Last Saturday, Enrique Peña Nieto was sworn in as president of Mexico. Inside the legislative chamber, and later in the presidential palace where he delivered his first presidential speech, the reception was emotional. Outside on the streets, however, havoc spread through downtown Mexico City.
People discontented with the return of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), a traditionally hegemonic party, gathered in the surroundings of the legislative palace with the purpose of voicing their frustration, blocked by a heavy equipped, not so thin, blue line. Violence broke, the police reacted, fighting went street by street as the security forces pushed the riot towards downtown’s outskirts; Molotov cocktails where thrown, and then chairs and tables and bottles and rocks. The rebellious groups were armed with wooden shields, sticks, breathing masks, coordination, and revolutionary banners. The most beautiful and touristic area of Mexico City emerged from the clashes plundered by the protesters.
The city governor, Marcelo Ebrard, a popular and moderate left wing member of the PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution), was enraged. In his declarations he condemned the acts as ‘barbaric acts’ of vandalism. He was preparing to hand power to his successor, leaving a beautified city and an exemplary downtown touristic area with parks and monuments. In a couple of hours it was all destroyed. Why would a left wing member of the opposition condemn the actions of people belonging to his political spectrum? Simple, Mexico’s left is divided among two big but incompatible tribes.
On the one hand, the PRD is mostly controlled by bourgeois leftists, a’ la Europe. They are moderates. They appear in the front pages of popular magazines. They win elections and accept when they lose them. They have just signed a deal with the new president and with the right wing PAN (National Action Party). In a few words, they want to play by the rules because they have come to understand that disloyal opposition will never get them to power, even if it means turning their backs on their revolutionary background. If to win elections they need to strike deals, negotiate, compromise, and accept the PRI’s legitimate claim to power, they are more than willing to do so. In sooth, they are playing the democratic game.
But there is a second group that does not want to turn their backs on revolution: the far left radicals that recently broke away from the PRD to found a new left wing party: Morena. Their leader is Andres Manuel López Obrador, the same man who challenged the 2006 federal election results and did it again this year, even when this time he lost by a much wider margin. His reason is that Peña Nieto, according to him, bought the election, even though it is doubtful, if not impossible, to prove this case. He is enthralled in the conspiratorial narrative that Mexico’s ruling elites have allied to stop the left from ever having access to power. But this narrative falls short of realism when we see Peña Nieto offering his hand to the PRD’s moderates, inviting them to form part of the process of legislation and reform. For radicals this can only be called treason, corruption, and disingenuous malice.
By now, we can all recognize that the far left is not interested in democracy. Their vision is one in which they are the only ones legitimate to win, there is no space for dissension and the purpose is to kick out the PRI and the PAN from the political sphere. In sooth, rebuilding an hegemonic party like back in the day, but this time with the left as the sole political actor and López Obrador as the sole messianic leader. This leadership is the one that promotes and backs radical, insubstantial, and destructive actions like the protests on Saturday that destroyed the city’s colonial-times downtown.
We can also recognize that with the foundation of Morena, the left’s electorate will split, an event dramatic enough to secure the PRD’s future defeat six years from now. This is intuitively obvious, but if there is something that radicals are never willing to yield, it is their stubborn purpose to make it their way.
Everything the far left does in Mexico is digging its own tomb, and it takes with them the moderate left, a reasonable group of politicians that can actually so some good for the country.