By RICARDO CASTILLO
There have been two distinct reactions in Mexico regarding the government’s granting now-former Bolivian President Evo Morales political asylum.
Upon arrival at the Mexico City airport Tuesday, Nov. 12, Morales made a brief speech thanking Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) for giving him abode.
“The president of Mexico saved my life,” Morales said. “While I was in hiding after resigning on Sunday,(Nov. 10), one of my aides showed me a message offering him $50,000 if he turned me in.” Morales said he suspects someone wanted him dead.
The general reaction in Mexico is that AMLO acted in accordance with the nation’s protection of the politically persecuted, regardless of ideology. We still remember the parade of Chileans and Argentines in the 1970s after the bloody coups staged by generals Augusto Pinochet in Chile and Rafael Videla in Argentina. Thousands flocked to Mexico in search of a safe haven, and they found it.
Not only that, there were leftist political refugees from Central American nations (excepting Costa Rica and Panama), fleeing the military regimes imposed on them. On the other side of the political spectrum, who can forget the Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who unlike the ragtag politicians from South and Central America, came to spend a mountain of gold,buying mansions in Cuernavaca and Acapulco?
Over the decades a number of famous communists lived in Mexico, including Russian Revolution leader Leon Trotsky – murdered in Mexico on Joseph Stalin’s orders – and Fidel Castro and Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who launched the Cuban Revolution from Mexico.
A most memorable group of refugees fleeing from the murderous dictator Francisco Franco were the thousands upon thousands of Spaniards who, in 1939, arrived not just to find safe haven, but to stay to live here permanently. Many brilliant intellectuals formed part of this diaspora, including filmmaker Luis Buñuel, just to name but one world famous genius.
So the Evo Morales case is not the exception, but the rule.
Naturally, there are many who did not care about welcoming this potential dictator. Among them are many National Action Party (PAN) members, who generally despise anything – rather everything – that smells of AMLO.
Prior to granting asylum to Morales, former Senator and Labor Secretary Javier Lozano, who was shocked at the prospect of granting asylum to Morales, tweeted in advance of the Bolivian’s arrival: “About the only thing missing is that they send an Air Force plane to bring him. They have no mother.” Lozano was referring to AMLO and Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. The expression “they have no mother” (no tienen madre) is highly offensive.
In any case, the Mexican government did send an Air Force plane to fetch Evo.
On the social web, there was a hashtag that multiplied by the thousands, stating #EvoYou’reNotWelcomeInMexico (#EvoNoEresBienvenidoEnMexico).
One thing, however, is granting Morales asylum and something else is agreeing with the way he was seeking reelection after 13 years in power.
There is no question as to the fact that Morales trampled over the Bolivian Constitution by seeking reelection. Back in 2016, there was a referendum which specifically banned him from running. But he went ahead and requested and was granted registration as a candidate.
Also, the way he won the Oct. 9 presidential election was murky as hell, to put it mildly. Toward mid-afternoon on election day, he was in a nose-to-nose race against candidate Carlos Mesa. Then there was a crash in the computerized voting system, and when it was finally repaired, Morales was ahead by 10 points. He finally won the election without having to force a second round runoff.
Something that plays in favor of Morales’ presidency is the fact that, during his nearly 14 years in power, he made the Bolivian economy grow – it is now running at a 4.5 percent gross domestic product growth – and helped many poor indigenous Bolivians to rise above the poverty line.
“He was a good president,” claimed AMLO in one of his morning press conferences, referring to the wellbeing of the Bolivian economy.
But in a nation where reelection is constitutionally banned, Evo Morales’ attempt at a fourth term placed him in the same boat with dictators, which, of course, have abounded in Latin America and one more would have made no difference.
So in the end, the general impression is that Morales was hoping to rule his nation forever, but eventually fell prey to his own ambitions.
So, welcome, Evo, Mexico is your new home.