The picture of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on The Economist magazine. Photo: The Economist


After having managed to stay out of the global authoritarian populist limelight for the first two years and a half of his six-year term, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has now grabbed the cover of Britain’s internationally respected The Economist magazine this week.

Unfortunately, the portrait that the magazine, which was published on Thursday, May 27, does not exactly paint a positive picture of what it calls “Mexico’s false messiah.”

In the article, the magazine compares AMLO to the likes of Hungary’s Viktor Orban, India’s Narendra Modi and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro for their shared disdain and erosion of democratic norms.

It also calls on Mexican voters to “curb Mexico’s power-hungry president,” stating plainly that he is pursuing “ruinous policies (for the country) by improper means.”

The authors of the article admit that AMLO “lacks some of the vices of his populist peers,” which has, in some ways, made him more palatable to a broader range of constituents.

“He does not deride gay people, bash Muslims or spur his supporters to torch the Amazon,” the article says.

“To his credit, he speaks out loudly and often for Mexico’s have-nots, and he (according to The Economist) is not personally corrupt.”

Nonetheless, the article warns, AMLO “is a danger to Mexican democracy.”

It goes on to note that inevitably, “López Obrador divides Mexicans into two groups: ‘the people,’  by which he means those who support him; and the elite, whom he denounces, often by name, as crooks and traitors who are to blame for all Mexico’s problems.”

The Economist says that while AMLO maintains he “is building a more authentic democracy,” the end product is “an odd creature.”

“He calls a lot of votes, but not always on topics that are best resolved by voting,” the article continues.

“For example, when legal objections are raised to one of his pet projects — moving an airport, building a pipeline, blocking a factory— he calls a referendum. He picks a small electorate that he knows will side with him. When it does, he declares that the people have spoken.”

The Economist goes on to point out the absurdity of AMLO even calling for a national referendum on whether to prosecute five of the six living ex-presidents of Mexico for corruption.

“As a stunt to remind voters of the shortcomings of previous regimes, it is ingenious,” the article observes.

“It is also a mockery of the rule of law.”

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