By RICARDO CASTILLO
Many political observers are having trouble settling into the idea that Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is on a steady victory path heading up to the final lap of the Mexican presidential race. The number of offensive labels being tagged to AMLO is overwhelming, ranging from “liberal madman” to someone craving “absolute power.” And in between, he may also be trying out the label of a leftist with “50 shades of red.”
The truth is that many people – yours truly included – see AMLO as a political chameleon who has repeatedly shed seasonal skins of red in order the wear whatever shade is convenient for the moment.
In discussing opinions about AMLO, such terms as populist, liberal, conservative and other catch-all political monikers become increasingly confusing and end up meaning something only to the people using them.
Two conflicting opinions stem from very different points of views and even countries. One of them was coined by the prestigious Mexican historian Enrique Krauze, while the other one was expressed by the editorial board of the Washington Post on Sunday, June 17.
Over the past two weeks, Krauze has been showing increasing dismay at AMLO’s apparently insurmountable advantage in the polls. At last count, López Obrador was leading by over 20 points over the closest follower in the election.
In a recent video posted on social media Krause says “to continue building our democracy and preserve our freedoms, it is very important that we divide our votes in the upcoming election.”
This statement, according to AMLO, is apparently harmless, but it has a target audience and it promotes the idea of not only not voting for AMLO, but of “dividing” the votes among other candidates.
Krauze added in the video: “Mexico must not be a one-man nation. We all build Mexico up; Mexico is all of us. Let us prevent the concentration of power in the hands of one person. Let’s divide our vote, let’s say no, now and forever, to absolute power.”
AMLO promptly answered Krauze’s opinion as “normal,” saying that Krause “is the organic intellectual of conservatism and has the right to be one.”
“But what I have pointed out before and now is that there be no simulation in their stances,” AMLO said, “that they don’t call themselves liberals when in reality they are conservatives. What I call for from them is to take their masks off.”
In reality influential intellectuals such as Enrique Krauze and Lorenzo Meyer, as well as Jesús Silva-Herzog – all of them writers for conservative Mexico City daily newspaper Reforma — started criticizing AMLO in unison.
“They are ganging up on me,” López Obrador quipped.
And when he lashed back, calling them conservatives disguised as liberals, a description these people did not like, they even accused him of infringing upon their freedom of speech.
AMLO also asked them what was their concern about “absolute power” if they have always supported it as expressed over centuries in Mexico through the phenomena known as “presidencialismo,” which translates into absolute power in the hands of one man, typical until now of Mexican presidents. If you have any doubts about this practice, just watch Enrique Peña Nieto.
The problem for ordinary persons like truly yours is that we no longer have a clear cut definition between liberalism and conservativism, particularly when conservatives pass as liberals in a nation that’s clearly moving to the left in order to bring “justice” (whatever that means) to the 56 percent of Mexicans who live in poverty.
Well, that’s the view from Mexico. The view from Washington matters here and the question being asked is whether AMLO is the Mexican populist equivalent of Donald Trump. The Washington Post editorial board ran an opinion piece claiming that to be the case, saying that he “bears more than a passing political resemblance to President Trump – which doesn’t mean the two are likely to get along.”
“If Mr. López Obrador wins the July 1 vote, bilateral relations, already poisoned by Mr. Trump, are likely to become still more toxic,” the article said.
Clearly the editorial oard of the Post is not paying attention. In many of his daily stumping speeches all over Mexico, AMLO has pointed out that he will get along well with Trump, particularly because Trump is a spur-of-the-moment decisionmaker. Indeed, he has called Trump all sorts of names in the past, but then, so has everyone else in Mexico. If Mexicans are rapists, Trump can be called worse, such as “racist” and “neo-fascist,” terms, by the way, that Trump has been called many times by Washington Post opinion writers.
The WP op-ed also questions AMLO’s policies.
“López Obrador says he favors a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with higher wages for Mexican workers, but many of his policies aim at curtailing trade with the United States, particularly in energy and agricultural products. He says he would reassess one landmark reform, the opening of Mexico’s oil industry to foreign investment, and cancel another, an education revamp that broke the power of corrupt teachers’ unions.” To add to the pile of misused terms, the WP calls this a “reactionary agenda.” But it is what Mexican voters are demanding.
And finally warns that “If Mexicans choose Mr. López Obrador, they will be, like the voters who backed Mr. Trump, blowing up the status quo without a reliable sense of what will replace it. The result is likely to be more trouble on both sides of the border.”
I’ve got news for the WP Editorial Board:
It is likely that once this election is settled and AMLO gets the majority vote polls he is predicted to win, he might just get along well with Trump since, if we go by what the WP “liberals” claim, they have a lot in common, and everyone knows that birds of a feather flock together.