By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
One day after the New York Times laid the blame for the May 3 collapse of Mexico City’s Line 12 Metro (which led to the deaths of 26 people) squarely on his shoulders, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard published a guest editorial in the Washington Post on Tuesday, June 15, defending the government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and alleging that outside critics and media just “don’t understand Mexico’s reenergized democracy.”
Pointing out that more than 49 million Mexico — over half of the nation’s electorate — voted in the country’s June 6 midterm elections (which included every seat in the lower house of Congress, 15 governorships and numerous mayoral and municipal posts), Ebrard correctly noted that, “with the exception of a handful of incidents, the election took place in an orderly way and the candidates accepted the results.”
The polling led to AMLO’s leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) party walking away with 11 governorships and a weakened but still firm congressional majority, Ebrard said.
“An alliance of opposition parties, meanwhile, highlighted its gains in the Chamber of Deputies, and the fact that it won some governorships and metropolitan areas,” he continued.
“Every political party did its best to convince the public that it had done well in the elections.”
And that, Ebrard said, is exactly what constitutes “business as usual after election day in any strong democracy,”
It did not constitute the start of the democratic deterioration that he said many outside analysts had predicted.
“In the weeks leading up to the elections, a number of international pundits and media outlets, and some Mexican commentators, had warned about the risk of an alleged regression in Mexico at the hands of the ‘populist and authoritarian’ López Obrador, whom they accused of trying to influence the elections and dismantle our country’s institutions,” Ebrard wrote.
“As proof, they cited his predilection for consulting the citizenry and his direct and critical opinions about political actors and the media.”
Ebrard made specific reference to the May 27 article in The Economist magazine, which he pointed out “went to far as to invite a vote against” the president’s party.
“These false alarms reveal a fundamental flaw with some critics in Mexico and abroad: In their aversion to López Obrador’s personal style and his public policies that prioritize the poor, they have tried to portray him as a caricature of a political authoritarian and an economic populist,” the foreign relations secretary said.
Ebrard said that outside observers have in the past frequently underestimated AMLO, first doubting that he would win the presidency at all, then wrongly predicting that his government would tank the Mexican economy, and ,finally, warning that his administration would “quickly clash with Washington.”
What actually happened, Ebrard said, was quite the opposite, with AMLO establishing cordial ties with Mexico’s most-important neighbor and immediately going about trying to help the country’s poorest sectors.
Ebrard claimed that Mexico’s finances are and have remained solid, despite the pandemic, and is on track for a quick recovery, although many Mexican financial experts would disagree, and even before the covid-19 breakout, the country’s economy contracted in 2019.
“This year we are on track to grow by about 6 percent,” he wrote, again disregarding many national and financial analysts who have painted a less sunny picture of the economy.
Ebrard went on to say that the June 7 visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris was “proof that we are far from clashing with the United States.”
“In fact,” he said, “we have a close, respectful and collaborative relationship with our neighbor.”
Ebrard said that, like previous misperceptions presented in media, the belief that AMLO is out to end democracy is erroneous.
Ebrard said López Obrador’s “dedication to democracy” is evidenced by the fact that “he was one of the most important forces for political change in Mexico, which not so long ago was characterized by fraudulent elections, open or covert censorship and political repression.”
“We are not yet where we would like to be, but today Mexico has fair elections, freedom of the press. and dissent and political plurality,” Ebrard said.
And, he added, that while AMLO is not shy to voice “his disagreement with the decisions of the electoral officials and with the media,” the president has “respected their work at all times.”
“Mexico is a great democracy undergoing a needed transformation,” Ebrard said.
“For the first time in decades, the government’s focus is on closing the gap between rich and poor, which made our country one of the most unequal in the world, and on tackling the corruption that, as is widely known, was for decades the defining characteristic of Mexico’s governments.”
Ebrard then voiced his own verbal assaults on outside critics and media, saying that they only manifest their disapproval of AMLO’s unique statesmanship because he “embraces ideas completely opposed to those they have championed for the past 30 years.”
“Maybe it’s time to give more credit to López Obrador and Mexico’s democracy,” he said.