Mexican Elections: Looks Like AMLO
The latest polls suggest strongly that left-of-center candidate Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, better known as AMLO, will be elected President on July 1. He shows about 50% of voter preference in recent polls, sometimes more, in what is essentially a three-man race. Just as important, his lead has widened considerably in the past few weeks, extending from about 15 points to 25 points over his closest rival, Ricardo Anaya, of the right-leaning PAN Party. The candidate for the party in power, the PRI, Antonio Meade, is down to only 19 points. That leaves less than 10% undecided. AMLO has strong momentum going into the last week of campaigning.
In Mexico government took a nosedive around 30 years ago when the PRI selected someone now considered one of the worst presidents in the past century, Carlos Salinas de Gortari. Salinas implemented what are known as neo-liberal reforms, reversing the New-Deal-like program of previous PRI presidents, much as has been the case in the United States since the election of Ronald Reagan. He began selling off government enterprises, usually to cronies for low-ball prices, in alliance with the country's exceptionally wealthy upper classes, based in Mexico City and Monterrey. The political system took a strong turn toward corruption, as it did in the US, which has weakened the appeal of the nation's two most popular political parties, the PAN and the PRI.
Both parties became enabling kleptocracies for the rich and well connected after Vicente Fox's administration from 2000-2006, not only at the national level, but also in state governments ruled by the two major parties in the 33 states of Mexico. As in the US, people do not trust either major party. Making matters worse, drug trafficking, has gotten unbearably violent. Cocaine, heroin, and other illegal substances, which used to operate prior to 1988 as a sort of franchise system controlled by the government, which took a cut of the action of each cartel but unofficially permitted orderly and non-violent trafficking. After Fox's administration ended in 2006, the rules of the game got muddled, as one part of the Mexican government did as it was told by the DEA, while another part (largely law enforcement) continued enabling it. For years these highly inconsistent policies led to intense rivalries between drug organizations and no new franchise rules emerged as violence spun out of control. It was a dog-eat-dog environment with the stakes worth billions of dollars and it made Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world, affecting many sectors of the population.
Donald Trump hovers over the election like a Holloween gremlin. Incumbent President Enrique Peña Nieto, already highly unpopular for his outlandish enrichment in the first three years of his do-nothing presidency, became a national embarrassment twice when, in Trump's presence, he froze, unable to formulate any response to Trump's insistence that Mexico will pay for "the wall." This hurt Meade, who was a cabinet minister under Peña Nieto. The other candidate, Ricardo Anaya, is also weakened by a long history of corruption within his party. In truth, they are also bad candidates, with little charisma. AMLO owns virtually all of the charisma in this election. He has run for president three times now. Quite possibly he won the election of 2006, in which Felipe Calderon was declared President, which led to a weeks-long occupation of Paseo de Reforma, one of the world's most elegant boulevards.
What is AMLO likely to do as President? He will be more than capable of holding his own against Trump, and he promises to cut down on the corruption and violence that has plagued Mexico for two decades. He also is likely to be less inclined to kiss up to Donald Trump in negotiating over NAFTA, and less inclined to swallow the mantra of privatization sweeping through the country for 30 years, and which has led to massive amounts of corruption and serious poverty in the countryside. He's tough and, from what we know, principled. His support is roughly like Bernie Sanders' support in 2016: college educated, working class, very youthful, and concerned about fairness issues.