Jesus Hermosillo: It’s 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, that’s 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?
AMLO’s 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 don’t 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 I’d 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 don’t have a good sense of the immensity of Mexico’s problems as a Global South society. As a result, they tend to expect things that simply aren’t 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.