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Conversations at an int’l seminar in Mexico’s capital

Published Apr 19, 2009 9:16 PM

When almost 200 delegates representing 80 organizations and political parties from 40 countries, primarily from Latin America, met in the Federal District of Mexico last March 19-21 for the XIII Seminar on “Political Parties and the New Society,” hosted by Mexico’s Workers Party (PT), it was a tremendous opportunity to learn more about the host country, meet new political friends and renew old contacts, and in the process learn from those who are in the midst of work and struggles in their own countries. Political gatherings such as this can reinvigorate political work and impart optimism and great international solidarity.

The face of Mexico

Lucia Morett, with glasses, Mexican survivor of
March 2008 Colombian attack inside Ecuador.
WW photo: John Catalinotto

Before the Seminar’s opening, the reality of the terrible poverty suffered by the Mexican masses was apparent just across from the hotel where all of the Seminar’s events were going to be held, in the business center of the capital. A large tent surrounded by big banners with slogans such as “Opportunity for poor people” and “Housing for those who don’t have it” was a temporary home for hundreds of poor, homeless peasants. They had traveled from different regions to be part of a protest against Sedesol, the government’s Department of Social Development, for not providing promised housing.

The Antorchista Movement, which originated in the 1970s to defend and struggle for the rights of peasants, organized the protest. From Feb. 23 to March 18 they had held rallies and marches around the area.

Inside the hotel the next day, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) was describing in detail the reasons for the most recent increase in poverty. His supporters call AMLO “the legitimate president of Mexico,” since the pro-U.S. oligarchy stole the 2006 presidential elections from him through fraud. AMLO called Mexico “a mafia state” with a “usurper and failed” government—the administration of current president Felipe Calderón.

AMLO also pointed out that in Mexico neoliberalism has amounted to sheer “vandalism.” Under the government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who stole the elections from Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in 1988, a series of privatizations and the subsequent accumulation of wealth in fewer and fewer hands have established a very small elite that controls banks, enterprises and most state institutions. This has led to a complete disregard for the needs of the people and the consequent pauperization of the masses, he said.

Honduras, from USA military outpost, to a member of ALBA

Conversations with Honduran House Rep. Silvia Ayala of the opposition party—the Democratic Unification of the Left—helped clarify her country’s role. While Honduras is the second poorest country in Central America, it represents the changing atmosphere in Latin America, that of regional integration and distancing from U.S. domination.

The Honduran president, Liberal Party farming entrepreneur Manuel Zelaya, is no leftist. He even supported the Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. during his inauguration in 2005. But Zelaya has opened relations with Cuba, and stated in his recent visit to that island, “I am ready to support this [Cuban] revolution, this socialist identity and permanently denounce those who oppress her.”

Under Zelaya, Honduras became part of the progressive trading bloc ALBA in 2008 and signed agreements involving Petrocaribe with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The Honduran economy had been tied to the U.S., which has been its largest trading partner. According to Ayala, the Honduran right wing is quite upset with Zelaya for this approach. Her party opposes Zelaya but supports these measures that bring relief to the poor in Honduras.

Panama, 20 years after the U.S. invasion

In conversation, Panamanian sociologist and general secretary of the leftist Popular Alternative Party, Olmedo Beluche, clarified the situation of the current government of Martín Torrijos and the upcoming May 3 elections. Although the PAP will not be able to run in these elections due to the tremendous amount of signatures required by the Electoral Tribunal, they are supporting an independent candidate.

Beluche said the PAP’s premise is that even though there are divisions in the movement, there are objective conditions in Panama that can facilitate raising a left political alternative that is anti-neoliberal.

He also commented on the extreme corruption surrounding several bourgeois party presidential candidates who have been linked to the latest Colombian scandal. Called the DMG after “owner” David Murcia Guzmán, this is a money laundering setup that has been running a pyramid scheme, throwing thousands of Colombians into bankruptcy. Murcia Guzmán has also been implicated in illegally funding Colombian rightist President Álvaro Uribe’s reelection campaign and the Panamanian presidential candidates.

Colombia-Dominican Republic connection

It was a relief to see alive and doing well Dominican revolutionary and Marxist political analyst Narciso Isa Conde at the Seminar. Weeks before, Isa Conde had widely disseminated a cautionary note through the Internet entitled “Why did Montoya come?” stating that Gen. Mario Montoya, who had been linked to clandestine commands and massacres and was accused of numerous crimes in Colombia, had presented his credentials as Colombian ambassador to the Dominican Republic.

Quoting from several Colombian newspapers, Isa Conde, who had written extensively in solidarity with the Colombian insurgency, pointed out Uribe’s decision to persecute FARC and ELN “leaders and supporters” even beyond Colombian borders. He raised the possibility that Montoya’s nomination will turn into “a transplant of the (paramilitary) criminal Colombian model to the Dominican repressive forces.”

Lucía Morett, a friendly and warm young woman, was the only survivor among five Mexican students who were visiting the Colombian revolutionaries’ (FARC) encampment in Ecuador on March 1, 2008, when the Colombian army crossed the border into Ecuador, bombing the facility and killing FARC spokesman Raúl Reyes, other guerrilla members and four students. Morett was granted a stay in Nicaragua but decided to return to Mexico to face the unjust charges that the Mexican prosecution has leveled against her.

Morett said that the right-wing forces are behind this unfounded charge and even if she has not been asked to offer testimony, the prosecution would not drop the case so as to keep it as a “Damocles sword” hanging over her and other Mexican students.