By ENRIQUE KRAUZE
It was not through some miracle, but rather because thanks to the efforts and sacrifices of generations, that Mexico has, successively, evolved as a theocratic, monarchical, viceroyalty, caudillism, dictatorial, revolutionary, revolutionary-institutional, and, finally today, a democratic state. Very soon, it may cease to be just that.
It is sad, but perhaps understandable, that Mexico’s new generations are unaware of the gigantic achievement of having left behind the barbaric customs of the 20th century, when elections were a mere formality that attracted few voters, a theater organized by the government to ensure the victory of its candidates, to all positions.
Indeed, their grandparents or great-grandparents may remember that in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, opposition voters were intimidated or silenced by gunshots. Perhaps their parents can attest to the vast culture of fraud: the adulteration of the electoral register, the brigades voting in various polling stations, the “stuffed ballot boxes,” the cynical celebration of the “full ticket,” the suffrage of people prevented from exercising that right, the electronic manipulation of results, the 1988 “system crash” of the electoral computer system. Perhaps to young people, all that seems like prehistory, which entails the usual risk: Not remembering history leads to repeating it.
Will they appreciate the National Electoral Institute (INE)? Created in the final decade of the last century, the Federal Electoral Institute (which would evolve into the INE) became, as of 1997, the reversal of Mexico’s old political system. Thanks to the efforts of millions of citizens counting the votes in each polling booth, democracy in Mexico took root in practice, making many things change for the better: Participation increased, even in midterm elections; women contested in a much higher proportion; there was a plurality of partisan and ideological options; the option of independent candidates emerged; the Federal Electoral Tribunal showed its solvency, even in conflictive elections; alternation became a norm throughout the national territory. The balance of this historical change explains the internal credibility of the institution and its undeniable international recognition.
In 2018, Mexican voters had many reasons to feel discouraged (corruption, violence), but they understood that in their hands lay the instrument to punish the government in turn. That instrument was democracy, embodied in the INE. The ratification of all this came with the unquestionable triumph of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO).
Unfortunately, the president, who triumphed thanks to democracy, is not a democrat. Like all populists, his design was to use the democratic process as a scaffolding to end it. That is why, from the beginning of his government, López Obrador has not stopped attacking, threatening and slandering the INE. His attacks are not just rhetorical, they are accompanied by actions, in particular, continued draconian cuts to the INE’s budget. López Obrador considers himself to have been a victim of fraud in the 2006 elections due to the intervention of then-President Vicente Fox, but that interference pales in comparison to what he himself has deployed in all the electoral processes held under his administration.
Thus we come to the present moment. Despite the proven solvency of the INE, the lack of public memory has taken its toll on us. If the seizure of the INE proposed by the official party and its satellites is consummated, we will inevitably return to the times when the regime was judge and jury, with the aggravating participation of two foreign bodies — adverse, in fact — to all democratic practice: a military, whose superior command has already taken over the government party, and the criminal organizations that have gone so far as to kidnap party officials and candidates to favor AMLO’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party.
The historical, political, economic and moral inappropriateness of the president’s proposed reform to eliminate the INE has been argued time and time again, although it will never convince those who seek the reversal of democracy.
Will the representatives of Mexico’s once-almighty-but-now-fading-opposition Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) find in their conscience a shred of dignity to honor the memory of reformers like Jesús Reyes Heroles, who promoted the birth of democracy in Mexico, and will they oppose it? If not, have no doubt: Your vote will be the last nail in the coffin of that party. And history, sooner or later, will record their infamy, along with their names.
For now, we citizens stand alone. The country is in flames, denied public health, with a devastated education system and lies transformed into official truths. And democracy is in a state of suspended animation.
What do we have left? We had to march. In 1968, we marched for freedom; in 2022, for democracy.