Mexico will have midterm elections on June 6.
In a country where the presidential term is six years (without re-election), this is an important moment.
The president needs his political space to perform well in this vote to ensure congressional support and governability for the next three years to come, just as it is very important to elect regional authorities to help him lead. such a big country, even more. faced with a scenario of health crisis and economic slowdown. Otherwise, your administration will be completely weakened.
In this case, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 67, is doing very well, not for what he has promised to do, but to keep his popularity high (63%) in the face of immense adversity. The most recent polls show his party, Morena (Movimiento Regeneración Nacional), is at least 20 points ahead of opposition parties when it comes to Congress. Nationally, the country is more divided, with Morena leading in at least 15 of the 31 states.
These numbers are intriguing, as 49% of Mexicans say the government is doing badly in the economy and 54% are against security policy, one of Mexico’s most serious problems. The projected GDP shrinkage this year is around 9%.
When AMLO (as it is called) came to power, there was a huge party going on in the country. His election, after three attempts, sounded for many Mexicans as a liberation vis-à-vis the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), and as a turning of the page vis-à-vis the two administrations of the PAN (Party of the Alliance Nationale) entered the country in a bloody war against drug trafficking which has already claimed more than 200,000 lives.
The veteran left-wing leader has surfed with great popular approval ever since, though he displeases both the business community and the progressives who voted for him, who are starting to signal him to the emergence of an authoritarian leader. like so many already. produced in Latin America.
This transformation of AMLO is evident in the new book by one of today’s greatest Mexican thinkers, Roger Bartra, in “Regreso a la Jaula” (Debate ed., Imported), which has just been published. In the book, the sociologist describes the path of authoritarianism taken by AMLO.
Bartra says of the Mexican president: “AMLO is a reactionary populist, who can be compared to reactionary populist currents in Europe, like Erdogan, or to Trump himself, whom he has criticized so much.” Bartra explains that a sign of this is his “attempt to make the country of the 60s and 70s, with a strongly nationalized economy and which refuses tax reforms”. And complete. “In addition, we add that it is militarizing the country, and this is a reason to be alarmed.”
Signs of his growing authoritarianism have been evident since the start of his term in 2018. AMLO took office with a semi-esoteric discourse of reconnecting with pre-discovery Mexico, discrediting democracy. With him he ran intermediaries and institutions. He has imposed a system of communication in which he departs from all means of communication. The Mexican president does not give interviews or respond directly to the media. Yes, he speaks every day in the tedious “Mañaneras”, where he speaks daily and is the official communication channel of the government.
At the start of the pandemic, it was in the “Mañaneras” space that AMLO showed itself to be a denier of the virus. He did not encourage the use of masks, he spoke of the need for people to take to the streets and restaurants to “stimulate the popular economy” and he refused to give a scientific answer to the coronavirus. The result was a huge delay in taking action. After much criticism, AMLO backed down, but not by much. He forwarded all communications on this matter to his health care holder, López Gatell. At first, it seemed very effective in setting up a regional quarantine regime. But he was discredited by several reports, especially from foreign media, which, thanks to independent investigations, began to show that Mexico had far more deaths than it recorded.
Finally, more than 6 months after these complaints, the government had to give in. Last week, he admitted that the number of coronavirus deaths in the country is at least 60% higher than officially announced.
There are, however, other areas where the AMLO government has failed and where its authoritarianism has been more pronounced. Safety is one of them. The country continues an internal war, drug trafficking controlling several states, through narco-entrepreneurs, narco-politicians and narco-police. One of the most public examples of this phenomenon can be seen in the fact that the tragedy of the 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa in 2014, a crime committed by various figures in power linked to trafficking, has never been resolved.
And this is just the most famous of many similar massacres.
AMLO took the promise of reducing violence with a different perspective on security. Neither the firm hand like that of the PAN, which unleashes even more violence, nor the policy of obscure agreements with the PRI cartels. Without our knowing, after all, which path AMLO took, violence is increasing year after year. And in 2020, with a pandemic and all, the number of homicides was 35,515, just 0.3% less than the year before.
Last weekend, “Proceso” magazine published a major report showing the military’s increased influence in the realm of power. Security has not improved, but AMLO is increasingly surrounded by uniforms, the support of which has been increasingly crucial in defending its policies.
Already the statist impulse and the attachment to Mexico of the 60s / 70s of which Bartra speaks materializes with the revocation of the energy reform which had been approved by Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) and in the projects of Pharaonic works such as the Trem Maia or in the mega oil base being built in his state of Natal, Tabasco.
The Mexican people will have an important task on June 6. Either alert the president to change the course of his behavior towards authoritarianism, or give him the tools to stay the same.