If Andrés Manuel López Obrador—who by all predictions will be the next president of Mexico after the July 1 elections—lived in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, the US mainstream press would have already canonized him as a hero of democracy. AMLO, as he is universally known, would be praised for leading a nationwide, nonviolent, decades-long movement on its way to defeating a corrupt ruling elite at the ballot box.
Instead, the US media continually slander López Obrador as a dangerous “populist demagogue” with a “messiah complex” who could turn Mexico into another Venezuela. Among others, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Atlantic have misrepresented him; so far The New York Times has published four op-ed pieces, and three were hostile, even the article by a purported supporter. The nastiest attack so far, a June 17 Washington Post editorial, said that López Obrador “bears more than a passing political resemblance to President Trump.” The Economist repeated the slur, putting AMLO’s picture on its latest cover next to the headline “Mexico’s answer to Donald Trump.”
The US media are implying that AMLO’s lifelong, nonviolent campaign for democracy is somehow more dangerous than the two candidates who oppose him, both of whom belong to the violent and corrupt political elite that has plunged Mexico into its worst crisis in a century. Mainstream commentators are afraid to say so, but they must privately hope that one of the two privileged-class candidates wins (which, given López Obrador’s overwhelming lead in all the polls, could only happen due to stupendous fraud).
More than just personal pique explains why the mainstream is smearing López Obrador. Mexico has for more than two decades faithfully followed the neoliberal orthodoxy about economic growth, vigorously advocated by the International Monetary Fund, the US Treasury Department, and Wall Street. Starting with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, Mexico has been one of neoliberalism’s most dutiful pupils in the Global South. And the result has been crushing failure: since 1996, a pathetic per capita economic growth rate below 1.5 percent, one of the worst in all of Latin America, and an exodus, starting in the mid-1990s, of nearly 4 million economic refugees northward to the United States that didn’t stop until the 2008 Great Recession. The chronic stagnation has further discredited the traditional elite and boosted López Obrador’s calls for another economic path. But instead of recognizing neoliberalism’s failure, The Wall Street Journal and The Economist attack the Mexican leader who has successfully indicted it.