By RICARDO CASTILLO
In 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto won the presidential election representing the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), defeating Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) by a narrow, but credible, margin of 38 to 32 percent of the general vote count.
Unlike in the aftermath of the 2006 election when AMLO lost to National Action Party (PAN) candidate Felipe Calderón by a nose – 36.8 versus 36.2 percent – and shut down Mexico City’s main thoroughfare, Reforma Boulevard for three long months crying “fraud” in sheer frustration and wrath, in 2012 AMLO retired in silence, accepting the loss, but never conceding.
AMLO’s silence did not mean defeat. He smelled foul play in Peña Nieto’s and the PRI’s victory over him. He hinted to his peers at the PRD that he intended to run for a third time, but opposition within leftwing party was overwhelming.
The PRD was then run and operated by a group headed by Jesús Ortega and Jesús Zambrano, both of whom until then had stood by AMLO. But after two defeats, they felt that AMLO was in for yet another one. Ortega and Zambrano, both part of a larger group nicknamed “Los Chuchos” (Chucho is a moniker for those named Jesús) thought it was time for someone else to run for the PRD.
Their decision was made and AMLO would not be a candidate again. This led AMLO to use the months of July and August in 2012 to reconsider his stay at the PRD. In the beginning of September that year, he made it public that he would be splintering from the PRD to form a brand new political organization.
On Sept. 9, 2012, AMLO announced the split after joining hands with the small but decidedly leftist independent political organizations of the Labor Party (PT) and Citizens’ Movement (MC) to help form his concept of a party called National Regeneration Movement, MoReNa, for the two initials in Spanish for Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional.
The move by AMLO at first caused laughter among his colleagues because most of the people at the PRD thought he did not stand a chance of success. But AMLO had different thoughts and the word “morena” alone has a deep spiritual meaning for the Mexican people. It is the surname given to the nation’s Holy Mother Virgin of Guadalupe, best known as the “virgin morena.” It also refers directly to the general brown skin of the Mexican people, who describe brown-skinned people as “morenas” for women and “morenos” for men.
At the National Regeneration Movement launching meeting at the main square plaza, or “Zocalo,” in Mexico City, AMLO said farewell to his old PRD fellows with whom he did politics and its leftwing militancy during 23 years, ever since the PRD founding in 1989. He worked his way up the ranks from being a small-time leader in his home state of Tabasco to a twice presidential candidate. He was still friendly towards PRD.
“This is not a rupture,” he said.
“I wave goodbye on the best of terms. I separate myself from the progressive party with deep gratitude to their leaders and militants. At the PRD, I have got many friends who at all times gave me their trust and support, and in response, I gave them my best and represented them with devotion and dignity. We are even and in peace.”
At the PRD, “Los Chuchos” and the leaders of different leftist ideological currents known as “The Tribes” didn’t take AMLO seriously. Morena began as a back-up, nongovernment organization in 2011, tailgating the PRD. During the 2012 election, it had little or no visible influence. The launching of Morena as a political party was definitely eyed as the soreness of a Mexican politico whose grapes had gone sour.
But AMLO, much more than a politico, has proven beyond the shadow of a doubt to be a leftwing visionary zealot. He went on to begin gathering the needed signatures to become a bona fide political party registered with the electioneering umpire National Electoral Institute (INE). AMLO managed to get enough signatures to register as an opposition minority political party on July 9, 2014, less than two years after Morena’s splinter with the PRD.
A golden opportunity opened up for AMLO – hence Morena – immediately after Enrique Peña Nieto (EPN) was sworn in as president of Mexico on Dec. 1, 2012. On Dec. 3, EPN announced the establishment of his “Pact for Mexico” to help him launch his energy and education bills.
EPN resorted to a coalition of the PRI, PAN and PRD to concoct the then-hailed “Pact for Mexico,” bringing the three leading parties together to get the bills approved by a congressional majority. The “Pact for Mexico” was signed on Dec. 2, 2012, one day after Peña Nieto was sworn into office.
Many Mexicans viewed the inking of the “Pact for Mexico” as a post-election conciliatory step and praised Peña Nieto for having gained unity of both houses of Congress to move the nation – and his bills – forward.
Needless to point out now, the “Pact for Mexico” three-party coalition was not unanimous. In fact, most of the leftwingers – 32 percent of the vote against Peña Nieto’s 38 percent in the election – were outraged at the “Pact for Mexico” because in terms of energy it was “giving away the country’s oil reserves to foreigners” and in education, it meant a repression to the several teachers’ unions, the largest and best organized labor groups in Latin America.
The signing by “Los Chuchos” – as well as by then-PAN president Gustavo Madero – of the “Pact for Mexico” brought about a rift of humongous proportions at the PRD. In fact, a hefty group of dissenters from the “Pact for Mexico” decided to break away from the “treacherous Chuchos” who had sold the party out to Peña Nieto’s PRI.
AMLO definitely smelled blood and immediately began opposing the “Pact for Mexico” and summoning those breaking up with “Los Chuchos” to join the Morena cause.
When the “Pact for Mexico” energy and education bills were approved by Congress, with the vote of the PAN and the PRD, AMLO held protests against the bills. And once he had obtained the INE registration in 2014, he began demanding a referendum to be held during the 2015 mid-term elections. The idea of a referendum, however, was nixed by the “Pact for Mexico” signatories. Yet many saw them — particularly, the energy reform — as an affront to the holy cow that was the state-owned ownership of oil company Pemex.
Regardless of this early defeat, AMLO and now Morena were on the political map and contended in the 2015 midterm elections with moderate success.
But AMLO continued calling upon the still-numerous followers he had garnered over many years. He succeeded finally at having a mass desertion of the PRD militancy, a party that has governed Mexico City since 2000.
In 2015, Morena made a hefty dent into the PRD following and began to lose seats in the Mexico City Assembly after it had won the city by a landslide in the 2012 elections with Miguel Ángel Mancera – AMLO’s pet politician.
AMLO used the midterm momentum to once again launch his candidacy for president, now under the aegis of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Over the past three years, he has visited every municipality in Mexico at least once – some thrice – and, politically speaking, in the bat of an eye positioned himself and Morena as the leading political party in the nation.
Just 10 days prior to the July 1, 2018, election, Morena is definitely the party to beat, and if all the polls are correct, he will be elected president and Morena will gain a significant presence in both houses of Congress.
Nobody would even consider thinking of it in this way, but this is a political miracle that can be achieved to no one else but “La Virgen Morena.”
And a lot of hard-stumping by a seemingly tireless AMLO, whose dream of eradicating corruption from Mexico will definitely need some serious celestial help.