By RICARDO CASTILLO
The real question in Mexican politics these days is: What’s there to fear?
A week ago, on Thursday, March 8, all six presidential candidates were invited to speak before the National Bankers Convention in Acapulco. The hopefuls each presented their points of view and, in general, were well received by the bank operators.
Nevertheless, it was frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) who dropped a bombshell statement that’s been since been dominating the news with commentary, both positive and negative.
Asked what he’d do if he were to lose the election, AMLO replied:
“I’d like to go in peace to Palenque (a town near the famous Maya ruins by that same name in the state of Chiapas, where he owns a family farm he inherited from his parents called by the colorful name of La Chingada – Google it out), but only if the elections are fair and clean. But if they dare to commit an electoral fraud, I will also go to Palenque. But let’s see who is going to tie down the tiger (referring to public anger). Whoever unleashes that tiger will have to be the one who ties it up again, since I will not be there holding people back after an electoral fraud. It’s that clear, and that’s why I wish with all my heart that these elections will be free, fair and clean, and will let the Mexican people decide who will be their next president.”
The couple of thousand bank employees attending the convention were fear-stricken. The concept of unleashing the tiger struck terror in their hearts because of what such a “threat” could mean for Mexico, plus the fact that most of them participated in a previous poll in which 80 percent said that AMLO would not be president, or so they hoped.
After the consequent barrage of commentaries by columnists and opinion leaders, as well as the other presidential candidates, AMLO had to come answer in his sidewalk press conferences across the nation and explain that his political program is clear and transparent. But, he said, it is also clear that President Enrique Peña Nieto and his incumbent Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) have committed electoral fraud over the past 90 year, so yet another electoral theft would not come as a surprise in Mexico. And in his usually folksy way of expressing himself, AMLO said that if “the raccoons” (as electoral fraud government specialists are known in Mexico) do their thing, “the tiger” will be on the loose.
Ever since 1992, when the National Electoral Institute (INE) first came into effect, Mexico’s new generations have lived with the hope of their country becoming a real democracy. And, for the most part, the INE has prevailed as a fair elections organizer. But in the midst of the terror unleashed by AMLO last week, current INE President Lorenzo Córdova Vianello – in a much less folksy language, made a similar warning during the Media Electoral Training Workshop going on now at INE headquarters in Mexico City.
“If the electoral authority does its job, but governments (municipal, state and federal) in plural do not show respect for the principles of impartiality they are obliged to show under the constitution, this election can go to waste,” Córdova Vianello said.
“If the respective political parties and their candidates do not comply with the regulations and obligations, an entire election can go down the drain.”
That was no light warning to keep hands-off the electoral process from the man who has to announce who the winner will be!
The prospect of having a loose tiger is no minor thing. In January 2017, Peña Nieto – through a move orchestrated by his then-Finance Secretary and now-underdog PRI presidential hopeful, José Antonio Mead Kuribreña — raised taxes on all fuels. The reaction to that move was viral and Mexicans got a tiny taste of what a deluge of angry people can do. Supermarkets were sacked, thousands of convenience stores were looted, and people were killed in some of the rampages. Consider that as a baby tiger on the loose.
Just last Tuesday, March 13, Peña Nieto had to come out and claim that the federal government would be an impartial onlooker of the electoral process, particularly on election day, July 1. He went on to say that everyone has the right to vote for whoever he or she chooses.
But, unfortunately for the president, Peña Nieto has little or no credibility since he promised lower fuel prices, and, instead, they are higher. (In fact, I just got my bimonthly electricity bill, and it went up by nearly 100 percent, from 673 in the November-December period to 1,323 pesos for January-February. Naturally, I’m not happy, and I know I’m not alone.)
But even under these discouraging circumstances and a big change in attitude from AMLO toward the “head of the mafia” Peña Nieto, the Morena candidate said the president would be remembered well if the electoral results were to reflect the authentic popular will.
For the meantime, we just have to hold our breaths and wait, since we are still in the “inter-campaigns” period that will end in March with Easter Week.
Then the real election will kick off, and if there’s fear in the air now, we can only image the terror that will prevail if the tiger is set loose.
That is what we really have to fear for the next three campaign-months!