Posted by: Kevin | September 6, 2006

Checking in on the Neighbors

In a story that doesn’t seem to be getting much attention Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Leftist candidate for Mexico’s presidency, has vowed to create a parallel Leftist government to protest the election victory of the ruling parties Felipe Calderon.  Calderon won the July 2nd elections by ~234,000 votes out of 41.6 million votes cast.  More recently he won in court when Mexico’s Federal Election Tribunal rejected Obrador’s allegations of widespread fraud. 

Obrador’s actions since learning of the court’s decision are disturbing.  He has encouraged his followers to disobey the official Mexican government and set up a parallel government to administer property taxes, handle permits, etc.  He’s vowed to never acknowledge the legitimacy of the elected government and then there’s this:

People close to Lopez Obrador say he is assuming the role of his hero, 18th-century President Benito Juarez, who led a roving, “unofficial” presidency from 1863 to 1867 during the French invasion, before driving out the invaders and executing the French-installed Emperor Maximilian.

Seems like Obrador is a little confused, as he won’t be fighting a French imposed government but one voted on by the Mexican people. 

As much as his camp denies it, Obrador seems cut from the same cloth as Hugo Chavez.  Between setting himself up as the champion of the little guy and the fiery bombast that’s been issuing from himself and others in his camp, this seems more like a cult of personality than an attempt at government.  He’s also put himself in a precarious position.  Since the election, and his response to it, many of his moderate supporters have abandoned him.  This has weakened his party in parliament and radicalized his movement considerably.  He’ll be left with the choice of a humiliating withdrawal and losing his leadership position within his party, the Democratic Revolution or violent escalation. 

Calderon, on the other hand seems to be making all the right moves.  He’s promised to incorporate many of the platforms of the Democratic Revolution into his program and called for national unity.  This neat bit of triangulation, if he follows through, will further erode support for Obrador and steal the thunder from the left in Mexico.  It will also make it easier to use force should Obrador’s hardcore supporters stage a repeat of the riots in Oaxaca. 

It will be interesting to see what happens in the run-up to the December 1st transfer of power from Vincent Fox to Calderon.

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