Sunday, May 06, 2018

count me out -- but in

Our streets are filled with placard-carrying demonstrators.

If we lived in Morelia, I would suspect the teacher students are up in arms over some long-needed reform in education. But we don't. And the demonstrators filling our streets are not students errant.

It is election time. But you already know that.

In put another ballot in, I briefed you on the very odd mix of coalitions that have developed in this year's presidential election. On 1 July, Mexicans will go to the polls and choose a national president, each of whom have been endorsed by a coalition of political parties that look more like a Chinese combination menu than a set of reasoned ideologies.

But there is a lot more at stake in the coming election than just the presidency. Both houses of congress are up for grabs along with several gubernatorial races and elections for local officials.

My Sunday morning grocery shopping was momentarily delayed by a large demonstration in San Patricio's square. In the past, most local elections were contested by single party candidates. That strategy changed after the long-ruling PRI won back the presidency six years ago.

The leftist PRD and the center-right PAN forged an alliance to defeat PRI candidates in subsequent local elections. The only thing the two parties had in common was their opposition to PRI.

That coalition has stuck together. I live in the municipality of Cihuatlan. To my American ears, municipality sounds like another word for city. That is wrong. It helps to think of the administrative area as being more like a county. The president of the municipality is thus similar to a county commissioner. He is effectively the boss of the district, and is called the president of the municipality.

That post is currently held by a very young attorney who ran on the Citizen's Alliance ticket. Until very recently, no elected official could run for re-election. That changed just over 4 years ago. Now, anyone can run for re-election to any office except for the national presidency. Opposition to re-election was one of the tenets of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

Our young incumbent is taking another turn in the barrel -- if the voters are so inclined. But, this time, he is supported by the leftist PRD and the social democratic Citizen's Alliance. At least, they have something in common ideologically, and are partners nationally.

When I first saw the mixture of the two flags at the demonstration, I thought that two separate groups of supporters had smashed into one another in the square. But they were all allies. For this election.

Groups of demonstrators are one of the most common campaign tactics in our local Mexican elections -- along with signs on cars, taped messages blaring from speakers on motorcycles, and some rather colorful announcements painted on walls.

All of it looks very familiar to me. That is, if I go back to the 1950s in my little mountain home town of Powers. In this particular rally, the president of the municipality was the star attraction. He ticked off a list of promises -- as if he were not the incumbent. The most amusing was the promise to complete a hospital in Cihuatlan that has sat unfinished for a decade.

I rather enjoy the short campaign period. Of course, American political style has seeped into the Mexican system. AMLO, the presidential candidate of the far left MORENA, has been running for president since his loss in 2012. Some would say from his loss in 2006. But it is a relief not to live in a system of permanent campaigns.

During the last two election cycles, I have noticed a disturbing trend amongst expatriates. They have become entangled in local politics. Some naively, by helping to raise funds for a cause that, on its face, appears to be humanitarian, but turns out to deliver funds in the name of one political party or other.

The other example is a bit more blatant. I saw two cars, owned and driven by expatriates, displaying signs supporting the election of specific candidates.

People can do as they like, but I do remind them that another goal of the Mexican Revolution was to prohibit foreign influence in Mexican politics. It is right there in Article 9 of the Constitution of 1917. Only Mexican citizens can participate in Mexican politics.

That seems rather clear to me. And there can be drastic consequences for violating that article. A group of students from Evergreen College in Washington did not take the warning to heart when they joined a demonstration opposing the construction of an airport in Mexico City. (Ironically, it is an airport that AMLO has opposed and still opposes.) They were detained and deported to the United States.

Mexico has had a long history of foreigners interfering in its internal affairs. But some foreigners do not seem to believe the prohibition applies to them.

As for me, I am going to enjoy watching the next two months of campaigning. There will always be some good stories lurking in each event.

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