Socio-Cultural

Andrés Manuel López Obrador [AMLO]

Andres Manuel considers himself the president of the people, as he repeatedly states. He once said that he only has one master: The People of Mexico, who he calls his “guardian angel.”  Such narrative has awakened social fragmentation as his speech divides “El pueblo” with the rest of the population (which he considers his enemies). AMLO has been the one triumphantly maneuvering the rising populism in the Latin American region which rose as a result of long lasting social inequalities. The backbone of AMLO’s politics is based on the Mexican class struggle and the ongoing fight between the poor people and the elite. Yet, this is a dangerous generalization. AMLO, committed to addressing the needs of those who have remained voiceless; the poor, marginalized and excluded segments of the population, has devoted himself to “El Pueblo.” However, encapsulating 120 million Mexicans in this binomial betrays the Mexican reality. 

Considering the synergies of the social inequalities, the hope of a new left in Mexico and AMLO-phenomenon, which brought AMLO to power. The fact that AMLO is now diminishing the social and civilian associations, denigrating the media and militarizing the country are extremely elemental aspects to comprehend AMLO’s contradicting agenda. 

“The People are my great lord. The People are the ones who truly rule, govern and transform”

AMLO

AMLO lives alongside his ideals and reaffirms them by carefully building a political image. Ideas are good, because they set a direction for policies and serve as the founding pillars of a politicas. However, ideas are challenging to materialize. Moreover, AMLO’s ideas are heterogeneous; he is conservative, nationalist, revolutionary and marxist. But really, is it possible to be everything and nothing at the same time? And even more important, how can you be one thing without betraying the other? In comparison to other leaders in the region, AMLO’s personal vendetta and Robin-Hood character has widely influenced the solidity of the Mexican population. To date, neither citizens nor analysts have been able to decipher whether AMLO is a statesman reforming the Mexican state or an improvising politician who cannot go from discourse to action.

All in all, AMLO has created a character in which his image is a mixture between a good hearted Robin Hood, a victimized politician of “The People,” and a man with a steady hand. Such character has picked up a fight with journalists, businessmen, international organizations, rating agencies, politicians, and now even with the social networks of Facebook and Twitter.

A Polarized Mexican Society

During his mandate; and since the beginning of his political career, AMLO has made clear his leftist and humanitarian agenda. Tangible policies that support this include several welfare programs for women, the elder and indigenous populations. 

AMLO has a straightforward political agenda as well as  a very clear social agenda that is heavily reliant on his ideology. While he emphasizes that his government is already creating the firm foundations for the construction of “a new Mexico;” which supposedly would be a “fairer society,” paradoxically he is excluding a significant segment of the population: those that do not belong to “the people.” 

His enemies are all those who do not belong to “the people” and have succumbed to the neoliberal order which he claims is the “opium of the Mexican Masses.” The concerning issue is that his struggle to lay the new foundations is destabilizing social cohesion and is awakening social fragmentation. His leftist, populist rhetoric is often loaded with anti-elitist sentiments, highly opposed to the system, and speaks for “the people.” AMLO’s speech divides the society since it separates the population into two opposite and antagonistic groups: the people and the elites. Moreover, he adds tension and heats the antagonism when he argues that his government will do the correct thing and that represents only the will of the people. Paradoxically, while his leftist political agenda has created inclusion and welfare programs for the poor and marginalized, in reality, the nation is more socially and politically divided than ever before as he has forgotten and punished millions of Mexican that are outside his so-called “people .” 

In Mexico, social mobility is difficult and perhaps almost impossible to achieve; which is why AMLO is motivated to govern for those who are the least favored. But, since AMLO took office, the country has not achieved the desirable results and consequently some middle-class families are suffering the ongoing-economic, social and political – crisis which will transform them into poor people, knowing extreme poverty. Likewise, those families that had a comfortable situation lead them to be of the middle class. The Coneval (National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy) estimates that in 2018 there were 61.1 million Mexicans living in poverty. Concerningly, in 2020 that number has increased to 70-71 million. The result: even lower social mobility and, of course, poorer in Mexico.

In his desire to “build fairer societies,” AMLO miscalculated the complexity of reforming a nation from zero. The ex-president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, once commented that AMLO assures promises that cannot be fulfilled as easily as he believes. Santiago Ramón Y Cajal once said “in politics every fool is dangerous as long as he does not demonstrate his harmlessness with facts.” In AMLO’s case, the facts are not on his side, and his idealistic narrative seems to deviate from the concerning subject of inequalities.

The economic collapse México is suffering has been accentuated with Covid-19. AMLO has refused to rescue companies and businesses (the neoliberals), and instead granted ( proudly!) scarce cash loans to particular groups of the population (eg: houseworkers) that are not representative of the Mexican population.

The UVM’s Public Opinion Center (COP) carried out a survey during 2019 and the findings state that the Mexican society is indeed highly divided ideologically, politically, and even economically. Among the results, the youngest are those who expressed the most distrust in the government. The majority of those surveyed believe that the political and social environment is one of uncertainty, there are feelings of apathy and, above all, that there is mistrust in the government. Additionally, polarization has taken shape and strength in social networks. The survey results also reflect that users of social networks perceive a greater environment of anger and confrontation, which suggests that social media, like Facebook, accentuates polarization in Mexico. This is relevant for AMLO because governing a divided country is a highly complex task. 

AMLO's Controversial Rhetoric

AMLO has been a man of controversial statements. Some of his comments have left several controversies in the public debate, some of which will take time to fade, While other countries rely on Twitter Policy, AMLO uses his daily morning conferences to inform the nation about the relevant matters. AMLO’s daily morning conferences are broadcasted in national television and in social media for 1 hour in which the president communicated his political agenda.

Many times during these conferences, his comments often lack professionalism, are not endorsed, and confuse the nation. In a conference in January, when asked about the unstable situation in Culiacán; a state characterized by drug trafficking, AMLO deviated from speaking about the situation to speaking about his predictions for the United States Baseball World Series. Another time, “Love and Peace” was what AMLO decided to answer when he was questioned about controversial issues during his daily conferences. With unprofessional and even unprepared behavior, AMLO responds with colloquial phrases that are lacking seriousness, in turn increasing uncertainty. AMLO’s rhetoric is characterized by being popular and far from formal. On the one hand, this allows him to connect with people because he builds himself with an everyday language. On the other hand, this rhetoric removes seriousness from matters of vital importance on the political agenda, making us believe AMLO doesn’t take national matters seriously at all.

AMLO vs. the Media

AMLO decided to antagonize the national and international press whenever they have published data that contradicts him or exhibits his politics negatively. He has named his opponents “fifis,” locking them in the same category as the upper classes. AMLO has stated clearly that  “those who disagree with us are our adversaries” 

It was AMLO himself who established that (for him) journalism in Mexico is not professional. This strong and controversial clarification was born in the face of criticism in the media for the lack of government results in economic, health, and greater public insecurity; launching himself not only against the most important newspapers in the country, but also against independent journalists. He also criticized Mexican artists, and several celebrities who have made public critical comments about the situation in the country. From this rhetoric, the critics were not spared, including international media such as the New York Times or The Guardian.

AMLO has also been criticized for his anti-feminsit statements. Thus far in 2020, the rates of femicides have grown radically in the country and violence against women sparked in the public debate. Nevertheless, the feminist movement in Mexico is now stronger than ever, and while many politicians and public figures have chosen to amend their flaws and join the cause, AMLO has chosen not to. 

Accused of not supporting feminist protests, AMLO has also been accused of having sexist rhetoric. On one occasion that caused a lot of discontent, AMLO said:

“Daughters are the ones who take care of their fathers the most, we men are more detached, but daughters are always aware of fathers, brothers, and mothers.”

AMLO

AMLO’s statements were criticized for delegitimizing gender violence and saying misogynist and sexist statements in his speeches. Instead of supporting the struggle for equality. AMLO argued that the problems of equity and gender violence have been accentuated in a “political conspiracy” against him. 

AMLO unites Church & State once more

Despite Mexico being a secular state according to the Constitution, AMLO constantly makes many religious references including quoting passages from the Bible in his speeches. AMLO often relies on marking religious statements, something that was not often in Mexico’s politics before Morena (even when 82% of Mexicans identify as Catholics). Experts and political analysts  assure that López Obrador has introduced religious discourse  as a political factor and many regard this as an attack on the Mexican secular state. In Mexico there is freedom of religion, as stated by the Constitution, and to achieve it, the country has gone through a complex history and a long struggle. The dangerous aspect is not that AMLO practices the Christian faith, or his particular way of leading his religious life, but that he wants to introduce it to public life, being he the president of the country. Furthermore, AMLO has also collaborated closely with the Evangelical Church, hiring some of its members in political roles like in the Secretariat of Welfare and the Mexicans Against  Corruption and Impunity Body, moralizing political and public life.

In a controversial way, when the Covid-19 pandemic arrived in Mexico, the President entrusted himself to divine forces to stop the pandemic and corruption using amulets and stamps that he displayed in his speech. He also ordered a governmental publication of a  “Moral Booklet;” the text that the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has just reissued for mass distribution. The text is written by the Mexican prestigious author Alfonso Reyes (a Mexican writer, philosopher and diplomat).  AMLO refers to it as a document to purify the Mexican society and promote a way of life based on values. This is an odd and bizarre move to be made from a leftist ruler, who often advocates conservative traits in the political agenda. What is interesting to analyze here is how AMLO’s political agenda is intertwined with a moral and even religious discourse, penetrating public life. For example, during his morning conference on Covid, the president exhibited two images of Jesus as his “protective shield” and argued as he showed in the national broadcast the religious images: 

“Look, this is what people give me…these are my guardians. And I have other things, because it is not only Catholicism, but also evangelical religion and those free thinkers, who give me everything to keep me safe.”

AMLO

It all points out that AMLO’s personal project (which he already politicized) is to introduce religion and morals to the Mexican population to therefore rebuild the social fabric and achieve the peace that the country requires. It seems that AMLO wants to acquire social equity and fight the demons of Mexico, such as violence and insecurity, using religion as the solution.

Isabel Barquin

Research and Analysis Intern