“The Mexican president continues his remarkable balancing act between Latin America and its hegemonic neighbour to the North.”
By David Raby
For some time now Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) defence of popular welfare, political integrity, sovereignty and Latin American solidarity has been abundantly clear. But in recent months his stance both at home and abroad has become bolder, and he seems to have lost patience with opposition antics.
In the absence of a two-thirds congressional majority, AMLO cannot put through constitutional amendments. The government has therefore relied on a simple majority to pass ordinary legislation, using every possible legal device to push through reforms within existing constitutional limits.
This was done last year to achieve the partial nationalisation of electricity and the nationalisation of lithium. Now, after much controversy and opposition protests, AMLO has succeeded in driving through a package of six measures of electoral reform to overcome arbitrary and corrupt obstacles to democratic participation.
AMLO’s domestic achievements include truly universal public pensions (for the first time), apprenticeships for young people, scholarships and grants at all levels of education, incapacity benefit, a vast agroforestry programme supporting peasant farmers, support for popular access to housing, substantial real increases in the minimum wage and several important labour reforms to benefit workers.
An impressive range of public works have been completed with remarkable efficiency; the most notable (not yet complete but scheduled for December 2023) is the Tren Maya, a 1,500 km railway looping round the country’s neglected southeast. The biggest rail project in the world at present, it is designed with great attention to environmental and social standards, promoting the local Mayan cultures and with community participation, with subsidised local trains as well as tourist, business and freight services.
In foreign policy AMLO took the lead in condemning the Peruvian coup against Pedro Castillo, and Mexico’s offer of asylum to the deposed president was used as a pretext by the coup regime to expel the Mexican ambassador. Castillo’s wife and two children were given asylum, and diplomatic relations remain tense although they have not been broken. Together with Colombia, Bolivia and Argentina, Mexico signed a joint communiqué condemning the coup and reaffirming support for Castillo.
Similarly in relation to Brazil, AMLO was among the first to congratulate Lula on his election victory and then his inauguration, and to condemn the attempted coup of January 8th.
The Mexican president continues his remarkable balancing act between Latin America and its hegemonic neighbour to the North. January 8th to 10th saw the Tenth North American Summit of the US, Canada and Mexico, held in Mexico City, and AMLO as host insisted on his own anti-hegemonic agenda while displaying remarkable friendship and cooperation with President Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau.
Given the close integration of the three economies and the huge Mexican community in the US, AMLO has no option but to seek better terms of collaboration, which he does with remarkable success.
As he points out, Biden is the first US president in decades not to have built a single kilometre of border wall. Also, despite hostile measures imposed by Congress and right-wing governors like Greg Abbott of Texas, Biden has agreed to extend the temporary visa programme for Venezuelans to Cubans, Nicaraguans, Colombians and Haitians.
He also accepts AMLO’s argument that the only long-term solution is to improve conditions in the countries of origin, as Mexico is doing with its generous social programmes in Central America.
AMLO also insists (whatever Biden may think) on public expression of solidarity with Cuba and rejection of sanctions against other countries, and on repeating Mexico’s support for Julian Assange.
The Mexican president has moreover just confirmed his intention to undertake for the first time a South American tour including Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Chile, later this year.
Having completed more than four years of his six-year term, AMLO has a year and eight months left. Given his untiring work rhythm he will undoubtedly achieve a lot more in this time, but as he insists he will never consider re-election, the issue of the succession looms ever larger.
The elections are only a year and five months away. Unless something totally unforeseen happens, it seems clear that the Morena Party will win the presidency and a large congressional majority, and already attention is focussed on possible candidates.
The favourites are Claudia Sheinbaum, Head of Government (Metro Mayor) of the capital; Marcelo Ebrard, Foreign Secretary; and Adán Augusto López Hernández, Home Secretary.
Prospects are good for continuation of AMLO´s remarkable 4T Transformation, which is crucial for Mexico and the whole region. But the opposition, having so far failed miserably in political terms and had only limited success (unlike in some other countries) with lawfare, seems to be resorting to sabotage, with a spate of recent incidents on the Mexico City metro.
Mexico’s great achievements and prospects will be discussed at a Mexico Solidarity Forum panel at the Latin American Conference on January 28th, with Tony Burke of Unite, Francisco Domínguez (Middlesex University), William A Booth (UCL Institute of the Americas) and David Raby (author and academic), chaired by anthropologist and film director Suzie Gilbert.
- Find out more about a whole range of other issues affecting Latin America at this year’s Latin America Conference being held on Saturday January 28th 2023 at Hamilton House, Mabledon Place, London WC1H 9BD (nearest tube Euston/Kings Cross). With experts, academics, trade unionists, politicians and activists from the UK, Europe and Latin America. More information is available here; and find tickets here.
- As a media partner of the Latin America Conference, Labour Outlook has been running a series of articles from across the region – you can find out more about solidarity movements with Peru, Bolivia, Brazil and progressive movements across the region here.