When looking at Mexico’s current president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO for short, one may confuse him with our current president Donald Trump. Current president AMLO undermines democratic mechanisms, the same which helped him get elected. Not only is he holding a referendum that does not align with the Federal Law of Popular Consultation, but he also disrespects anyone who calls him out on it. Sound familiar? An example of the Mexican president undermining their current constitution is that it only allows the president to run a single term of six years. Yet, AMLO is proposing that the citizens of Mexico can vote him out in the halfway point of his term. Many speculate that AMLO’s referendum, of changing the voting date to March, is an attempt to garner more support since this is the time of year where federal elections usually occur. If the referendum gets passed by the senate, this could be a foreshadow of his re-election in 2024.
Another example of his authoritarian character is when he denies and places blame on other people — blaming the previous parties for the current status of the government, and shortcomings of earlier projects of the government. Like Trump, he denies any scandalous news against him or his decisions, that the mainstream media is full of “Fifi’s”, someone who holds a far-left ideology.
A central point of this Mexican president is that he is instilling stealth authoritarian mechanisms. More specifically, silencing the media and journalists. For example, there have been countless deaths of journalists that portray political leaders in a bad image. To be exact, according to the CPJ, The Committee to Protect Journalists, over 120 journalists have either been killed or gone missing, within a year of AMLO coming into office there have been 11 confirmed deaths. Coming from AMLO himself, he “warned the press that ‘you know what happens’ if you go over the line.” Leading journalists to live in fear if they portray him in a bad light. This is not say that AMLO himself is in charge of the missing journalists, many agree it is due to drug cartels running rampant in Mexico.
Wherever, the risk of truth being dismantled or obscured, there is sure to be corruption and signs of a dying democracy. If we look back at (Varol 2015 p. 1722) “These mechanisms, include overtly defying or disregarding laws and constitutions; imposing emergency laws or martial law; silencing dissidents through harassment and violence; shutting down newspapers and television stations; banning publications; manipulating the vote count through vote-buying, intimidation…” AMLO is using the disguise of democracy while implementing authoritarian mechanisms.
Another issue presented in Mexico is the polarity found within the country. Just like America, you are presented with two choices Left or Right, Chairo, or Fifi. What this causes is amnesty between a nation and a growing hatred between the two parties. It leaves no room for discussion but acts of violence because a person has different political beliefs. In AMLO’s victory speech, he created such tension by mentioning that the previous presidents were corrupt and intentionally giving way for cartels to take over the government.
Now, why are all these points important? They are necessary to note because these are all symptoms of democratic erosion — a country where free speech is threatened through scare tactics. Increasing polarization between two groups, through false marketing tactics, making one side right and the other wrong. The undermining of political institutions to push ones’ agenda. Like America, Mexico faces with what seems to be a fascist leader, unlike America, Mexico has been the victim of corruption throughout its lifetime, which means that its political institutions are weak and is more susceptible to turning into an authoritarian state.
To solve this, I believe it is vital to quit with political divides and start creating bridges to remove tension, that different people can be entitled to their opinion. President AMLO should present a common goal for all of Mexico, one that every citizen can align with. For example, a fight against corruption, a common goal that pleases the interest of every Mexican citizen. Also, in place of bashing former opponents and calling them, corrupt AMLO should point out some positives during their presidency. Instead of frightening journalists and implying they can get killed for what they write about, embrace it so that private journalists can sniff out the corruption in government and have corrupt politicians immediately tried for conspiracy or treason.
If nothing changes within this presidency and AMLO keeps up what he is doing. The more authoritarian elements will likely show in his presidency. He will want to maintain power to himself because of the support he receives, and ultimately get forcibly removed.
This is a great comparative analysis of the President of Mexico and Donald Trump. Similar to AMLO, President Trump is not very good at dealing with criticism. A recent example would be the dismissal of government officials and staff who testified against him at his impeachment trial in January. This also applied to people who did not voice their full support for the President; a clear warning to others that people who don’t absolutely support Trump won’t be tolerated. The actions taken by President Lopez Obrador are clearly violating democratic values and are evidence of democratic erosion, as you pointed out. Luckily, we have not seen authoritarian regime styles in the current administration despite the similarities that we can see between the Trump Administration and the Mexican President. Nonetheless, I think that partisan divide that leads to hatred and violence are obvious signs for an eroding democracy and I absolutely agree that the corruption we see in Mexico puts the country’s democracy in jeopardy and at risk for turning into an authoritarian state.