By Arun Srivastava
A radical left-winger, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, identified as an old friend of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is poised to become the next president of Mexico. He is also perceived to be a game changer. Mexicans believe he would bring about a fundamental transformation in the body politick of the country. Corbyn has become an unlikely source of inspiration for Mexican activists.
When Corbyn outperformed expectations in the UK’s recent general election, he overturned the country’s political culture and energised a generation of young supporters. In fact, his achievement has sparked a wave of optimism among activists in Mexico. Corbyn could identify himself with Mexicans as the Conservative government in UK forged close ties with Mexico’s Nieto administration, which has been tainted by corruption scandals and worsening violence.
The third and last debate in Mexico for the July 1 presidential election is over. Usually such debates are not a pointer to the certainty of candidate’s victory. These may make the voter think and rethink about the possible choice. What prevails upon the voters is the track record of the candidate.
Though the 2-hour round table discussion didn’t bring many new proposals to the table and as expected a good portion of the time was spent in trading accusations of corruption, it nevertheless refurbished the image of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the Marxist leader. After the debate the Bloomberg’s tracker and investors index revealed that Obrador is enjoying a 26-point lead.
Despite being a debate dedicated to economic issues, there were very few comments about NAFTA, how to promote much-needed investment and not a single mention of the tariffs war initiated by President Donald Trump. Obrador had twice earlier contested for the presidential office, but could not make it. He lost both the probabilities at the eleventh hour. However, if the debates are indicators of the emerging scenario, Mexico’s next president will be the veteran leftist Obrador. This time around, his message is striking a chord with Mexicans frustrated with disturbing levels of violence and corruption.
Like previous occasions this time too Obrador is facing a stiff challenge from the business houses. He is the worst enemy of the business elites and foreign investors. Basically it is his campaign and pledge to fight against the “mafia of power” that turned these people his enemies. They wince at his pledges to review Mexico’s recent energy reform allowing foreign investment in the country’s oil industry. Obrador’s anti-establishment, anti-corruption rhetoric has long been central to his politics. He made a name for himself locally, supporting indigenous rights and protesting against corruption in politics.
In the past 12 years the condition of Mexico has deteriorated considerably. People have turned disillusioned with the rule of the two major parties. Crime rates are at a historic high, and so are corruption scandals, while the economy isn’t doing well either. Last year, Mexico’s gross domestic production rose by only 2 percent, while the peso has been taking a beating, trading recently above 20 to the dollar.
Known as AMLO, López Obrador this time is in the electoral arena as the candidate for the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). Nonetheless, he faces four challengers. Obrador has come to realise that Mexicans want change, which is why he had changed his style of campaigning. In 2015, López Obrador’s Morena had just 35 seats in Mexico’s 500 seats in the assembly and zero senators. But this time the polls predict that Morena and its allies could win an absolute majority in both houses of Congress. Obrador has benefited from widespread disenchantment with the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) over political corruption and sluggish economic growth.
Meanwhile, the close aides of Obrador are confident that neither Donald Trump nor the collapse of the North American Free Trade Agreement would prove to be fatal for Mexico. This is also for the first time in the electoral politics of Mexico that US under Trump has not turned out to be an issue while the fact is they are all against Trump. The new president will, however, be under pressure not to give any ground to Trump, on the plea of providing little “political wiggle room” to manage the Mexico-United States relationship.
The nature and amount of hatred against Obrador could be judged from the simple fact that his detractors identify him as the next Hugo Chavez and warn that his leftist economic policies could turn Mexico into Venezuela, a country beset by food shortages, crime and crippling inflation. However, he is undaunted by the dirty war waged against him by the wealthy tycoons, who thrive on the labour of the 40 percent of the people who live below poverty line.
Lopez Obrador says the efforts against him are part of a “dirty war” waged by wealthy tycoons who want to stop him and who have enriched themselves at the expense of ordinary Mexicans, 40% of whom live below the poverty line. According to Oxfam, four Mexican billionaires are worth as much as the nation’s 20 million poorest people. In Mexico AMLO is usually perceived as the ‘Mexican Jeremy Corbyn’. In terms of his personality, like Corbyn, he’s quite austere, drives an incredibly modest car and is actually quite a low-key guy, and not unpleasant. (IPA Service)
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