Mexico’s Lopez Obrador: A Brighter Future or History Repeating Itself?

A new dawn in Mexican history began with the start of a new presidential term*. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, more commonly known as AMLO, has been one of the hot topics in international media. Amongst the English- speaking media, most of the light is shed on his new policies and promises, such as his decision to sell the luxurious presidential jet as well as his nonconventional calls to reform the war on drugs and tackle corruption. These decisions have been celebrated by many  people outside Mexico. He has been often compared to Uruguay’s previous president Jose Mujica, who is infamous for his leftist ways of thinking that intertwined into aspects of his daily life, such as his humble ranch he took as his abode and old car he used in comparison to other presidents’ luxurious mansions and high-end cars. However, when one resorts to Spanish-speaking mass media, the opinions are more heterogeneous. We see a mix of support from one side and another side that is weary of his reforms in the future.

When it comes to AMLO’s policies, I notice an arbitrary pattern in his choices. The new president comes across as a champion for anti-corruption and as a president who has a minimal interest in foreign politics. His claims need closer scrutiny..

Let us first examine his anti-corruption campaign. AMLO’s electoral campaign highly emphasized the role he would have in tackling corruption and revolutionizing the country deals with its war on drugs. However, and in an ironic twist of fate rivaled only by the famous telenovelas, the president faces allegations of corruption linked to the notorious El Chapo, one of the world’s most infamous drug cartel leaders, who is being prosecuted by the US. Another area of controversy is his foreign policy.

I would like to take the example of his controversial and infamous views on the Venezuelan crisis. As I have discussed in previous articles, the situation in Venezuela has deteriorated and has polarized the international political arena. Countries have no choice but to take a stance on the situation. Many leaders have decided to take the side of the Venezuelan people, who have for years been demonstrating against the government’s corruption in and outside Venezuela. Meanwhile, other leaders in the like of Russia’s Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan, have been adamant on the support to the Venezuelan government. Being a left-wing politician who supports “socialist” countries, AMLO decided to take a non-interventionist stand. He has mentioned in a televised discussion that he believes that the best foreign policy is a good internal policy. In this talk, he denied that Maduro is a dictator despite his undemocratic tendencies. He added that he would not get involved in any foreign issues and highlighted the importance of sovereignty. Yet, in a matter of minutes, his opinion took a complete turn. When asked if he agrees with Mexico’s decision in 1973 to break ties with Pinochet’s Chile, he expressed great agreement. He mentioned that there are always circumstances and exceptions, but was extremely vague on the basis, grounds, and criteria behind these circumstances. Whether it is through his inconsistent internal campaigns or his contradictory foreign policy, AMLO has shown the arbitrariness behind his choices. He has shown that he is a person guided by circumstance and that his decisions follow a vague pick-and-choose pattern.

In parallel to what the media says, I decided to speak to a person who comes from Mexico. Members of the Mexican-Lebanese community showed uncertainty about Mexico’s future in my interviewee’s opinion. They feel as if he can either be a genius or the complete opposite. After in-depth comparison between Venezuela’s Chavez and AMLO, many in Mexico noticed a very similar pattern in their discourse and policies. This is worrisome to many, especially those who are part of the upper class.

Personally, I see these fears as being reasonable. The parallels drawn between these two leaders should not be disregarded. Whether it is in their arbitrary nature, which could develop into more authoritarian tendencies like in the case of Chavez, or in their empowering of the army and increased involvement of it in public life, it becomes evident that the similarities cannot be disregarded.   

*Late 2018: New presidential term

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