The New Student Rebellion and the Mexican Left

Challenging the Corporate Media and the Electoral Fraud

Éramos silencio, éramos dolor, éramos opresión.
Quisieron arrebatárnoslo todo y lo único que perdimos fue el miedo.
Ya no seremos más una voz silenciada. Venimos aquí con nuestros cuerpos que gritan: ¡¡¡Ya basta!!!

Silence, Pain, Oppression suffused our being.
They wanted to take everything from us and the only thing we lost was fear.
No longer will we be silenced. We come here with our bodies that scream: ¡¡¡Ya basta!!!

— From statement of #YoSoy132 movement at

The ‘defeat’ of the center-left in the Presidential election of 2012 is a victory for Mexican Big Business and the U.S. in advancing the neoliberal agenda of privatization, cutbacks and attacks on the working-class. The fact that the old ruling party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party – PRI), ‘won’ the presidency in 2012 – rather than the conservative Partido Acción Nacional (National Action Party – PAN) as in 2000 and 2006 – involves an important shift in influence within the neoliberal bloc. It is very consequential in terms of methods of rule and patronage opportunities but it doesn’t affect the program and domination of Mexican Big Capital and its U.S. and Spanish allies, which have dominated Mexico more or less comfortably with both the PRI and the PAN. The neoliberal agenda has been advanced for the last thirty years by a tacit alliance between Big Business, the PRI and the PAN with varying degrees of opposition and acquiescence by different sectors of the center-left.

This article will examine the responses of Mexico’s Lefts to the new electoral fraud. Part 1 will deal with the dynamic and unexpected rise of a militant, national student movement in the last two months of the election campaign and their impact on the election process, the post-election protests, and the Left. Part 2 will present some historical background to the development of the electoral left – or what could also be called the electoralization of the left – during Mexico’s “democratic transition.” Part 3 will discuss the dilemmas of the electoral left and of Andres Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), its Presidential candidate, in this precarious conjuncture. And Part 4 will discuss the emerging possibilities in this crisis for both the movement left and the electoral left. Both are calling for the nullification of the elections. It is highly unlikely that the electoral review authorities, dominated by PRI and PAN appointees will consider that option. The protests are growing and the electoral tribunal has until September to verify the elections, and the new President is scheduled to take office on December 1. This is all taking place in the context of a war on drugs in which the U.S. is increasingly involved and in an economy in crisis.

The New Student Rebellion

The student movement, along with union and community activists and ordinary citizens, has been carrying out a mass, non-violent campaign of direct action over the electoral fraud, a fraud already in-process long before the elections and consummated on election day. The unexpected eruption of the student anti-fraud protests started six weeks before election day and has pledged itself to continue through the various stages of legal rubber-stamping and to the very inauguration ceremony (and beyond). Once again, as in 2006, the “elected” President will likely take office in an extremely abbreviated ceremony protected by thousands of military and police.

The movement is challenging the blatant and widespread electoral fraud by the old ruling party and its return to the presidency in the form of the telegenic but bloody-handed former Governor of the state of Mexico, Peña Nieto. But its protests – and its demands – go much deeper than that. It is also targeting the role of the private television duopoly in shaping consciousness and in systematically promoting the neoliberal parties and the particularly corrupt relationship between Peña Nieto and the two major networks (see “Computer files link TV dirty tricks to favourite for Mexico presidency”). Televisa has been systematically developing the candidacy of Peña Nieto for the last 7 years. The movement demands the nullification of the election and the democratization of the means of communication.

The main target of this new movement is not simply the old ruling party but also the private television duopoly. As Mexico moved toward more direct capitalist dominance and electoral competition, Televisa and TV Azteca came to serve as the arm of Big Business as a whole, promoting whichever of the two neoliberal parties could keep the center-left from power. The control of television transmission, including satellite and cable, is tremendously concentrated in Mexico. Televisa controls 65 per cent of the frequencies in the country and has 68 per cent of the viewers. TV Azteca, the smaller member of the television duopoly, has 25 per cent of the viewers, giving them together over 90 per cent of the Mexican television audience. Televisa was long the privately owned propaganda arm of the authoritarian regime. Its first owner proudly said: “I am a soldier of the PRI.”

They have systematically promoted Peña Nieto for the presidency for the last seven years and have consistently attacked the center-left and social movements with reporting and images that turned reality upside down. For example, on the day of the student massacre in 1968, the lead news item on Televisa was the sunny weather.

The board of Televisa contains five of the ten richest men in Mexico and is still headed by the family of its founder. Televisa and TV Azteca are not only profit centers. They are centers for forging hegemony and control. The attack on the television duopoly and the demands for the democratization of the media are very radical demands. These demands aim directly at the core of Mexican capitalist power and ideological manipulation. The students are calling for the democratization of the means of communication.

The movement views the transformation of the media as a necessary condition for honest elections. Their view of the electoral fraud goes beyond the very real frauds carried out by the political parties to buy and manipulate votes in the actual electoral process. It views the systematic propaganda and lies of the television duopoly as part of the institutionalized fraud of the election process.


Thousands of students, trade unionists, social movement activists and ordinary citizens successfully carried out a 24 hour non-violent blockade of Televisa, the main TV network of Mexico. People were allowed to leave Televisa’s headquarters but not enter. Transmission continued but production was interrupted. Similar actions took place in twelve other cities in the country with varying intensity: from Guadalajara to Veracruz, from Hermosillo to Cancún, in an unprecedented national political protest. These direct mass actions followed weeks of marches, the most recent on Saturday, July 21, when tens of thousands marched in 19 Mexican states against the purported winner of the Mexican presidential election, Enrique Peña Nieto, and the fraud that took place before and during the election campaign and appears to be continuing in the handling of the post-election legal challenges. These protests, unlike those about the frauds of 1988 and 2006, are not controlled by the cautious electoral center-left. They are propelled by a militant, creative, diverse and national student movement that only came into existence two months ago. The student movement, #YoSoy132, has targeted Mexico’s private television duopoly and Peña Nieto, not simply because he represents a return to rule of the old authoritarian ruling party but because of his bloody role in repression as Governor of the state of Mexico from 2005-2011. These protests began before the elections and are growing.

The student movement is determinedly non-partisan but fiercely opposed to Peña Nieto and the PRI because of their history of repression and corruption. It is, unlike many Mexican student movements in the past, truly national and encompassing of both public and private universities. It is determined to challenge the duplicity of the television duopoly and the fraudulent character of the presidential elections by direct, mass, non-violent actions that go beyond symbolic marches and demonstrations to blockades and occupations. It is organizationally and politically independent of the electoral left parties and its strategies of struggle go far beyond the electoral left’s plans for constrained mass mobilization against the imposition of Peña Nieto. It is a movement with great capacity for inspiring and mobilizing mass actions even though it is itself only in the early stages of organization and definition. Its tremendous diversity is both a great strength and a potential vulnerability. It has introduced a totally new, surprising, and disconcerting dynamic (to the powers-that-be). Some PRI and PAN local and state governments have already reacted with repression. López Obrador has responded sympathetically while keeping his distance while the PAN, PRI, and capitalist media have continued to try to discredit the movement with the tired arguments that the movement has been captured and diverted from its original purpose – a purpose deliberately distorted by them in the first instance.

Luis Couttier, Laura Murcia, and Damián Camacho of #YoSoy132.

The campaign of Peña Nieto had been moving along smoothly until he made his only appearance at a university, the Universidad Ibero-America, a Catholic university where his advisers felt he would be safe from student protests. But they overlooked the fact that some of the Jesuit priests and students at the university had been active in supporting the people of Atenco in their battle against the brutal oppression of Peña Nieto’s government. The hostile response from the students, the questions and banners about Atenco, led him to flee to the bathroom, protected by his body guards from student criticism. The PRI and Televisa then claimed that the protesters were not students but supporters of AMLO brought in to disrupt. Televisa, continuing with its manipulative and dishonest reportage kept repeating these attacks on the student protesters. The students responded by producing a video in which student after student appeared holding their photo ID student card next to their face and saying, “Yo Soy # 1” and “I oppose Peña Nieto.” There were 131. It became a huge hit on YouTube and soon many others said “I am # 132,” and the movement spread from Ibero-America to the major public universities (Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Instituto Politécnico Nacional (IPN), Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM)) as well as to a number of private universities across the country.

Televisa and TV Azteca sought to protect Peña Nieto’s carefully constructed image by burying the first presidential debate on one of its secondary channels; and TV Azteca did not broadcast it at all. The students demanded that the already scheduled second debate be broadcast on the main national networks as well as that there be a third debate where students could ask questions. The strong popular support for these demands as well as embarrassing revelations about the links between the networks and the government led the duopoly to broadcast the second debate nationally on their main channels. And the third debate, in which Peña Nieto refused to participate, took place on the web with the other three candidates.

These are new layers of activists and the student movement itself is still in process of developing its structure. #YoSoy132 held its 7th national assembly in Morelia, Michoacán, on July 28-29 in which the issues of how decisions are made, how representatives are selected and the character of the relationship between regional assemblies and the national assembly, was the main topic of discussion. The student movement has adopted a democratic decision-making structure in which decisions are made by majority vote and in which representatives are chosen by meetings of the constituent groups, mainly by departments and schools. They are also subject to being recalled by these constituent bodies. This is different from the consensualism of OWS (Occupy Wall Street).

Proposals were adopted to implement the action plan adopted by the CNCI in Atenco that include a variety of forms of direct action over the television duopoly, the electoral fraud, and in support of various trade union and community struggles. As well, the assembly took concrete steps toward developing links with movements in the United States (immigrant rights), Quebec and Canada (against the commodification of education) and Latin America. There is great energy and inventiveness. The process of developing a sound strategy of struggle in this volatile moment in the context of the hostility of all the institutional forces is the big challenge facing this new movement. The long absence of a student movement and the weakness of the radical left means there are few cadres that have been forged in the course of previous struggles or through experience with radical left organizations linked to real struggles.

The Founding of the
Convención Nacional Contra la Imposición (CNCI)

The exemplary militancy of the new student movement gave energy to the call for a new national coalition independent of the electoral parties. The Convención Nacional Contra la Imposición (CNCI – National Convention Against the Imposition) brought together a diverse group of movements. It held its founding convention in Atenco on July 14 and 15, the site of Peña Nieto’s brutal repression of May 3 and 4, 2006 where two activists were murdered (Javier Cortés, a 14 year old, with a bullet through his heart and Alexis Benhumea Hernández, shot from close range with a tear gas canister to the head), 206 people tortured, 26 women raped by police, and many injured and detained. These human rights violations by state and national police, under the orders of Peña Nieto, have been documented both by Amnesty International and Mexico’s Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos. This has not interfered with his rise to the Presidency, an ascent assiduously promoted by the television duopoly and by massive campaign overspending through money laundered by dummy companies, money likely originating from PRI-controlled state governments and/or drug cartels.

The unexpected emergence of the new student movement has begun to change the topography of the left as well as the electoral and post-electoral dynamic. It has now brought much of Mexico’s diverse protest movements under a common (national) umbrella while leaving the implementation of proposals up to the constituent organizations and local assemblies. The extra-parliamentary left and the union, community and social movement left have come together in the CNCI. It is made up of a diverse set of movements and organizations: 1) unions and union currents (the two most important are the CNTE, the national organization of dissident teachers’ within the gangster teachers’ union and the SME, former union of the power workers of central Mexico still fighting for their jobs – see Bullet No. 279 and Bullet No. 280); 2) militant community organizations such as the Frente de Pueblos en Defensa de la Tierra de San Salvador Atenco, state of Mexico, which successfully blocked a new airport on its lands, and the people of Cherán, Michoacan (two of whose leaders recently were tortured and murdered), fighting to preserve their forests against a drug cartel and lumber interests backed by political caciques (bosses); 3) the burgeoning national student movement itself, which made up half of the 2,000 people attending; 4) a variety of small left organizations. Many of these organizations have worked together in previous campaigns against austerity and repression. They are very diverse in their politics, strategic and tactical proclivities, and social base. They hold a range of positions on electoral politics in general and on the electoral left and López Obrador in particular. But they are united in their intense opposition to the PRI, Peña Nieto himself, and his imposition through manipulation by the TV duopoly as well as the multiple violations of electoral law that have taken place.

“The Left … has not been able to develop and unite around a revolutionary or counter-hegemonic consciousness and strategy. This is the daunting challenge for the CNCI and the challenge that the Mexican Left – as well as the Left in most parts of the world – has long faced and faces today.”

When the delegation from Cherán arrived, the Convention suspended all the working groups to receive these heroic fighters in an emotional ceremony. The defensive solidarity of the Left was palpable in that moment. The Left, including the union left, has suffered tremendous defeats in recent years. It is capable of mobilizing around embattled groups in struggle. It has a gutsy, almost instinctive solidarity but that solidarity while fundamental remains at the level of defensive segmented struggles. It has not been able to develop and unite around a revolutionary or counter-hegemonic consciousness and strategy. This is the daunting challenge for the CNCI and the challenge that the Mexican Left – as well as the Left in most parts of the world – has long faced and faces today.

There have also been significant, amorphous, militant mobilizations that were not called by organizations or known leaders but through the internet by individuals. Some of these “spontaneous” protests have been impressive in turnout and have taken place in unlikely places for the Left, such as Monterrey and Guadalajara. Their organization through the net and their character showed both the militancy of the participants and their lack of organization. Their opposition to Peña Nieto and the imposition has been militant and wide-scale. These protests and those of the student movement nationally have given the revolt against the fraud a much more national character than it had in 2006. Many of the participants in these movements likely come from the rank and file of electoral left and other movements but their protests are not being organized by either the electoral or the social movement left. These masses of discontented citizens could be the base for the growth of the extra-parliamentary struggle as well as mobilized as the base for the cautious, legalistic protests of AMLO and the electoral left.

The absence of the Zapatistas from the protests should come as no surprise. The culture and practice of corruption and co-optation in the electoral process made the Zapatistas wary of any engagement with it. As well, betrayals by part of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática, (Party of the Democratic Revolution, or PRD) on indigenous rights embittered them toward the electoral center-left. And the real danger of co-optation of Zapatista communities through clientelism and patronage also encouraged them to turn inward. There also developed a bifurcation between the paths of the indigenous movement and its more institutionalized urban popular allies that neither side was able to bridge. While many of these organizations found space to expand their social and political influence, the insurgent indigenous communities faced a continuation of low intensity warfare. The focus on building at the local level, however, does not mean that the Zapatistas have renounced returning to the national arena. They are, however, determined to avoid getting caught up in battles among political elites. Though they have contact with many organizations involved in the new movement/the CNCI, they have neither participated nor issued any statements to date. Their inward turn may have enabled them to preserve their integrity as well as their base in southern Mexico but they are isolated from the most dynamic, mass struggles in Mexico today as they were in 2006. The difference, though, between 2006 and today is that there now is a powerful new, extra-parliamentary movement independent of the electoral left, though its origins and demands are linked centrally to the election process and outcome. A delegation from the Zapatista community of Tila, Chiapas is travelling to Mexico City at the end of July to pursue a court challenge to the constant attacks they face. There are likely to be discussions between them and the new movements.

The Development of the Electoral Left[1]

The liberalization of Mexico’s political system had a dual effect on the Left. On the one hand, it gave the Left an opportunity to reach out to more people through electoral campaigns and to gain a significant presence in municipal and state governments as well as the national congress. On the other hand, much of the radical left was absorbed into a moderate center-left party, electoral struggles, and into those local and state governments won by the center-left. This absorption both decapitated some social movements of their most dynamic leadership and also sometimes led to moderation of tactics or demands to accommodate electoral strategies. The genuine reforms at local levels as well as the government subsidies to political parties encouraged a great cautiousness about challenging the continuing constraints of the system more directly. The most important continuing constraint was the de facto barring of the center-left from the Presidency.

The liberalization of Mexico’s political system had been brought about by pressures both from popular forces as well as Big Business. There was a general discontent with the authoritarian and corrupt character of the old ruling party and growing demands for democratization. There were, of course, different currents within Big Business, but there was a general displeasure with the relative autonomy of the political elite and their potential for acting independently of the wishes of Big Business. This discontent grew sharply with President Echevarría’s flirtation with populism and nationalism in the early 1970s and President López Portillo’s lightning nationalization of the banks in 1982. These events coincided with the growing influence of international financial institutions and neoliberal ideology and galvanized Mexican Big Business into greater unity. They wanted more direct control over the state and its agenda.

The struggle of Mexicans for a democratic transition has been hijacked by the Mexico bourgeoisie. The increasingly direct political role of sections of business, mostly through the right-wing PAN, led the PRI to give business a more direct presence in the PRI and in the state apparatus. The PRI began to run business candidates against the PAN’s business candidates, more business people were recruited to work within the state, and the more pro-business departments of the state gained power over the more traditionally nationalist departments of the state. The transformation of the state from one that combined elements of Bonapartism with elements of corporatism toward one of more direct capitalist domination (as in the U.S. and Canada, though still in the political form of a one-party regime) was well underway in the 1980s and would be intensified in the 1990s. The new scheme of coordination between Business and the state has been well described by Puga:

“This also implies a gradual blurring of boundaries between entrepreneurial activity and governmental activity that, although they are kept as two distinct domains with differentiated responsibilities, they are interwoven in numerous spaces.” (translation ours – RR/EV, Cristina Puga, Los empresarios organizados y el Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte, 2004, p. 64)

The success that Big Business has had over reshaping the state and public policy has not translated into ideological hegemony over the majority of the popular classes. There are two major reasons for this failure. One is the devastating effects of the accompanying neoliberal policies. The other is the result of the unexpected emergence in 1988 of a third electoral force, nationalist, populist, and ambiguously anti-neoliberal that has challenged the alternation between two neoliberal parties. A split in the old ruling party and the candidacy of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in the 1988 presidential election disrupted the hopes of the bourgeoisie and political elites for the establishment of electoral alternation between the right-wing business party, the PAN, and the old state-party, the PRI, now neoliberal. The presidential election was won through widely perceived fraud which led to massive protests and the formation of a new center-left party, the PRD.

And once again, in the presidential elections of 2006, the party of the right, the PAN, the party of alternation, only was able to win the presidential elections over López Obrador and the PRD through fraud, again leading to massive protests and even disruptions in Congress during the inauguration ceremonies. And now in 2012, it’s “déjà view all over again.” The election fraud has been executed in the long pre-election process as well as on election day. But the challenges to the fraud this time focus equally on the institutionalized fraud of the television duopoly. And the challenges to the institutionalized pre-election fraud (buying of votes through massive use of electronic cash cards for supermarkets) was challenged in the streets even before the election by forces independent of all three parties. The perception of fraud is widespread as is the perception of the dishonest role of the major private media. The frauds of 1988 and 2006, won by each of the two major neoliberal parties, received post-election support from the other major neoliberal party. The accusations are very grave in 2012 as there seems to be evidence of massive, illegal funding of the PRI campaign by illicit sources, laundered through a number of dummy corporations.

The Quandary of AMLO and the Electoral Left

The Left parties did quite well in the elections. They won their stronghold of the Distrito Federal of Mexico City (DF) with a record 64 per cent of the vote as well as the state governments of Tabasco and Morelos. Their official presidential vote was their highest ever and they won an increased number of seats in the lower house of Congress. However, most of the Congressional seats held by the center-left are held by its more conservative factions. And the mayoralty of the DF was won by Miguel Mancera, a follower of Marcelo Ebrard, the outgoing Mayor and the major rival to AMLO within the electoral left. Ebrard aspires to be the center-left’s presidential candidate in 2018 and identifies with Lula of Brazil and Felipe Gonzalez of Spain. The new center-left governor of Morelos, Graco Morelos, is a member of the most conservative currents with the center-left. And even the new Governor of AMLO’s home state, Arturo Nuñez, is more cautiously institutionalist than AMLO.

The electoral strategy of the center-left and AMLO was a strategy aimed at reassuring Big Business, the middle classes, and the U.S. that they were “responsible.” Obrador dropped his 2006 campaign slogan, “For the good of all, the poor first,” to present a more moderate image in the 2012 campaign. He has called for the nullification of the elections because of the widespread fraud and has filed a multitude of formal accusations. The left-center parties support him in his impugnation of the elections but will not want to go further if, as is almost a certainty, the electoral court rubberstamps the election while pointing out irregularities, as it did in 2006.

There is a stark contrast to the situation in 2006 when Obrador’s supporters controlled the government of the DF. When President Fox tried to disqualify Obrador from even running for President on specious legal charges in 2005, the PRD brought a million people out in protest. Fox backed down. When the election itself was stolen, the PRD brought hundreds of thousands into the streets of Mexico City for weeks. While the popular sentiment against the fraud was powerful in 2006, it was the PRD and government of Mexico City that gave Obrador the organizational infrastructure to carry out these mass actions and to control them both from provocateurs and spontaneous attempts at going beyond the carefully controlled bounds of action. The government of the DF gave considerable material and political support to the development of the mass protests. The camp sites of the protests were organized by delegaciones (political districts) and mainly led by the elected officials. AMLO’s charismatic leadership of a plebiscitarian mass movement had a material base in the government of Mexico’s largest city and the political infrastructure of his party.

AMLO has announced cautious mobilizations of protest to take place while the legal challenges are fought out, mobilizations he has to negotiate with the more conservative elements in his party. He has praised the student movement but kept his distance from it and the CNCI. He has less power both to mobilize and to contain the bounds of the mobilizations than he did in 2006. He does not have control over the now more diversified and more independent anti-fraud movements.

Conclusion: Mexico’s Crises,
the Post-Election Struggles, and the Left

The student movement has been building alliances with other sectors of society. Its most important potential ally is the Mexican working-class. Mexico is, after all, an urban country with a majority working-class, a working-class that has experienced decades of deterioration of wages and working conditions, now made even more acute by the recent economic crisis. 64 per cent of Mexicans live in cities (70 million of a total population of 107 million) and 75 per cent of the economically active population is waged or salaried (32 million of 43.8 million). The Mexican working-class, while providing the base for the electoral left or other broad protest movements, has not had a strong independent presence in these struggles in spite of its tremendous size and location in Mexico’s urban centers. This absence of an independent working-class voice in the great struggles of Mexico reflects the dearth of genuine and independent unions. Most Mexicans do not have any unions at all or are members of phantom,[2] company, or charro (authoritarian, regime-linked) unions. Most important national unions, such as those of oil workers, teachers, railway workers and power workers (see note re: SME, the democratic power workers’ union),[3] are kept under authoritarian control by the union officialdom through undemocratic internal statutes, various types of governmental support, the usual control mechanisms of an organizational oligarchy, and when necessary, violence by union thugs or agents of the state. The Mexican state has a strong system of labour control – a system that has continued through the “democratic transition” – which makes the organization of genuine unions extremely difficult. There are important exceptions – the miners/metallurgical workers, teachers (CNTE), power workers (SME), university workers and scattered rank and file caucuses, all of whom have had to fight continuously to survive.

The success of the two sets of mobilizations unfolding today requires the mass support of working people. And workers have been present in large numbers in these demonstrations but mainly as individuals or small groups of citizens, rather than as working-class formations with working-class demands. Working-class demands have tended to be subordinated to the other demands as in the anti-fraud struggles in 1988 and 2006. These mobilizations did not seek to mobilize workers as workers in their workplaces or in struggles for control of their unions. Such mobilization would have gone beyond the strategic and political bounds of most of the electoral left.

Demonstration against electoral fraud – #YoSoy132.

Each of these mobilizations, that of the students and the CNCI and that of the electoral center-left, will have its own dynamics and, at times, will likely flow together, at times go their own ways. But they represent two different trajectories. The electoral left seeks to bring out workers as citizens in mobilizations controlled from above, without horizontal linkages among the participants. The student movement, still in the process of defining itself, has a more democratic, participative, and horizontal orientation.

The #YoSoy132 is oriented to self-mobilization and seeks to develop links with current and emergent working-class formations. It has decided to join in demonstrations in August organized by the SME. The development of alliances between working-class formations, the student movement, and communities-in-struggle, has the potential to bring working-class demands to the forefront alongside the democratic demands of the protest movement. The joining of workers’ demands alongside the existing democratic demands has the potential to energize workers and spread the struggles inside the charro unions and into the workplace. The entry of the working-class with its own voice and formations in these broader movements would give the democratic struggle deeper roots and more radical content. It would create a fundamentally new situation and pose great dilemmas for the electoral left and great challenges for the dominant class.

The many crises of Mexico continue – war for drugs, growing state violence, deepening unemployment and poverty, and the relentless assault of neoliberalism on social rights. Peña Nieto has announced he will appoint a counter-insurgency Colombian General as his special adviser on the drug war, a concession to the U.S. and an affront to Mexico. He has promised to increase the privatization of the oil industry and to push through the stalled (anti-) labour reforms (destruction of the remaining rights of workers). These efforts will be supported by the PAN and resisted by both the social movement and electoral left.

The post-electoral crisis is one element flowing in the cauldron of Mexico’s multiple crises. The electoral left is hoping against hope that it can push forward further democratization and remove the barrier to the presidency. But that effort takes place in an explosive context of war and repression in various states and deepening polarization between the social movement left and the regime of Big Business, the PRI, and the PAN. The new student movement, without experienced cadres, will create its identity and future in this context. The forging of an alliance between this movement and the working-class is critical for its survival and success. And the emergence of a new workers’ movement is essential for a transition to democracy in Mexico. The Mexican situation is very fluid, it’s outcome impossible to predict. This may be Mexico’s springtime… or winter of repression. As with climate change, it’s hard to know what season it is. •


For a more detailed discussion of the Mexican Left, both electoral and extra-electoral, see our chapter, “Neoliberal Authoritarianism, the ‘Democratic Transition’ and the Mexican Left,” in Barry Carr and Jeff Webber (eds.), The New Latin American Left: Cracks in the Empire (Rowman and Littlefield, forthcoming).

These are unions that only exist on paper often without even the knowledge of their members. Companies sign contracts with lawyers or corrupt union officials to keep out real unions. They are especially common in the maquiladoras.

There are two major power worker unions, the SUTERM (Sole Union for Electrical Workers of the Mexican Republic) and the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas (SME – Mexican Electrical Workers Union). The SME was the union at Luz y Fuerza del Centro (LyFC – Central Light and Power Company) which is the public company that distributes power in central Mexico, with only token power production. It buys almost all the power it distributes from the La Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE – Federal Electricity Commission), the other state owned power company that handles production and distribution for areas outside the jurisdiction of the LyFC. The union at the CFE is the SUTERM, a compliant, undemocratic and corrupt union that does not challenge the government’s plans for privatization and squeezing workers even more. The CFE has quietly contracted out significant amounts of power production to private companies whereas the SME has opposed privatization of power production and attacks on workers’ rights. In response to the opposition of the SME, the government liquidated the LyFC with a military assault on October 10, 2009 and fired 44,000 workers. The company was then taken over by the CFE who hired new workers who belong to the SUTERM. [See Bullet No. 279 for more detail on this issue.]

Richard Roman is the coauthor of Continental Crucible: Big Business, Workers and Unions in the Transformation of North America. He is a member of Socialist Project (Canada) and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of Toronto.

Edur Velasco Arregui is the coauthor of Continental Crucible: Big Business, Workers and Unions in the Transformation of North America. He is the former secretary-general of SITUAM (Sindicato Independiente de Trabajadores de la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana), a professor of law, and a union activist in Mexico.