Mexico Moves to the Left Against the Imaginary Pendulum

Andrés Manuel López Obrador has an inveterate addiction to promising subsidies. (Morena)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 1 July 2018 — This article could not be published in Mexico right now. The elections are on Sunday July first and as of Thursday the ban has been declared. The purpose is to avoid influencing the voters who, supposedly, meditate on whom they will elect as president. In fact, the great national concern is the World Cup and the fact that Mexico has chances to win it.

What a stupid measure! In the times of our majesty the internet all that is useless. As of several days ago, 99.99% of the voters have made their decision. Polls show Andrés Manuel López Obrador – AMLO to Mexicans – of the MORENA Party as the winner with 45% intending to vote for him. The distant second is Ricardo Anaya (PAN-PRD) with 19%, and José Antonio Meade of PRI is third with just 15%. The difference is so great that if there had been a second round* AMLO would clearly defeat Anaya.

Why is Mexico moving to the left, against the imaginary pendulum, when almost all of Latin America seems to be moving in the other direction? Probably, because of AMLO who, despite being a politician of the system (he has been a member of the PRI and the PRD), has some of the attributes of the caudillo outsider, and the fact that the vast majority of Mexicans are tired of traditional politicians incapable of alleviating the very serious problems of increasing violence and great corruption.

Also, because Mexico is a country only lightly related to Latin America. It has its rich pre-Columbian history, its powerful colonial viceroyalty and its republican history without Simón Bolívar and without José de San Martín. It has its cuisine, its myths, its literature, its cinema, its music, and, ultimately, its rich and varied culture at the service of the almost 130 million Mexicans who live in the country and many of the 40 million located in the United States.

To which is added a remarkable phenomenon: the only foreign nation that really influences Mexico’s social mentality is the United States. Not withstanding that in two slashes the United States took half of Mexico’s territory. The first cut was Texas in 1836, and the second, ten years later, was the rest of what is now the southwestern US, including California.

Neither Spain, which is the distant past of the gachupines (native Spaniards in Mexico), nor Latin America, with whom the country shares a language and many features of a common identity bequeathed by the Motherland, are present in the daily life of Mexicans. The Mexican obsession is the United States.

I remember that, after participating in a seminar with Samuel Huntington at Harvard organized by Larry Harrison, the American thinker expressed his concern about the strong Mexican presence in the west of the country, given that they might eventually try to link to Mexico. I was then invited to give a lecture in Monterrey and, when I finished, I explained and asked my Mexican listeners about Huntington’s conjecture.

My hosts laughed. Had neither Huntington nor I had heard of the Tex-Mex world, very rich in culinary and musical expressions? It was the other way around: what could happen, according to them, was that one day northern Mexico would ask for its annexation to the United States. There was, they said, a very strong force of attraction from Texas that made residents of Monterrey feel more emotionally close to the Texan culture than to Mexico City.

In short, who is afraid of AMLO and why? Fearing him, with reason, are employers and society’s elite. The fear comes from his inveterate addiction to promising subsidies. AMLO’s populist features arouse the terror of business groups and domestic and foreign investors. He will raise public spending to terrible levels.

Many assume he could be another Hugo Chávez. I do not think so. He doesn’t seem as foolish. I suspect he will choose another mode of disaster, but one less severe. Maybe it will be like the first term of Peru’s Alan García, or the initial years of Venezuelan Rafael Caldera’s second term, until reality made him change direction.

The unfortunate thing is that his term will overlap with that of Donald Trump. A right-wing populist and a left-wing populist will mutually reinforce their worst instincts. In any case, Trump must be thinking of adding thirty feet to his border wall while AMLO is thinking nothing will be done to stop the flood of emigrants. The train crash is all but certain.

*Translator’s note: There are no run-offs in Mexican presidential elections. The highest vote getter wins, even without a majority. The president serves only one six-year term.


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