By RICARDO CASTILLO
This week before the Sunday, July 1, presidential election reminds me of the same period back in 2006.
At that time, I had been appointed by the then-Federal Electoral Institute – now National Electoral Institute (INE) – to be second aboard in a populous booth located in Colonia Roma in Mexico City.
Back then this same period of time was indeed nervewrecking for all concerned. The Democratic Revolution Party’s (PRD) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) had a slight lead over the National Action Party’s (PAN) Felipe Calderón.
Those were days when then-President Vicente Fox was resorting to all types of mudslinging to discredit AMLO.
In the press, the war of words was relentless. The ancient war between liberals and conservatives that had prevailed in changes of power during the 19th century in Mexican politics was there again. It was the same old story – at a different time in history – between the different views of the nation the Mexican people wanted, between conservative Lucas Alamán, who favored having a king or an emperor, and liberal Luis María Mora, best remembered as Doctor Mora, who favored the democratic system that proved impossible to establish during that century. Elections, even by the nation’s top hero, Benito Juárez, were always, if not rigged, slanted in favor of the incumbent.
Going back to the 2006 election, it is a historic fact that Calderón won by less than half a point. Immediately, the PRD’s AMLO and all his following cried foul as former President Fox obviously had used public funds to pump up the last-minute publicity backing for Calderón. Unusually, Calderón did not disparage dirty electioneering and claimed victory – and I quote – “it may have been as it may have been,” nowadays a classic of potential election rigging.
But there is a curious change in stances by political pundits nowadays. All of the liberals of yesteryear 2006 have turned against liberal AMLO in one way or another. Just last Sunday, poet Gabriel Zaid, now 84 years old, launched a tirade versus AMLO in the conservative Mexico City daily Reforma, calling him a master at insulting nice people like him. One thing that AMLO did say was that people like Zaid – the son of Palestinian immigrants and a mechanical engineer turned poet – were true conservatives disguised in the sheep’s cloth of a liberal.
But, of course, in this last week onslaught to bring AMLO down once again, Zaid, whose article in Reforma is a compendium of “insults” used by AMLO – the poet insults AMLO, calling him “AMLO poet.”
“Persons who insult usually have a limited and repetitive repertoire of insults,” Zaid said. “AMLO is an artist at insulting, at despicability, at disqualifying” people.
AMLO is indeed a master at calling people names, but doesn´t a man who is called a name more than once a day have the right to defend himself?
Zaid, indeed a righteous individual who admits no criticism, surely joins the long lists of writers who AMLO has called “wishywashy” because of their pretended conservatism disguised as liberalism. The list is long, but I will name a few: political opinion writer Jesús Silva Herzog, historian Enrique Krauze (a master at writing about the differences between Alamán and Doctor Mora), literary editor (Nexos Magazine) Héctor Aguilar Camín, columnist Denisse Dresser, and political gunslingers Ricardo Alemán and Pablo Hiriart (these last two clearly in some political party’s payola accounting book).
These are but a few names of so-called “intellectuals” whose minds go berserk on a daily basis just at the thought that AMLO is contending again for president. And when AMLO strikes back, they foam at the mouth with rage.
One feature AMLO definitely has is his popular use of language, which poet Zaid confuses with insults. He has the gift of entertaining the uneducated populace whose votes he wants to attract in his in his usually one-hour-long speeches.
But then, we still have a couple of days left of mudslinging, with all the political candidates claiming they will win the election because they are the cutest.
We’ll know the answer next Monday morning at 8 a.m. when the National Electoral Institute will make a count of 85 percent of the voting booths in the nation. When it announces the winner, the mud – we hope – will go away.