By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
On Friday, June 11, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) used his morning press conference to yet again badger his opponents, this time lashing out against the country’s middle classes for daring to vote against him and his leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party.
Finally admitting that he was not all that “feliz, feliz, feliz” (“happy, happy, happy”) with the results of June 6 midterm elections, AMLO recognized that Morena has taken a considerable hit by voters in Mexico City, which represents roughly 20 percent of the nation’s total population.
But rather than accept that the polling results were indicative of his own administration’s failings, AMLO chalked up Morena’s territorial losses in the capital to the middle class allowing itself to “be manipulated by the opposition.”
In his rant on Friday, AMLO called the nation’s middle classes “ambitious, selfish and determined to succeed at any cost.”
Those who voted against Morena (and, by extension, his so-called Fourth Transformation, or 4T, to redesign the nation’s political institutions and rewrite the constitution), he said, were indoctrinated by “lies” propagated by conservatives, the media and other elements that “did not have the country’s best interests at heart” (i.e., those who did not drink his particular brand of Kool-Aid).
But as columnist Sabina Berman pointed out in her column in El Universal newspaper on Sunday, June 13, while Morena clearly won some political ground outside the capital (it walked away with 11 of the 15 gubernatorial seats up for grabs), the president’s party lost the nation’s middle class, not just in Mexico City. but nationwide.
Not only did Morena register losses in the capital, Berman noted, but it lost in three other regions of the country where there are significant middle.class segments.
Berman said that the real reason Mexico’s middle classes walked away from AMLO and Morena was the president’s mishandling of the covid-19 pandemic and the economic fallout that followed.
“The figures speak for themselves: A million-plus of the country’s micro-, small- and medium-sized companies closed in 2020,” she wrote, quoting figures for the government’s own National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi).
As a result, 9.8 million middle-class families fell below the poverty line, according to the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development, (Coneval), again, a government agency.
Berman drove her point through by putting those figures in perspective: “That translates to approximately one in five companies whose owners were from the middle classes and employed middle-class workers closing their doors,” she said. “And as a direct consequence, one in five middle-class families are now poor.”
Berman pointed the finger of responsibility directly at AMLO and his Morena cohorts, noting that his administration ordered the closure of economic activity, but refused to waive electricity, water and property bills, “thus behaving like a heartless creditor, indifferent to the pain of others.”
And while Berman admitted that AMLO eventually offered middle-class business owners a piddly loan of 25,000 pesos — barely enough to make payroll for one two-week period in the smallest of companies — there was no follow-up or additional moneys made available for struggling companies.
Instead, she said, there was “total abandonment,” as savings dwindled, families collapsed and, in some cases, the despair led to desperation and even suicide.
Berman said that López Obrador has underestimated the country’s middle classes, assuming that it is too naïve to think for itself.
Instead, she said, he considers the middle classes tp be blind mice following the piper of “conservative manipulators.”
Berman said that AMLO has alienated middle-class Mexicans in other ways, including through his blatant indifference to the growing incidence of violent crimes, particularly gender-based crime, which he has, at times, brushed off as “not real.”
The list of causes that hit home with middle-class Mexicans that AMLO has belittled or brushed off is long, she said, and include the shortages of medications (especially for children with cancer), the rights of the LGBT community, the closure of public trusts, and the downgrading of science, technology and the arts.
But in the end, Berman said, it was the government’s “economic neglect of the middle class during the pandemic” that led to the downfall of Morena with this particular segment.
Berman concluded her column by saying that she hoped that AMLO and Morena would reconsider their disregard for the country’s middle classes, but, based on past experience, the president is likely to only intensify his demonization of the bourgeoisie.
At the start of his political campaign in 2017, AMLO made a point of saying “”we do not want rich people in Mexico,” and since taking office, he has bent over backwards to ensure that the percentage of Mexicans living in poverty has increased (poverty levels in Mexico surged by 3.4 percent to more than 40 percent in 2020, according to Coneval).
Following the disappointing election results in Mexico City, AMLO has decided to wage an all-out war against the country’s middle classes.
But while there is no doubt that Mexico’s impoverished outnumber the middle and upper classes, alienating a segment that accounts for nearly 40 percent the country’s total population (14.5 million families, according to the 2020 census) is both counterproductive and self-defeating.
On June 6, Mexico’s middle classes sent a clear message to the president.
AMLO must now heed that missive or risk seeing even greater voter attrition at the polls in 2024.