“AMLO, I’ll be watching you”
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a.k.a. AMLO,
unseated the nearly eternally governing PRI
in Mexico’s general elections on July 1.
This open letter posted in the social media
offers one explanation for the mixed reactions
to the victory of this outspoken leftist candidate
of a coalition including his own four-year-old party,
the National Regeneration Movement (Morena).
July 2, 2018.
I’m writing you these lines seated at my desk with my thumb stained with indelible ink and with mixed feelings. Hope and anxiety. Joy and fear. Enjoying what we decided to leave behind and concerned about what will come. I know why you won; I know why the vote turned in your favor. Like no one else you toured the country and understood its anger. Like no one else you grasped the feelings of the indignant, the angry, the furious. Years of diluted democracy, subverted transition, growing inequality, lacerating poverty.
Years to get the PRI [Institutional Revolutionary Party] out of Los Pinos [the official presidential residence] only to see it return, more corrupt, more rapacious, more soulless. Years of institutions put at the service of power and not of the citizenry.
And you, the insurgent, offered the words we so wanted to hear: Refounding. Transforming. Breaking with the old regime. You invited the country to
make history with you. And the majority accompanied you, some with enthusiasm, others with ambivalence, many just to kick the PRI out.
We needed real change
The PRI had to be punished for its patrimonialism and the PAN [National Action Parry] for mimicking it. The system needed a shaking up and
the status quo a body blow. It was imperative to get back on the path to
the transition that was truncated by a rapacious partyocracy, electoral authorities who were losing credibility and impartiality, a justice system only to protect the privileged, an impunity pact that permitted the political survival of putrefaction.
We sabotaged democratic consolidation more with each new six-year term. We allowed “Mexican-style neoliberalism” to concentrate wealth and perpetuate poverty. We ignored the violence that was turning bits of the country into no-man’s land fought over by the cartels, patches planted with cadavers and graves. We watched how the war on drugs became a war on Mexicans, headed up by Armed Forces that don’t know how to be in the streets, filling them with “collateral damage”: 240,000 dead, 34,000 disappeared; figures of barbarity. Figures of a broken Mexico.
And you went from plaza to plaza, from town to town, giving voice to the horror. Acknowledging the grievances and stoking them. You won because your diagnosis is the correct one. Mexico has been pillaged by its elites, squeezed dry by their embedded interests and victimized by their trade-union and business vetocracy. The pendulum of history swung from accumulation to redistribution, from right to left, as [economist] Albert Hirschman explained.
How will you govern?
I understand all this; I recognize it. But even so, I’m not one of those jubilant voters who want to hug you, carry you on their shoulders. Because I don’t know how you will govern, who you will listen to, which members of the “mafia in power” you will pardon, what economic model you will instrumentalize, what system of justice you will construct, if you will be the applaudable leader of a progressive Left or the questionable leader of a Lopez Obrador conservatism. An unknown landscape awaits us.
I’m not afraid Mexico will become Venezuela. I’m afraid it will continue being the same Mexico. A clientelist country fed by a munificent State that creates recipients instead of participants, a country that maintains buddy capitalism, only with other buddies: yours. A renovated hegemonic party system
with few counterweights. A corroded institutional structure whose bankruptcy is made up for by a regenerated presidentialism.
I’m encouraged by your personal incorruptibility, the profile of certain people surrounding you, the spirit of renewal that accompanies you. I’m worried that you will attack the press, disdain the Congress, revile the Supreme Court, disqualify civil society, divide the population between the “good” who support you unconditionally and the “bad” who are only that because they question you. It’s true that many of the organizations and institutions you critique are indefensible. But you will have to remodel them, not leap over them.
Today, the day after, I will be doing the task that is mine to do: watch you,
make demands on you, remind you of the imperative of reconciling us. Of governing in the name of all, not only those who voted for you. Of recognizing pluralism and promoting tolerance.
Of combating privilege and corruption, including in your own party. I will also say to you.: Mexico isn’t the country of AMLO or of Morena or its governors or legislators. This is everyone’s country, our country. In 2018 and always.