Mexico Takes a Turn to the Left

By Andrea Sosa Cabrios (dpa)

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the new president-elect of Mexico. He takes office in December.

HAVANA TIMES – Sunday’s victory of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Mexico meant a slam to the status quo and a turn, partly of unknown dimension, to the left in the region’s second largest economy.

Initial convincing results from the National Electoral Institute (INE) granted Lopez Obrador 52.7 percent of the vote, conservative opposition candidate Ricardo Anaya 23.8 percent, the governing party’s Jose Antonio Meade 14.8 percent and Jaime Rodriguez the independent 5.9 percent. Participation in the polls was around 63 percent.

This is the first time that a party that identifies with the left has reached the Presidency of Mexico, although it is not the first Mexican president of that tendency.

Before there were leftist leaders like Lazaro Cardenas (1934-1940), one of its inspirers, in the seven-decade regime of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) that ended with the turn of the century.

But times are different. For three decades now, the economy of Mexico has been opening up to the world and today it is the 15th largest economy and one of the countries with the most free trade agreements in the world, although with many millions of poor and great inequality.

“The transformation that we will carry out will basically consist in banishing the corruption in our country,” said López Obrador, 64, in his first message after his crushing victory.

“This evil is the main cause of both social and economic inequality, and also because of corruption violence in our country was unleashed,” he added.

His diagnosis of Mexico’s ills is clear. What is not so clear are the “how’s”. The ambiguity of Lopez Obrador regarding certain issues does not allow us to anticipate yet what direction his government will take, for example in relation to the private sector.

“It’s a mixture of leftist, nationalist and populist. The fact that we have to use so many adjectives to try to describe him shows it is not so clear” what policies might be like, said Christopher Wilson, vice director of the Mexico Institute of the Wilson Center, a center of analysis based in Washington.

The Mexican turn to the left, which is anticipated to be accompanied by a majority in Congress, comes at a time when in the rest of the continent the left has been losing ground.

The fatigue with insecurity, violence and the economy with scant growth, but also the hope of a change, proved greater than the fears generated in some sectors by Lopez Obrador, who had previously finished second in the 2006 and 2012 elections.

“He extended his support base largely because he ran from the left to the center,” Irma Méndez of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (Flacso) in Mexico told dpa.

“Today we have a panorama in which the program of Lopez Obrador is less radical, and an electorate that stops being so conservative and also moves towards the center. This confluence has been very positive for him,” said Mendez.

The premise of the former mayor of Mexico City is that a corrupt political-business “mafia of power” seized today’s Mexico and in doing so excluded an important part of society from development.

With little interest in global affairs, Lopez Obrador’s nationalism is primarily economic, Christopher Wilson said.

Lopez Obrador’s concerns are in Mexico. He wants to fight corruption as the root of all ills and to promote the internal market to bring the country to a more even development, with food and energy self-sufficiency.

Mexico was always governed by the PRI from 1929 to 2000, when it was defeated by the National Action Party (PAN), which later occupied the government with Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón for two consecutive periods.

In 2012, the Mexican electorate punished the PAN and gave the PRI a second chance with Enrique Peña Nieto. The disenchantment with the two largest traditional forces of the country ended up leading to this new situation.

“The best foreign policy is domestic policy,” is the phrase repeated by Lopez Obrador, a strong advocate of non-intervention. He is not expected to be involved in matters of other countries.

The victory also creates a new scenario in the relationship with Donald Trump, the US president, who wants to build a wall on the border and rethink trade. It is a possibility of a clean slate and a new relationship or a clash between two strong and similar personalities.

Symbolically, López Obrador began his electoral campaign in Ciudad Juarez, on the Mexican-US border, and from there he went down to finish in the poor south-southeast of the country.

He has said that he wants to create the conditions so that nobody has to emigrate, besides increasing salaries in Mexico, something with which he could be in the same line as Trump.

“I’m looking forward to working with him,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!”

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel sent his congratulatory message to Lopez Obrador for his “historic victory” in Mexico’s presidential elections.

3 thoughts on “Mexico Takes a Turn to the Left

  • That has yet to be seen Curt Bender. Don’t let your enthusiasm blind you, wait and see whether Obrador has the ability to improve the lives of Mexican people. Note that both President Donald Trump and President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez have sent congratulations to Obrador. Not exactly a good omen to have two would-be dictatorial types providing encouragement. Having in my time negotiated labour contracts with the Mexicans I doubt whether much will change for the poor people, who are but pawns. As for “standing up to Trump”, the cards are on Trump’s side of the deck, so what do you think that Obrador will manage to achieve through NAFTA?

  • Standing up to Trump is the easy part. Trump is a bully. But improving the lives of all Mexicans, not just the poor ones, will be a herculean task that campaign rhetoric alone will not accomplish.

  • Good for Mexico for electing a President who will stand up to Trump and improve the lives of many poor Mexicans.

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