Two weeks before Mexican presidential candidates officially launch their campaigns, leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador remains in the lead with 32 percent according to a new poll by Mitofsky, reports Animal Político. A Reforma poll from this week gives AMLO 48 percent, a 22 point lead ahead of right-left coalition candidate Ricardo Anaya, reports Reuters.
AMLO's critics have tried to compare him to Hugo Chávez. But though he has populist tendencies, the real problem is the lack of new solutions for the problems he has correctly identified, argues Foreign Policy. "His vision for Mexico is based on two fundamental ideas: that unchecked corruption by a rapacious elite has undermined much of Mexico’s potential, and that the neoliberal reforms the country has implemented under centrist governments since the 1980s have failed. As for the former, he has a point, and 80 percent of citizens agree. The latter claim requires nuanced examination." (See March 13's briefs for more on AMLO's history.)
Experts criticize that none of the candidates in the presidential race have presented an integral vision of how to combat the country's sky-high rates of violence, reports El País. A campaign on Change.org led by Causa en Común aims to have candidates in Sunday's upcoming debate respond regarding whether they'd contemplate an international anti-impunity commission, in the style of Guatemala's CICIG.
Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim hit back against AMLO's promise to scrap a project for a new Mexico City airport if he is elected. Slim, who owns companies involved in the building project, said halting the $13 billion project would be a setback for the economy, reports Reuters.
A series of viral campaign videos set to music portray fictional characters who say they will vote across class lines, reports El País. Both AMLO and Anaya's campaigns deny involvement, though the candidates are endorsed by the videos. One portraying a supposed "niña bien," (rich girl) has particularly had impact. Verificado 18, a media group dedicated to fact-checking the election campaign, found that the video was filmed under false pretenses in chapel and was not the work of a university student as initially rumored. (See Tuesday's briefs on Verificado.)
Other Mexico news
- A year after an Animal Político and Mexicanos Contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad reported on how the government used shell companies and fraudulent contracts to divert public funds, reporters say there have been few political or legal repercussions in relation to their revelations, reports EFE.
Latin America's rightward swing
- Echoes of U.S. President Donald Trump's rhetoric seem to be increasingly surfacing in the region, where conservative governments are pushing back against immigration, and evangelical churches are pushing socially conservative policies. "But the rise of the right in Latin America is for the most part a homegrown phenomenon," argues Omar Encarnación in Foreign Policy. (See below briefs on Jair Bolsonaro's candidacy in Brazil.)
- The old leftist axis in the region has fallen apart, but a new wave of progressivism is taking shape and will focus on the transformation "of Latin America toward a productive economy, and not one based the extraction of resources," said Colombian leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro in an interview with The Nation.
Cuban presidential handover
- Cuban state media emphasized yesterday that incoming President Miguel Díaz-Canel may be a new face, but represents continuity with the Castro leadership of the past 60 years, reports the Associated Press.
- A Netflix series loosely (operative term) based on the sprawling Lava Jato corruption investigation has critics alleging political bias against the left at a critical time ahead of October's presidential election. But as more people watch O Mecanismo, some see a broader indictment of Brazilian politics in general, and worry that the portrayal of a hopelessly corrupt system combined with voter fury could pave the way for anti-democratic arguments, reports the Atlantic.
- That is precisely the sentiment that's fueling the candidacy of dictatorship apologist Jair Bolsonaro, the right-wing firebrand known for misogynist comments. The Guardian reports on how Bolsonaro is positioning himself as a "tropical Trump ... a pro-gun, anti-establishment crusader set on draining the swamp into which Brazil’s futuristic capital has sunk."
- In the meantime, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's Workers' Party is rallying locally and internationally to raise support for the jailed former leader, reports Bloomberg. The Supreme Court was going to analyze whether convicts should be able to exhaust appeals in liberty, which would get Lula out of jail, but did not take up the constitutional challenge yesterday.
- The PT insists that Lula will be its presidential candidate for October's election. But former Sao Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad told Reuters that leftist parties are discussing a united front should Lula be barred, as is likely.
- A campaign against child-killing in indigenous communities in Brazil has raised the question of how much the state should interfere in inhumane indigenous customs, according to Foreign Policy.
- U.S. prosecutors have apparently obtained the collaboration of a key witness to provide testimony against a FARC leader accused of trying to smuggle cocaine into the U.S. Marlon Marin -- nephew of FARC leader Luciano Marin, known as Iván Márquez -- was flown to New York where he will testify against Jesús Santrich, who was arrested earlier this month. The case is another blow for the stumbling peace process, reports the Associated Press. (See April 10's post.)
- Ecuador is withdrawing as mediator between Colombia and the ELN guerrillas. President Lenín Moreno blamed ongoing terrorist activities of the guerrillas, in a statement with RCN that appears to have caught Colombia's government off-guard, reports the Associated Press. Later Ecuador's government said the decision was taken as a result of the “difficult situation” on its northern border with Colombia.
- In another interview, Moreno said he wanted his predecessor, Rafael Correa, investigated for allegedly receiving FARC campaign contributions, reports the Associated Press.
- A new visa will allow Venezuelans fleeing their country's crisis to work and live in Chile for a year. But the measure caused dismay in Caracas this week, with hundreds of Venezuelans lining up outside the consulate, worried they would be unable to enter Chile on previously purchased flights, reports Bloomberg.
- Venezuela and Spain agreed to restore diplomatic relations after recalling ambassadors in January, after the European Union sanctioned Venezuelan officials, reports Reuters.
- The E.U. said it would consider further sanctions if it believes democracy is being undermined, reports Reuters.
- Venezuela's opposition-led gave a group of judges in exile permission to try President Nicolás Maduro for allegedly seeking bribes from Odebrecht. The trial by Venezuela’s "Supreme Court in Exile" started earlier this month in Bogotá, but is considered symbolic as the jurists aren't recognized by Venezuelan law enforcement institutions, reports the Associated Press.