The Tensions

Luis Rubio

As related by Herodotus, Xerxes, the Persian king of kings, conceived of the invasion of Greece as a ruler who believed he could do whatever he wanted simply because he was, well, the king. He turned a deaf ear to his counselors who warned him of the approaching dangers and dismissed whoever was opposed to his plans. Sure of his vision, he proceeded full steam ahead, only to be defeated not by a superior force, but by the simple reality.

President López Obrador is certain of his project, but he is beginning to encounter contradictions in his own vision as well as in those emanating from the complex, conflicting and incensed coalition that he mustered to win the presidency.

The contradictions can be appreciated in the manner in which the famous morning reveille calls have evolved and in the way these have not changed much. The decisions emerging from the government or, better expressed, from some part of the government, clash with the votes arising from the legislature and the altercations among factions within the Morena Party, are frequently much deeper and more pronounced than those typifying other segments of the society. In this assortment resides the explanation of what advances and what backtracks in the daily reality.

In his morning wake-up talks, the President has attempted to eliminate certain qualifiers -such as the terms conservatives and sissies (fifi)- from his daily rhetoric, at least in what concerns businesspersons. On the other hand, his government offered an apology to members of the guerrilla forces that buffeted the country in the seventies, oblivious to those who were abducted and assassinated by these same guerrillas; on the same day, the President attacked the promoters of injunctions against the Santa Lucía airport, treating them like traitors to the nation, despite that their only crime has been to employ absolutely legitimate, legal instruments to dispute an administrative decision. When changes in language or disqualifiers are limited to one group in the society and not to others, one cannot but suppose that the new trend is merely tactical.

The tensions and contradictions came into being with the government itself: prior to the elections, López Obrador made a motion to re-think his opposition to the new airport in Texcoco, only to cancel it outright at the first opportunity. The national development plan illustrated, better than anything else, the absurdities of an administration that could not even agree on the content of a document that, with respect to any practical outcome, is mere rhetoric. But, beyond the discourse, the decisions emanating from Congress speak harshly and portray a panorama that transcends what’s published: what the Executive branch and the Congress are in the course of constructing is the scaffolding of a system of authoritarian control about  which not even the most reviled presidents of the old system could have dreamed.

How then to attempt, given this context, to attract the private investment that the President himself has declared on multiple occasions to be key to the achievement of his project? In recent months, AMLO has gone out of his way to get closer to the most emblematic businesspeople of the country: he invited them to the Presidential Informe (the yearly presidential address to the nation), he has attended dinners or suppers at their homes and has made a show of being able to get them up before dawn to be present at his early-bird addresses. Many have interpreted this as pragmatism, but it is also possible that it is about the same message that he wanted to convey the day –and in the manner of- on which he announced the end of the Texcoco airport: with the book written by former Spanish President Felipe González entitled Who Is in Command Here? Is this pragmatism or the consummate exercise of power?

The tensions within the Morena contingent are not small nor are they irrelevant. There is some of everything in there, in the ideological as well as in the political sense: PRDists and PRists, PANists and entrepreneurs, guerrillas, activists, land invaders and unionists, people experienced in the art of governing and others devoted to change via the revolutionary route. Perhaps the keenest breaking point lies in the line that separates those who, due to their previous experience, understand that there are limits to what it is possible to do and those who wish to proceed with their agendas at any price.

Above all, one of the common denominators is a deep resentment about everything: with the past, with the business community, with the Americans, with the freedoms that characterize the country at present, with the institutions, with those who think differently (also applicable to inside Morena), with the corruption of others, with anything hinting of independence or autonomy, with freedom of the press and any type of opposition, whether partisan, judicial or activist. The thread that joins this all is profoundly authoritarian and vengeful.

Some weeks ago several recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize were in Mexico. Two of these stand out in the way that they are in contrast with the government of AMLO:  Frederik de Klerk was the President of South Africa who dismantled the Apartheid regime that had spawned him because he understood that the world had changed. The same is true for Juan Manuel Santos, the former president of Colombia, who made peace with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (the FARC). Both went on to liberalize, conciliate and promote a general reconciliation in order to build a better future. The opposite of vengeance, authoritarianism and resentment. Much to learn from them.