The weekly newsletter of the México Solidarity Project


May 26, 2021/ This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team


Do We Have a Horse in This Race?

They’re coming down the home stretch. Will last time’s winner be able to hang on? Or will some former champ come on strong to win by a nose?


The last time Mexicans went to the polls, in 2018, candidates running under the banner of the fledgling Morena Party stampeded into federal, state, and municipal office alongside Morena’s presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador, or AMLO as everyone in México knows him. Morena candidates left the former stable of winners from the neoliberal PRI and PAN parties so far back in the dust that none of their usual electoral shenanigans could deny Morena an overwhelming victory.


Three years have sped by, and now, in less than two weeks, Morena is looking to repeat its electoral success. AMLO won’t be on the ballot himself. His single six-year term has three more years to run. But in México, as in the United States, midterm elections matter. No Mexican president can make good on election promises without a legislative majority. Over the past three years, AMLO had that majority. With it, he didn’t just increase public benefits for poor and middle-income families. These benefits became constitutional rights.


And where has the US government been during this spring’s midterm electioneering? On matters Mexican, the United States has never been an uninterested spectator. This time around, as in 2018, the US government has gone beyond cheerleading for Morena’s opposition. US tax dollars, as Kurt Hackbarth reports below, are once again boosting Morena’s competition. US officials cry foul when Russians attempt to meddle in US elections. But we have yet to see any official US response to AMLO’s demand for an explanation of why the US is interfering in Mexico’s voting.


And what about US working people, what stance should we be taking? AMLO hasn’t been perfect the past three years. He’s occasionally stumbled and will undoubtedly stumble again. So does that mean we should pay this race no mind? Hardly. Just look at the competition, those former PRI and PAN winners who spent their years in office impoverishing the people and enriching themselves.


Most of all, we need to remember that we don’t have a horse race here. We have a serious political choice. At stake in that choice: the lives of people on both sides of the border.


Jesús Hermosillo, an LA-based nurses union rep with a deep knowledge of health issues, also rates as a perceptive analyst of political currents in his native México. Those two areas of expertise inform his recent article in the journal Current Affairs, México: Land of Pandemics and Hope. Hermosillo challenges the mainstream narrative on México’s handling of the pandemic, noting that after decades of neoliberal misrule, the country is fighting to recover from more than just Covid.


There is a saying in Mexico: Un político pobre es un pobre político, a politician who’s poor is a poor politician. What does that saying mean to you?


Jesus Hermosillo: Its also said in México that while only the rich can become presidents in the US, in Mexico you become president to get rich. In my article, Mexico: Land of Pandemics and Hope, Perhaps, I describe the culture of self-reward” among public servants. I remember that even a low-level bureaucrat in Nayarit, where my family is from, enjoyed a higher status. Everyone expected that his family would drive nicer cars and have expensive work done on their houses. Mexican public servants have become some of the highest paid in the world, thats counting just the legal compensation, not the under-the-table deals. People in elected positions have even more power and perks. Corruption, both legal and illegal, has greased the wheels of Mexican politics.


The PRI exercised one-party rule for 71 years, quite a feat! Did PRI candidates win through fair elections?


Elections? More like electoral theater. I remember that only PRI candidate logos could be in red, white, and green, the colors of the Mexican flag. People could hardly tell where the party ended and the government began. That huge entity, the PRI-government structure, controlled every aspect of political life, including the voting process and the media.


Fair elections require that people have complete and accurate information. The Mexican news media are still mostly controlled by people with financial interests aligned with the robber class. Red-baiting and lies about more progressive candidates dominate the “news.”


Before 2018, AMLO had presidential victory stolen twice through manipulations of the ballot count, with the fearful specter of a socialist president a constant media drumbeat. By 2018, Mexicans had seen everything: NAFTA, the drug war, two PAN presidents, the return of the PRI. But online media finally provided them with alternatives to the oligarchic narrative. Historians have noted that whenever we have a shakeup in communications technology, a political earthquake follows. People in power control information. But changes in communications technology the printing press, the telegram, the radio, and so on — can lead to a loss of that control.


What social forces oppose AMLO and Morena today? 


AMLOs political opponents include politicians and bureaucrats who oppose Morena’s zeal for eradicating corruption and ending the special status of public servants. Big employers who dont want to pay higher wages or higher taxes and those who don’t want regulations that protect the public and the environment also oppose Morena.


Then we have some people who consider themselves progressive but who Id characterize as First-World Mexicans.” These people like the idea of living in a social democracy like Denmark. Some of them I know even liked Bernie Sanders. But these people, with their high incomes and status, live in a different reality from most Mexicans. They dont have a good sense of the immensity of Mexicos problems as a Global South society. As a result, they tend to expect things that simply arent feasible in México. One example: their criticism that the Morena government wasn’t conducting broad-based testing for Covid. These people saw rich countries doing that testing. But they didn’t consider that such extremely resource-intensive testing will never be cost-effective in tight-budget societies.


What stance should US progressives take on México’s midterm elections?


People who support democracy have an obligation to question what they see in mainstream media, particularly the coverage of progressive governments and movements in the Global South. We need to push back on the reactionary narratives the New York Times and other capitalist media feed us and seek out alternative analyses. We need to use social media and share alternatives among our contacts.


Left journalists, meanwhile, should be brave enough to delve into Global South politics, understand it, and report on it. Kurt Hackbarth at Jacobin seems to be the only English-language journalist who does this regularly.


Above all, become informed, use critical analysis, and support transformative politics.


Writer, playwright, and freelance journalist Kurt Hackbarth has emerged as one of the most perceptive analysts of Mexican politics writing in English. The cofounder of the independent media project MexElects, he’s currently coauthoring a book on the 2018 Mexican election. This critique of how US media are handling México’s 2021 midterm elections comes from Hackbarth’s latest Mexican election coverage for the Jacobin journal.



AMLO Has a Project to Transform México

Interest in anti-corruption crusadestends to fall off when it is being performed by a government that is not to the liking of the international elite that determines media framing. But even more to the point, tracing the trail of corruption in Mexico would mean uncovering US complicity every step of the way: through financing, weapons, rogue intelligence operations, and the daily fact of playing nice with officials, like former security minister Genaro García Luna, who they knew to be highly compromised by organized crime.


The long arm of the United States has been on display in another way during the midterm election campaign: in helping to fund the political opposition. By means of the United States Embassy in Mexico, and as reported by the magazine Contralínea, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) are financing the organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity” (MCCI), founded by Claudio X. González. Not only is González leading the charge against MORENA in this years election, organizing the coalition of parties arrayed against it and financing its candidates, he has also been an active figure in the war of attrition seeking to block the key pieces of the presidents agenda in the courts.


Far from representing a passing check, the millions in funding from the US agencies amounted to nearly 20 percent of the organizations revenue in 2019 and 2020. And while MCCI is not directly a political organization, the United States has effectively been chipping in a healthy salary (González received the equivalent of some $375,000 dollars from the organization over the previous three years) to the chief organizer of Mexicos opposition.


Spurred by the revelations, Mexico sent a diplomatic note to the United States on May 6 asking it to clarify the matter. At his press conference the following morning, AMLO classified it as a form of golpismo, or coup promotion, and compared it to the participation of US ambassador Henry Wilson in the overthrow of President Francisco Madero during the Mexican Revolution. Its an act of interventionism that violates our sovereignty … Our Constitution forbids it. You cant receive money from another country for political ends.”


The case raises the specter of USAIDs dark history throughout Latin America, from its promotion of fiscal reform” and competitive business climates” to its clumsy attempts at regime change in Cuba to its support of the mass sterilization of the poor in Peru. In its Cold War heyday in the 1960s and 70s, USAID helped to bolster dictatorial regimes throughout the region by training their police officers in counterinsurgency, riot control, explosives, public relations, and enhanced interrogation techniques” carried out in soundproofed cellars.


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


David Raby, Mexico’s mid-term elections: a watershed moment, Public Reading Rooms. A veteran historian examines the anti-democratic games that México’s bloated National Electoral Institute continues to play.


Chase Harrison and Carin Zissis, Explainer: Making Sense of Mexico's Massive Midterms, AS/COA. The electoral context, parties and coalitions, and stakes in the June 6 elections.


Esther Honig, The Story Behind Your Salad: Farmworkers, Covid-19, and a Dangerous Commute, The Nation. Each day, Mexican farmworkers endure a grueling journey to get to their jobs in US lettuce fields. This year, that journey turned potentially deadly.


Mary Beth Sheridan, Mexico’s coronavirus deaths are plummeting. The ‘Biden wall’ could be a factor, Washington Post. The pandemic seems to be abating, with increasing levels of immunity on both sides of the border. About half the Mexican population has developed antibodies, and U.S. vaccinations are blocking the southward spread of the virus.


Patricia Narvaez Garcia and Aman Abhishek, Anti-colonial memory and AMLO’s energy policies, Al Jazeera. The nationalization of foreign energy companies in México eight decades ago proved a notable event in global colonial history: México stood up to imperial power and prevailed.


FGR va por EPN, Videgaray y Anaya; los acusa de crear red de sobornos, Polemón. La Fiscalía General de la República acusó al expresidente Enrique Peña Nieto y al ex secretario de Hacienda Luis Videgaray, de haber conformado una asociación delictiva que de abril de 2013 a agosto de 2014 canalizó casi 100 millones de pesos en sobornos a legisladores, entre ellos Ricardo Anaya, para aprobar la Reforma Energética.


AMLO to nominate Bank of México governor who ‘favors moral economy,’ México News Daily. The president plans to nominate a candidate who is attuned to Mexico's social needs.


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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