Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, left, with Morena gubernatorial candidate Felix Salgado Macedonio. Photo: La Voz de Michoácan

By KELIN DILLON

As protests continue in Mexico against National Regeneration Movement (Morena) gubernatorial candidate for Guerrero Félix Salgado Macedonio, who has been accused of the alleged rape and sexual assault of several women, a similar case has arisen in the United States against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s purported inappropriate behavior, showing a stark contrast between how the two countries handle the mirrored controversies, and underscoring the fact that if you’re Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) friend, allegations are simply inconsequential.

Salgado Macedonio has been accused of drugging and raping one of his female employees during his time as director at the leftist publication La Jornada Guerrero, and is also facing allegations of assaulting a minor back in 1998. The violent accusations caused many members of Salgado Macedonio’s and AMLO’s Morena party to request the Guerrero candidate’s resignation from the gubernatorial race. 

Still, López Obrador, while not afraid to speak out loudly against his opponents with personal slurs and unfounded allegations, has been quietly supportive in the case of his longtime friend and party-member Salgado Macedonio, calling the coverage of Salgado Macedonio’s alleged crimes “a media lynching” and taking a hands-off approach, supposedly leaving his friend’s fate up to the elections, saying “you have to trust the people of Guerrero.”

But despite his words, AMLO apparently doesn’t trust the people of Guerrero, of which seven out of 10 have been polled as unsupportive of Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy in Mexico’s upcoming June midterm elections, according to figures from the Spanish newspaper El País. Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy was not outright banned and instead was taken to a public referendum to determine who exactly would be Morena’s candidate, with Salgado Macedonio winning the vote.

Salgado Macedonio has also been accused of receiving bribes from criminals during his time as mayor of Acapulco. between 2005 and 2008, a crime that AMLO is always quick to berate his conservative opposition for in his supposed quest against corruption, but is eerily silent on when the accusations point to his friends or family (including his brother Pío, who was recorded on video clandestinely receiving large packages of money).

The controversy has culminated in weeks-long protests in front of Mexico City’s National Palace, which López Obrador calls home, resulting in a wall being erected around the palace to keep out protests that are expected to come to a head on March 8, International Women’s Day. The wall’s erection has been controversial to say the least, with defense from the government saying it is a “wall of peace” while opponents criticize its silencing of women’s voices and right to protest, as well as AMLO’s own hypocrisy.

Embroiled New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Photo: Google

Cuomo, on the northern side of Mexico’s border with the United States, has been accused of harassing his staff members with “hostile and toxic” behavior and making inappropriate sexual comments to female employee, as well as facing several claims of unsolicited sexual advances, though none of the allegations reach the same level of severity as those against Salgado Macedonio.

Despite the difference in severity of the accusations, U.S. President Joe Biden has still taken a harsher stance on Cuomo’s actions than López Obrador has with Salgado Macedonio, with White House press secretary Jen Psaki saying on Sunday, March 7, that Biden supports an “independent review” of the claims and that he “has been consistent that he believes that every woman should be heard.”

“He believes that every woman who comes forward should be treated with dignity and respect,” said Psaki at the time. “And there should be an independent review looking into these allegations. And that’s certainly something (Biden) supports and we believe should move forward as quickly as possible.”

As the United States makes strides toward finding the truth in its own gubernatorial sexual assault scandal, AMLO has doubled down on his defense of Salgado Macedonio, slamming the New York Times in his press conference on Wednesday, March 3, for its balanced coverage of the case, saying the highly-lauded publication “doesn’t investigate, they slander.”  

“Why don’t you come here or compile what we have said about this case here?” asked López Obrador. “If there is an accusation, that is something the citizens of Guerrero, the women and men of Guerrero have to resolve.”

As stated earlier, seven out of 10 people polled in Guerrero do not support Salgado Macedonio’s candidacy, with the figures growing to 81 percent in polls taken countrywide. The people of Guerrero have shown where their loyalties lie loud and clear, but López Obrador just doesn’t care to hear them, exemplified by the giant wall erected around the National Palace to keep out  women marchers, which, of course, is exacerbated by the Salgado Macedonio case. 

One can’t help but think if Salgado Macedonio didn’t belong to Morena and instead to an opposition party, López Obrador would rail against him at any given opportunity, like he does on a regular basis against conservative opponents during his daily press conferences. 

Instead, AMLO defends and protects an alleged rapist at the expense of his relationship with the citizens of Mexico, the very people he claims to be a champion of. AMLO better take a page from Biden’s book and take the allegations against Salgado Macedonio seriously, and, most importantly, listen to the voices of his constituents, lest that newly-erected wall in front of the National Palace become only one more hurdle for Mexico’s women’s rights movement to jump.

…March 8, 2021

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