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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

Carlos Alberto Montaner: Mexico Against the Imaginary Pendulum
"Trump might be thinking of adding ten meters to his border wall, and AMLO might be deciding he will do nothing to stop the flood of emigrants," worries Latin American genius Carlos Alberto Montaner. "Both leaders are on a collision course."

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

This article may not be published in Mexico these days. The elections are on Sunday July 1st and since Thursday there is a ban on articles about that subject. The purpose is not to influence the voters who, supposedly, are thinking about whom they will elect president. In reality, the great national concern is the soccer World Cup and the fact that Mexico has a chance to win.

What a stupid measure! In the era of Her Majesty the Internet, it is useless. For several days now, 99.99% of the voters have already made their decision. The polls show MORENA party’s candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador -- AMLO for Mexicans -- will be the winner with 45% of the votes, followed very far behind by Ricardo Anaya (PAN-PRD) with 19%, and PRI’s José Antonio Meade of PRI with just 15%. The difference is so great that, if there had been a second round, AMLO would clearly defeat Anaya.

Why does Mexico move to the left, against the imaginary pendulum, if almost all Latin America seems to move in the other direction? Probably because AMLO, despite being a system’s politician (he has been a member of the PRI and the PRD), has some of the attributes of the outsider caudillo, and the vast majority of Mexicans are tired of traditional politicians, incapable of solving the very serious problems of growing violence and extended corruption.

Also, because Mexico is a country scarcely related to Latin America. It has its rich pre-Columbian history, its powerful colonial viceroyalty, and its republican history without Bolívar and without San Martín. It has its cuisine, its myths, its literature, its cinema, its music, and, ultimately, its rich and varied culture at the service of the almost 130 million Mexicans who live in the country and many of the 40 million located in the United States.


In addition, there is a remarkable phenomenon – the only foreign nation that really has an influence on the Mexican social mentality is the United States. It doesn’t matter that the US cut in two strokes half of Mexico’s territory. First it was Texas in 1836, and then the rest of the American Southwest, including California, 10 years later.

Neither Spain, which is the distant past of the gachupines – the Spaniards living in Mexico – nor Latin America, with which the country shares the language and many features of a common identity bequeathed by the Motherland, are present in the daily life of Mexicans. The Mexican obsession is the United States.

I remember that, after participating in a seminar with Samuel Huntington at Harvard, organized by Larry Harrison, in which the American thinker showed his concern for the strong Mexican presence in the western part of the country, since they could eventually try to become united to Mexico, I was invited to give a conference in Monterrey. When I finished, I explained Huntington's speculation and asked for opinions about it.

My hosts laughed. Neither Huntington nor I had heard of the Tex-Mex world, rich in culinary and musical expressions? It was the other way around: what could happen, according to them, is that someday northern Mexico might demand to be annexed to the United States. There was, they said, a very strong force of attraction from Texas that made the Monterrey residents feel more emotionally close to the Texan culture than to Mexico City.


In short, who and why are they afraid of AMLO? He is feared, with reason, by employers and upscale people. The fear comes from his inveterate addiction to promise subsidies. AMLO's populist features terrify business groups and domestic and foreign investors. He will skyrocket public spending to dreadful levels.

Many assume that he could be another Hugo Chávez. I don’t think so. He does not seem so silly. I suspect that he will choose another mode of disaster, but less severe. Maybe like the first period of Alan García, or the early period of the second Rafael Caldera, until reality made him rectify.

The unfortunate thing is that his term will coincide with that of Donald Trump. A right-wing populist and a left-wing populist will mutually reinforce their worst instincts. In any case, Trump might be thinking of adding ten meters to his border wall, and AMLO might be deciding he will do nothing to stop the flood of emigrants. Both leaders are on a collision course.


Carlos Alberto Montaner is a journalist and writer. Born in 1943 in Cuba and exiled, Montaner is known for his more than 25 books and thousands of articles. PODER magazine estimates that more than six million readers have access to his weekly columns throughout Latin America. He is also a political analyst for CNN en Espanol. In 2012, Foreign Policy magazine named Montaner as one of the fifty most influential intellectuals in the Ibero-American world. His latest novel is A Time for Scoundrels. His latest essay is "The President: A Handbook for Voters and the Elected." His latest book is a review of Las raíces torcidas de América Latina (The Twisted Roots of Latin America), published by Planeta and available in Amazon, in printed or digital version.

 

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