By Andrés Oppenheimer
Andrés Oppenheimer is the editor and syndicated foreign affairs columnist with The Miami Herald, anchor of “Oppenheimer Presenta” on CNN En Español, and author of seven books, several of which have been published in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese. In his column this week, Oppenheimer showcases how democracy is at stake in Mexico, although the people of our country don’t seem to realize how important this election is.
Mexico’s intermediate elections on June 6 have drawn almost zero interest from U.S. media. But these elections should be front-page news — they could determine the future of democracy in this most conflict-ridden U.S. neighbor.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, an old-guard populist nationalist, is not on the ballot. But if he retains an absolute majority in Mexico’s Congress, his ongoing attacks against Mexico’s justice system, independent electoral authorities, the media and non-government organizations will most likely turn Mexico into an increasingly authoritarian state.
Despite laws that prohibit him from interfering in local campaigns for the mid-term congressional and gubernatorial elections, Lopez Obrador has used his daily morning press conferences to lash out against opposition candidates.
In April, the president’s party, Morena, blatantly interfered with Mexico’s justice system by unilaterally extending the term of a key member of the Supreme Court, one who is Lopez Obrador’s close ally. The World Jurists Association called the move a threat to the rule of law.
Earlier, Lopez Obrador publicly asked that same justice to “launch an investigation” into a judge who had ruled against a government-sponsored energy-reform bill. López Obrador claimed that the judge was defending the interests of “the oligarchy.”
Just as troublesome, López Obrador had stepped up his verbal attacks against Mexico’s National Election Institute, the independent agency that monitors Mexico’s elections. The Institute was instrumental in helping Mexico’s transition to a full democracy in 2000 after seven decades of authoritarian rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)
Just like Donald Trump in the United States, Mexico’s president is now trying to discredit his country’s election authorities, preparing the ground to claim fraud in case he loses his congressional majority on June 6. Lopez Obrador has a long track record of claiming fraud after losing presidential bids in 2006 and 2012.
Also like Trump, Lopez Obrador constantly blames the media for everything that’s going wrong in Mexico.
When I asked Mexican historian Enrique Krauze recently what will happen if Lopez Obrador’s party wins a two-thirds absolute majority in Congress, he responded that it may further unleash the president’s authoritarian instincts.
“I’m concerned about the future of democracy and freedoms in Mexico, because he’s a president who has been very intolerant with criticism and who has a very dangerous tendency to concentrate power around himself,” Krauze told me.
Mexico Daily Post