By Nitya Chakraborty
The landslide victory of the maverick Leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in the crucial Presidential elections in Mexico on Sunday, comes as a major boost to the leftist forces in Latin America who have been fighting a battle for survival after a pink tide in the first decade of this century.64 year old Obrador, called AMLO, fought for president’s position earlier twice in 2006 and 2012 but this time, his success was overwhelming as he secured 49 per cent of the votes polled as against his closest candidate Anaya who secured 26.7 per cent. The candidate of the ruling PRI Meade stood third scoring only 15.3 per cent. The Mexican voters resoundingly supported AMLO for bringing about the changes for which he campaigned in the last six months.
Mexico is Latin America’s second largest economy. Though it is a part of the North American Free Trade Agreement(NAFTA) along with the United States and Canada, Mexico has much in common with the issues that are prevalent in Latin American countries.US President Donald Trump is in a constant battle with the Mexican government over both trade issues and immigration leading to high level anger among the Mexican population. The defeated President Pefia Nieto, a rightwing politician has to protest at Trump’s actions due to the sentiments of his own people, but there was no force in that. Now the common Mexicans feel that they have a voice after the elections and the new president Obrador will be in a position to fight Trump on policy issues at equal level.
Mexico is among the world’s fifteen largest economies and is the second largest in Latin America. The country is however highly dependent on USA, its largest trading partner and destination of 80 per cent of exports. Obrador has declared that his main task will be to fight corruption and he will increase funds for the poor and the common people by saving about $ 20 billion through plugging corrupt practices. He is committed to raise the salaries of the lowest paid workers including increased pensions for the elderly, educational grant for Mexican youth and additional support for the farmers.
The new president leads the coalition MORENA which is a conglomerate of a number of groups and parties including the leftists and conservatives who are opposed to the status quo in Mexico. He is a good friend of the British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbryn and the programmes are also similar. Just as the British Communist Party is extending conditional support to Corbryn, Obrador is also getting some amount of support from the Mexican Communist Party in his fight against corruption and for improvement of the conditions of the poor. Obrador has high respect for the hailed Brazilian ex president Lula and he wants to introduce the poverty action programme which helped Brazil during Lula’s time to raise the living standards of the poor.
His social sector programmes will be getting wide support but his real battle will be on the issue of dealing with the foreign companies, especially the US companies which are operating in Mexico. Obrador has promised to review the contracts for oil exploration awarded to international firms and to respect those that are clean and take legal measures against those that are not. There is pressure from the leftists on him to nationalize the oil industry in view of the corruption practiced by the foreign oil companies. Pemex is the state run oil company and the new president has to carefully examine how to make the oil exploration policy serve the best interests of Mexico. The two earthquakes of September 2017 have damaged the oil sector and services market but 2018 should see a boom in construction activities, according to the experts. Oil production accounts for one third of the government revenues and Obrador’s task will be to see how the government share of revenues can be raised from the oil sector.
For Mexico, a close economic relationship with the USA is important as the manufacturing industry is highly dependent on trade with USA. In contrast, trade with Mexico is the source of more than six million jobs in USA. The outgoing president Nieto failed to focus the issues properly and the US trade negotiators dominated in the NAFTA negotiations. Now it will be the task of Obrador to give a proper direction to his team of negotiators to revise the NAFTA agreement taking into account Mexico’s national interests. This will be the immediate task after he officially takes over. Mexico needs USA as a strong trade partner but the terms of trade should not be altered to suit only US interests as Trump is wanting.
Mexico is known for high quality and cheap labour. In 2017, unemployment dropped to 3.6 per cent compared to 3.9 per cent in 2016However, the informal sector employs still 60 per cent of the workforce. In 2016 more than 45 per cent of the population lived below the poverty line. The economy to be inherited by the MORENA leader is not in bad shape but the inequalities have risen so much in the last ten years that the poor and the lower middle classes are terribly angry at the way the economy has moved. That way, Obrador’s programme has got ready approval from the underprivileged and they have high expectations from the regime change.
Agriculture accounts for 3.8 per cent of Mexico’s GDP and employs over 13 per cent of the country’s active population. However the scarcity of credit continues to harm the sector. Mexico ranks among the world’s largest producers of coffee, sugar, corn, oranges avocados and limes. It is also the world’s fifth largest producer of beer and the second largest exporter. Obrador has to work out an effective policy for growth in agriculture and help farmers to raise their living standards. He is getting a moderate stable economy with wide inequalities.Bridging this gulf will be his major task.
At the political level, the self proclaimed Leftist president has to take the coalition partners with him including both the leftists and the conservatives who are against the present austerity programmes for the poor. The Left of Latin America is putting high hopes on him. The illegally impeached former president of Brazil Dilma Rousseff has said that Obrador’s victory is not just a victory for Mexico, it is for all Latin America. Argentina’s former president Christina Kichner tweeted Obrador represents hope not just for Mexico but for the entire region. The Communist parties of Latin America as also other leftist groups feel that Mexico win will signal the return of progressive winds to Latin America.
Brazil is going for Presidential elections in October this year. Former president Lula is a big favorite in opinion polls, but he has been jailed by the rightist president on fabricated charged. Lula is fighting in court, but if he is not allowed to contest, another candidate of Lula’s party will be contesting. After Mexico, Brazil, the largest Latin American economy will witness the battle between the Right and the combined Left.(IPA Service)
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