Mexico, along with Brazil, is one of the “big brothers” of Latin America and the Caribbean. Not only because of its demographic weight – its 128 million inhabitants represent a fifth of the region’s total population – or because of the size of its economy, whose GDP is equivalent to approximately 20% of the regional total.
Mexico has made a mark on Latin American history with footprints that have profoundly shaped the collective political and social future. The Revolution of 1910 – that act of the profound Mexico to fight against the dispossession of small farmers, the plundering of resources and territory, the Porfirio Diaz dictatorship, forced modernization and an exclusionary system – gave birth to heroic paths of social justice that were later followed by, among others, Augusto Sandino and Farabundo Martí.
The 1917 Constitution was the first to establish social rights, the separation of state and church, the improvement of workers’ living conditions with the birth of the eight-hour working day, the guarantee of a monthly minimum wage and the recognition of the legal status of trade unions. It also included land distribution, federalism and the division of powers as a political system.
Somewhat later, in the 1930s, General Lázaro Cárdenas would also be a pioneer with the nationalization of oil and the railway network, Ejido community production[i] and Agrarian Reform, and the broad welcome of exiles from the Spanish Civil War.
Years later, in a time of neoliberal obscurantism, the Zapatista uprising would give visibility to indigenous demands, which would later spread like wildfire, giving impetus to indigenous movements, which a decade later became decisive in Ecuadorian politics and with the arrival of Evo Morales as president in Bolivia.
This is why, in the current context, the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is registered as a possibility of the beginning of a renewed advance of popular demands in the continent.
Mexico is experiencing a situation of severe degeneration. Degeneration as a result of the various forms of violence that plague its people. The widespread violence of drug trafficking, the murders of journalists, femicides and the recent political violence all form a picture that, in a way, suggests the memory of a certain Aztec sacrificial tradition that in its day facilitated colonial invasion through collaboration with subjugated ethnic groups.
Added to this is the enormous economic violence that has plunged more than 53 million Mexicans into poverty, including almost 10 million in absolute poverty.
Mexico is suffering a social degeneration which corresponds to a profound degeneration of the political apparatus in which formal federalism has turned into de facto feudalism, in which bribery, influence peddling and consensual tax evasion are the norm, and in which a monopoly communication cartel forms public opinion.
This is why, through its name, MORENA, which refers to the skin colour of the most deprived, and its leader, López Obrador, the National Regeneration Movement has been able to correctly interpret the prevailing need and this is the reason why it is mainly being reciprocated by the population. Mexico – without a doubt – needs to regenerate.
Not everything, not immediately, not alone
The enormous accumulated anger and the pressing need for profound social transformation will be indispensable factors of popular pressure for a new direction. However, the impatience and the just demands derived from this anger, together with the resistances from the concentrated established powers, could paradoxically turn into the main stumbling blocks for the MORENA government.
López Obrador’s obligation will be to demonstrate that he is not a continuation of the political lie. This should manifest itself in reversing as quickly as possible the orientation and effects of the Pact for Mexico, sealed in 2012. Reversing market-oriented educational reform, recovering energy sovereignty, attacking the financialisation of the economy and democratising telecommunications are central challenges. But above all, to undertake a programme of economic reforms that will make Mexico independent of the brutal submission to the US, to which it sends 73% of its total exports.
Likewise, the beginning of a progressive disarmament of criminal apparatuses and of the state repression complicit in them, the emergence of a culture of human rights and the recovery of virtue in the public sphere will be among the most difficult challenges.
Even slower, though equally urgent, will be the process of effective recognition of the rights of Mexico’s pluriculturalism and the cultural vindication of its roots, a process of reconciliation and self-valuation that is also pending in vast regions of the mixed race, black and indigenous America.
None of this will be viable overnight. Nor will it be able to be done (or undone) completely in just one six-year period. Perhaps the most important thing is that the Mexican people understand – beyond voluntarism and personalism – that organized citizen accompaniment will be vital if this programme is to be fulfilled.
The hopes for integration of Latin America and the Caribbean are with AMLO
In a world where retrograde trends and neo-fascisms have momentarily taken the lead – partly in response to a suffocating economic and cultural globalization – the victory of what López Obrador stands for represents a kind of “benign nationalism”, an attempt to go back to the sovereign idea of the State, to work multilaterally and to place Mexico back in the sphere of regional integration.
Progressive forces celebrate López Obrador’s victory because it implies the weakening of one of the main satellite governments of foreign interventionism in Latin America and the Caribbean, driven mainly by the United States of America but also by some European governments.
Of particular importance will be the defence of peace in the region. The new government in Mexico, in contrast to the position taken during the six-year term that is now coming to an end, could become a sort of regional mediator, softening the flood of actions and sanctions from the North, for example towards Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua.
Such a Mexican stance would be not only in solidarity with the sister nations of the South, but also consistent with its diplomatic tradition, from which emerged landmark treaties such as the Tlatelolco treaty – in force to this day – through which Latin America and the Caribbean became the world’s first nuclear-weapon-free zone.
From this position of dialogue and agreement also emerged the effective mediations of the Contadora Group, in which Mexico, together with Panama, Colombia and Venezuela, played a central role in the achievement of peace agreements that put an end to war in Central America.
That group later became the Rio Group, which was the immediate precursor to the creation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC by its Spanish initials) in 2011. Returning to that path, López Obrador could contribute enormously to invigorating the now paralyzed CELAC as a counterweight to the US-controlled instrument of hegemony embodied by the OAS.
For all these reasons, the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador as president is an awesome opportunity for Mexico and the neighbouring peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean.