With 129 million people, Mexico is the 10th most populous country in the world. It has the largest population of any Spanish speaking country. It has the 15th largest economy in the world. Political and social developments in Mexico are important for the entire western hemisphere.
Mexico is in a period of potentially profound change. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and the MORENA Party are charting a dramatically new path for the country. In the 2018 election López Obrador (AMLO) decisively defeated the other candidates. He assumed office on December 1st, 2018.
From 2000 to 2005 Lopez Obrador was head of government for Mexico City. He left office with a high approval rating. In 2006 he ran for the presidency as candidate of the PRD (Party of Democratic Revolution). Despite widespread irregularities, Felipe Calderón was declared the winner.
In 2012 AMLO ran for president again. With widespread accusations of vote buying, Enrique Peña Nieto won the election. Following the election AMLO declared he was founding a new party, the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA).
In the 2018 election, AMLO won the presidency and his party, MORENA, won a majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate.
López Obrador analyzes Mexico’s problems and presents his solutions in his 2018 book A New Hope for Mexico. He sees the primary problem as corruption and neoliberal politics which has given rise to “rampant inequality, shocking poverty, frustration, resentment, hate, and violence.”
He identifies the enemy: “In Mexico the governing class constitutes a gang of plunderers…the astounding dishonesty of the neoliberal period (from 1983 to the present) is wholly unprecedented.” He names leading economic and political oligarchs who profited from privatizing public institutions; people like Carlos Slim, Pedro Aspe, and others. He documents the changes under Salinas’ rule that rolled back the right of children to free education.
López Obrador explains, “The first thing we must do is to democratize the state and retool it as an engine of political, economic and social growth. We must rid ourselves of the myth that development requires blind acquiescence to market forces… Mexico will not grow strong if our public institutions remain at the service of the wealthy elites.”
AMLO asserts, “The problem is corruption, not a lack of funds… the budget is used to maintain an onerous bureaucratic structure that serves the political mafiosi…. Reassigning misallocated funds to the benefit of production, employment and general well-being is a wholly attainable goal.”
AMLO describes the decline of Mexico’s industrial infrastructure in the neoliberal period. Banks were bailed out while “neoliberal technocracy has led to partiality with respect to hiring, and always at the expense of unions. There have been massive waves of firings.” AMLO describes ambitious plans: new refineries and renewable energy to make the country energy self-sufficient; a transportation corridor which will convey containers from the Atlantic to the Pacific; guaranteed crop prices to enable food self-sufficiency; expanding tourism in the Caribbean, Mayan and Olmeca regions; planting large areas in the southeast with timber and fruit trees; ready loans to small farmers; training and internships for youth.
López Obrador says such development is possible by reducing spending in some areas, and “we will also save by cutting back on purchases of ships, planes and helicopters…[and] sell those used by high ranking officials including the president; we will keep only those used for medical emergencies, security and public safety… The first priority must be serving the poor. Only through the creation of a just society will we achieve the revitalization of Mexico.”
He contrasts his goals for Mexico with those of the US, where the Trump administration has increased military spending while slashing spending on housing, transportation and education.
López Obrador believes neoliberal economic policies have been especially detrimental in villages and rural areas of Mexico. As a result of these policies, small farmers have lost their livelihoods and food imports have risen dramatically. He writes, “The abandonment of our rural areas has taken a heavy toll on production, has increased migration, and fostered societal breakdown and violence.”
López Obrador writes, “The crisis of public safety and violence that we face today is the product of a poorly conceived war on drugs that relies solely on coercive means. The security crisis that plagues Mexico is a result of a confluence of factors: poverty, injustice, and exclusion, aggravated by the inefficiency of the authorities and corruption within the police and the judiciary.”
He proposes to combat police and judiciary corruption, to use the army and navy to protect public safety, to develop and utilize a National Guard, and to change laws regarding drug use. Above all, he emphasizes, it is necessary to provide positive alternatives for youth. “The belief that the deterioration of our social fabric can be combated only through use of force is profoundly wrong and highly dangerous, as Mexican history amply confirms.”
During his presidential campaign, López Obrador visited several US cities. He especially addressed Mexican Americans but his words are relevant for all Americans: “We must convince and persuade these who were brainwashed by Trump campaigns rethoric…We must reach out to lower and middle class American workers, explaining that their problems are rooted in the poor distribution of income…
We must raise awareness among Americans of good faith who have been tricked by the propaganda campaign against Mexicans and foreigners.” After one year in office, the AMLO government has significant accomplishments: minimum salary has been dramatically increased, the bureaucracy and top government salaries have been cut, small loans and grants are going directly to farmers, the billion dollar gas thieving cartel has been exposed and attacked, a 44 billion dollar infrastructure plan has been launched, and programs to benefit youth and the elderly have begun.
AMLO sets an example of hard work and transparency. Each day begins with a 7 AM press conference. The Presidential jet is up for sale and he flies economy on commercial air planes. During this first year in office, he has not left the country but travels constantly within Mexico seeing the conditions hospitals, schools, factories and the small cities and towns that make up so much of the country. AMLO still lives at his home and the presidential palace is open to the public. While he has a 70% approval rating, there are challenges and opposition. The Mexican economy has been near recession throughout the year. Some of the development plans have significant opposition. For example, indigenous organizations oppose the proposed Maya Train. AMLO now says it should not be started if the people of the region do not support it and it cannot be completed.
The changes in Mexico are also important on the international scene. For several decades Mexican foreign policy has been subordinate to Washington. Now it is returning to a foreign policy based on principles of self-determination and non-interference in the affairs of other nations.
The difference was important early this year when the US and Canada tried to impose a new government on Venezuela. The subordinate Latin American countries went along with Washington. Mexico did not.
As the recent coup in Bolivia unfolded, President Evo Morales’ life was threatened and Mexico granted asylum to him when he was forced to flee Bolivia on a Mexican military plane.
As the Trump administration escalates its economic and political attacks on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, Mexico’s independent stance is especially important. AMLO‟s administration has stood up against the US in the reactionary Organization of American States and the specially created anti-Venezuela Lima Group. Recently AMLO has moved even further to the left when he welcomed Ecuador‟s former socialist leader Rafael Correa, followed by Cuba‟s President Díaz-Canel, and he hosted Argentina‟s newly elected progressive president Alberto Fernández for his first foreign trip. The lead that AMLO is taking on foreign policy does not sit well in Washington and that can be seen in critical articles showing up in the US corporate media indicating that Mexico is a potential threat to US security.
Despite areas of contention and uneven progress, a new and hopeful process for the majority of Mexicans has begun thanks to AMLO and MORENA.
Source: Task Force on the Americas