On July 25, Andrés Manuel López Obrador emerged from his long self-imposed silence, took to a stage in the heart of Mexico City and announced his intention to run for president in 2012. It was not unexpected, as ridiculous as his candidacy may seem to many.
Plaza Zócalo was filled with supporters welcoming “El Peje,” as López Obrador is known, and chanting “Es un honor, estar con Obrador” (It’s an honor to support Obrador). Confetti flew, arms raised in unison and slogan-covered signs flourished among a group that, once again, threw their hearts and hope at the once and future candidate.
This scene brings to mind the magical town of Macondo, created by Gabriel García Márquez in Cien años de soledad, where the whole population loses its ability to remember. And as in the Macondo of Cien años, it seems we in Mexico need our own José Arcadio to figure out how to get the population to remember again.
Radicalism and disappointment with Calderón explain some of the support for Lopez Obradór. But if he has enough support to be considered a presidential hopeful, it is only because our citizens have forgotten the aftermath of the 2006 election. We have forgotten his complete disrespect of democratic processes and of our institutions, the same processes and institutions he now pledges fealty toward in order to have second shot at office.
Those of us who lived through the chaos created by a losing candidate who refused to accept his defeat (even after the Electoral Tribunal’s decision), violently overtook Congress on various occasions, and set up camp in the middle of Mexico City’s most important avenue, with complete disregard to the damage inflicted on both local transit and the general perception of rule of law in Mexico, are seriously worried that this fiend still has a leg to stand on in the 2012 presidential race.
The Mexican José Arcadio also must help the candidate to remember the past. In 2006, during the Convención Nacional Democrática López Obrador named himself the “legitimate President of Mexico” and refused to recognize Felipe Calderón as the actual leader. López Obrador set up a parallel government (in a parallel universe, perhaps) and thanked the nation for giving him the honor to serve. Taking that at face value, López Obrador should not be allowed to run in 2012, since Mexico of course does not have a reelection process. Moreover, López Obrador’s display and announcement is a clear violation of the electoral procedures (Código Federal de Instituciones y Procedimientos Electorales, COFIPE), which do not allow proselytism prior to official campaign dates.
Most of us refuse to believe that López Obrador could actually win the next election. Leftist parties will have to choose between Lopez Obrador and Marcelo Ebrard—ironically Ebrard has always been considered Lopez’ protégé—and this division will only strengthen the chances of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s likely candidate, Enrique Peña Nieto.
Between the absence of a strong Partido Acción Nacional candidate and the political pattern set in recent state elections, it’s altogether likely that 2012 will end the two term break from PRI’s 70 year rule. Yet again, this country’s memory is short. In the Macondo of Cien años, a swarm of yellow butterflies/flowers symbolizes both irrational and overwhelming love and the concept of death. How fitting that in Mexico yellow is also the color of El Peje’s Partido de la Revolución Democrática.