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500,000 Rally To Support AMLO, Reject US Intervention

March 18 marked the 85th anniversary of the 1938 decree by Mexican President Lázaro Cárdenas that ordered the expropriation of México’s oil industry. López Obrador called on his supporters to demonstrate on that day to mark this anniversary — and respond to his Mexican opposition and to US politicians and pundits who have ramped up their attacks against his government.

Recent weeks have seen a bevy of opinion pieces and editorials in U.S. media blasting AMLO. Critics like the Atlantics David Frum and Anne Applebaum and Brookings analysts Valerie Wirtschafter and Arturo Sarukhán have alleged that AMLO is undermining democracy in Mexico and taking the country back into its authoritarian past” with his recently approved legislation involving modest reforms to the countrys National Electoral Institute, the INE. 

The attacks against the Mexican president havent been limited to the opinion pages either. Mainstream news coverage has also depicted the recent reforms in a negative light, with journalists like New York Times reporter Natalie Kitroeff characterizing the AMLO-backed reforms as an effort to undermine the countrys fragile institutions.

Far from undermining the autonomy of the INE, the new election reform law mostly mandates cost-saving measures. The statute eliminates redundant posts at the local and district level and expands voting rights for marginalized populations by facilitating voting for people with disabilities, people jailed awaiting trial, and migrants living abroad. The law also begins the exploration of future moves toward electronic voting.

With the Biden administration putting an increased emphasis on the need to renew democracies,” these criticisms of AMLOs alleged authoritarianism have put a strain on the US-Mexico relationship. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Menendez has issued a joint statement with House Foreign Affairs Committee chair Michael McCaul alleging that México’s recently approved election law had imperiled the future of its countrys democratic institutions.”

Republicans have been even shriller. After the recent drug cartel murder of two American tourists, they labeled AMLO the cartelschief enabler.” In a March 2 Wall Street Journal op-ed, former US attorney general Bill Barr called for unilateral military action by US forces inside Mexico and claimed that international law provides a legal basis for such an invasion.

Former US secretary of state Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, has called for drone strikes inside Mexican territory against the cartels. With a U.S. presidential election just around the corner, Republican politicians are scapegoating México to shore up their base, just as they did before the 2016 election.

Counter rallies like the huge March 18 rally in México City are showing that the López Obrador government has widespread public support, from people like Ricardo Valdez Ponce, who left his home in Matamoros late the night before for a 15-hour bus ride to México City.

“I do it with great pleasure because weve never had a president like the one we have now,” Valdez explained. “I am very proud and motivated to be here accompanying our president.”   

An earlier version of this piece appeared in Truthout.

José Luis Granados Ceja, a Mexican freelance journalist, is currently studying human rights and popular democracy at the Autonomous
University of Mexico City. His writings on democratic struggles in Latin America appear regularly online at his Antimperialistia site.