By Brian McDougall

While Ottawa area activists have lots of reasons to continue protesting Trump’s policies outside the American embassy, they may soon need to learn the location of the Mexican embassy. 

Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez (centre, standing) was the first Presidential Candidate put forth by the Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress.
Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez (centre, standing) was the first Presidential Candidate put forth by the Zapatistas and the National Indigenous Congress.

Mexico’s July 1 Presidential election is likely to produce almost as much controversy as Trump’s election. Currently, populist social reformer Lopez Obrador has a ten per cent lead in the polls, but Mexico has a long history of electoral fraud – this is one of the ways that the country’s one per cent maintains its power.

Twice during the last thirty years centre-left candidates won the presidency, only to have electoral irregularities deliver power to an elite-approved right-wing candidate.

In 1988, Cuautemoc Cardenas was denied office by a last-minutes ‘system crash’ in the computer calculating results. Cardenas was opposed to the Mexican elite’s embrace of free trade and neoliberalism.

In 2006, Lopez Obrador, who was then the very popular Mayor of Mexico City, lost the Presidential election by less than one per cent in a ballot that involved numerous irregularities. Again, the office went to a neo-liberal member of the elite, Felipe Calderon.

Many Mexicans wonder if that pattern of electoral fraud is about to be repeated this year.

Now older and more conservative, Lopez Obrador is running on a social democratic platform that has united the opposition to both Trump and the Mexican elite. Obrador’s lead in the polls has prompted the Mexican and American one per cent to initiate the dirty tricks and political positioning required to steal the 2018 election.

Meanwhile, the many social problems created by decades of Mexican neoliberalism remain invisible to the Canadians who take ‘all-inclusive’ vacations at Mexican resorts. These include the war on drugs that produced a tsunami of murder, free-trade related rural impoverishment, privatization of major resources like oil and chronic state corruption.

However, recent events have contributed to a sense major changes may be coming. Besides hatred of  Trump’s wall, his threats to the Mexican economy and his promise to deport more Mexican immigrants, there have been waves of protest against the policies of the Mexican ruling class.  

Impressive levels of self-organization and grass-roots initiative were evident in three years of protests and activism against state complicity in the 2014 murder of 43 Indigenous teacher’s college students in Ayotzinapa.

Similarly, both the widespread protests against the privatization of the oil industry and related price-hikes for gas in early 2017 (the ‘Gasolinazo’) and the spontaneous grass-roots efforts to save victims of the September 2017 earthquake in Mexico City constitute a warning to Mexico’s elite.

There are other signs of radical organization and dissent. In southern Mexico, the Zapatistas (EZLN) and the National Indigenous Congress sponsored a Presidential candidate for the first time: Maria de Jesus Patricio Martinez (known as ‘Marichuy’).

A feminist, human rights activist and an Indigenous (Nahua) traditional doctor, Martinez was not able to gather the 866,000 valid signatures (nominations) required to get onto the presidential ballot. Of course the highly-discriminatory government-supervised nominating process involved a user-unfriendly and expensive smartphone app, not available to the poor and those in rural communities.

When Lopez Obrador had the presidency stolen in 2006, Mexicans responded with a massive wave of unrest. Besides very large urban rallies and marches (some Mexico City demonstrations involved over a million people), there were highway and bridge seizures, blockades of foreign banks, occupations of federal government buildings and an encampment in the main square (the ‘Zocolo’) in Mexico City.

Even though the 2018 election is not until July 1, Ottawa activists need to know the Mexican embassy is located in an office tower at 45 O’Connor Street (suite 1000).  More accessible for protests is the Ambassador’s residence, at 470 Island Park Drive.

There is a nice bonus if protesting a stolen Mexican election proves necessary. It will piss off Trump as well.

This article first appeared in the Leveller Vol. 10, No. 6 (Mar/Apr 2018).