On Their Way

Luis Rubio

In his novel on Argentina entitled Zama, Antonio Di Benedetto speaks of the “victims of expectation,” which Michael Reid, the Latin-American expert, interprets as the victims of waiting, a metaphor on the permanent expectancy of achieving the progress and prosperity that in Mexico would seem to be an interminable struggle to reach  the summit, only to find that, as in the famous parable of Camus, each time the goal comes closer, everything implodes and one has to start over. Mexican governments begin with hope and end in uncertainty; but that of López Obrador is exceptional due to his headlong boldness to keep pushing ahead with all the attendant fanfare to the end, only to find himself in straits where not everything is icing on the cake and where he can equally win or lose. It is there that one finds Mexico at the beginning of the last phase of this electoral contest.

A year ago, everything seemed to be rosy for the President and for whomever would be his candidate for the presidency.  Today things might appear to be similar (some surveys indicate this), but there are two factors that evidence the existence of a much more competitive environment. The first of these factors is that not all the measurements coincide. The dispersion that the surveys depict suggests at least two possibilities: on the one hand, the intention to manipulate public opinion, and, on the other, problems with measurement. The latter are accentuated when one observes the competition in the social networks, these presenting nearly the opposite situation from that shown by surveys enjoying a solid reputation. I am not saying that some are good and others bad, only that there are indicators warning of greater competition than is apparent.

The other factor that suggests greater competitivity in the contest that is underway is the President’s activism. Above all, his preoccupation is notorious; his morning press conferences are no longer epic exercises of convincing narrative, with no limit nor scruple, for their turning into flagrant proselytist activism. The change could seem insignificant, but it chiefly reveals a state of mind, and, principally, contempt for the canons established by the President himself at the beginning of his mandate. There is no better example of this than the risks that, in financial matters, he decided to take at the very end of his term-of-office, the most vulnerable moment for any president, precisely the period during which most of his predecessors were devoting themselves to close chapters, avoiding unnecessary conflicts, resolving those possible and trusting that things would turn out well.

Presidential proselytizing insinuates what the Greeks called hubris: the sensation that everything is possible, that there is no limit to what the individual wielding the power can achieve by only proposing it to themselves. For five years, the President was extremely conservative with respect to the fiscal accounts because he worried about being accused of causing a devaluation; given that the peso appears to be disconnected from the internal politico-economic happening, the government opted for putting all its eggs in one basket with an extraordinary growth in expenditures (thus, of indebtedness) during the last year of his presidential term. The same can be said for his twenty initiatives of constitutional reform, which are nothing other than an attempt to underpin, in the foundational legal document, everything that he in fact did without legal support throughout the entire administration, as if he were the sole relevant Mexican, deserving of immense power to alter the internal, always fragile order. For a president who likes to talk about history, his reading of what happened towards the end of administrations of the last decades is poor. The wagers that he has assumed (needless to say, in the name of the whole society) may turn out well or badly for him, but accounts always get settled. The only thing left to elucidate is who will have to pay for them: he or his successor, whomever she may be.

Beyond what the President does, the moment of succession unleashes all kinds of forces, interests and circumstances that, at the twilight of the sexennium, no one can control. The appearance of accusations concerning the financing of previous campaigns, evidence of corruption in the family nucleus, conflicts inside the Morena party and incongruencies in which the presidential candidate must incur to avoid unleashing the presidential ire are all examples of the type of imponderables that start to make noise and that, easily enough, could become a roaring river.

Long before the current electoral contest began taking shape, the governmental narrative argued that everything was already resolved, that the only matter left to clear up in terms of the succession was the naming of who would head up the Morena candidacy. The appearance of Xóchitl Gálvez on the scene, in no small way the product of the President’s arrogance, changed the political reality, while not the morning narrative. The attempt to discredit the opposition candidate, recurring as it has to confidential information and to manipulating it shamelessly as is usual in this government, exerted the immediate consequence of confusion, but the effect over time has been the opposite: today there are clearly two strong and vibrant candidates.

On his arrival at the presidency, López Obrador counted on wide popular support and the expectation that he would be a President for all Mexicans. Today is clear that he only works for himself. Another betting President: the last one, back in 1982, bankrupted the country.