The Waltz of Lopez Obrador and Chavez

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Miguel Henrique Otero, Madrid, November 11, 2019 — Months before his electoral triumph was realized, analysts inside and outside of Mexico began to wonder what kind of government they could expect from Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

López Obrador appeared as a marker: his ascension was putting an end to two decades of alternating power between the National Action Party (PAN), which ruled for two consecutive periods, from 2000 to 2012, and the mythical Revolutionary Institutional Party (PRI), which returned to rule between 2012 and 2018. Now a new phase was beginning, one whose contents were not clearly outlined.

López Obrador’s victory, with 53% of the votes, was interpreted as a deep political and symbolic stab at the PRI, the party founded in 1929 by Plutarco Elías Calles, whose gravitational force in the political life of Mexico, for nine long decades, was simply crushing.

One of the theses on display was that López Obrador would have a relatively narrow margin to set a style of government, because there was a series of problems of a large scope that would obligate him to that prudence that complex realities impose.

On the list of matters that were mentioned, standing out was the turn of the foreign policy of the United States under Donald Trump, who was pressuring for urgent solutions to stop the progress of migrants coming from the Northern Triangle of Central America.

It was written that López Obrador’s most important task would be to assure the flow of economic exchanges between the two countries — and also with Canada — and he was called to put into movement an appropriate and even aggressive policy of commercial expansion toward the markets of Europe and Asia, and one of greater penetration in Latin America, which would grant him more autonomy with respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

To this first current of optimism were added two others. One of them rose from López Obrador’s own trajectory as a public official.

In the years in which he was the head of government of the Federal District, between 2000 and 2005, he was a moderate administrator, judicious in spending, austere in making decisions.

Thus, what could be expected is that, once installed in the National Palace, he would dedicate himself to meticulous administration, to the fight against corruption, and, urgently, to the question every day more grave of drug trafficking and the uncontrollable spreading of criminal violence.

I’m interested in stopping at that laughable statement made by that left that defines itself as democratic, which then firmly maintained that López Obrador’s references to Fidel Castro, that his reiterated leftist and nationalist exaltations, were no more than rhetorical uses for a purely electoral purpose, and that, once installed in power, pragmatic management would prevail.

In the January 2019 edition (number 208) of the magazine Letras Libres, Enrique Krauze published an extraordinary essay in which he spelled out the books that López Obrador has dedicated to Mexican history. It’s called The historian president. It is especially revealing reading because it exposes, with meticulous argumentation, how, distorting facts, López Obrador uses history for political means. In the words of Krauze himself: “politicizes history.”

Although he was never the author of any book — fortunately — one of the most persistent efforts of Hugo Chávez was that of distorting the history of Venezuela, of Latin America, and of other countries, so that it would serve his purposes and fit with his objective of perpetuating himself in power.

To the mania for Castroism and the deliberate manipulation of history, a third and profound megalomania unites Chávez and López Obrador: that of presenting themselves as milestone figures in a grand history.

While Chávez proclaimed himself as the direct continuer of the liberating work initiated by Simón Bolívar — Bolívar himself would have handed him the baton — López Obrador declares himself the genius of “the fourth revolution” inthe history of Mexico.

According to that narrative, the history of the great Spanish-speaking country of the world gathers around four moments: Independence, the liberal reforms of the 19th century, the Mexican Revolution, and the arrival of López Obrador to power.

These three coincidences are not cosmetic: they shape a like-mindedness, a common messianism that defines their modes of governing. Like Chávez in his time, López Obrador has put into circulation a discourse and practices of tolerance toward drug trafficking and the armed mafias, with the argument that the criminals are victims of capitalism.

Like Chávez, he is working to attain complete control of the electoral institution, and thus have use of a structure that allows him to remain in power for an indefinite time. Like Chávez — under direct tutorial of Cubans — he is politicizing the armed forces, proclaiming people-army unity, while he creates privileges for certain of its sectors. Like Chávez, he has taken the first steps toward establishing a communications hegemony. Like Chávez, he has centered the function of the government in a television program — in López Obrador’s case, daily.

Like Chávez, he has been gathering together around him the most extremist sectors of his party — Morena. Like Chávez, he is moving forward in the paralyzation of the economy. Like Chávez, he makes pugnacious, absurd, and provocative declarations, like, for example, the demand that he made to the king of Spain, Felipe VI, to ask forgiveness for the events of the conquest of Mexico.

Like Chávez, his declarations are full of that ambivalence between truth and lie, certain and uncertain, possible and impossible. Like Chávez, his hostility toward the independent media and the professional practice of autonomous journalism is more evident every day.

Is it perhaps still possible to doubt that Chávez and López Obrador are dancers of the same waltz?

Editors’ note: The author is director of the Venezuelan daily El Nacional.

Translated by: Sheilagh Herrera


The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by now becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.