Little hope for change in Mexico
There is a week left to the presidential and congressional elections in Mexico and predictions are still uncertain. Most political analysts agree that the more leftist PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) clearly has no chance this time and that it's going to be relegated to third place behind the PRI [Party of Institutionalised Revolution, which has ruled for 70 years now] or the PAN (National Action Party). The PRD had its big opportunity in 1988 when it won the presidential elections, but paradoxically never reached Los Pinos, the presidential palace. A huge electoral fraud (the computer system supposedly crashed) proclaimed the PRI as the winners once again. The PRD didn't have the capacity or the energy to respond to the electoral lie with a largescale mobilisation of civil society.
The PRI won the 1994 elections, and now, six years later, the dispute seems to be between the neoliberal and populist PRI and the neoliberal and Catholic PAN. Expectations for real change are not high. According to some, a change just for the sake of a change may not be advisable, as Vicente Fox's (PAN leader) economical program is at least as neoliberal as the PRI's. They are also critical of its links to Opus Dei. Fox's famous slips of the tongue, such as ``we'll sort out the Chiapas problem in 15 minutes'', do not say much about his sensitivity to social problems.
The PRI never stops saying that these elections will be the cleanest in Mexico's ``democratic'' history, since the government has accepted national and international observers under the UN Development Program. The work of the IFE (Federal Electoral Institute) an independent, civil and autonomous body [in theory at least] whose role is to make sure that the elections will be clean and fair, is certainly an improvement. Nonetheless, independent observers, such as those sent by the US NGO Global Exchange and the National Democratic Institute, have already stated that, especially in the more marginalised parts of the country, economic and political pressures to vote for the PRI continue. There is growing evidence and many more accusations of government poverty programs such Procampo and Progresa being manipulated. The Program for Education, Sanity, and Alimentation (Progresa) is a powerful tool with which the PRI could control around 7 million votes of the poorest people in Mexico.
Medisa manipulation is also a factor. By the publication of numerous surveys, some of dubious credibility, the media have been shaping the electorate's opinion and not vice versa.
CHIAPAS ON THE AGENDA?
In the meantime, the conflict in Chiapas has exercised neither of the two potential electoral winners during the campaign. PAN's promises about implementing the San Andrés agreement, which guarantees respect for indigenous traditions and the land where they live, demilitarisation and the creation of the conditions to resume dialogue with the EZLN, sound empty. CurrentMexican president Zedillo's policy continues to be one of increased militarisation and repression, not just in Chiapas but also in other parts of the country, such as Guerrero and Oaxaca.
In some areas in Chiapas the situation is pretty tense at the moment, and looks more like a war than ever. On Monday 12 June, seven policemen were ambushed and killed. The government blamed drug dealers but local human rights NGOs and the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) claim that the military or progovernment paramilitaries carried out the killings. These and other violent events have been used as the perfect excuse for the government to increase militarisation, repression and intimidation in the area.