By Victor H. Becerra
No. Lopez Obrador will not take Mexico down the path to socialism or turn it into a new version of Venezuelan Chavismo. No. At least not for now. The week that has passed since his triumph has surprised many: Lopez Obrador has behaved with a political civility for which he was not known during his long political career, meeting in respectful and constructive terms with President Peña Nieto, opposition governors, and businessmen.
In addition, some of his political allies have announced policy reversals on issues of pressing concern, such as subsidizing gasoline, or have maintained a moderate posture on controversial issues such as the cancellation of the new airport in Mexico City.
For many, it is an unknown side of Lopez Obrador. For others, Lopez Obrador is simply beginning to pay back all those who helped him (at least in part) to reach the presidency; precisely Peña Nieto, and supposedly opposition governors, and businessmen. In this regard, the possible political agreements between Lopez Obrador and Peña Nieto are slowly coming to light, as well as with some governors of the right-wing PAN opposition party, which would help to explain the unthinkable PRI electoral debacle. Even in its most traditional bastions of power, it appears that many went with Lopez Obrador with the objective of thwarting any late rise for Ricardo Anaya and the PAN, and to cushion the electoral margin of Lopez Obrador’s triumph.
But the current civility of Lopez Obrador is not only for the payment of possible political debts. It also has an economic component, now that the markets are, like it or not, a kind of fifth power in government decisions. In this regard, the populist second victory speech of Lopez Obrador on the night of his triumph, was a bad sign for the markets and led, in real time, to a sharp fall in the peso against the dollar.
This has forced government officials to be prudent and to insist on the need to preserve confidence in the markets. But we must wait until September 1 to see the real Lopez Obrador, when his new Congress takes power (he will assume the presidency three months later). His political faction will have an overwhelming majority, sufficient even to reverse all the constitutional reforms if they so desired.
In this regard, the Mexican Constitution imposes very demanding requirements in order to change it. To do so, it is necessary for two thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate be in favor, as well as 17 of the 32 local legislatures. No Mexican government has enjoyed such a degree of political control and power over the course of the last twenty years. Until now. Although Lopez Obrador will not have, by all appearances, a sufficient majority to enact substantive changes to the Constitution, he will be very close to achieving this, either through a political agreement with the PRI or the PAN. Or, as I believe will be his strategy, with the simple purchase of some legislators from the PRI, the PRD or other parties.
In this sense, Lopez Obrador will be a very powerful leader: he will be president, head of state, head of government, and head of the Armed Forces. He will also be the head of his party, leader of the governors of his party and of the coalition that brought him to power, which will have a relative majority in Congress. This will allow Lopez Obrador to promote initiatives that will be guaranteed approval by the legislative branch.
In addition, he will have the ability to place his supporters in key positions in the judicial branch, including on the Supreme Court of Justice, or in autonomous organizations, such as the National Commission of Human Rights or the Bank of Mexico, or other entities, such as the Attorney General’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, and all diplomatic offices.
Coupled with what we have seen in recent days, with businessmen and opponents in clear acquiescence before Lopez Obrador, without conditioning their support, without waiting for the first governmental decisions, we will see as the analyst Macario Schettino would say, that we are returning politically to a time before 1986: to the time of the monolithic and all-encompassing PRI.
Thus, if Lopez Obrador, upon taking possession of his office on December 1, does not lead us to socialism or any other form of social coercion, it will not be because he can not, but simply because he may not want to. That is how omnipotent his power will be. But, in the end, what do we mean by taking us to socialism? Visualizing it in that hypothetical future prevents us from realizing that we already live in socialism.
All our institutional and political arrangements are a form of socialism, perhaps light in its presentation and discrete not to define itself as such, but socialism in the end. As academic Arturo Damm insists: governing today in Mexico is synonymous with government redistribution of income. And redistribution of income, in any form or magnitude, is socialism. On the other hand, it is enough to consult any of the most important indexes of Economic Freedom and the position of Mexico in them: 63rd place in the Index of the Heritage Foundation, and 76th place in the Index of the Fraser Institute, or, any other that measures aspects of openness, connectivity, competitiveness, etc., to realize that we live very, very far from the “neoliberalism” which Lopez Obrador calls forth.
Politicians like him talk and talk about Mexico suffering from liberalism and neoliberalism, when in reality we live in a socialist hell. What freedom do we have? It is also sufficient to review the main proposals of Lopez Obrador’s competitors to observe that all of them, without exception, were variants of the same vision of watered-down socialism.
We live in Mexico in a pure and hard socialism, and we are educated and conditioned to ignore this reality; to not complain. On the contrary: we ask our politicians every day for more and more socialism, more state presence. In that sense, Lopez Obrador is just the culmination of that plea. So no: Lopez Obrador will not take Mexico to socialism. We’ve been living in it for a long time