President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) wants to convince Mexicans that his government is a “transformation” and that his political party (MORENA) is a “movement”. It is possible that, far from that, history deems AMLO’s government as the mistake that confirms why his chosen route was, is, and will always be the wrong one. It is also possible that history sees AMLO’s party as a deformed amalgam of disaffected and failed characters whose only talent is their talent to destroy. MORENA’s leaders will prove increasingly incapable not only of articulating coherent policies, but even of reaching basic agreement among themselves.
AMLO wants Mexicans to view his government as an unavoidable chapter, a manifest destiny in Mexican history. But, as Peter O’Toole said to Omar Sharif in the memorable film Lawrence of Arabia: “Nothing is written”. The grave pandemic we are experiencing is like a cruel mirror in which we see reflected everything that we would rather ignore about Mexico’s reality. In the country’s current condition, containing the enormous damage of a once-in-a-century crisis will be a monumental challenge. How do we ask the millions of Mexicans who live day-by-day to stay home during the pandemic? How do we avoid contagion when Mexican families live in overcrowded dwellings? How do we implement effective support programs given the high levels of informality in the economy? How do we persuade the poorest Mexicans that if they present symptoms they should immediately go to the hospital, if they believe that “hospitals kill people”?
The pandemic is not “tamed” as AMLO likes to parrot, but it is rather on the rise. Given the Mexican government’s extremely deficient and absurdly politicized sanitary management -along with its irresponsible communication strategy-, the pandemic will last much longer than expected and will cause far more deaths. The lack of economic relief measures by the Mexican government will not only increase the number of Mexicans in poverty by 10 million, but will make much of the damage permanent.
AMLO’s political party (MORENA) will disintegrate as the confrontation between its internal tribes grows. They will find it hard to nominate candidates for 3,000 elective positions that open next year, in a civilized and peaceful manner. Many party members will defect, once they are not chosen as candidates, they will seek refuge under the banners of other parties. AMLO’s government ineptitude in managing the economy will not only cause the sharpest drop in Mexico’s GDP in almost a century, it will also leave the government without resources. In its obsession with austerity, AMLO is increasing the country’s indebtedness like never before, but he will do so –paradoxically- without any new money coming into the government’s coffers.
Faced with the imminent loss of its majority in Mexico’s Lower House in 2021, the desperate AMLO administration will embrace authoritarianism to take budget control away from it. But he will still lack resources for his whims and white elephant projects, since tax revenues will collapse to levels where remaining discretionary spending will be just a pittance.
AMLO is losing power. He knows it. His cunning smile during daily press conferences does not reflect his emotional state, but his desperate attempt to hide his fear. Given what is coming, AMLO knows that repression will perhaps be his only option. That is why he did what he always criticized during his political career: he gave ‘carte blanche’ to the Mexican Army.
Today, it is important that businessmen, opposition parties, media and all Mexicans who have opposed the atrocities of this government, realize that the next chapter of history will be written at the polls and that they can take the country back. Let’s prepare to do so.
Mexico is much more than this mediocre government stammering in the face of the brutal coronavirus pandemic. There are many committed, hardworking and talented Mexicans. During these trying times, many anonymous heroes remind us of what we can aspire to be. Mexicans must not forget that today, more than ever, nothing is written.
* Jorge Suárez-Vélez is an economic and political analyst He is the author of The Coming Downturn of the World Economy (Random House 2011). A Spanish version of this Op-Ed appeared first in Reforma’s newspaper print edition. Twitter: @jorgesuarezv