Greetings from the desk of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador – or AMLO – became the president of Mexico on 1 December. The leader of the Morena (National Regeneration Movement) party, López Obrador comes to the presidency from the left. His inaugural address laid out clearly the two reasons why half of the Mexican population lives in poverty: the neo-liberal model of economic and political governance as well as the ‘most filthy public and private corruption’. López Obrador said he would not prosecute the administration of his predecessor because ‘there would not be enough courts or jails’ for the guilty. Over the past four decades, López Obrador emphasised, Mexico has followed a disastrous policy framework – neoliberalism – which has been a calamity for the country’s public life. For a glimpse into the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research theory of neoliberalism, please read our first Working Document – In the Ruins of the Present.
One hundred and thirty million Mexicans looked towards López Obrador for some leadership. Since the Third World Debt crisis of the early 1980s, states such as Mexico have been forced by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and global financial markets to cannibalise their wealth. Mexico’s resources were gifted to gigantic international firms and to its own financial oligarchy (led by Carlos Slim Helú, one of the world’s richest men, whose wealth comes from the pillage of public resources, such as when the State delivered Telmex – Mexico’s communications monopoly – into his hands in 1990). It is worth recalling the years from the debt crisis to the fire-sale of Mexico’s public assets, which the World Bank called a ‘model’. The government sold more than eighty per cent of its 1,155 firms.
At that time, Alvaro Cepeda Neri wrote in La Jornada, ‘The booty of privatisation has made multi-millionaires of thirteen families, while the rest of the population – some eighty million Mexicans – has been subjected to the same gradual impoverishment as though they have suffered through a war’. Plunder defines Mexico’s history, from the seizure by the United States of half of Mexico’s land in 1848 (including gold-rich California) and the deflation of Mexico’s potential by NAFTA from 1994. It is too much to ask of López Obrador’s government to solve all of Mexico’s problems in one term. The new government cannot change everything. But it can start to shift the direction of state policy.
Left-wing governments in the hemisphere, under immense pressure from the United States, gathered around López Obrador for his inauguration. There was Bolivia’s Evo Morales and Cuba’s Miguel Díaz Canel. Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro came despite immense pressure from Mexico’s right-wing and liberals to rescind his invitation. Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega did not come. The pressure from the United States is not trivial. US President Donald Trump’s administration has coined a phrase – troika of tyranny – to refer to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
The United States is eager to pursue regime change in one or all of these states (as I note in my report in Frontline). Hybrid warfare is in the cards, which includes encouragement of civil rebellion and the use of social media to promote falsehoods of all kinds (for a crisp sense of the looming threats, please read John Pilger’s interview with our Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research fellows Jipson John and Jitheesh PM and please read Andrew Korybko’s Hybrid Wars, freely downloadable here). Maduro received the cold shoulder both from the right and liberals, but he was welcomed by Mexico’s trade unions. The battle lines are thickly drawn.
The image above is made by Elena Huerta Muzquiz (1908-1997), one of Mexico’s great Communist artists.