps won’t even have to quit his post, he’s still there. Peña Nieto in person was questioned by reporters the day the scandal broke, and he couldn’t bring himself to repudiate his party fellow, he just said – Romero Deschamps is respected by all the workers of PEMEX -, and – Romero Deschamps has worked for all of his life -.
That has been life for an ordinary mexicano being an impotent spectator to such atrocities, and that’s just about now, in the old times it used to be even worse. Vicente Fox of PAN was an atypical politician with an atypical trajectory, and he campaigned hard against PRI and corruption and authoritarianism in 2000. And he did strike a nerve; he won the 2000 election decisively and for the first time since 1929 and the end of the Mexican Revolution, someone from outside the PRI was going to govern México. His lengthy list of justiciary promises went unfulfilled, though, in part because he gave in himself, in part because the undemocratic system in place was huge, and in part because the political rules in México are very defective (most people don’t understand this as a crucial element instead citing lack of political will alone). For someone like Fox, who likes to put himself in the company of Mandela, Luther King,Churchill and Felipe González, what he delivered was nowhere near the expectations that existed. The presidential rule of PRI did end, but, what in that moment could have seemed like a seismic change, akin to the end of apartheid, the fall of the berlin wall, the solidarity movement, or the end of various dictatorships in Iberoamérica wasn’t that far reaching. Fox and PAN did deliver some marginal improvements, but they co-governed with PRI (sharing rightist leanings, PRI and PAN have collaborated in many matters of government for the last twenty something years), got into sharing many of their pernicious habits and in refusing to kill the corruption PRI represents allowed it to fester and come back now. In the end, rule of law and ending impunity were not among the priorities of Fox and PAN, and many corrupt structures and organizations were left untouched. Many police corps, most of the ministerios públicos (local versions of district attorneys), and a lot of bureaucrats are still corrupt and self serving, thus everyday life has changed little for most ordinary mexicanos.
The six year term of the mojón (smallish piece of shit) FeCal Felipe Calderón has been the worst in history, the worst by the numbers and is not even worth going into.
That PRI is poised to rule again would be enough to explain the frustration and anger of the people who want democracy, improving quality of life and rule of law for México. That tells the tale of a lot of people demonstrating and protesting in the streets and vowing not to let Peña Nieto take office. But that’s not everything there is; two other aspects of this victory are also highly unsatisfactory.
Violations of electoral law
another composite image of the anti Peña demonstrations
By now, it has been widely documented and proven in the local and international press that PRI violated the law in numerous ways in this election. Multiple sources have suggested that the legal limit (336 million pesos) on how much a candidate could spend in his campaign was exceeded about tenfold by PRI (it is presumed more than 4,000 million were used). In some regions voters have declared they were coerced to vote for PRI, and it has been reported that even young children were used to monitor voters walking with them into the privacy of voting booths. Handouts, processed food, cement and many other giveaways were exchanged for votes. And, in a new technological innovation to election rigging, Monex Bank debit cards with the local equivalent of 7, 14, 35 or 70 dollars were also exchanged for votes to PRI. Soriana supermarkets also participated and prepaid cards with similar cheap amounts for use in their stores were also distributed to the same end. Elba Esther Gordillo, president of the national state teachers union also operated openly in favor of PRI trying to buy as many as 5 million votes herself (through operations Ágora). So, from PRI’s hardline historically loyal and predictable vote of about 12 million, much of the people that gave them the additional votes to almost 19 million were paid, threatened or fooled. This brings us to the national political polling companies. Every pollster had Peña Nieto as a lock down to take the presidency, but some went as far as to foretell 22 million votes going to PRI, and a distance of more than 8 million votes over his opponents. The election proved them to be lying openly, PRI had to buy, bribe, deceive and intimidate its way to 19 million votes; 22 million were not reachable not even in a parallel reality. And, even more, there is no way a polling survey can detect people who on the day of the election will only vote in exchange for handouts. Most pollsters were openly campaigning for Peña Nieto.
A major lawsuit was filed in electoral court on July 12, but, as has been mentioned and explained earlier, expect all those crimes to face no significant punishment. Even though there is clear and mounting evidence of vote buying and election rigging that in the developed world would send perpetrators to jail, and kill many political careers (the cases of Monex and Soriana are well documented, but even clearer are the misdeeds of the state government of Zacatecas where Manuel González Nava and other public officials diverted state funds and left paper trails of all the payments and bribes they perpetrated).
All this could help us understand that people who want democracy, rule of law, justice and all those things for México having all the right to feel aggrieved, frustrated and despairing right now. So, a vast majority of mexicanos are grieving right now, those out in the streets protesting, but also many more staying at home. Well, it turns out, the electoral rules and the political system also have major design flaws, which we will briefly analyze.
Electoral rules and division of powers
Presidentialism can more often than not be quite troublesome. In México, there are three major parties, so, regularly votes are split into thirds or close to thirds. In this particular election, 38% of the citizens voted for Peña Nieto and gave him a sizable advantage of around 7% over the next candidate. But, even as 38% of the vote went for Peña Nieto, 62% went against him. Having a ballotage or runoff between the top two vote getters in the first round is a must. By having a ballotage, more than half of the electorate will actually back the winner granting him capacity to govern and legitimacy (in a two party presidential system, more than half the electorate do back the winner, but that’s an exceptionality that doesn’t hold for more parties).
Then, also the design of the political system in México is very peculiar. The presidency of México is one of the weakest worldwide; it has no formal power of veto over legislation, it can´t rule by decree and it has no tools to make legislation pass or be voted on. This weakness, and the absence of a majority in congress since 1997 has resulted in extreme political paralysis. No major reforms or significant legal changes have passed since the 90’s, because who legislates is who governs, and for 15 years now, no one in México has been given that broad mandate. All this has fed into the widespread disbelief and dejection over democracy and government.
Reelection is forbidden for all public positions in México, independent candidates are also proscribed, as only a licensed party (those with more than 2% of vote in the last election) can in turn register a candidate to any public position. And, to top all that off, parties receive massive stipends from federal government as long as they keep their license. All this generates party leaderships exerting very strict discipline over their members as they actually hold the keys to their careers. This is one more reason for paralysis, as individual elected officials tend more to their party leaderships than to voters or constituencies, because it’s parties that matter. There are other structural reasons for paralysis and absolute lack of accountability, especially in the legislative, but those could deserve a full piece by themselves so we’ll leave them out for now.
All this helps us understand the spite and cynicism the general public in México have for government and democracy. One of the most expensive voting systems around, a very corrupt government, and no results or solutions whatsoever, that’s the general perception.
Are at least people who voted for PRI satisfied?
So, PRI left nothing to chance and they went all in after the presidency. They maybe would have won even following the rules, but just wanted to make sure. It is the federal government that concentrates all income from taxes, that has the biggest bureaucracy and the most power, and that budgetary payback for their investment was what PRI was going after. But, the beneficiaries are going to be only those who spend public money or make money off of crooked deals. The top bureaucracy, secretaries of state, contractors and leaders, them, and them only can feel satisfied and optimistic. They can expect to be financially set for life some 5 years from now, and with other business in place should the political landscape change substantially. The recent hall of shame of corruption, the Moreiras, Murats, Yarringtons, Montiels, Romero Deschamps, Maríns, Ruíz, they can toast and hope for the continuation of status quo. But the laypeople, all those millions who voted to get whatever cheap handout they could get, well, them you won’t see celebrating to political victory. Hits to quality of life, plus inflation, plus tax increases, crony capitalist reforms and corrupt government, that’s what ordinary mexicanos can expect. And just who would go celebrate publicly the return of PRI then?
Political systems all the world over are called unsatisfactory and dysfunctional, and that is always true to an extent, but the case of México defines just that fucked up situation, and then significantly exceeds it. That’s what is going on right now.
People demonstrating against Peña in Tijuana.
These two links provide galleries of the anti Peña Nieto marches that have taken place all over México but will never get TV coverage. In many cities in the North, masses don’t even gather publicly anymore because of the violence and insecurity, but in order to demonstrate people braved the danger this time.
By July 23rd, 3 independent media outlets by themselves have documented the financial mechanism PRI used to handout money through Monex. Several shell companies were used, Efra, Inizzio, Atama, Koleos, Tiguan to either put massive money into Monex Bank or to then buy prepaid cards from Monex. All those companies have either been contractors to PRI and Enrique Peña Nieto, or, they are brutish facades of some PRI militants (just check el Reforma newspaper or Aristegui Noticias to get the details). This is almost incriminating evidence, even a complicit tribunal would have a very hard time turning a blind eye to such information. The lawsuits against the validity of the election have in consequence been augmented with all this discoveries.
Also, street protests and demonstrations have continued, with attendance slowly increasing. The links below are to galleries of the protests of July 7, 14, 21 and 22nd, with many more to come, and unrest poised to explode if Peña Nieto is declared as president elect.