Ralph Peters is a regular columnist with the New
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- Watch The Loser
strips instead of hanging chads? The outcome of Mexico's
presidential election remains too close to call. But no matter
who's declared the winner, democracy won.
frustratingly hard to find a balanced picture of Mexico in
our media. It's either Cancun or cocaine cartels. We hear
about the problems - illegal immigration, drug empires and
crippling corruption - but the progress our southern neighbor
has made over the last decade goes ignored.
Ralph Peters - Contributor
Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books,
as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both
under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist
for the New York Post and other publications. [go to Peters Index]
been far too much alarmism over the prospect of a win by leftist
presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic
Revolutionary Party (PRD). As of now, the odds look fair that
the ballot tally will put conservative Felipe Calderon atop
Mexico's government. But whoever becomes the next el
Presidente will be the choice of the Mexican people.
always been so. For eight decades after the Mexican Revolution
- which went horribly awry - the authoritarian Party of the
Institutionalized Revolution (PRI) rigged elections with Soviet
shamelessness. Only in 2000 did the demand for real democracy
enable the victory of Vicente Fox of the National Action Party
is one of the world's youngest democracies. And Mexicans
have utterly rejected the old regime. This year, the PRI's
candidate trailed both Calderon and Lopez Obrador by an insuperable
2006 campaign polarized Mexican society, with the populist
Lopez Obrador drawing support from Mexico's ever- neglected
poor, while the middle and upper classes backed Calderon. Troublingly,
Lopez Obrador has hinted that, if the final vote count doesn't
go his way, he may call his supporters into the streets.
be a tragedy. Mexico's democracy remains fragile, as does
its economy. Mexico needs a peaceful presidential transition,
no matter who wins. It's essential for the loser in this
election to be a good citizen of his country and accept the
popular will - no matter how narrowly expressed.
of a man will Lopez Obrador prove to be? He made an undeniable
difference in the lives of Mexico City's poor during his
years as mayor and greatly improved city services. Yet his
throwback rhetoric scares domestic and international businessmen.
Now he's in a position to strengthen or shatter Mexican
He has a
radical base of the millions who attended his campaign rallies,
masses who convinced themselves that they were too numerous
to lose. As with the exaggerated power of Internet activists
in our own recent elections, the illusion leads to disillusion
when confronted with the reality of the ballot box. Will radical
anger turn violent in Mexico?
have taken the easy route by casting Lopez Obrador as just
another Latin American leftist ready to join the Fidel Castro
fan club. In fact, he's been careful not to alienate the
business community. In the clinch, he's consistently proved
a pragmatist. And during the campaign, he and the other candidates
refrained from the tried-and-true Mexican electoral tactic
of blaming every ill on the United States.
was fought - hard - on domestic issues. Each candidate took
care to avoid antagonizing Washington. Leftist or not, Lopez
Obrador realizes that no Mexican administration can afford
to alienate the United States - especially not when immigration
issues are an urgent topic up north. Illegal immigration has
been Mexico's political and economic safety valve for a
century. The country's No. 1 export isn't oil, but
its people. That's Mexico's inescapable reality.
perspective, Calderon, the conservative, is the preferred candidate.
The PAN man probably would be better for Mexico, too. He's
a pro-business technocrat, and his country desperately needs
investment and development - a future that won't force
Mexicans to leave their families by the millions for work north
of the Rio Grande (American ideologues refuse to see that Mexicans
would much rather stay home - if jobs were to be had).
in our own best interest not to be sore losers, either. If
the final vote count hands the presidency to Lopez Obrador,
we should greet the populist as warmly as we would have the
conservative. We must stop creating enemies out of potential
the most important foreign country to the security and economy
of the United States - whether we like it or not. Nobody's
going to tow our neighbor out to sea, so our policies must
get beyond emotional sloganeering to seek mutual solutions
to long-neglected problems, from immigration to the drug-cartel "ownership" of
the border. Name-calling is never a substitute for practical
the bottom line on the still-undecided Mexican election: The
crucial issue is whether or not Lopez Obrador will put his
own ego above the national interest if he's defeated. Whoever
loses must do so with grace; to do otherwise would be to inflict
grave damage on Mexico's budding democracy. Mexico can't
afford political violence.
was so close that half the population will be disgruntled whatever
the outcome. There'll be charges and counter-charges of
fraud (sound familiar?). But, no matter who wins, the man who
will make this election a success or failure will be Lopez
Obrador. If he turns to the tyranny of the streets, he'll
prove that his critics were right, that he's just another
second democratic election, the behavior of the loser will
shape the country's future. CRO
latest book is New
Glory: Expanding America's Global Supremacy. His next
book, Never Quit the Fight, is due
out July 10.
piece first appeared in the New York Post
copyright 2006 - NY Post