Dos Años, only two years remain for the presidential term of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), in Mexico. Only two years remain—unless sanity prevails—for American Democracy.
Mexico elects a new president, July 2024 (AMLO cannot succeed himself; there is only one constitutional term). U.S. presidential elections follow, November 2024. In between those two crucial dates, inter-connected as they are, lies the fate of our two inter-connected Republics.
Two years—they will seem short to some, painfully long to others. That strategic period will be of great concern to the Rio Grande Valley, to Texas, to citizens of both countries. Much can happen. Potential candidates could die. Options can change. Quien sabe? Who knows? Policies, among them guns, immigration, health care, can improve—or worsen—in both countries. During that time, AMLO seems poised to “damage Mexico’s democracy” (Sarah Burke, “Mexico’s Imperiled Democracy,” The Economist, 21 Nov 21, p. 43.)
President López “swept to power in 2018 at the head of his populist MORENA party.” The elite parties (PRI and PAN) had governed for 83 years before that. Now, AMLO is chiefly known for his centralized and paternalistic style (daily televised conferences, instead of tweets, like Trump) and for his erratic decisions and bombastic oratory, much like the former US president he so much resembles.
AMLO (pictured above) halted renovation of Mexico City’s inadequate Aeropuerto Benito Juárez (Kendrick Foster, “Canceling an Airport for Mexico City, Harvard Political Review, 12 Apr 21). He initiated what many say is an expensive and ill-advised new airport; many international airlines refused to book flights, due to safety concerns. He angered Indigenous peoples and environmentalists with his Tren Maya, which cuts through vast swaths of southern Mexico jungles; a judge has placed that project on hold. Mexican tourism is a major resource, but some experts doubted the wisdom of that project and decried his intervention into plans for the marvelous aquarium in Vera Cruz.
Earlier, chief among among other bungled policies, COVID was essentially ignored by AMLO (his advice: “wear a religious amulet”). Drug cartels still run amok (his policy: abrazos, no balazos–“hugs not bullets”). Intellectuals are ridiculed; journalists are attacked and killed. AMLO, like a previous president of the US, claimed, after his defeat in a previous election, that he was “the legitimate president of Mexico.” Some wags joked, before the 2018 campaign, that he should be ineligible, since he had “already been president.” (Perhaps, due to a similar “fake fact”–his claim of a stolen election—Trump, too, might be constitutionally prevented from office in 2024?)
On a more serious note, the troublesome similarities (large egos, stubborn attitudes) between the two men are glaringly different when one contrasts their actual policies. Both are beloved by large percentages of voters, but the comparison ends there. In Mexico, AMLO supports the poor, urges (an admittedly soft) version of Mexican socialism. In the US, Trump serves the super rich and achieved for them massive tax relief. Presumably, he would run in 2024 on the same record.
Trump trashes the media, as does AMLO, even allegedly called for the “hanging” of his former Vice President for the sin of not stopping the vote counting in the U.S. House of Representatives. Then, there is the matter of alleged corruption; viz: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, and his multi-million deals with Arab Emirates – also the case of AMLO’s son, José Ramón, recipient of a mansion (gift from a big oil executive) in Houston, Texas. Both cases raise further doubts of their respective fathers’ integrity (Bello, “The Mansion and the First Son,” The Economist, 19 Feb 22).
Aside from sleaze, a major point of comparison between the two countries, as they struggle amid their current dilemmas, is the relative amount and nature of their Democracy. Mexico is, indeed, a Democracy, but, its current president seems intent on weakening its judicial and electoral systems (Economist, 2021). The U.S., which should be the more stable Democracy, ironically now finds many of its leaders and citizens asking if American Democracy can survive the next two years.
The U.S. finds itself ranked 75th in the world, as to “quality of national elections,” the linchpin of working democracy. “Quality” is determined by considering factors such as “fake news,” voter intimidation, and under-representation of women and minorities among candidates (The Conversation UK, 31 May 22). The U.S. ranks 15th in the 29 States of the Americas, behind Costa Rica, Brazil and Trinidad-Tobago. U.S. Democracy is threatened by the 2021 attack on its Capitol, on its Constitution, weakened by disloyalty to America’s traditions and institutions. Facing these facts, some have given up, expecting the trends to continue, due to increasing power by the right-wing. (Do you notice many of the “usual suspects”- Cruz, Abbott, et. al. – changing views about, say, gun violence?)
A few citizens who are more sensitive, more aware, more concerned, and personally known to this writer, are leaving for Mexico (“out of frying pan, into fire”?) Others, including this observer, are staying. We cannot yield to fear. We must keep reading, writing, discussing, voting—for Democracy, for the best America has to offer. These coming “dos años” may be the most important ones of your life—and my life.
Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by UT-Rio Grande Valley Professor Emeritus Dr. Gary Joe Mounce. The column appears in The Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Mounce can be reached by email via: [email protected]
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