In a bid to stoke nationalism and justify his policies, Mexico’s president has increasingly taken to calling his opponents “traitors” and accused them of working for foreign governments.
Analysts say President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is starting to sound more like right-wing Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, calling anyone who opposes him a foreign agent.
The issue came to a head last week when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tried to sidestep court challenges to one of his pet projects by declaring a tourist train line “an issue of national security,” without explaining why a tourism project warranted that status.
On Monday, the president said it was a case of foreign intervention by environmentalists paid by the U.S. government, a heady accusation in a country that has been invaded several times.
“Pseudo environmentalists come from Mexico City and other parts of the country, financed by the government of the United States, and they file these injunctions against us,” said López Obrador. “It is an issue of national security for many reasons because a foreign government is interfering.”
Activist Pepe Urbina filed one of the court challenges that stalled the Maya Train project, which is cutting a swath through the jungle on Mexico’s Caribbean coast. The project threatens extensive sinkhole caverns where some of the oldest human remains in North America have been discovered.
“They are slandering us, by claiming we work for the U.S. government,” said Urbina, who makes his living as a professional diver and denies receiving U.S. money. “It is absurd.”
The 950-mile (1,500- kilometer) Maya Train line is planned to run in a rough loop around the Yucatan peninsula, connecting beach resorts and archaeological sites. López Obrador has exempted it from environmental impact statements, but a judge disagreed and froze work on a 36-mile (60 kilometers) stretch of the train line between Cancun and Tulum.
Antonella Vazquez, a lawyer who took on the appeals on a volunteer basis, also denied getting any U.S. government funding.
“It’s shameful that they attack us, just to justify a national security designation that doesn’t apply to a tourist train,” said Vazquez, who noted the judge in the case refused Monday to lift the work stoppage, even though the government has started to ignore it.
Vazquez says “I have received messages (on social media) that I am corrupt, or that someone is financing me, or that I don’t love my country. No! We aren’t doing anything other than asking that the law be respected. ”
Over the weekend, López Obrador used similar language to attack anyone — environmentalists or businessmen — who oppose his plan to give dirty, fuel-oil and coal government power plants preference in electricity purchases, over the private gas-fired, wind, and solar plants.
López Obrador’s actions on electrical power led the U.S. and Canadian governments to file complaints against Mexico under the U.S.-Mexico Canada free trade pact, which forbids discriminating against foreign companies.
“They are defending foreign oil companies, foreign electricity companies. They are traitors to the country!” López Obrador said of domestic opposition to his plans to favor the state-owned electrical company.
Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said López Obrador’s comments “are like Viktor Orban, (Russian President Vladimir) Putin,” noting the accusations “are crossing dangerous lines.”
“Social movements, non-governmental organizations are suspect by definition, and if they have any link to any international network, more so,” Hope said.
“What follows next is to criminalize the opposition, right? Treason is a crime in the penal code,” Hope said, adding “I don’t think they’re at that point yet, but they are putting that out there, on the table.”
AMLO certainly appeared to draw the line Sunday on the electrical power dispute in starkly nationalistic terms.
“We are not going to retreat one step,” López Obrador said of the electricity dispute, which could lead to U.S. trade sanctions. “Mexico is an independent country, it is not a colony of any foreign country, and the president of Mexico isn’t a puppet, isn’t the lackey of any foreign government.”
Source: El Economista