Return of the Divider: López Obrador Kicks Off Again

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Here is a link to my latest article on AQBlog, titled “Return of the Divider: López Obrador Kicks Off Again”

http://americasquarterly.org/node/2403 , published on April 20th, 2011. Please feel free to visit and comment.

Here’s a copy of it:

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Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) refused to accept defeat in the 2006 Mexican presidential race, causing chaos, dividing our citizenry with messages of hate and tolerating violence from his supporters. But it seems Mexico is ready to give him another try at the top seat of government.

When he ran in 2006, López Obrador was able to rally together practically all leftist factions and political parties. However, the election aftermath and López Obrador’s shift toward extremism caused many of his supporters to abandon him and to look for a more rational social discourse.  López Obrador’s current inability to maintain consensus even within his own political party is one of the main reasons why today the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) is a weakened organization and keeps juggling with on-and-off alliances with its offspring (Partido del Trabajo, Convergencia, Partido Social Demócrata, and other small political parties).

Since the PRD would not institutionally carry him, López Obrador recently created a new platform, called the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (National Regeneration Movement), or Morena for short, which coincidentally translates to “dark-skinned woman” and is a reference to the Virgen de Guadalupe (Virgen Morena). Through Morena, López Obrador is once again appealing to the disheartened lower classes and sowing seeds of division with over-simplified, anti-business messages.

Though it is certainly true that in Mexico a huge gap between rich and poor continues to exist, it is a distortion of reality to wholly blame the private sector. For one, the government is not broke, nor does it lack the resources to spearhead development initiatives. For another, it significantly taxes the private sector. Money is there, but political will is absent.

Here’s the truth: In select industries, the Mexican private sector is taxed at a rate of up to 50 percent of its income. Yet business groups are arguably the largest promoters of development today, not just through creation of formal employment but through partnerships in large infrastructure projects, as well as promoting education and establishing corporate social responsibility programs (often more efficiently managed than most municipal budgets). Private enterprise is also one of the few captive taxpayers in a country where the informal sector amounts to approximately 25 percent of our economically active population and many government officials get automatic tax exemptions.

So what is Morena telling Mexico? Through its website, the party is accusing 16 Mexican businessmen of being personally responsible for what it calls “the national tragedy.” Among the named culprits are Ricardo Salinas Pliego from Grupo Salinas, Dionisio Garza Medina from Grupo Alfa, Emilio Azcárraga Jean from Televisa, Grupo BIMBO CEO Lorenzo Servitje, FEMSA President José Antonio Fernández Carbajal, Cemex CEO Lorenzo Zambrano, and Carlos Slim Helú, who heads Grupo Carso. 

Andrés Manuel López Obrador purports to offer “proof of responsibility” for this supposed tragedy by listing the approximate monetary values of the companies led by these men. Let me say that again: AMLO’s proof of these men’s participation in what he calls the national tragedy is the fact that they are able to run companies successfully and collectively provide employment to more than half a million people directly. Of course, López Obrador fails to mention the companies’ contributions to the economy and urban development, the benefits they provide their workers and their efforts to positively engage communities.

Morena’s hymn sings, “The Right must not alter the results of the elections. In order to avoid their frauds all we need is to organize against them.” It goes on to say “National Regeneration Movement: peaceful until the end.” But in Morena’s homepage we see an endorsement of the Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas, an electrical workers’ union that has perpetuated violent conflict in Mexico City, including recently setting cars on fire, sabotaging the city’s electrical infrastructure and beating up Comisión Federal de Electricidad employees who took their jobs after Luz y Fuerza del Centro was dissolved.

At a time when what we need most is unity behind a constructive nation-state project, the return of the divider is a hard blow for our future and an irony of our political present.

*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AQ Online. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.

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