Iâ€™m writing minutes after the victory of the Bernie Sanders of Mexico, AndrÃ©s Manuel LÃ³pez Obrador. Everyone calls him, â€œAMLO.â€ This is actually AMLOâ€™s re-election: He first won the presidency in 2006. But back then the thieving, scheming, blood-stained criminal gang that rules Mexico (and Iâ€™m being polite), declared AMLOâ€™s dissolute opponent the winner.
This is Trumpâ€™s nightmare.
In 2006, rather than concede to vote thievery, lick his wounds and toddle off on a book tour, AMLO took his supporters into the streets, raised hell, blocked the capitalâ€™s central square for months, held a Peopleâ€™s Inaugural, and vowed to never, ever concede.
And tonight, twelve years later, AMLO has won a crushing, too-big-to-steal victory in Mexicoâ€™s presidential election.
And while the Good and Great told him heâ€™d be finished if he kept protesting the stolen election, he made counting every vote the very first of his five-point campaign platform. He understands that even those with empty stomachs also hunger for democracy.
And thereâ€™s a lesson here. Are you listening, Al Gore? Mr. Kerry and Mrs. Clinton?
Bernie or Hugo?
And AMLO gave the people something to vote for. The rest of his platform included expanding free college education, raising the minimum wage, fighting income inequality and creating a massive infrastructure-fixing jobs program.
If that sounds like Bernie Sanders, thatâ€™s no accident. AMLO, like Bernie, said he is taking his program from that great Mexican hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Nevertheless, Mexican media blared apoplectic prophesies that AMLO would be the Second Coming of Hugo Chavez, with mass nationalizations to follow. (The hysteria was parroted in the New York Times, not coincidentally, owned by Mexicoâ€™s richest man.)
I can tell you, AMLO is way more Bernie Sanders than Hugo Chavez, and Iâ€™ve known all three. (Thatâ€™s not to knock Chavez who rightly shifted the nationâ€™s oil wealth from the pampered to the impoverished.)
Both AMLO and Sanders were mayors who ran their cities as what Iâ€™d call, â€œPothole Populists.â€ Itâ€™s get-the-job-done socialism with the emphasis on social not –ism.
AMLO proved he could tamp down corruption, keep a stingy hold on budgets while increasing pensions and providing education grants. Mayor AMLO, unlike a certain Mr. Trump, completed major city infrastructure projectsâ€”all out of the savings from cutting waste and corruption.
But unlike Bernie, who did his good works in the mean streets of Burlington, Vermont, AMLO worked nothing less than a miracle in Mexico City, which is bigger than New York and ten times as ungovernable.
(And like Bernie, AMLO is a working class kid who worked in the social movement trenches: Sanders as a SNCC organizer in Chicago, while LÃ³pez Obrador spent six years living with, sharing the lives of and fighting for the poorest Mayan families.)
But they are stealing it right now
Letâ€™s not get carried away with our democracy high. This election is being stolen as I write.
Not the presidency. AMLOâ€™s poll lead of 52% to 25% for his nearest competitor, is just too much to steal. But every seat of the Mexican Congress is up for grabs, and the Powers that Be, the laughably named Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the right-wing National Action Party (PAN) are fighting for their lives â€“ and sometimes they fight with bullets.
So, far, 132 officials and candidates have been murdered in this election cycle. I spoke with voting rights activist (and movie star) Yareli Arizmendi in Mexico City, who told me that the old guard politicians were tied up with drug gangs.
In all fairness, I should note that many victims were not just AMLO allies but also PRI, Green Party and independents who challenged the control of their cities and states by narco-traficantes.
Indeed, AMLOâ€™s campaign gained fuel when, in 2014, the public learned of the disappearance of 43 students (and 3 investigating journalists). Evidence now indicates they were hacked to pieces and dissolved in acid by the Guerreros Unidos gang â€“ on orders from a politician connected to the ruling parties.
Arizmendi reports that ballots have been burnt in gang- and ruling-party controlled districts. She sent me a video of a woman pre-marking a stack of ballots.
I saw this game up close in 2006 when I was sent by the Guardian and Democracy Now to investigate AMLOâ€™s shock loss by just half a percent of the vote.
On election night, AMLO was way ahead when the official count was haltedâ€”then resumed with a massive reversal in the final count. Our investigators found massive ballot-box stuffing, ballot box dumping and intimidation of voters at gunpoint. There were games with electoral rolls apparently orchestrated by the Bush Administration which, I found, had used the same company that helped Katherine Harris rig the 2000 election in Florida, ChoicePoint, to steal Mexicoâ€™s entire voter roll! (Watch this Democracy Now! report, “Florida con Salsa,” from Mexico City.)
This time, the incumbent PRI hired Cambridge Analytica. Trumpâ€™s social-media manipulators and data thieves were paid $7.2 million on their promiseâ€”I canâ€™t make this upâ€”to repeat a Mexican variant of their â€œCorrupt Hillaryâ€ campaign to smear AMLO.
It was a hard sell, especially as the wife of the current President, PRI man Enrique PeÃ±a Nieto, was caught taking a $7 million condo from a government contractor.
As I write, it looks like AMLO has crushed the second-highest candidate by a vote of two-to-one and swept the House of Deputies. However, his coalition of parties is, as of the moment, showing poorly in the Senate race, way below pre-election polling data.
AMLO: Arrest Trump
Mexicans have had enough of the Trump-ito grifters who have held the Mexican presidency, usually by theft, for decades.
President PeÃ±a Nieto made his nation cringe with his invitation to Trump during the US Presidential campaign, boosting Trumpâ€™s candidacy. And heâ€™s not had much to say about the caging of children on the border.
Although Trumpâ€™s child prisoners and their families detained at the border are not Mexican citizens (most come from Central America), AMLO has called for Trumpâ€™s arrest for the kidnappings as violating international law.
Thatâ€™s just one indication AMLOâ€™s victory is Trumpâ€™s nightmare. AMLO has shown he is not afraid of privileged pricks, even if they try to make themselves look fierce by staining themselves orange.
Weirdly, LÃ³pez Obrador has also been called â€œThe Trump of Mexico,â€ simply because they both speak to the desperation of their nationâ€™s working classes. And both have few good words for NAFTA.
But Trumpâ€™s act, the billionaire turned class warrior, was always a fake. AMLO is for real.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has demanded that Mexico raise the wages of all auto workers so that the US can better compete within NAFTA.
AMLO is calling Trumpâ€™s bluff: he said, â€œyesâ€ â€“ which may come as a shock to Secretary Rossâ€¦ Ross owns eight of those auto factories.
Hope and Danger
The slogan of AMLOâ€™s coalition is, Juntos Haremos Historia. Together, weâ€™ll make history. But history has a way of bleeding to death in Mexico.
In March 1994, Luis Donaldo Colosio was on the cusp of winning Mexicoâ€™s presidency. But his political turn to the Left infuriated his PRI bosses. At a public rally where he supposedly had government protection, one assassin, and possibly a second, put two bullets in his head.
I hope AMLOâ€™s story will have a happier ending.
Stay informed, get the signed DVD of the updated, post-election edition of The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of The Stolen Election, a signed copy of the companion book â€” or better still, get the Book & DVD combo.
Or support us by shopping with Amazon Smile. AmazonSmile will donate 0.5% of your purchases to the Sustainable Markets Foundation for the benefit of The Palast Investigative Fund and you get a tax-deduction! More info .