“I voted for the first time in 1976, and on that occasion there was only one candidate for the presidency of Mexico, José López Portillo, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Tired of systematic electoral fraud, the opposition decided not to run,” says Juan Villoro, writer and columnist of the newspaper Reforma.
On July 1, Mexico will elect a new president. There are four candidates, but according to Villoro the situation is even worse than it was 42 years ago: “It is true that for my debut at the polls there were no alternatives, but we could dream for a better future, when there would be an open confrontation between political parties: the reality was bad, but the hope was truly present and healthy. Today, however, neither reality nor illusion satisfy us. We are facing a double crisis.”
What kind of a country is going to the polls next month?
Mexico is one of the most expensive and failing democracies in the world. Electoral campaigns last too long, and political parties allocate themselves resources that no one controls (5.3 billion pesos per year, or about €230 million). The PRI ruled the country for 71 years, until 2000. In the era of the “single party,” democracy was a conjecture, a mere hope. However, we thought that when we had fair and credible elections everything would be different, and magnificent candidates would win. If Manuel Vazquez Montalban has said with irony “we were better with Franco,” we could reply: “we were better with the old PRI.”
The parties have considered democracy a mere economic affair; a machinery apt not to solve problems but to administer them. This has led to alliances that do not respond to ideals, but to interests and opportunities. How else would you explain that the PRD (Partido de la Revolucion Democratica), the party of social democracy as far as we know, is an ally with the PAN (Partido de Acción Nacional), known for being right-wing, and that Morena (Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional), which is left-wing, is an ally of the Evangelical Party? The disappointment with all this situation is profound.
You endorsed the independent indigenous candidacy of Marichuy, María de Jesús Patricio Martínez. What is the significance of your exclusion from the vote?
She was the only truly honest candidate, and the only one who did not cheat. The 94 percent of the signatures collected to present herself as an independent candidate have been validated, but in Mexico honest ones are outlaws, and so their names are not on the voting list.
Where do you find, however, those who have collected the unprecedented number of signatures needed, 867,000. Obviously, Marichuy would never have won. She did not have the financial means to compete, but with her exclusion we lost the opportunity to hear the voice of the poorest citizens, those who know best the problems of the country, for having suffered them personally.
Between the PRI, which returned to power in 2012 with Enrique Peña Nieto, and the PAN, which would be the worst option today?
The PRI ruled for 71 years on the border of democracy and did everything possible to avoid it. It has made politics an instrument for enrichment and power. It has allowed corruption and impunity. It has converted the government into a branch of organized crime. There is nothing worse.
Do you think that Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), Morena’s candidate, can bring a transformation of society?
AMLO is an important actor in the social struggle, for the third-time candidate to the presidency. However, he is not a real alternative, nor is he capable of working as a team. He depends essentially on his charisma (extraordinary in the plazas, very weak in the debates). His big problem is that in order to reach power he has become part of the system, forming an alliance with politicians who have opposite ideas. On his side there are former reactionary members of the NAP (Espino, Germán Martínez, Gabriela Cuevas), corrupt trade union leaders (Napoleón Gómez Urrutia, Elba Esther Gordillo), Evangelical and Pentecostal members of the PES party, former members of the PRI (Esteban Moctezuma and Manuel Bartlett, the latter responsible for the electoral fraud of 1988).
This mix is not encouraging. For years AMLO criticized the “mafia of power,” but now he has approached it in order to govern. Gore Vidal said that elections in the U.S. are decided by money, and that a candidate who has not received at least 10 bribes has no chance to win. In Mexico, political pacts define everything: to succeed, you have to humiliate yourself 10 times. In some ways, today AMLO presents himself as an opponent to Andrées Manuel Lopez Obrador who was a candidate in 2006. And the sad thing is that he has more chances of winning today.
What is missing in Mexico today?
Anyone would naturally imagine that there is a left-wing party willing to change the reality, given that we live in country with 50 million poor people, two-fifths of whom are in extreme poverty, indigenous peoples are stripped of their land and without rights, feminicides, extreme discrimination and growing social inequalities are systemic issues in the social body.
But that is not the case.
The authentic transformation of reality seems an illusion of the past, a form of nostalgia. Fortunately, the poorest people have not stopped fighting and organizing themselves. The Marichuy campaign allowed for the first time that communities throughout the country articulated a common process of recognizing the problems. And this is not a project that only concerns the indigenous people, as a folk reserve, but an idea of renewal that can engage the whole society. A future community, with new forms of participation in a direct democracy, is on the move. It will take time, but it is on the move. “Let’s go slowly because the path is long,” the Zapatistas claim.
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