It has been 26 months since Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) took office as President of Mexico on December 1, 2018, and several questions remain. Where is Mexico going? What was done well and what was not done during the Fourth Transformation government? What can happen during the federal and local elections on June 6?
The administration of López Obrador has light and dark tones, as well as shadows between full light and total darkness. Let’s look at these shades in detail.
AMLO has staked its international tokens on good relations with the United States and has even chosen not to enter into debate in the face of President Donald Trump’s controversial statements on the wall. In mid-2020, the T-MEC entered into force, a trade agreement with Canada and the United States that has advantages for the country, since 80% of Mexico’s exports go to its two neighbors to the north and east. one of the bets to aid economic recovery.
The start of the relationship with Biden was cautious, because although Mexico has acknowledged recent policies that favor the Mexican migrant community, AMLO’s statements mark a limit to possible interference in the security issue.
The fight against corruption is another positive aspect of the administration of the current Mexican president. The coup against huachicoleo – theft of fuel by criminal gangs with the complicity of employees of the state-owned oil company PEMEX – is still being processed and the final outcome is uncertain. But it fueled the public’s hope that real change would finally happen.
The intensive management of communication through morning press conferences and periodic management reports has instilled in public opinion the image of a president with moral authority who informs the population.
AMLO has already given more than 400 morning press conferences and, despite criticism from those who consider demagogic ritual and proselytism, it can be expected that in the medium term it will help to revitalize democratic culture, especially among the youth.
The decision of the National Electoral Institute to ban the full broadcasting of presidential conferences from April 4 (the opening date of the electoral campaign for the June 3 elections) has revived the debate on the form and content of those -this.
Among issues frowned upon by public opinion, the government’s treatment of the coronavirus pandemic has met with more rejection than approval. From the start, AMLO has played down the severity of the outbreak by refusing to enact strong health measures. Infected with Covid-19 at the end of January, it remains to be seen whether he will reverse his apathy in the face of the viral emergency.
Hugo López-Gatellis, Undersecretary for Prevention and Health Promotion, became the main figure in Obrador’s strategy, enjoying extraordinary popularity in the early months of the pandemic. But that popularity waned as the number of deaths rose and infection levels brought the hospital system to the brink of collapse.
The coronavirus pandemic has exposed the pre-existing difficulties in the Mexican economy. The stagnation was accentuated by a 9% drop in GDP and a net loss of 650,000 formal jobs. This collapse was accompanied by a decrease in public and private investment. The confidence of businessmen and citizens in the future has recovered slightly, but still remains below 50 points. The economic year began with uncertainty.
Before the current health emergency, Mexico faced another pandemic: violence. To solve it, AMLO continued the militarist path of its predecessors. In addition, under the slogan “academics yes, murderers no”, he has implemented social policies that have not yet produced clear results. But drug trafficking has structural dimensions underestimated by the Mexican government. Hence its failure.
Proof of this is the case of General Cienfuegos, who was exonerated of the crimes of which he was accused without trial. The Attorney General’s decision only raised suspicions about the penetration and influence of criminal gangs within the Mexican state.
Support and penumbra
In some areas, the administration of AMLO has hovered between twilight and obscurity and resulted in polarized interpretations without clear hegemonies.
First, the issue of migration. During its election campaign, AMLO proposed a humanitarian approach to the issue of migration. However, since the start of its administration, the Foreign Secretary has taken the lead on the matter and worked directly with the Trump administration, changing the form of cooperation.
Under pressure from the US government, Mexico abandoned the humanitarian approach and adopted a policy that meant a step backwards from the state’s obligations to guarantee the human rights of migrants.
In this sense, AMLO’s migration policy criminalizes and reinforces discrimination against a vulnerable group. But, at the same time, this Copernican revolution received the support of public opinion which put pressure on its government to contain the migratory marches.
Second, violence against women and girls has increased in recent years. Faced with this situation, women from various sectors and feminist movements have taken to the streets to denounce the increase in femicides, disappearances and gender-based violence. The president’s response was ambivalent; he recognizes the pain of women and the seriousness of the problem, but minimizes criticism and avoids his attention.
Third, consultations with citizens have been a recurring strategy of the AMLO government which has enabled it to reduce the cost of decision-making on major projects which polarize public opinion, such as the Trem Maia, the new CDMX airport and Constellation Brands factory in Baja California.
The consultations were organized according to their party structure and, although they did not have the minimum requirements to be considered democratic exercises, they worked to legitimize their decisions.
What to expect in the June sub-national and parliamentary elections?
Despite the health crisis due to the pandemic, the economic recession and the increase in violence, the popularity of the president remains very high: 61% according to the research aggregation site Oráculus.
Citizens realize that the federal government lacks the capacity to deal effectively with the triple crisis and blames past governments for the poor economic and institutional conditions under which they left the country.
In this context, with a popular leader and the absence of viable alternatives in the opposition, a defeat of the ruling party cannot be easily imagined. Time and the voters will have the floor.
* Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima
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