An estimated 1.2 million people attended a rally in support of Mexico City Mayor
López Obrador (Photo: Antonio Olvera}

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Mexico City Mayor tells his supporters that
political power must benefit all the people

By Baldemar Méndez Antonio, Mexico Correspondent

26 April 2005: An estimated 1.2 million people took part in the ‘March of Silence’ to protest against the prosecution of Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO). The march, which took place on Sunday, 24 April 2005, was described as the largest rally for democracy in Mexican history. Leading the march, together with the Mayor, were many of the country’s most prominent intellectuals and politicians, who wanted to protest publicly against the use of the institutions of justice to eliminate AMLO, the country’s most popular politician, from the 2006 presidential election. (On 31 July 2005 Andrés Manuel López Obrador resigned from office to run for president.)

Mayor López Obrador told the rally that it was essential for Mexico to become a country of prosperity and equality. “Every citizen, but specially the poor, the weak and the forgotten, must be given protection from economic uncertainty and social equality,” the Mayor said. He added that politics in Mexico had become morally devalued by neglecting the least privileged in society. “Political power only becomes virtuous when it is exercised for the benefit of all the people and not just for some favoured few.”

The Mayor won the applause of his listeners when he told them that the state must meet its social responsibilities by creating a society where all the people live in social harmony with dignity and justice. “A state that adopts equality and fraternity as its principles, must implement them by guaranteeing its people the right to sufficient food, work, fair pay, health, housing and education.” AMLO also stressed culture as fundamental to the national identity of all Mexicans.

Mr López Obrador gave a foretaste of his presidential agenda when he said that Mexico could not be transformed by taxing food and medication nor by privatising utilities and the oil industry. “Our highest priority must be combating poverty.”

AMLO rejected accusations by his opponents that he wanted a return to a state-controlled society. But he warned that he would not submissively follow neo-liberal policies, which had proved unworkable, ineffective and dehumanising. “We must benefit from globalisation and not suffer from it,” he told the crowd. He further amplified that he would adopt economic policies - within the current framework of global economics - which were in the national interest of Mexico.

The Mayor accused Mexico’s current President Vincente Fox, the first opposition leader elected to the Presidency in 70 years, of betraying democracy by trying to deprive the people of the country of the right to freely elect their representatives.

When President Fox was asked for his reaction to the march of 1.3 million people, he allegedly said that he was busy watching the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI in Rome.

The current confrontation between the Mayor of Mexico City and the political establishment began on 7 April 2005, when the country’s Congress voted 360 to 127 to strip him of his immunity. The decision to strip the Mayor of legal immunity in a dispute over a breached court order surrounding a road-building project by the Mexico City, had been slammed as politically-motivated by supporters of the Mayor.

AMLO is seen as a left-leaning politician in the mould of Brazil's President Lula or Venezuela's Chavez, with Latin America currently experiencing something of a revival in the fortunes of left-of-centre leaders.  However, the Mayor is conscious of the need not to alienate the country’s professional middle class. His call to supporters to exercise only peaceful protest suggests that the events might provide him with some political leverage in his presidential ambitions.

Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the rally in his support on 24 April 2005 (Photo: Gustavo Graf)

Introducing Mexico City Mayor López Obrador
Like the sauce by the name of which most North Americans, at least, will know the part of Mexico that is his home (Tabasco), there is one thing no one could ever say about Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, Mayor of Mexico City: and that, of course, is that he is insipid.

Mayor Obrador was runner up in the 2004 World Mayor contest

University educated in political science, Mr. Obrador – or AMLO, as he is sometimes called – supported native Tabascans through the work of an institute he oversaw, and ?The good of all, but most of all, of the poor?, has been his credo ever since. It was he who, even before becoming the third elected Mayor of Mexico, transformed the lot of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), which was created in 1989 after the expulsion from the ranks of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which had held power for seven decades and under which the office of mayor of the capital had always been an appointment, of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. (Cárdenas had attempted to further democratic trends, and the presidential election he lost in 1988 was rigged. He became the first elected Mayor of Mexico in 1997.) During the presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Mr. Obrador exercised what has been widely acknowledged as his stellar organizing abilities, and nurtured and consolidated strong support for the PRD in Tabasco, and garnered 40 per cent of the votes in the 1994 race for governor, even when (it has since been revealed) his opponent spent some 60 times the total allowed by law on his campaign. More