US Leftist Publication Blasts AMLO’s Political Ineptitude

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo: impacto.mx

By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is not unaccustomed to bad press.

Ever since he took office in December 2018 for what he has promised will be a normal six-year term (as specified in the Mexican Constitution, but which many of his detractors fear he will extend, as he has already extended the constitutional term of his Supreme Court chief justice judge), AMLO has used his daily press conferences (and every other opportunity he has stumbled across) to lambast Mexico’s professional media, along with private-sector investors, intellectuals, conservatives and anyone else who rubs him the wrong way, calling them names and accusing them of accepting bribes to “discredit” his administration.

In return, the Mexican press has bent over backwards to point out the president’s many flaws and mismoves (and AMLO has obliged them by providing them with a plethora of constitutional violations, dictatorial acts and other sundry unethical — and even illegal — acts).

And it has not just been the Mexican press that has irked AMLO into kindergarten-worthy name-calling and verbal mud-slinging.

The international press has also taken aim at the thin-skinned Mexican president (again, urged on by his flamboyantly despotic acts and outrageously arbitrary behavior).

The roster of respected global media that have criticized AMLO’s antics has included the Wall Street, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Financial Times, BBC News, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País.

The roster of respected global media that have criticized AMLO’s antics has included the Wall Street, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Financial Times, BBC News, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El País.

Just last week, London’s highly regarded The Economist magazine called on Mexicans to vote against the country’s “False Messiah’s”  leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party in the Sunday, June 6, midterm elections so as to curb the “power-hungry president” and his ruthless and “ruinous policies” imposed by “improper means.”

No sooner had AMLO begun accusing The Economist of being a proxy for conservative politicians who are trying to sabotage his regime than a barrage of additional salvos by international media were launched against him, including by the Miami Herald and the Times of San Diego, both of which warned that he is seeking “dictatorial powers.”

And, as always, AMLO was ready with his flippant response that “the conservative foreigners” don’t know what is really happening in Mexico and are only out to destabilize his government.

But what threw the Mexican president for a loop was the journalistic potshot that the didn’t see coming: a scathing editorial attack on his political ineptitude by the blatantly leftist U.S. magazine The Nation, published on Thursday, June 3.

In the article, titled “AMLO Has Been a Disappointment to the World — for Mexico, He’s Been Far Worse,”  journalist Dawn Paley (author of “Drug War Capitalism,” AK Press, 2014 and “Guerra Neoliberal: Desaparición y Búsqueda en el Borte de México,” Libertad Bajo Palabra, 2020) outlines AMLO’s many failures since he took office, including his “botched covid response and his lean toward militarization,” which she says is clear evidence that “he takes his cues from the past, not the future.”

The Nation article points out that AMLO “takes his cues from the past, not the future.”

Paley begins her article with a brief history of Lucía Mixcoatl, a nopal cactus vendor who has seen her fragile livelihood ravaged by the covid-19 pandemic.

“Mixcoatl is one of over 32 million people employed in Mexico’s informal economy,” Paley writes.

“As in other countries, small businesses in Mexico have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. But government help in Mexico has been sparse: last summer found 61 percent of businesses said they needed financial aid, but only 5.4 percent had received government support.”

Not only did Mixcoatl not qualify for a government loan (which would have had to be paid back over five years at 14 percent interest), Paley says, but she was now dealing with increased inflation, lower demand for her nopales and the problem of how to care for her children who no longer attended in-person classes.

“The economic pain felt by Mexico’s poor majority has been compounded by the devastating toll of the virus.” Paley points out.

“According to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, Mexico is tied with Peru for the world’s highest case-fatality rate: Over nine of every 100 people known to be infected with covid have died. Disparities in the country’s health system mean covid patients checked into public hospitals are far more likely to die than those who can afford private care … Today, Mexico’s total deaths trail only those of the United States, Brazil and India.”

Paley goes on to note that “throughout the economic and health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office two and a half years ago, has remained optimistic.”

“After the first coronavirus cases were announced in Mexico in March of last year, he suggested that carrying amulets and images of saints would protect Mexicans from covid-19.” she recalls.

“Last June, López Obrador said that, together with social distancing, a proper diet and good hygiene, ‘not lying, not stealing and not cheating’ helped prevent infection.”

“Last June, López Obrador said that, together with social distancing, a proper diet and good hygiene, ‘not lying, not stealing and not cheating’ helped prevent infection.”

Paley also points out that AMLO himself contracted the virus in January of this year, “after months of playing down the pandemic and appearing maskless at public events.”

And to add insult to injury, and further prove himself to be a misguided medical buffoon, “after his recovery, (AMLO) claimed he no longer needed to wear a mask, as he was no longer contagious.”

And while AMLO did launch a very politically manipulated national covid vaccination plan at the start of this year, Paley says that even with his jumble of seven vaccines, as of the start of June, only about 10 percent of Mexicans are fully vaccinated and experts predict that it will take at least another year to vaccinate the remainder of the population.

“In the face of the massive disruption stemming from the pandemic, since taking office, the president has pushed forward with many existing plans and projects: promoting ‘republican austerity’ and an end to corruption, vowing to modernize the state oil company, and pushing signature infrastructure projects designed to increase the flow of goods and tourists,” she says.

And as the number of homicides continued to rise, Paley says, AMLO “created a new National Guard and backed increased military participation in civilian affairs.”

“AMLO campaigned as a progressive candidate, vowing to work for justice for victims of violence; end massacres, which had become widespread during the previous two administrations; and ‘prioritize the poor, for the good of all’.” she writes.

Paley says that while initially AMLO’s 2018 win energized Mexican politics and led many to speculate that the country was finally having its turn as part of the “pink tide” of leftist leadership in Latin America, in the end, much of AMLO’s display of mastery has been as a showman and not as a statesman.

Flamboyant acts like refusing to use the presidential plane, riding around in his seven-year-old Volkswagen Jetta and opening the former presidential residence Los Pinos to the public as a cultural center only helped to distract from AMLO’s more sinister and less public maneuvers, she says.

Flamboyant acts like refusing to use the presidential plane, riding around in his seven-year-old Volkswagen Jetta and opening the former presidential residence Los Pinos to the public as a cultural center only helped to distract from AMLO’s more sinister and less public maneuvers.

“As president, AMLO declared ‘the end of neoliberal politics’ and demanded apologies from Spain and the Vatican for their role in the conquest and subjugation of Indigenous people. And the National Development Plan, the guiding document of his presidential term, declares ‘an end to the ‘war on drugs’ in no uncertain terms,” Paley says.

“But two and a half years into his administration, the gap between the president’s campaign promises and his actions is widening. AMLO has pushed austerity in the public sector and refused to introduce new taxes on the rich or to budge on his promise to avoid contracting new debt, even in the midst of the health and economic crises caused by the pandemic. By early 2021, Mexico had spent less than 1 percent of GDP on pandemic relief (compare that to over 13 percent in the United States).”

And while AMLO likes to brag about his administration handing out checks to those he deems most worthy of government support, such as select seniors, people with disabilities, students and farmers, Paley says that “conditional cash payments to poor citizens (in Mexico) aren’t new; they began under President Ernesto Zedillo in 1997.”

“Today these payments have been rebranded under the umbrella of ‘well-being’ (Bienestar), to match AMLO’s brand, and are estimated to reach around 14 million people, just less than 1 out of every 10 citizens,” she observes.

“The president has claimed that these same programs would assist the most vulnerable during the pandemic, but they fail to cover the majority of working-age adults, including the working poor. The only support available for millions of Mexicans is through family networks and mutual aid.”

And while Paled admits that López Obrador’s administration has tried to strengthening workers’ rights, raised the minimum wage and pushed some corporations to pay taxes owed to the state, “the signature of AMLO’s presidency thus far has been austerity across the board, with one exception: the Army.”

The signature of AMLO’s presidency thus far has been austerity across the board, with one exception: the Army.

“In all the decrees passed so far cutting staff in public administration and lowering spending in line with austerity policies, there’s always a clause in which the armed forces are excepted,” Paley quotes Mariano Sánchez-Talanquer, a Mexican political economist who is currently an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, as saying.

“While everything else shrinks, and the rest of the state lives through fiscal scarcity, which is now made worse by the economic crisis, the only sector of the state that has seen its budget — and therefore its power — increased is the military.”

And herein, Paley says, is the crux of AMLO’s worst betrayal to the Mexican people.

Paley also said that “Sánchez-Talanquer likened the president’s stance on the military to a bait and switch, in which AMLO promised to rein in the military, but instead deepened and expanded its role.”

“Though those outside of the president’s inner circle still don’t know exactly what informed his change of heart, the army’s substantial power, strengthened after over a decade of deployment across the country, cannot be overlooked,” she warns.

“At the outset of his tenure, López Obrador disregarded a diverse coalition of over 300 civil society organizations that demanded the National Guard be a civilian force, as stipulated in the constitution. Regardless, since 2019 a career soldier has led the National Guard, troops, now number over 160,000, the majority of them former soldiers.”

The fact that AMLO has no intention of reining in his meticulously honed army, Paley says, is evidenced by the fact that in May he signed an agreement regularizing the army’s active role in policing until the end of his term.

“Contrary to AMLO’s promises to end the drug war, the army remains active in enforcing prohibition. On any given day in Mexico, there are an estimated 150,000 armed forces deployed throughout the country, more than half of them devoted to pacification,” she says.

“Soldiers detained more people between September 2019 and September 2020 than in any year since the outset of the war on drugs, and the armed forces continue to confiscate cocaine, marijuana and fentanyl.”

Paley also emphasizes that, under AMLO, “security forces have taken on an outsized role in the country.”

“Today, soldiers are building the new Mexico City airport and laying tracks for a section of the Tren Maya, building thousands of new banks, and assisting with social programs and vaccine distribution. The Marines, an elite military force with close links to the United States, now control Mexico’s ports; and the National Guard has been made responsible, together with the Army, for policing non-Mexican migrants traveling north to the United States,” Paley writes.

And while more than 37,800 people have been disappeared since AMLO took office and gender-based murders are on the rise, López Obrador’s attention is focused not on justice, but on his mega-infrastructure projects, trying to breath new life into the hopeless moribund Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) and his ever-increasing army of National Guardsmen.

“Homicides have continued at a terrifying pace. In 2019 and 2020, there were 71,072 murders in Mexico, marking two of the most violent years in decades,” Paley says, recounting the LeBarón family massacre and the June 21, 2020, slaughter of 15 indigenous Ikoots in Oaxaca while National Guard officers looked on indifferently.

Paley says that AMLO’s focus on infrastructure projects reflect his “outdated and even colonial mode of politics.”

The cost for this disaster mismanagement of the country, she says, is being paid for by the very people AMLO promised to support, the nation’s poorest and most marginalized citizens.

Paley concluded by saying that Mexico’s mid-term elections on Sunday, June 6, should “serve as a barometer of public sentiment toward AMLO’s government.”

“Campaigns have taken place amid the pandemic and in a climate of electoral violence. Since this year’s electoral process began in September 2020, 89 politicians have been murdered, (That number has increased since Paley published her article.) Thirty-five of them were candidates competing to win in Sunday’s vote,” she writes.

It may be that the election results will indeed wake up AMLO to the damage he is doing to his own country and people, but based on past experience over the last two and a half years, it seems unlikely that López Obrador will take note of his constituents’ dissatisfaction with his efforts to turn Mexico into a failed state, economically, socially and politically.

No doubt, rather than to focus on why his Morena party lost political ground in Sunday’s elections, AMLO will instead be busy trying to explain why a leftist publication in the United States has jointed the growing choir of his media disparagers.

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