By RICARDO CASTILLO
The organized Cinco de Mayo marches in different cities across Mexico on Sunday, May 5, were the first organized protests against the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
There was one in Mexico City that garnered about 15,000 participants, according to figures released by the Mexico City government, and less meaningful ones in Guadalajara and Monterrey, with about 500 protesters each. And there were smaller marches in less populated cities like cities like Queretaro, León, Veracruz, Tampico and Mérida, each drawing in around 200 protestors.
During the marches, there were two main complaints levied against AMLO: first, the cancellation of the New Mexico International Airport (NAIM), and second, the cancellation of funding for nongovernment organizations for daycare centers.
But the most often heard complaint was regarding AMLO’s “attempt to divide the nation” between “fifis” (his term for well-to-do citizens) and “chairos” (the fifis’ nickname for the poor leftist bastards who voted for him ). There were multiple printed hashtags signs demanding that AMLO resign.
In Mexico City, some printed banner signs called for unity, proclaiming that there should be neither fifis nor chairos. “There’s only one Mexico,” they said. “No more hate speeches.”
There was no apparent single organizer of all the different marches. They all happened randomly, but in each city there was a leader. For instance, in Mexico City, Veracruz and Tampico, the marches were organized by Alejandra Morán, head of a social media organization called Chalecos México (Mexican Vests, in imitation of France’s Yellow Vests protest movement). The Chalecos México movement’s main focus of protest is AMLO’s withdrawal of funding for daycare centers.
In León, the march that garnered some 500 followers was put together by none other than former National Action Party (PAN) Presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón, both sworn enemies of AMLO who claimed that he is “a divider, not a unifier.” Fox and Calderón offered no specifics as to their objectives in joining the “national protest.”
The Mexico City march began at the Ángel de Independencia at 11 a.m. and ended one hour later at the Monument of the Mexican Revolution. There were no speeches offered, and the march fizzled out quickly.
The marches were vaguely reminiscent of the 2004 Marcha Blanca (White March) against mounting crime and violence, which massed over 200,000 people. Back then, AMLO was mayor of Mexico City, and it soon became clear that the march had been surreptitiously organized by then-President Fox, who wanted to ax López Obrador out of City Hall. Fox was already unpopular by then, and the tide of public opinion turned against him in the following months. As in Sunday’s march, during the White March, all the people were dressed in white to denote a peaceful demonstration.
President Calderón also had about 200,000 march against his regime back in August 2008 in a protest organized by sports goods vendor Alejandro Martí and several other organizations. Martí’s son had been sequestered and murdered by criminals. That march was to protest against the huge tide of violence by organized crime, mainly kidnappers, that began to hit the nation back then.
Now we see Fox and Calderón back on the political trail. The question many are asking is since they both have been presidents of Mexico, what is it that they want now?
Notably, former President Enrique Peña Nieto did not appear to counter-celebrate the Cinco de Mayo holiday. (Perhaps he’s too busy fending off criticism for having a relationship with an actress-model 20 years younger than himself, a minor scandal if one at all. Just add another casa chica to the budget.)
On Monday, May 6, during his daily press conference at the National Palace, AMLO acknowledged conservative citizens “exercising their right to protest” and deemed it “only natural” for them not to like the changes he’s making. AMLO added that it would be incongruent now that he is in power not to allow free expression from those who think differently from him.
“When we were in the opposition, we carried hundreds, thousands of protest marches,” he said. “We had to sweat it out to oust the conservatives from power. It took 36 years, and the nation was almost destroyed in the process. As you will now understand,, we did not come (to power) to be follower vases, to show ourselves off as ornaments. And we do not aspire to be a little gold coin (to be liked by everyone). We want to carry out the transformation of the nation. Getting here cost us a lot of work, fatigue, blows and suffering. We endured repression. That why it would be incongruent not to allow for the free expression of ideas.”
AMLO added — without making specific reference to the presence in the anti-AMLO march in León, Guanajuato, of former Presidents Fox and Calderón by name — that now the conservatives, “who are very corrupt and hypocritical, did nothing for Mexico’s youth and, now, here’s the paradox, they are demanding results.”
AMLO even called for the creation of “an association for the recovery of those sick with corruption.”
” It would be good for them to undergo therapies to reincorporate many people who have the basic objective of getting rich at the cost of whatever comes along, without moral scruples,” he said. “It is a sort of alienation.”
All in all, the Cinco de Mayo protests did not represent a major battle for AMLO, but rather, a reminder that there is an opposition – no matter how small nowadays – watching him closely and ready to wallop him one on the jaw, whenever the occasion may arise.