By RICARDO CASTILLO
Although Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is celebrating the first year of his landslide victory on Monday, July 1, he has actually only spent seven months as head of state. His six-year term began on Dec. 1, 2018. But a year ago, there was no doubt about it, and he began giving orders right from the start.
His first act was to have now-former President Enrique Peña Nieto meet with him two days later on July 3 at the National Palace at 11 a.m. sharp. Peña Nieto was there on the dot. It was then that AMLO decided to revitalize the palace itself, but then turned it into a museum and occasionally used it for ceremonial purposes.
The transfer of power began right away and, in fact, Peña Nieto stepped aside from major decision-making, except for a few moves such as signing the renegotiated version of the United States-Mexico—Canada Agreement (UMSCA in English, T-MEC in Spanish.) Trump, Trudeau and Peña Nieto inked the document on Nov. 30, Peña Nieto’s last day in power.
Another thing that Peña Nieto kept alive then was his commitment to building the New Mexico International Airport (NAIM), knowing that AMLO had already sentenced the project to death, a sentence made effective the very day he took office.
But why is AMLO celebrating his seventh month in power with a big popular bash at Mexico City’s main square El Zócalo instead of waiting to deliver his first State of the Nation Address on Sept. 1, as required by the Constitution?
The obvious answer is that he enjoyed so much winning the presidency with 53 percent of the vote that from now on — note this down in your agenda, in case he opts for repeating the bash next year — he has chosen to commemorate the anniversary with another fiesta day in the clogged Mexican calendar of holidays. Otherwise, unlike in 2018, when it was presidential election year, July 1 is nothing but an ordinary date.
Regardless, AMLO will be leading the so-called AMLOFest with lots of popular musical groups performing, he announced, all of them for free as a celebration gift to him with the city government organizing the production. At least 200,000 people – El Zócalo’s capacity – are expected to attend. A crowd this size will only prove that AMLO’s political honeymoon with the nation is not over, not just yet.
In the recent press, nevertheless, many an opinion writer has ventured to make the most historically unusual evaluation of AMLO’s first seven months in power. It is unusual because, prior to this commemoration, the first evaluation – the natural one – came in the first week of June, the first six months of any president until now – and the second one on Sept. 1, when the official State of the Nation Address is a Constitutional mandate.
The reality emerging from the literally dozens of evaluations of “the first seven months” is that AMLO is seen from two factions that have been dividing the nation since he came to power: the AMLO-Haters and the AMLO-Lovers, or Amlovers.
Those who hate the president’s guts are still bitching over the cancellation of the NAIM because it was not just going to be an airport, but a logistics hub. Their complaints, however, have fallen on deaf ears and about the one move that was evident one year ago was that the new airport was a goner. Still, voices cry for the lost investment and the end of what AMLO called “a pharaonic dream in a poor nation.”
Many of his critics also dread the way AMLO goes about projects that need a lot of planning with no plans at all, such as the construction of the Dos Bocas Refinery in Tabasco, as well as the pseudo airport at Santa Lucía. As it turns out, he never had any studies on either project – neither of which are small fry endeavors – and, at least in the case of the Santa Lucía airport, AMLO’s being swamped by tons of legal suits until he can produce proof of sustainability, environmental competence and air transport feasibility. Among the suits being made are those by plaintiffs AMLO claims are mere strawmen for his political enemies, guys never before visible.
The list of things “AMLO has done wrong,” according to his opponents, is truly too enormous to enumerate here. In fact, I just read an article in the former literary magazine Nexos (now an anti-AMLO publication), in which one hate-filled woman named Amparo Casar rants on and on, seemingly forever, on all the legal violations AMLO is committing. It may be true, it may not be, but it only goes to prove that AMLO-Haters are a physical and intellectual reality. Complainers like Casar abound.
The more objective observers making AMLO’s seven-month appraisals are noting that, financially,?he has managed to keep the peso-dollar parity under 20 pesos per greenback, has managed to keep inflation at bay at under 4 percent, with the GDP growth for this year forecast at 1.3 percent (in which AMLO, next December, will probably echo Peña Nieto, claiming “it’s not a lot, but it’s GDP growth.”)
But AMLO’s great and noteworthy achievements are two: First, he has brought under control the theft of fuel from the state-owned oil company Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) since the first days of February. And, second, the jewel in his crown is no doubt the launching on June 30 the new police, the National Guard (GN), putting on the first leg of 60,000 police in many parts of the nation, particularly those hardest hit by organized criminal gangs,?which are a threat to civilian population. The GN will begin duties as a patrolling group, but is also establishing intelligence centers to pinpoint the locations of wrongdoers.
Another good hand of cards played by AMLO was his negotiations with U.S. President Donald Trump, who is now saying the contrary of what he said only a month ago: “Mexico is doing an incredible job stopping (Central American) migration.” AMLO avoided a trade war that would have proven disastrous for Mexico and which made Trump’s claim that “they (Mexicans) need us, we don’t need them” sound too close to home not to take into consideration. But the buck stopped there.
All this leads to one inevitable truth: There is, indeed, cause for a yearly celebration of AMLO’s rise to power.