Postcard from…Mexico

Colombia

Photo by Katherine Kohlstedt.

For Mexican society, October 2 re-opened the 39-year-old wound left from the Tlatelolco Massacre, when government forces killed hundreds of student demonstrators in Mexico City. But commemorative marches this year represented dozens of other struggles — justice-seekers for police repression in Atenco, the ongoing Oaxacan popular movement, pension reform, and tension still brewing from last year’s fraud-ridden presidential election.

Graffiti of police figures accompanied by the words “enemies of the people” covered downtown Mexico City’s public monuments and bus stops on the way to the Zocalo. In this photograph, the woman is spray painting “see you in 2010″ below this image. In 2012, Mexico will have its next presidential election.

Important leadership from the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which lost the last elections, have shown the deep divisions in the Mexican left by recently formally recognizing Felipe Calderon as president. The PRD’s own “legitimate president” Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has not maintained a consistent media presence. Even when the next presidential election in 2012 gives the other parties a chance to re-organize against the conservative National Action Party (PAN), it is far from a united front. At the commemorative marches, men armed with machetes displayed their anger over the still-unresolved political repressions of the past year with the slogan, “imprison politicians NOT political prisoners.”

This week’s White House announcement of the “Merida Initiative” has not calmed things down. Social movements have serious concerns about the repression already doled out by Mexico’s police and military, which are being used more and more often by Calderon in his stepped-up drug war. The $1.4 billion over several years to be used by Mexico for equipment, technology, and training provokes suspicion among Mexican analysts, and Interior Secretary Francisco Ramírez Acuña went as far as to clarify that the “Mérida Initiative” is a plan exclusively to fight organized crime and not to persecute guerrilla groups or social protest movements.

Katherine Kohlstedt is a program associate at the Americas Policy Program at the Center for International Policy and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org).