Uruguay's former President Jose Mujica has sent an emotional message to the people of Mexico and the nation's future President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, warning about the huge challenge the country is about to confront.
"So far away from God, so close to the United States," is how Mujica begins his video blog published in Deutsche Welle, using a quote attributed to Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz, who ruled for 30 years until he was ousted by multiple rebellions in the Mexican revolution.
Even though Diaz is beloved in Mexico only by some revisionist sectors of the right, the phrase paves the way for reflection on the people of Mexico; the nation's complicated past, and its challenging future.
"That wonderful place, shelter of every refugee in the world that despite its difficulties was able to receive a million migrants in a year without complaining," says Mujica, in reference to the refugees from Chile, Argentina, Lebanon and Armenia who were facing persecution by their own governments or escaping internal conflicts.
Mujica also spoke about Central American migrants who, on their way to the United States, often seek shelter in Mexico: "I have great affection for Mexico because I know it has received thousands of the persecuted and keeps receiving thousands ejected from Central America by poverty and pain."
Yet many Central American migrants also face discrimination in Mexico and can be deported by authorities, in addition to facing a dangerous journey plagued by criminal organizations which kidnap, extort, rape and murder vulnerable migrants.
Nonetheless, Mujica stressed Mexico's ability to stand on its own, despite being prone to drug trafficking "because it's the natural path of drugs toward the great North American market."
"The historical, social problems, its internal destruction, its growing corruption have provoked a political reaction," Mujica says. "And what a paradox: a fighter who lost two times has just conquered presidency," he said of center-left Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who won the July 1 presidential elections with 53 percent of votes.
In a country with high levels of corruption and impunity, reforming the political system and saving the people from a 12-year 'war on drugs' that has killed thousands and disappeared an equally alarming number won't be an easy task.
"One wonders how much willingness and company is needed for the giant challenge coming for Mexico, when its powerful, determining neighbor – among other things – has unleashed a commercial war, even with the whole world, with consequences we can't even understand... Mexico is on that front."
Concluding his message, Mujica said: "Many won't understand him and many will even criticize him, but God save the fate of that wonderful country. I salute them. Good luck Mexico! And with you, the luck of our America!"
Lopez Obrador is due to be sworn in as president on December 1. His party, the National Renewal Movement (Morena), also became the biggest force in the legislative branch just four years after being founded.