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  February 26, 2017

Will Social Democracy Prevail in Mexico's 2018 Election?

Andres Manuel Lopez Abradore and the Morena party could revive left-wing politics in Latin America, says National Autonomous University of Mexico's John Ackerman
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John M. Ackerman is a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Editor-in-Chief of the Mexican Law Review and a columnist with both La Jornada newspaper and Proceso magazine. Blog: Twitter: @JohnMAckerman


SHARMINI PERIES: It's The Real News Network. I'm Sharmini Peries, coming to you from Baltimore.

Mexico's popular opposition politician, the leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is currently on a speaking tour in the U.S., drumming up support for a third run for Mexico's presidency next year. On Wednesday he was in Chicago. He began his tour in Los Angeles, nearly two weeks ago, where he blasted President Trump's policies towards Mexico. Here's what he had to say in Los Angeles.

ANDRÉS M.L. OBRADOR: (Spanish) ...My countrymen and women, I must confess, that I am optimistic. I think the wall, and the demagoguery of patriotism, are no match for the dignity and humanity of the American people. I'm sure that strong arguments, and the strength of public opinion, will make those who are like Donald Trump, and like to use threats and force, will see sense... (Spanish)

SHARMINI PERIES: Joining us now to talk about López Obrador, is John Ackerman. Professor Ackerman teaches at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. He's also Editor in Chief of The Mexican Law Review, and a columnist with La Jornada newspaper, and Proceso Magazine. John, thank you so much for joining us.

JOHN ACKERMAN: Thank you, Sharmini, a great pleasure as always.

SHARMINI PERIES: So, John, let's start with Andrés Manuel López Obrador's background. Where does he come from? What has he been doing, and in terms of, you know, his history, in terms of his lineage to power and where he is today?

JOHN ACKERMAN: That's a good question; López Obrador has been in politics for a long time. He has been a very unique politician, in so far as he has always been very close to social movements, and has been in crucial moments in Mexico's history. Willing to really take to the streets, to protest against important economic, or political frauds, against the Mexican people.

This has been his perhaps most important element, as well as, his incredible honesty, and lack of corruption. And the Mexican political system today is mired in scandal after scandal. And this has engulfed just about all of the establishment parties -- the PRI, the old guard party of the revolutions, supposedly, which has bought into Neoliberalism a long time ago. The PAN, or the Party of National Action, which is the right-wing Christian Democratic Party, and the PRD, the erstwhile left-wing party which is now, you know, bureaucratized and corrupted... you know, similar to the French Socialist Party, or to the American Democratic Party.

López Obrador broke with that bureaucratized corrupt left a few years ago. Created his new party, the Morena Party, which is a movement in its name. It's called the, Movimiento Regeneración Nacional, which is precisely... its objective is to break with this incredible chasm between the political class, and society, and try to win the presidential election of 2018. And so, that's where we're at today.

López Obrador won the elections, I would say, and many generally accepted it in 2006, it was stolen from him, by Felipe Calderón. In 2012, he increased his voting from 15 million in 2006, to 16½ million in 2012. He very likely won 2012 as well, but there was also vote-rigging and corruption, particularly of the media, and enormous amounts of vote-buying in 2012, with Peña Nieto. But even then, the official results were 38, to 32% López Obrador. And now, this is his third chance.

And many are comparing him to, you know, Allende(?), or to Lula da Silva, who through persistence finally breaks through. And 2018 might be his chance, he's way ahead in all the polls, 10% ahead of the closest contender, in just about all the polls. And his closest contender is, Marguerite de Zavala, the wife of Felipe Calderon, who is very unlikely to be able to actually ride this bubble of media attention she's getting now, all the way to 2018.

So, things are looking good that we might finally have an opportunity in Mexico to experiment with the left. Mexico is the country, in addition to Columbia, which has not joined the pink wave, which engulfed all of Latin America; Mexico has remained Neoliberal, consistently for the last 30, 40 years. Well, for longer than that, but during this period of the pink wave. And ironically, just as that pink wave is flooding back to the right in South America, this might be the chance for Mexico to be the, you know, the key site for reviving left-wing politics in Latin America, or at least that's the hope.

SHARMINI PERIES: Now, speaking of the left-wing, López Obrador left the failing party of the Democratic Revolution, or what they call PRD in 2012, and he joined this leftist party, National Regeneration Movement, or Morena as you call it.

Now, give us a sense of what the relationship is between López Obrador and his candidacy for president, and the social movements that you were mentioning earlier.

JOHN ACKERMAN: Morena has been trying to correct for the past failures the PRD; one of its great failures was this separation from social movements. It never achieved that ideal, utopia movement party. Morena is trying to achieve this. It has done so very effectively, for instance, with the teachers' movement throughout the country. The teaching movement, there was dissident teachers, have been getting very close to Morena. Some of the best grassroots leaders of Morena are, you know, elementary school teachers participating in the movement.

They had, for instance, Morena a great showing in the governor elections in, this was just last year, 2016, and in Oaxaca. Also in Vera Cruz, very much due to the participating of these dissident teachers unions and movements. In those two states there's also a significant percentage of indigenous population, which has allied itself with Morena. In Guerrero as well, which is another state very full of movements.

There were problems in 2015, because of Verio Chinapa(?) disappearances. The parents of the students refused to ally with the Morena party, but that's changing now. There's a lot more of an opening for possibility of a real movement party in Guerrero. In the north, it's a little bit more difficult, because in the northern part of Mexico, the politics is much more shifted towards the right, more sort of U.S. American-style. While the southern part of Mexico is more, you know, Latin American-style.

And there López Obrador has been having a rapprochement, closer relationships with some of the fractions of the elites, of the businessmen themselves, trying to calm them down about what he's really trying to do, in terms of economic policy. This is in some way similar to Lula's last, I guess it was his third run as well, when he finally won, in which Lula, sort of had this reconciliation with a certain sector, more national based, corporations and private sector -- López Obrador is doing that as well.

And so, he's trying to balance the different sectors of society, and we'll see if it works. That's the big question from now towards the election in 2018.

SHARMINI PERIES: And I remember many, many years ago when I was working with President Chavez, López Obrador was one of those who actually supported President Chavez and his visits to Mexico, to make sure that they went well, and he was properly treated by the Mexican national government, and so on.

I wanted to know where he is politically, in terms of left politics, and his socialist ideals. And will this resonate with the people of Mexico?

JOHN ACKERMAN: This is a big question. You know they’ve tried to use the Chavez ghost, all these false ideas of what Chavez is about, to disqualify López Obrador in Mexico. Recently for instance, Larry Summers, ex-president of Harvard, insinuating that we're going to have a Chavez in Mexico. Now, of course, that these images of Chavez are absolutely incorrect. But López Obrador is very careful, exceedingly careful about his positions; he is ideologically closer to Lula, than to Chavez. He's more of a Social Democratic left. He's probably similar, I would say to, Bernie Sanders.

That would be his sort of, equivalent in the region, in terms of his politics, his ideology. He himself has been very... he sees... he understands himself as being on the left, but he says that... he emphasizes beyond ideology, he says the most important thing is to be honest, and not corrupt, and to be, you know, worried about poverty and redistribution.

And so, he's not an ideological radical, but Mexican population and Mexican movements, are quite radical, and they are pushing him, and they will be pushing him to actually make a difference, if he were to arrive in the Presidency.

And actually, to tell you the truth, given the situation we have in Mexico today, with so much corruption, so much inequality, so much concentration of wealth, and such a collapse of institutionality of any kind of national sovereignty, it wouldn't be hard to actually make a revolution in Mexico. It wouldn't need a profound socialist ideology, at least at the first step.

And that's what, at least López Obrador is saying. He's saying he does want, you know, radical change, but based on, you know, combating corruption and ending poverty.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right. I thank you so much for joining us today, Professor Ackerman. I look forward to your ongoing analysis of his candidacy moving forward. And I understand he's going to be coming to the United States often. So, hopefully we can have a chance to speak with you then, as well as possibly, presidential candidate López Obrador. Thank you.

JOHN ACKERMAN: Yes. López Obradore, he'll be in, I think it's March 5th and 6th, he's going to be in El Paso, and Phoenix. And then he'll be in New York on March 13th and 14th, and in Washington D.C. on March 15th. So, watch out for that.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, thank you so much.


SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.




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