For Some Mexicans, a Presidential Hopeful Bears Worrying Similarities to Venezuela's Maduro

Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Photo published under license of Creative Commons: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A total of 4,178 kilometers (2,602 miles) geographically separate the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the United States of Mexico. However, this distance does not feel so vast, not only because of globalization, but also because of the similarities between the two of the countries’ main political actors.

In Venezuela, the last several weeks have seen popular discontent spill into the streets over certain government actions that many have perceived as a coup. Society is divided between those who support the current regime and those who want a change — a change which would include, among many other things, the exit of President Nicolás Maduro from his seat in the Venezuelan government at Miraflores Palace.

Beyond their own government's rhetoric on Venezuela, including the sterile calls for dialogue from Mexico's foreign minister, Mexicans analyzing the situation have found similarities between Maduro and a man who aspires — even after having been defeated in the last two consecutive elections — to one day run Mexico: Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO for short.

What's happening with Nicolás Maduro is what can happen in Mexico if AMLO and MORENA win.

López is the founder and current leader of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) political party. He professes to be aligned with left-wing political ideals; however, his conservative stance on abortion, same-sex marriage and the rights of same-sex couples to form a family, among other issues, contrasts with the image he tries to create of himself as a progressive liberator.

The figures in Mexican politics who are close to López, like Dr. John Ackerman, every now and then wink in admiration at the Venezuelan government, as was reported at the end of March 2017 by journalist Pablo Hiriart, who is of Chilean origin:

El asesor de AMLO, que lo acompañó en Washington a denostar a las Fuerzas Armadas de México, ahora nos ofrece al gobierno de Venezuela como un modelo. Dice Ackerman que “Venezuela es mucho más democrático y respetuoso de los derechos humanos que México”. Para el asesor de López “en Venezuela los medios privados de comunicación electrónica se lanzan día y noche, y de la manera más frontal y directa, en contra de su gobierno, mientras en México estamos sujetos a un régimen de control mediático sin parangón”.

AMLO's adviser, who accompanied him to Washington to denounce the Mexican Armed Forces, now offers us the Venezuelan government as a model to follow. Ackerman said, “Venezuela is much more democratic and respectful of human rights than Mexico.” According to López's adviser, “In Venezuela the private mediums of electronic communication pounce on their own government day and night, and in a more direct, head-on way, whilst in Mexico, we are subjected to an unparalleled regime of media control”.

Ex-presidential candidate and lawyer Diego Fernández de Cevallos described the aspiring leader of the country this way:

Es un viejo político, criado y educado en la más pedestre tradición oficialista; sin ideas, con mucha ambición y mantenido con dineros públicos y otros desconocidos, va por un atajo sinuoso pero eficaz: se deslindó de su pasado, dice luchar por los pobres (entre más haya mejor para él), hace alarde de pobreza material envuelto en “honestidad valiente” (como si hubiera honestidad cobarde), transfigurado en cómico involuntario con su dedito distingue a los puros de los impuros (…)

He is an old-fashioned politician, raised and educated in the most pedestrian tradition; without ideas, but with a lot of ambition and maintained with public money and by strangers, he takes a meandering but effective shortcut: he breaks with his past, claims to fight for the poor (the more there are, the better for him), flaunts material poverty wrapped in “brave honesty” (as if there were cowardly honestly), transfigured into an involuntary comedian with his little finger distinguishing the pure from the impure […]

And in relation to the perceptions of corruption that accompany López, Fernández de Cevallos said:

Es limpio e incorruptible, jamás toca dinero bien o mal habido, carece de todo pero explota el malestar social y se hace acompañar por un número indeterminado de pillos que escondidas recogen dinero ilegal “para la causa”. Cuando son sorprendidos (en flagrancia), él responde que lo esculquen, que es pobre y ama a los pobres, que “no miente, no roba y no engaña”, que son trampas de “la mafia del poder”.

He's clean and incorruptible, he never touches good or bad money, he lacks everything but exploits social unrest and makes sure he is accompanied by an undetermined number of scoundrels that secretly collect illegal money “for the cause.” When they are caught (red-headed), he responds by saying that they are being ripped-off, that he is poor and loves the poor, that “he does not lie, steal or cheat,” and that the real cheaters are the “mafia of power.”

For precisely this type of conduct many Mexicans have taken to Twitter to warn of the similarities they see between Maduro and López:

@MLopezSanMartin@AtiendenosGDF It's the same as Nicolás Maduro always placing the blame on the Empire, but they are never responsible for this or that. AMLO is dangerous.

@Mzavalagc It's no wonder people continue to believe in AMLO, if in Venezuela there are still those that continue believe in Nicolás Maduro, there are naive people everywhere

Silence means consent?

In mid-2017, Mexico will hold local-level elections in which the country's political parties will battle ferociously in order to strongly position themselves for the upcoming presidential elections of 2018. And during election season, public declarations — and the lack thereof — from political figures take on more significance.

Thus, the fact that López has not commented on the repression unleashed against protesters in Venezuela has been interpreted by some as a validation of those tactics:

Tweet: Both AMLO and DELFINA have kept complicit silence on the atrocities committed by MADURO in Venezuela against…

Article excerpt: The Venezuelan hell that they want for Mexico: Why hasn't the Mexican left condemned the cruelty of Maduro's government against the people? That was the question circulating on social media yesterday.

Not all Mexicans believed the comparison was valid, and many Mexicans stood fast in their support for López:

@julioastillero I support AMLO and I don't hate him, my friend.. I admire his work and his bravery from his trench!!

@AR2ROTOTO I support @lopezobrador_ because I know that with him, we will have a better country, with opportunities for all. Not because I'm looking for work!

In Human Rights Watch's World Report for 2017, Executive Director Kenneth Roth observed that there is a “dangerous advance of populism” happening around the globe. Given that it is a worldwide phenomenon, it's not strange that some countries in Latin America might be following this trend.

In July 2018, we will find out whether Mexico will join this frenzy of leaders, who according to Roth “privilege the declared interests of the majority, encouraging people to adopt the dangerous belief that they will never themselves need to assert rights against an overreaching government claiming to act in their name.”

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