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Leftist candidate worries Mexican elite

 
 
Reply Sun 2 Apr, 2006 12:29 pm
Presidential contender worries Mexican elite
With three months left before election, some wonder about former Mexico City mayor's attitude toward business
By Jay Root
KNIGHT RIDDER NEWSPAPERS
MEXICO CITY - Some diplomats and businessmen are spooked by the possibility that former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will become Mexico's next president.

But with three months to go before the election, most admit that they have little hard information on how an administration led by the tough-talking leftist would affect Mexico's attitude toward business and foreign investment.

In a country where the average wage is less than $2 an hour and millions have moved to the United States in search of better jobs, Lopez Obrador's populist message has been a winner. The 52-year-old widower has led opinion polls for more than two years. A Mitofsky poll conducted this week for the Televisa news network showed him leading with 37.5 percent, compared with 30.6 percent for Calderon and 28.8 percent for Roberto Madrazo of the once-dominant Institutional Revolution Party (PRI).

His harshest critics have likened Lopez Obrador to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president who likes to call President Bush a "donkey" and "Mr. Danger."

Lopez Obrador aides laugh off the comparison and say the only people who should worry are corrupt politicians and their special-interest backers.

"Since they can't stop him, they are waging a campaign of fear. That is their great weapon," said top campaign adviser Manual Camacho Solis. "It's coming from the group in Mexico that doesn't want to lose its privileges. Many of them are linked to corruption and want to keep their protection."

The campaign is going out of its way to reassure jittery foreign investors and stress the importance of maintaining good relations with the United States, Mexico's largest trading partner and host to millions of Mexican immigrants.

"Every week we are meeting with U.S. investors precisely because we do not want to generate nervousness, and so far the Mexican stock market has not changed greatly," Camacho said. "We are going to be very prudent to transmit a message of calm."

Still, the candidate's penchant for secrecy and passionate rhetoric -- he recently told President Vicente Fox to "shut up, screeching bird" -- worries many.

"He is trying to divide and polarize people instead of bringing them together," said Enrique Coppel, who heads one of Mexico's largest retail chains and supports conservative Felipe Calderon, the presidential candidate for Fox's National Action Party (PAN). "Whoever is not with them, they attack. They don't respect the liberties of others. There is fear that with Lopez Obrador, we'll take a step backwards."

The official U.S. position is that the administration will work well with whomever Mexican voters pick on July 2.

Lopez Obrador promises to return Mexico to a strict nonintervention stance -- a slap at Fox's alliance with the United States over human rights in Cuba -- and says he wants to pull out of a free-trade provision that would let American corn and beans flow into Mexico duty-free by 2008.

But what kind of leftist Lopez Obrador would be as president is the unanswered question. Many here recall that business leaders wrung their hands over the election of Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former union leader, only to see Lula adopt a model that was friendly to business.

Lopez Obrador has released few details about his proposals, and he grants few media interviews -- his campaign said that at least 120 requests are pending. Only a single term as Mexico City mayor provides any insight into his governing style.

"He is extremely secretive and has a small cadre of people around him," said George Grayson, a Mexico expert at the College of William & Mary in Virginia and the author of an upcoming book on Lopez Obrador called "Mexican Messiah." "It's what you make of his record."

As the "jefe" of Mexico City's sprawling government, Lopez Obrador developed a reputation as a sometimes autocratic leader with a tendency to ignore bureaucratic procedures, Grayson said.

But his programs have been very popular with many people. He distributed cash stipends to poor single mothers and the elderly, built roads and playgrounds and whacked down bureaucratic perks.

Before huge crowds all around the country, Lopez Obrador calls government leaders corrupt "pillagers" to great applause. He says he'll chop the salaries of top bureaucrats, including his own, and use the money for his other proposals: more social welfare programs, lower prices for gasoline and electricity, and promote government subsidies for job creation.

He even promises to find cheaper digs than Los Pinos, the presidential residence, which he wants to convert into a museum.

It's all in keeping with his carefully crafted image as can-do outsider. He flies commercial to campaign events, and as Mexico City mayor, he delighted voters by riding around in his white Nissan Tsuru, one of the cheapest cars in Mexico. He's proud to wear the "Made in Mexico" label.

"Our opponents say he shouldn't be president because he didn't study in an Ivy League school and because he doesn't use the language of globalization," Lopez Obrador adviser Camacho said. "The (previous presidents) spoke good English and went to good universities, but their programs weren't positive; they didn't generate growth or reduce poverty."
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el pohl
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 03:58 pm
Well... I'm worried, yet he will have my vote. Thats how crazy the situation is...
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 04:10 pm
el_pohl, what most worries you about him?
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edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 04:40 pm
Mexican politics are in a great state of fermentation. One no longer knows what will happen from election to election.
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 04:53 pm
edgar, so is this whole hemisphere it seems. People want a fair shake.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 05:35 pm
I can see that. In ten years, the Latin American scene may be totally transformed.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 06:14 pm
Dont sound too bad to me...

It is interesting, these events in Latin-America ... if he wins, will he be of the Bachelet and Lula type or the Chavez, Morales and soon perhaps Humala type? I'm hoping for a synthesis ... Isnt Kirchner kindof a synthesis type between the two starkly contrasting brands of leftism? Its a long list, innit? <smiles>
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ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 06:28 pm
<listening>
0 Replies
 
el pohl
 
  1  
Reply Mon 10 Apr, 2006 11:46 pm
I dont know what will happen in Peru, but... if this "leftist" current continues north and conquers Mexico, probably... probably the Bolivarian dream will be one step closer towards completition.

What worries me about him? Well, his image first of all, his radical ideas, the extreme populism. Its quite a gamble. But then again... I'm definitely not voting for Madrazo *shudder*, nor Calderón (too Clerical - Conservative for my tastes).

Somehow, citizens of our capital seem to have liked AMLO's work.

Anyways... is there a "left side" in american politics?
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Apr, 2006 04:35 am
doesnt look like it... just a center and a right ...
0 Replies
 
blueflame1
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Apr, 2006 10:11 am
"Anyways... is there a "left side" in american politics?" Barely.
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Apr, 2006 10:20 am
nimh wrote:
Dont sound too bad to me...

It is interesting, these events in Latin-America ... if he wins, will he be of the Bachelet and Lula type or the Chavez, Morales and soon perhaps Humala type? I'm hoping for a synthesis ... Isnt Kirchner kindof a synthesis type between the two starkly contrasting brands of leftism? Its a long list, innit? <smiles>

Oh, and I forgot Uruguay...
0 Replies
 
el pohl
 
  1  
Reply Tue 11 Apr, 2006 10:59 am
... I wonder why ...
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fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Apr, 2006 04:59 pm
I am not voting for López Obrador.

He's an authoritarian populist, IMO.

Why authoritarian?
He denounces everyone who opposes him as part of a huge complot by the oligarchy and the rich (would have loved the title of this thread).
As Major of Mexico City he even refused to publish laws the local congress had passed.
He has put barriers to transparency.
He gets angry when critisized. Recently, he got angry that a popular TV show, that critisizes everyone, was not "even-handed" on his opinion. And said he would be watching.
He has organized Rapid Response Brigades to quiet dissenting voices in the media. The same stuff that works wonders in Cuban totalitarian regime and Venezuelas authoritarian one.

I gotta go and will touch the populist part later.

---

But I won't vote for Madrazo and the PRI.
Won't vote for Calderón and the PAN.

Will have to settle, most probably, for the Socialdemocratic candidate, a woman who represents the modern left wing, not the mockery.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Apr, 2006 05:06 pm
fbaezer wrote:
I am not voting for López Obrador.

He's an authoritarian populist, IMO.

Why authoritarian?
He denounces everyone who opposes him as part of a huge complot by the oligarchy and the rich (would have loved the title of this thread).
As Major of Mexico City he even refused to publish laws the local congress had passed.
He has put barriers to transparency.
He gets angry when critisized. Recently, he got angry that a popular TV show, that critisizes everyone, was not "even-handed" on his opinion. And said he would be watching.
He has organized Rapid Response Brigades to quiet dissenting voices in the media. The same stuff that works wonders in Cuban totalitarian regime and Venezuelas authoritarian one.

I gotta go and will touch the populist part later.

---

But I won't vote for Madrazo and the PRI.
Won't vote for Calderón and the PAN.

Will have to settle, most probably, for the Socialdemocratic candidate, a woman who represents the modern left wing, not the mockery.



Again very interesting.


What is this "rapid response" thing? Are we looking at the sort of thing that the right does in the USA and here, of constantly bemoaning and denouncing "left wing bias", and getting into very ugly personal attacks on dissenting journalists and media, or is it more sinister...eg physical violence?


What barriers to transparency?



Your populist crtitique would be re rhetoric, or likely action?
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 26 Apr, 2006 06:29 pm
Responding to dlowan's queeries: insofar is much like the US right wing style. But there was an ugly meeting in front of a newspaper they "shut down" symbolically.

On populism:
Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO, for short) presents himself as a champion of the poor. This is rethoric.
His main assett while major of Mexico City was the bonus his government gave to citizens over 70. ABout 70 dollars monthly, in a nation known for its meager or nonexistant pensions. It made them feel they were not a burden anymore, and families were happy about it.
On his tenure the second floor of (part of) the Periferico, Mexico City's main speedway was constructed. In a city where only 25% of the people own a car. Not a single extra mile of subway was constructed, and the whole public transport system is totally run down (hey, but AMLO has kept it cheap!).
The main street (Paseo de la Reforma) and parts of downtown are in better shape... but the average neighborhood is more run down than usual.
Not a cent was spent on the water system.
A big net of protection for street peddlers and "illegal" taxi drivers (all in pro-AMLO organizations) was strenghtened, in an alliance with former clienteliste and intollerant major Manuel Camacho (a priista of the Salinas era, who grew dissafected with the party when he was not chosen candidate in 1994). A total disrespect of the law is OK if you're pro-AMLO.

Institutions don't count. When the Supreme Court favors AMLO, then justice has been served. When the same Supreme Court favors the other part, they are a bunch of corrupt judges.

Most noticeably, his program is not for transformation of the income distribution system (a country in which people pay not enough taxes). It is not about wages and deep social expenditure. It's all about giveaways: his main offer is the nationwide bonus for older people and to cut the prices of oil, electricity and gas.
0 Replies
 
el pohl
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Apr, 2006 12:31 am
Ah! I long waited for someone in the capital that would express their opinion on Obrador. What you say, is totally true.

Still, confusion strikes me. I believe that voting for someone that is not a member of the 3 main parties would be unrelevant . I recognize, at the same time, that this belief is generalized, and in a society that would think otherwise, probably Mrs. Mercado could get a decent shot at the presidential chair.

Following that line, I'm left with 3 "serious" options. Removing the one that I strongly dislike for a zillion reasons, theres Calderón and AMLO. I hate Calderons disqualification campaign and his horrendous commercial spots. Even more when he attacked Elena Poniatowska. I am also dubious of his moral and everything the PAN represents. Though, he was clearly the winner of the last debate.

On AMLO, well... I can't deny the fact that I feel sympathy for him. Though, yes, he is a populist in the whole sense of the word, and I'm afraid of what could happen if he wins. Which, by the way, seems more difficult each day. He needs to do something...

Is it true that he quadrupled the debt of Mexico City? According to some 3rd party studies, its clean. Yet Calderón seems to think otherwise...
0 Replies
 
Pantalones
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Apr, 2006 01:34 am
I'll bm.. and continue reading
0 Replies
 
el pohl
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Apr, 2006 11:28 am
You changed name!!!

Wow, I'm I seeing the collapse of the JoeFX regime? :O
0 Replies
 
fbaezer
 
  1  
Reply Thu 27 Apr, 2006 06:55 pm
On the "useful" vote:

It's a pity we don't have a two round system like in France (or Peru). There, on the first round, you vote for who you want for President. On the second round, you vote against who you don't want.

So in Mexico we have to settle for the "useful" vote stuff. I think the "useful" vote depends on how much are you against the candidate you don't want.
In 2000, I voted for Fox for the Presidency and for Rincón's Socialdemocrats for all the other races. I felt it was of utmost importance to get rid of the PRI.
The Socialdemocrats, who would have given Congress a shade of decency, fell short of the threshold by less than 0.5%.
This time I don't care who wins among the big ones. Each one is a peril his own way (well, Madrazo is worse, but is in third place and lagging behind). So my only hope is for a true modern left wing party (a party closer to Chile's Bachelet and Uruguay's Tabaré than to Venezuela's Chavez and Bolivia's Evo) to be able to grow in this country.
---

As for the debt of Mexico City, yes it has grown a lot under AMLO, and now a big chunk of the city's revenues is used in servicing it. But AMLO didn't start the financial fire: the big jump was in 1994-97, under Espinosa, from the PRI. López Obrador only poured gasoline at it.
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