Occupation of Mexico’s Congress chambers ends 鈥攆or now

On April 25, Mexican federal legislators of the three political parties that make up the Broad Progressive Front (FAP) ended their 16-day occupation of the congressional chambers after a deal was worked out with representatives of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) over proposed legislation to reform the state oil company, Pemex. FAP leaders claimed victory, telling the press that they had prevented the reform package submitted by President Felipe Calder贸n from being “fast tracked.” The new deal allows for 71 days of national debate before lawmakers can resume discussion and move to vote on the measures. Some FAP leaders, however, are insisting on a popular “ratification referendum” following the vote by the legislature.

At a mass rally in the downtown z贸calo April 27, opposition leader Andr茅s Manuel L贸pez Obrador said the first phase of the “peaceful civil resistance” campaign had ended. But he told the crowd: “We have not won the war… Calder贸n 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.”

Claudia Sheinbaum, leader of the Movement in Defense of Oil (Frente en Defensa del Petr贸leo), pledged to fight for a referendum on the final legislation. “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.” Jesusa Rodriguez of the National Democratic Convention (CND), and by Defense Front coordinator Claudia Sheinbaum. Rodriguez warned “there should be no triumphalism until we have pushed back the privatization reforms.

FAP leaders called for increasing the number of brigadistas (local activists for the anti-privatization campaign) from 100,000 to 200,000 by the first week of May, to organizing neighborhood Committees in Defense of Oil and begin the national debate. They said they remain ready to occupy the legislative chambers again if the PAN seeks to sneak in a vote on the privatization measures, and called for their followers to be prepared for a popular campaign of civil disobeidence. Some 500 women brigadistas known as the adelitas (after the peasant women who fought for Emiliano Zapata in the Mexican Revolution) blocked traffic on Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma on April 22 to pressure the PAN in the negotiations. (The Organizer, via IndyBay, April 28; El Financiero, April 28; La Jornada, April 22)

The Los Angeles Times reports that the decision to end the occupation came following talks moderates and self-described “radicals” within the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), the biggest pillar of the FAP. In a heated closed meeting April 23, the PRD’s leader in the Senate, Sen. Carlos Navarrete, pressed Lopez Obrador to lift the protest, according to the newspaper El Universal. “The Senate has become a madhouse,” Navarrete was said to have told L贸pez Obrador. “We can’t transform the country like this. I believe in the parliamentary way.” L贸pez Obrador reportedly retorted: “What we’ve won so far has been thanks to taking the dais and because of our movement, not because of negotiation.”

After the deal with the PAN, Navarrete told the press: “We won. We stopped the quick approval of these proposals…which are clearly in violation of the constitution.” The deal came after Calder贸n broke his silence on the protest, calling it a “ridiculous” farce. (LAT, April 26)

See our last posts on Mexico and the struggle for Pemex.