Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Who will AMLO be? (July 4, 2018)

What kind of leftist and/or populist leader AMLO should be compared to remains a hot topic of debate. After being hounded by comparisons to Hugo Chávez through out the campaign, and also unfavorable identification with Donald Trump's style, some commentators are now emphasizing similarities to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.  (See yesterday's and Monday's posts.) 

AMLO himself prefers comparisons to Mexico's revolutionary leaders and independence heroes. But "there are not that many revealing lessons to be drawn from politicians elsewhere," warns the Washington Post, noting that the Mexican context should make potential repetition of his predecessors' missteps a far greater concern.

In any case "López Obrador's more radical impulses will likely have to be tempered by a modernizing Mexico that has largely embraced and is dependent upon a free-market economy integrated with the United States," argues Mark Feierstein in Americas Quarterly.

All that being said, doesn't AMLO's rejection of presidential privileges -- such as living in the official residence and having bodyguards -- sound like a Pepe Mujica flashback? He's also going to sell the presidential plane and halve his salary. (Guardian)

More on AMLO
  • Before the election, the proposed incoming Secretaria de Gobernación, former Supreme Court jurist Olga Sánchez Cordero, promised to propose decriminalizing marijuana, including for recreational use. (AFP and Vanguardia) In a June Milenio column, Sánchez Cordero decried the failed legacy of criminalizing drug consumption and said a public health perspective must be prioritized.
  • In the Guardian, Mexican academic Sergio Aguayo celebrates the success of Mexico's non-violent left.
  • AMLO is against Mexico's failed militarized fight against crime, but he lacks a defined plan to transition away from the deeply engrained strategy, Eric Olson, the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Latin American program told InSight Crime.
News Briefs

  • Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega will not call early elections, unless violence which has claimed 300 lives since April ends, minister of national policies Paul Oquist told the Guardian. Of course, most of the deaths have been attributed to repression by security forces and Ortega supporters ...
  • Continued refusal to step down could escalate violence even further, causing a refugee crisis and destabilizing Central America, argues Orlando Pérez in Foreign Policy. Such a civil war would require a military coup to instal a transitional government he writes.
  • Journalist John Otis reports on the unprecedented coalition of students, activists and citizens demanding Ortega's resignation. But in the Americas Quarterly "Deep South" podcast, he also says that "Ortega is a very savvy politician, ... He’d be willing to let the rest of Nicaragua burn down if he could hang on to power."
  • Yesterday Amnesty International condemned the ongoing violence. Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas said the government's "pretence at engaging in dialogue remains part of its policy of repression." (See yesterday's briefs on the newly installed IACHR interdisciplinary group of international experts.)
  • So-called "parapolice" groups have played a key role in repressing anti-government protests, InSight Crime explores whether they could "evolve from political shock troops into criminal organizations engaged in activities like extortion and kidnapping."
  • The pain of Colombia's World Cup loss to England yesterday pales in comparison the broader tragedy of assassinations plaguing certain parts of the country, including 98 social leaders killed so far this year, argues Alberto Salcedo Ramos in a New York Times Español op-ed. The comparison is not spurious. "I don't belong to the legion of those who believe that loving goals and dribbling turns us into insensitive beings, but it is evident that in Colombia football has been used, historically, to draw a curtain of smoke over the impunity of executioners."
  • Honduran legislators bucked procedure last week when they reelected attorney general Óscar Chinchilla, though he wasn't on the list of five candidates submitted by an evaluating committee. (See Monday's post) Though the reelection maintains the status quo, "it does not necessarily mean a victory for corrupt forces" argues InSight Crime. The piece also reviews the many issues with the whole attorney general selection process, including lack of participation from civil society, and allegations of misconduct against several of the candidates to fill the post.
  • Eight former military officers have been sentenced to 15 years in prison for the murder of popular folk singer Victor Jara in Chile's 1973 coup. (Reuters)
  • Opposition leader María Corina Machado denied involvement in a thwarted military coup plot agains the Venezuelan government, and denounced that the accusation could lead to her immediate detention, reports the Miami Herald. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A measles outbreak in northern Brazil could proved devastating for indigenous groups along the Venezuelan border who have no protection from the disease. Though the Americas were declared free of measles in 2016, outbreaks can still occur. Brazilian authorities blame this episode, which has already infected 500 people, on Venezuelan refugees, though experts say reduction in vaccination coverage could have contributed. (Guardian)
  • Brazilian oil and mining tycoon Eike Batista was sentenced to 30 years in prison on charges of paying more than $16.5 million in bribes. He was found guilty of bribing Sérgio Cabral, then Rio de Janeiro governor, to secure public contracts. Cabral was sentenced to 22 years in prison in the same case -- added to his previous convictions, the former governor now has a total prison sentence of over 120 years. (New York Times)
  • Brazil's upcoming October presidential election remains wide open -- with voter favorite Lula in jail and likely barred from running. Bloomberg profiles the centrist independent candidate Marina Silva, a former PT environmental minister. In a Datafolha poll from last month that excludes Lula, Silva comes in second (15 percent) behind right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro (20 percent).
  • Though he's in jail on corruption charges, Lula continues to lead in the polls (30 percent in that same Datafolha poll). Americas Quarterly looks at his popularity in the country's northeast, where nearly half the voters remain loyal to the former PT president.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced he will continue the suspension of a section of the Helms-Burton act that would allow former owners of commercial property expropriated by Cuba to sue companies and the Cuban government. The section has been periodically suspended since the 1996 act was passed, though some Cuba hardliners had hoped the Trump administration would change the practise. (Miami Herald)
Gangs of Latin America
  • While Salvadoran street gang MS-13 is the Trump administration's bogeyman, other groups like Mexico's Barrio Azteca gang also pose a significant challenge, especially in relation to drug trafficking, reports InSight Crime


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