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Mass Mobilizations in Mexico Temporarily Stop Bush-Calderon Oil Privatization

The Peaceful Civil Resistance Movement in Mexico has entered a new stage in their struggle against the U.S.-led offensive to privatize Pemex, Mexico's national oil corporation. On Friday, April 25, the deputies of the three political parties that make up the Broad Progressive Front (FAP) ended their 16-day takeover/occupation of the Senate and National Assembly chambers in Mexico after a deal was worked out with the legislative coordinators of the two ruling parties in Mexico: the PRI and the PAN.

As they took down their "Clausurado" [Shut Down] banner from the rostrums of the two houses of Mexico's Congress, the FAP deputies declared victory, singing the national anthem and chanting slogans to defend Pemex. FAP spokespersons told the Mexican press that they had managed to prevent the privatization "energy reform" packet submitted by the usurper government of Felipe Calderon from being "fast tracked." The deal would allow for 71 days of national debate in the Senate and National Assembly, after which the legislative chambers would resume discussion and a vote on the so-called "reforms" -- all aimed at turning Pemex over to private, mainly foreign, investors.

According to the Mexican press, no agreement was reached on holding a national popular referendum, either before or after the legislative vote. Press reports earlier in the week had quoted FAP leaders indicating they would support a "ratification referendum" following the vote by the legislature. FAP spokespersons told the Mexican press yesterday that the National Front in Defense of Oil [Frente en Defensa del Petróleo], headed by Claudia Sheinbaum, has not yet decided how and when they will proceed with a plebiscite or referendum on the five-point reform program submitted by Calderón.

"We Must Remain Vigilant ... and Organized!"

At a mass rally yesterday afternoon in the downtown Zócalo that followed a huge demonstration from the Angel statue on Avenida Reforma, Mexico's legitimate president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, told the crowd that a first victory was scored, as the Mexican Congress will be adjourning their spring 2008 session without approving the Pemex privatization plan, as Calderón and Bush had demanded. But, López Obrador continued, "we have not won the war. ... Calderón and the PAN are hell-bent on going forward with their privatization plan. We must remain vigilant, and most important, we must remain organized to prevent any and every possible attempt at privatizing Pemex."

These words were echoed by Jesusa Rodriguez, the spokesperson for the National Democratic Convention (CND), and by Defense Front coordinator Claudia Sheinbaum. Rodriguez said "there should be no 'triumphalism' until we have pushed back the privatization 'reforms.' We are happy now that we detained the steamroller, but we have to fight to the finish to stop their offensive." Sheinbaum added that the Brigadistas were very proud that their actions contributed to stopping the "fast track" vote, but she, too, explained that Calderón and his cohorts will stop at nothing to impose their privatization agenda on the Mexican people. "We will not renounce or let up in our struggle for Peaceful Civil Resistance in defense of our oil, our Constitution and our nation," Sheinbaum stated. "Not only is this our right, it is our legal duty and our duty of conscience."

Sheinbaum and López Obrador laid out what they called Stage Two of the National Peaceful Civil Resistance Movement. Stage Two includes the following:

- increasing the number of Brigadistas from 100,000 to 200,000 by the first week of May;

- mobilizing the Brigadistas to visit the homes of 1 million families -- meaning 10 million people -- by the end of June, to discuss with them the full meaning of Calderón's reform proposals, with leaflets, brochures and videos;

- organizing through the Frente's intellectuals' outreach program debates at factories, high schools and universities all across Mexico;

- organizing neighborhood Committees in Defense of Oil; and

- remaining vigilant to take to the streets and even occupy the legislative chamber again if the PAN seeks to sneak in a vote on the privatization measures.

López Obrador devoted only a few lines in his lengthy speech to the debate that is to take place in the Mexican Congress over the next 71 days -- a debate that will be run on the State TV stations, not on the widely watched stations such as Televisa and Tele Azteca. For López Obrador and the resistance movement, the center of gravity is not the Congress, but the movement in the neighborhoods, workplaces, and farms across the Mexico.

What Lies Ahead?

Clearly, the resistance movement has been able to win some valuable time to organize the millions of people who will be essential to stop the privatization plan. These 71 days will be important not so much because of what is debated in the Congress, though this is not unimportant, but because every day offers the possibility of organizing and mobilizing the resistance movement from the bottom up against this country-selling plan.

But a showdown is inevitable.

In a column written in Saturday's (April 26) La Jornada newspaper titled "Mexico SA," Carlos Fernández-Vega notes that while the PRI and the PAN "made a tactical retreat" after the 16-day occupation of the Congress, "nothing whatsoever indicates that they have renounced their effort to privatize the oil industry. ... They may accept a few modifications to their original plan -- changes of form, not substance -- to 'demonstrate' they are willing to listen and negotiate in the truest parliamentary sense of the term, but they will remain as intent as ever in their drive to turn over Mexico's oil resources to foreign capitalists. Hence the need to remain vigilant to the unfolding events."

No doubt the movement headed by López Obrador is hoping that significant elements of the old ruling party, the PRI, will buckle and refuse to go along with the reform plan. It is likely that some PRI members will in fact buckle, that fissures will increase in the ruling PRIAN coalition. But it is also very likely that at the level of the Congress, the deputies of the FAP will be told to accept a "better privatization" plan following the 71-day debate -- a "better" plan that still goes forward with the unacceptable privatization agenda. And it is clear today that many of the deputies of the FAP (mainly from the "New Left" wing of the PRD) will be more than happy to accept even the most minimal modifications to the "reform" plan.

But if the resistance movement is to remain faithful to its main slogan of "Not One Step Backward!" [Ni Un Paso Atrás!] it will require mobilizing the hundreds of thousands of activists into the brigades that López Obrador and the CND are proposing -- but just as important, it will require centralizing the force of a million or more people into a mass National Democratic Convention Assembly in Mexico City to show the powers-that-be that Mexican people have spoken out with one solid voice in defense of Pemex. This will tell Calderón-Bush that they have no choice but to withdraw from the Congress their "reform" plan, understanding that if they were to refuse to withdraw their plan, they would have to confront a mobilized and energized revolutionary movement of millions of Mexicans demanding their oil and their sovereignty.

To be continued.


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