Something reminiscent of an adaptation of the never discarded Chilean scenario is being replayed in Mexico, Stephen Karganovic writes.
Former Mexican strongman Porfirio Diaz had a point when he quipped that “Mexico is too far from God, and too close to the United States.” In Diaz’s melancholy assessment, that left Mexico effectively disempowered, both vertically and horizontally. The current President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, may or may not be an icon of godliness, but he has been endowed with a fair amount of geopolitical common sense. He knows that he and his party Morena, having been elected on a populist and basically leftist-sounding platform, must deliver something to his large electorate. But he appreciates as well that, because of the geographical proximity to which his predecessor Diaz referred, many of the practical measure that he had promised he must now dilute with rhetoric that would be comforting to his northern neighbour, but that he must go no further than that, if he wants to be safe and conclude his six-year term with relative success.
But alas, to his chagrin Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or AMLO, for short) has discovered that up North the only good nationalist, or populist, or leftist, or whatever you want to call him, is if not literally a dead one, then at least a politically neutralized or deposed one. (In the new “rule of law” era decreed by northern trendsetters, old fashioned assassinations are technically off the table, but targeting with cancerogenous substances is OK if it leads to the desired lethal outcome, and in extremis even an old-fashioned coup as in Honduras can be rebranded as a democracy-enhancing procedure.) There is now mounting evidence that a regime change light campaign is being mounted in Mexico, with all the usual external and internal suspects in the lead.
AMLO has tried earnestly not to cross most of the red lines set by the irritable demi-gods to his north and to give just the barest minimum of offense. But inevitably, in trying to balance the needs and expectations of his people against incessant hegemonic demands, AMLO has made a few slip-ups.
The foremost of these has been his apparent inability to comprehend that whatever painful changes may have taken place on the global chessboard, its local segment south of the Rio Grande is still being perceived by the northern neighbour as a unipolar zone. That means that the introduction of external players and adherence to unapproved ideological principles is viewed not just with suspicion, but with active hostility. Hence the hysterical reaction to “challengers” such as Venezuela which, under rational rules, would not be of more than minor concern. Hence also the unaccommodating position toward Mexico and obstinate refusal to accept the plain reality on the ground that Mexico is in every respect a serious state. That means that the imposition of an obedient banana republic administration, as in much of the rest of the continent, is not a viable option.
Nevertheless, AMLO’s unwillingness to genuflect before the idol of neo-liberalism has earned him very bad marks from the start, never mind the fact that in Mexico, due to its peculiar political traditions and temperament, a movement publicly expressing such willingness would be unlikely to get anywhere. Of course, they might still be willing to play ball, as they have in the past, with a Mexican president who just used nationalist and social rhetoric to pacify the masses while being amenable in most practical matters. But there is a strong suspicion – probably justified – that in contrast to most of his recent predecessors, though not a saint by any means, AMLO is genuinely committed to the sovereignty of his country and the betterment of his people. Hence, not just his rhetoric but even his heart is definitely in the “wrong” place.
He has demonstrated as much in many small and sometimes symbolic ways which, cumulatively, has reinforced the suspicions and left a very bad impression. To name just a few, he has ostentatiously insisted on maintaining cordial relations with a certain Caribbean bête noire state which has been a source of great annoyance for decades. He has refused to disassociate himself with the popularly elected government of Venezuela and to officially recognize instead the pathetic even-less-than-Navalny figure who is being touted as that legitimate government’s rival. And when Bolivia’s President Evo Morales was illegally overthrown in a staged color revolution and scheduled for physical liquidation, AMLO recklessly gave him sanctuary in Mexico, thus saving his life for another day, which has actually come, by the way.
These and other factors have undoubtedly influenced negatively, from the standpoint of the northern partners, the perception of the Mexican President’s reliability.
His performance in the Covid-19 crisis has also been less than stellar, as viewed from the same quarters. (We need not revisit the pandemic controversy, having done that previously.) The important point to remember is that vassal officialdom throughout the world are expected not just to echo the approved narrative but also to rigorously implement the economically and socially self-immolating policies supposedly designed to suppress the pestilence. Failure to comply with these rules carries serious political costs, as the Belorussian President can attest. López Obrador, as it turns out, did not pay sufficient attention to that particular subtlety of the current global pandemic situation. His government was far too slow – it would be more accurate to say that it was dragging its feet – to fully and enthusiastically implement the economy-wrecking and society-reconfiguring measures that were demanded of it. As a result, the Mexican economy has been badly hit but still it is limping along, greatly upsetting the global anti-covid high command.
López Obrador’s circumspect covid response has, of course, a deeply rational basis. Mexico’s one hundred million plus population (nobody knows the real number) need to be fed and their basic human needs must be met. Totally wrecking the livelihood of an already volatile and undisciplined populace, as demanded, would have given the President the splendid choice of being lynched even before being deposed for declining to follow the prescribed global script.
The foxy AMLO tried hard throughout 2020 to temporize and to compromise, even by tolerating hard-line WHO operative, deputy health minister Hugo López-Gatell Ramírez, as covid commissar to oversee the epidemiological side of the pandemic. López-Gatell was encouraged to regularly issue tough statements threatening an imminent crackdown on anything suggesting normal life. But plainly, the political will to self-destruct, as in UK, Germany, and some other countries, in Mexico under López Obrador just wasn’t there.
The invisible hand is now busy writing López Obrador’s grim political future on the wall. Wealthy business conglomerates (empresarios, as they are called in Mexico) which control the media and most of the political establishment are organizing a mighty offensive of discreditation and delegitimization. Applying a tested formula, the President is being held accountable for the economic damage caused by just the limited application of policies that had been urged on him, ignoring the fact that full-spectrum implementation would have brought greater, perhaps complete devastation. He is being blamed also for scaling down or deferring social measures he had promised in his campaign, ignoring completely the severe budgetary impact of the economic slowdown, which is the direct consequence of those pandemic policies he was required to follow and could not avoid adopting.
The obviously staged provocation a few days ago, when the President of Mexico, traditionally regarded as an almost king-like figure during his six-year reign, was rudely heckled by some passengers on the airliner that was taking him from Guadalajara back to Mexico City, is a small detail that may presage larger things to come. As is college dropout Bill Gates’ recent unsolicited advice to the Mexican President to focus more on education and less on petroleum extraction.
Something reminiscent of an adaptation of the never discarded Chilean scenario is being replayed in Mexico. But Los Pinos has not been bombed, yet; and for the moment Mexico’s potential Pinochets seem to be too busy cavorting with narco cartels to be actively interested in staging an insurrection.