Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: presidencia.gob.mx

By KELIN DILLON

Since taking office in December 2018, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has been increasingly flexing his mounting power, showing anyone who dares to cross him that they will face his angry retribution, as he attempts to consolidate the government’s control over the nation.

López Obrador has now come for the Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF), following its public reveal of the true cost of the cancelled New Mexico International Airport (NAIM). The audit revealed the massive price tag of AMLO’s decision to terminate the planned airport in favor of a much more distant location that he favored as 232 percent higher than estimated, showing his promises that the cancellation would actually save Mexico money to be false.

AMLO, of course, outspokenly denied the audit’s figures, claiming there to be other, more accurate data, than from the audit organization. The ASF then backtracked, following López Obrador’s public tantrums, in an attempt to appease the indignant president, claiming their methodology was inaccurate. But, too late, the damage was already done.

López Obrador announced on Thursday, Feb. 25, that he would have Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies, which is controlled by a majority of AMLO’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party, investigate the ASF for (what he alleged as) falsifying data, claiming “dignity to be at stake” over the matter.

“First they applauded us and then they beat us,” said David Colmenares, head of the ASF, following AMLO’s announcement.

Mexican economist Valeria Moy told El Universal newspaper that the airport audit scandal distracted from other irregularities in the ASF report, which show “information in relation to the fact that in López Obrador’s first year there was more corruption and deviations than in (his predecessor) Peña Nieto’s.”

Whatever the underlying intentions may be, one thing is for sure: AMLO is out for revenge on anyone who speaks against him, or even unintentionally undermines his quest for absolute power, as in the case of the ASF.

Some of López Obrador’s power-grab actions are more blatant — like asking the Chamber of Deputies to ram through his controversial electrical bill “without even changing a comma,” which of course, they fell in line to do. With such control over the Chamber of Deputies, the results of its investigation against the ASF will likely swing in the president’s favor once more.

The aforementioned electric bill has also caused issues with Canada and the United States over possible violations of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), as AMLO’s determination to consolidate the electric industry under the state, therefore expanding his unilateral control over the nation, has taken a clear priority over international relations, which he has essentially thrown to the wind in exchange for more personal power.

AMLO’s flippance for Mexico’s relationship with big international trade partners is somewhat ironic considering the nation’s economy contracted 8.5 percent in the past year under his management, for the worst economic crash the nation has seen in 90 years. Though the 2020 figures can partially be attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s actually the second year in a row that Mexico’s GDP has contracted under AMLO’s government, showing that now, more than ever, Mexico needs strong relationships with its trading partners.

The presidential attacks have come not only for organizations and countries on the wrong side of AMLO, but for individuals as well, with Tamaulipas Governor Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca, who belongs to the Morena-opposing National Action Party (PAN), now facing charges for tax fraud and organized crime, conveniently before Mexico’s June 2021 midterms, where he is facing reelection against Morena candidates. 

Meanwhile, the Morena gubernatorial candidate for Guerrero, Félix Salgado Macedonio, has faced multiple rape accusations that, due to his Morena affiliation, have been publicly dismissed as a non-issue by López Obrador, despite the severity of the allegations.

“The (Morena) regime punishes opponents, but provides impunity to its own,” said the coalition of PAN Senators on Twitter in support of Cabeza de Vaca’s innocence, and mentioning how the convenient timing of the charges “has clear electoral intention.”

It seems, in his quest to consolidate power, AMLO has decided no opponent is too big for him for him to take on, strong-arming anyone or anything standing in his way into submission.

Less than halfway through his presidential term, with more than three years remaining of his direct influence on the country, AMLO continues to gain more and more power as the days pass.

And even if he keeps his word to not seek a second term (which is strictly forbidden under the Mexican Constitution that he continues to rewrite), whoever he grooms as his successor could end up being nothing more than his puppet on a string, leaving Mexico in AMLO’s control for years to come.

…Feb. 26, 2021

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