Sick of corruption and the vile comments of United States President Donald Trump, Mexican voters have almost unanimously embraced leftist candidate Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, ahead of the country's general election in July.
However, a lengthy article published Tuesday in the New Yorker, alleges that the officials within the current government, led by PRI's Enrique Pena Nieto, have actively worked against the “populist” and have resorted to tarnishing the candidate's image abroad to prevent his election. The article, written by renowned journalist Jon Lee Anderson, explains that officials in the Peña Nieto government warned their counterparts in the White House that Trump’s offensive behavior heightened the possibility of the election of a "hostile" government led by Lopez Obrador taking power, an event, which they described as a "national security threat just across the border" to the U.S.
While most of the article profiles Lopez Obrador's political career, explaining his journey from being a member of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and chronicling his multiple disagreements with several political parties and civic groups, it makes a clear case that the political class in Mexico and the U.S. would prefer more business-friendly and less progressive candidate to take over the Mexican presidency.
The journalist accompanied the center-left candidate, also known by his initials AMLO or the moniker “El Peje,” during a leg of his campaign tour in the north of Mexico, where the population trends more to the conservative right and traditional parties and interviewed Mexican personalities and politicians to build his profile.
The current government, led by PRI's Enrique Peña Nieto, and the other right-wing conservative National Action Party (PAN) have long criticized Lopez Obrador's “populist” ideas and engaged in a “dirty war” of propaganda based on comparing him to Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro, while in reality, his politics are much closer to the center. AMLO's critics have also ignored his new National Renewal Movement's (Morena) political alliances with the Maoists and the conservative Christians.
Anderson quoted John McCain saying that “If the election were tomorrow in Mexico, you would probably get a left-wing, anti-American President... It would not be good for America—or for Mexico.” John Kelly, apparently, agreed with McCain's assessment.
Lee Anderson plays with the idea that part of AMLO's popularity could be attributed to Trump's aggressive, irresponsible behavior towards Mexico. To support the argument, the journalist quotes several personalities and Lopez Obrador's remarks about the POTUS, including a book he wrote called “Oye, Trump” (“Listen Up, Trump”).
“Trump and his advisers speak of the Mexicans the way Hitler and the Nazis referred to the Jews, just before undertaking the infamous persecution and the abominable extermination,” the journalist quotes AMLO saying.
Lopez Obrador has been a very popular politician for more than a decade. He first ran for the presidency in 2006 and lost to conservative Felipe Calderon by less than one percent of the votes. He again ended up second place in the 2012 elections, behind Peña Nieto. His most recent popularity, dubbed as “AMLOmania,” is more related to the growing discontent of Mexicans towards traditional parties and politicians than to whatever Trump is saying or doing.
Lee Anderson is well aware of this and balances his piece by quoting other experts, academics, and politicians saying the Trump factor didn't matter at this point of the campaigns.
The journalist interviewed Jorge Guajardo, former Mexican ambassador to China, and asked him what role Trump had at this point in the election when Lopez Obrador has double the vote intention than Ricardo Anaya, the young conservative candidate that's second place in the polls.
“Zero. And for a very simple reason—everyone in Mexico opposes him equally,” said Guajardo, who is also a skeptic on the type of relationship Lopez Obrador will have with Trump.
“Macron, Merkel, Peña Nieto, and Abe—they’ve all lost out. But look at Kim Jong Un! Trump seems to like those who reject him. And I think the same scenario will apply to Andrés Manuel,” he said.
So even if Lopez Obrador does talk about Trump's attitudes and politics, as expected at this point from every Mexican politician, he will focus on internal issues that the population is infinitely more concerned with.
The last poll carried out by Bloomberg says Lopez Obrador has 50.8 percent of the vote intention, while Anaya is sitting behind at 24.8 percent. The ruling party's candidate Jose Antonio Meade is at third place with 21.6, after a disastrous administration and a bloody legacy that voters can't ignore.
The independent candidate Rodriguez Calderon “El Bronco,” who is running on an authoritarian neo-liberal platform and has proposed to militarize all high school and chop off the hands of corrupt politicians and criminals, is far behind with 3.7 percent.
Margarita Zavala, the other independent candidate, and wife of former president Felipe Calderon dropped out off the presidential race when “El Bronco” passed her in the polls.