By: Raúl Romero*
On February 11, 2019, Samir Flores and a group of opponents of the Morelos Integral Project went to protest an activity where President Andrés Manuel López Obrador [AMLO] would be present. With banners, slogans and modest sound equipment, the protestors stayed for the whole event until they were able to get the president’s attention. AMLO, who was accompanied by Cuauhtémoc Blanco and Hugo Erick Flores, among others, turned towards the group Samir was in and, visibly upset, with his right hand raised and his index finger also raised, he said to them in a challenging tone: “Listen! To me, radicals of the left are nothing but conservatives.” Nine days later, on February 20, Samir Flores would be murdered outside his home.
It has not been the only time that AMLO has discredited individuals, peoples and social organizations that express the pain and discontent of a country that continues bleeding day by day. He has done so against the movements of victims, migrants, women, original peoples and journalists. In order to discredit their protests and demands, he refers to some of these sectors as “provocateurs,” “the undersigned,” “ridiculous,” or any qualifier that helps to place them as “ conservatives.”
In this discourse that focuses on people/oligarchy antagonism, with its adaptations according to the moral and ideology of the head of the executive (liberals/conservatives, good/bad), there is no room to observe other contradictions or oppressions. Exploitation does not appear in this discourse, so that exploiters and owners of capital that were previously located as part of the “mafia in power,” are now protected with the President’s popularity.
The same thing happens with the extractive projects and megaprojects, some of them previously promoted or implemented by neoliberal governments. The Trans-Isthmus Corridor, the Morelos Integral Project or the Constellation Brands are now taken up again by the current administration and presented as necessary. In other cases, it’s just enough to change the name or the location, like the Train misnamed Maya or the airport in Santa Lucía. It doesn’t matter that in the past the resistances and struggles of the peoples have stopped them, today they are the currency of promises of a better future, the same promises that others have already made.
But this speech is not exclusive to the president. In any space they can, government officials and AMLO supporters reproduce it. “The Zapatistas are an invention of Salinas,” or “Where were you when neoliberalism was imposed?” “Migrant caravans are an invention of Trump,” and “There are ‘black hands’ behind the women’s movements.” The objective is the same: to annul the resistances, disparage them, place them in the same camp as the real dominant forces, although many of the latter are in reality with the president.
This strategy is based on a premise: “the country is doing well”, “the people are happy,” if anyone differs, he is conservative or allied with the right. In the worst cases, the president and his followers can always have “other data” for confronting the reality. The strategy leads them to present themselves as the only “left” and to claim a monopoly on the truth.
The problem is that López Obrador is the President of Mexico, the head of State and, as such, his voice has an echo and consequences.
In a context of political and criminal violence like what Mexico has experienced for more than a decade, where women, journalists and defenders of territory are constantly murdered, a context in which the president discredits or minimizes the resistances and the problems that they outline, making use of the privileged media space that he has, opens the door to harassment, threats and to the worst demons.
An example of the above is the situation that residents of Calakmul, in Campeche experienced in recent days. In the face of obtaining an amparo (temporary suspension) of work on the Maya Train, they were harassed on social networks and threatened by supporters of the president. The case of the journalist Frida Guerrera also comes to light, because after questioning the president at a morning press conference about what the federal government is doing given the grave situation of femicides and gender violence, she was severely attacked in social networks.
Given this situation, the resistances face the challenge of developing more pedagogical communication strategies and strengthening all kinds of security measures. The violence of the State and of capital is finding new forms in our country; we must not stop denouncing them, but above all imagining exits from them.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Saturday, February 22, 2020
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee