The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


February 17, 2021/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team


Angels and Devils — and México's Upcoming Mid-Terms

In the United States, we’ve just survived a blood-curdling electoral season. In México, folks are just gearing up for mid-term elections this July. Our US elections essentially mimicked a zombie movie. In a two-party system that had lost its tether to rationality, you either sat on the side of angels or let the devils take you. México doesn’t, of course, have our two-party system. But voters in México face a choice between political philosophies far starker.


For nearly a century, Mexicans faced what amounted to one-party rule. A corrupt and elitist government facilitated the impoverishment of vast swatches of the population. Then, in 2018, Mexicans voted for a radical change of direction. They gave Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his Morena party a landslide victory. Will the people now ask Morena candidates to continue down the path of transformational change?


US progressives have much to learn from watching Morena, an ongoing political experiment still only six years old. Morena came into being, in large part, as an electoral vehicle for AMLO’s presidential bid. The party still carries the imprint of his values and sense of moral mission, his confidence that “the better angels of our nature” guide us all — and will help Morena prevail in the upcoming elections. That leaves the day-to-day campaign worry to activists on the ground like Javier Bravo.


Bravo worries particularly about the internal Morena party rule that lets anyone, regardless of past political affiliation, seek office on the party’s ticket. Morena doesn’t vet candidates to make sure they’ll carry out the party’s program, that they’ll prioritize the poor and expand worker, indigenous, and human rights, that they’ll rein in corrupt functionaries and protect Mexican sovereignty from foreign interventions.


Morena’a internal rulebook reflects AMLO’s confidence that people can change and do the right thing. And that confidence can be charming. We all may indeed have better angels. But we also have devils on our shoulders, the reason why we need external guideposts, rules against doing harm, incentives for doing good. We want people who listen to their better angels to govern. But the devil is in the details.   


Historian Javier Bravo teaches at the University of Guanajuato. He’s been an activist with Morena since the party’s inception and also serves on the Coordinating Committee of the México Solidarity Project. We just explored with Bravo his progressive concerns about México’s upcoming elections this July, the first national balloting since Morena's stunning 2018 election triumph.


México is gearing up for “mid-term” elections. Unlike in the US, Mexican presidents can only serve one six-year term. But having support in Congress remains critical to their success. What seats will be filled this July in México’s mid-terms?


Javier Bravo: Fifteen of México’s 32 states will have races for governor, and 500 deputy seats in the lower house of Congress will be open as well. This will be the first big election since Morena’s landslide victory in 2018, and the stakes could hardly be higher.


Polls have Morena still widely popular. What’s worrying you?


With the pandemic, instead of having speaking tours where we can talk to people in-person, campaigning must be done online. In México, this makes for a real issue, since only 70 percent of our territory has access to the internet. And then we also have the constant attacks on AMLO from the right. The media are overflowing with outright lies. Even when we present the facts the next day, damage is done.


But the biggest problem: Morena has an internal rule that anyone, not just Morena members, can run for office on the Morena ticket. Opportunists from the conservative PAN and PRI are registering as Morena candidates and are "legally infiltrating" Morena. AMLO wants a moral revolution. He believes that everyone can change for the better. But in current conditions this "knife cuts both ways.” I am convinced that this particular rule in Morena´s statute has to be modified.


México currently has two party coalitions, one conservative and one progressive, right?


The conservatives working together include the PAN, PRI, and the PRD, originally a center-left party that split off from the PRI. AMLO came from that tradition.  But now we see that the PRD has degenerated into a party really no different from the “PRIAN,” as we call the two-headed PRI-PAN monster!


Joining Morena’s coalition we have the Partido de Trabajadores, a socialist party, and the Green Party. But this Green Party isn’t green or progressive. It opposes many social rights like the right to abortion and gay marriage.


What are Morena activists doing to keep people on their side?

Grassroots organizers I’m one of them are working within thousands of sectional committees for the promotion and defense of the vote and for political principles. We’re distributing Regeneración, our party’s national publication, widely. We’re working to help people understand the radical importance of transforming social benefits from simple government programs into constitutional rights that need defending just as strongly as basic worker rights.


Is there anything Morena needs from its allies to the north?


AMLO has imperfections who doesn’t? and makes mistakes. We shouldn’t overlook these. But focusing mainly on the negative only hurts México’s chance to get rid of the neoliberal policies of the PAN and PRI. Morena needs progressives in the US to keep pushing Biden to honor his promises for a whole series of progressive measures.


Those changes, especially on migration, could free Morena to do more to help México’s people.


Pamela Starr teaches international relations and public diplomacy at the University of Southern California. She recently took on in Foreign Policy the controversy swirling around México President pez Obrador’s relationship with newly elected US President Joe Biden. Eyebrows began rising in the weeks right after Biden’s election when AMLO took several actions that seemed surprisingly hostile. He did not immediately recognize Bidens victory, he moved to constrain U.S. anti-drug operations in Mexico, and his government exonerated a Mexican general arrested in the US for collaborating with a drug cartel.


What AMLO Really Thinks About Biden

AMLOs actions set off speculation among México watchers over his motivation. Some argued he was indulging in yanqui-bashing for the sake of domestic politics. Others believed he was signaling his strong preference for the previous U.S. president, Donald Trump. Both explanations are flawed. AMLO has never been reflexively anti-American nor interested in an antagonistic relationship with his northern neighbor. And just because he worked with Trump does not mean he will be opposed to Biden. More likely, AMLO is trying to preemptively set his preferred terms of cooperation with the new U.S. administration.


AMLO is a man on a mission. He has dedicated his career to building a more egalitarian and more prosperous Mexico, under the guidance of a benevolent yet powerful state that pilots the economy and society. Now that he is president, but limited to a single six-year term, he is also in a hurry. He has instituted a series of social-welfare programs directed at long-neglected sectors of society, initiated infrastructure projects designed to benefit poorer regions of the country, and increased regulation on private and foreign firms while trying to rebuild the dominant position of the state oil company (Pemex) and electricity firm (CFE) to reestablish Mexican energy independence. And he is expanding presidential power to ensure the long-term survival of this project. He will not tolerate anything that could delay or derail his plans.


AMLO is now approaching the Biden administration as a potential impediment; he wants to prevent his powerful neighbor from exploiting its advantage to pressure Mexico to alter its domestic policies.


During AMLO’s first two years in office, he needed to deny Trump a reason to translate his anti-Mexico rhetoric into anti-Mexico policy. As a strategic move, he acceded to Trump’s demands around migration; for example, allowing the United States to force asylum seekers to wait in Mexican border towns for their day in U.S. court. And in exchange, the Trump administration kept quiet as AMLO pursued his domestic policies.


With Biden, AMLO is expecting greater U.S. pressure to modify elements of his domestic-policy project, and he has signaled that he will resist those efforts. At the same time, AMLO is fully aware that the deep integration between the two countrieseconomies means that a good working relationship with the United States is also essential to his domestic-policy success.


In dealing with México, the Biden administration will need to take into account AMLOs dual objectives — the need for good relations with the United States, but also to constrain the likelihood of U.S. efforts to press Mexico for policy change — as it selects where, when, and how to challenge him. Mexico will be a prickly partner for the new Biden administration, but not an anti-American antagonist.


Recent news reports and commentaries, from progressive and mainstream media,
on life and struggles on both sides of the US-México border


Mexico to require appeals on social media account blocking, Associated Press. A new law proposed by Morena would allow anyone with a blocked account to appeal the decision to the company's own internal committees, then telecom regulators and the Mexican courts.


Genaro Lozano, Vaccine Diplomacy: A New Cold War, America's Quarterly. Mexico's acceptance of a Russian vaccine came as a shock, and suspicion around the use of the (then) unproven vaccine ran high at first. Then came The Lancet medical journal’s publication of the vaccine’s phase three data, evaluating Sputnik V as safe and over 91 percent effective.


Laura Carlsen, For U.S.-Mexico Relations, The Real Hope Lies with Energized Social Movements, Indypendent. AMLO’s Trump-appeasement policy has created obstacles to future efforts to rebuild badly damaged US-Mexico relations, but not insurmountable ones.


Michael Snyder, The Makers Keeping the Ancient Art of Weaving Alive, New York Times. Thoughtful collaborations with Mexican artisans in Oaxaca and elsewhere are helping to evolve — and protect — one of the world’s most enduring handicrafts.


Jihan Abdalla, México’s vaccination campaign stalls, AMLO still won’t wear mask, Aljazeera. México has received 766,350 doses of the two-dose regimen Pfizer vaccine, well short of the 34.4 million it was expecting to arrive in weekly shipments by March. Most of the doses have already been administered, leaving many without access to a second dose.


Biden pone fin a la "emergencia" en la frontera con México, La Jornada. En su carta, el presidente dijo que la declaración de emergencia nacional hecha por Trump fue “injustificada” y que él había dado la instrucción de que “ni un dólar más de los contribuyentes estadunidenses sea destinado a construir un muro fronterizo”.


Rodrigo Cervantes, After Biden’s Call To Change Border Policies, Mexico’s President Says Deportations Continue As Usual, Fronteras. AMLO says he understands U.S. policies can’t change overnight. His government will continue to hold Central American migrants at México's southern border for the migrants’ own safety.


David Agren, Mexico was once a climate leader – now it's betting big on coal, Guardian. Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to buy nearly 2m tons of thermal coal from small producers.


The Mexico Solidarity Project brings together activists from various socialist and left organizations and individuals committed to worker and global justice who see the 2018 election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president of México as a watershed moment. AMLO and his progressive Morena party aim to end generations of corruption, impoverishment, and subservience to US interests. Our Project supports not just Morena, but all Mexicans struggling for basic rights, and opposes US efforts to undermine organizing and México’s national sovereignty. 


Editorial committee: Meizhu Lui, Bruce Hobson, Bill Gallegos, Sam Pizzigati. We welcome your suggestions and feedback. Interested in getting involved? Drop us an email!


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