Monday, August 15, 2005

The Two Campaigns by Carlos Montemayor

[Una nota - I'm pleased to present the first of what I hope will be a series of translations of reportage and opinion pieces from the Mexican press. The translations will be done by a number of good people who have offered to lend their hand. Given the dearth of serious news in the English language press, and the interesting times, I felt we all needed more. - irl]

Originally published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translated by zapapaz

La Jornada
August 11, 2005


The Two Campaigns, Part 1 of 2

By Carlos Montemayor

Five years of the Fox administration have already passed, and we have serious setbacks on multiple fronts: diplomatic, economic, agrarian, immigration, police and ecological. In this context of deterioration and social tension we cannot expect the conflict in the state of Chiapas to improve. The militarization in the region has not had any substantial changes on the part of the Mexican Army. In regard to the paramilitary groups, their strengthening and growth have been constant, thanks to a selective outpouring of economic aid carried out by both the federal and state governments. The risk of losing those economic resources facilitates, on the one hand, the docility of many non-zapatista communities; on the other hand, it facilitates confrontation and social tension with the zapatista communities. The intent to involve the EZLN with the cultivation of drugs, after all, was a serious signal from the army.

The red alert of the EZLN was intended to reveal to the world and the country that the militarization remains and continues to constitute the greatest risk of violence in the region. The paramilitary groups have in fact become stronger, although at this moment they may be hidden, rather than actively shooting. But they are the ones who assure that the development budgets of the federal and state governments flow selectively to the communities and regions where they themselves are located, in such a way that we could say that in a certain way their influence now is economic and political. On this front we can speak of coincidences, or of the continuity of federal politics in regards to the conflict in Chiapas during the administrations of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Ernesto Zedillo and Vicente Fox. Because, in reality, President Fox did not clarify which day, year, decade, or century those minutes would pertain to when he affirmed that in "fifteen minutes" he would resolve the conflict in Chiapas; therefore the social clocks still await this mythological quarter of an hour.

That said, many people are asking, in Mexico and outside of Mexico, if with the eventual triumph of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in the coming federal elections of 2006, there could be a solution to the Chiapas conflict. We would reply that it is difficult to say, because it isn't just about conviction on the part of one government figure, but rather about a real negotiation that is profound, and therefore gradual, with long-existing political and economic forces in Chiapas and other parts of the country. I mean to say that the solution to the so-called Chiapas conflict cannot be the result of a single personal decision, nor can it be contemplated as an immediate and decisive action, but rather as a complex social process. The hope (to use a word close to the followers of López Obrador) for a rapid solution to the conflict originates possibly in a premise that does not correspond fully to reality: to believe that the power of a government figure is sufficient to transform the entire society. Or, closer still, to believe that with the change of a government figure, the entire society will change. This type of premise forms an inalienable part of the traditions of state power.
In Bolivia they have changed several presidents of the republic in a short period of time without those changes having provoked any social transformation of the state sufficient to have eliminated precisely the social causes which provoked the continuous demissions of the rulers. In Ecuador and Peru changes of governments, whether violent or electoral, did not automatically bring the hoped-for social transformations. In Mexico the installation of a PAN chief executive only reaffirmed the economic policies of the two previous PRI presidents, in such a way that the change consisted of, paraphrasing Ovid and Rubén Bonifaz Nuño, saying (and doing) the same thing in another way.

Changes of leadership do not automatically bring with them social transformations. But to exaggerate the image of a leader is a natural dynamic in the systems of state power and among the party elite, because it is the only recourse to create differences in political platforms that are identical or more and more like one another all the time. For that reason, the fashion parade of hopeful candidates continues to be just a change of lights in the continuum of the political elite. In this context of state power, who can assure us that one or two prominent figureheads of the PRD elite could transform our country in a positive way? Perhaps our society is a passive object which waits for a leader to give the order to change so that it can begin to transform itself automatically? In this context, I insist, why have the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacandona and recent communiques and expressions of the EZLN and Subcomandante Marcos caused such disconcertation and unease in many media outlets and in the PRD leadership?

Though finally cleared up by La Jornada and by Subcommandante Marcos' letter to Benito Rojas Guerrero that at no time did he say, in reference to the followers of López Obrador, "if they are with them, they are not with us", nevertheless there remains, for the PRD and those outside it, the hot topic of the relative position, self-designation, or definition of the forces of the left in the country. However, I think that the fundamental question planted by the EZLN is more profound and clear: to call for a reordering of the left and of national social change, not from the perspective of state power, but rather from the grassroots. Because in fact the politicians continue to forget that among the elites in power a country is seen differently than it is from the reality of the people. Political campaigns for that reason stem from a reinforcement of party identity, as we will see tomorrow in the next installment.