Tomorrow a new phase for Mexicans begins. Andrés Manuel López Obrador becomes the new president of México. AMLO, as he is known colloquially, takes Mexican politics from a left-of-center towards a far-left political ideology. Like the Vicente Fox experiment of wrestling power away from the PRI, there is much hope from a large segment of the Mexican people that change is about to happen in México.
The promised change of the PAN, through Fox, never materialized even with Felipe Calderón. The Mexican people continue to be dissatisfied with the politics of México. Corruption and impunity, not to mention violence remains part of the Mexican landscape.
The question is, will AMLO change any of that?
From my point of view, AMLO’s political agenda is fraught with danger for México. It may push México further down and push back economic and national successes backwards.
Economically investors are fearing the AMLO regime and the economy is down. One of AMLO’s promises is to offer the Mexican people better access to government benefits, higher wages and a better standard of living. That takes a robust economy. AMLO has promised to resolve the drug violence through a combination of reform on drug crimes and possibly offering pardons to drug traffickers who relinquish their illicit trade. The AMLO government hopes that better access to jobs will alleviate much of the drug problem.
To accomplish his goals, AMLO is promising redirecting government spending towards social programs and ruling by referendum, i.e. giving the people a direct voice.
Already AMLO has indicated that the Mexico City airport is dead on arrival. This is a myopic and knee-jerk reaction to side issues, such as corruption. México needs a premier airport to handle international traffic to continue to make México an international holiday destination and for the global economy to continue to grow México’s economy.
Relying on the military airport as the alternative is, at best, a temporary solution to the problem of inadequate airport infrastructure in México City. It also signals a dangerous future for the Mexican military.
The Mexican military has traditionally been kept on a shoestring budget and focused on internal security. The Calderón administration repurposed the military to fight drug traffickers further eroding the military’s capability. AMLO has indicated that he will keep the status-quo on the use of the military for drug trafficking issues.
But the military is under threat. The air force’s air sovereignty mission has been destroyed with only to air superiority fighters with limited air time remaining in service.
Although the military has been seeing a renaissance in technology because of the drug war it has been inward looking focused on policing and civilian disaster relief activities instead of sovereignty integrity. The military has recently launched a program to make itself self-sufficient in war materials by building the infrastructure to develop, build and maintain military hardware indigenously. It has made great strides. But the successes are now in danger.
AMLO has put up the Mexican Air Force One 787 Dreamliner for sale and ordered a reduction on the government’s air fleet. Along with offering the Mexican military airbase in Mexico City as a solution to the crowded Mexico City Airport, AMLO is signaling that the military’s budgets and resources will be used for AMLO’s political priorities. The Mexican military plan to be self-sufficient will likely suffer as a result further hurting the military.
AMLO has also signaled that his priority will be inward looking and will take México out of world affairs, isolating México once again and leaving it to weather the geopolitics of other countries, especially the United States.
The first real test for the AMLO administration will come in the form of the migrant situation along the U.S.-México border. Will AMLO kowtow to American imperialism and accept the responsibility of the migrant problem along the border, or will it demand that the Donald Trump administration resolve the underlining issue to resolve the problem? Soon we will know.
There is also the pending NAFTA 2.0 Agreement. Although the three countries are expected to sign the agreement today, it cannot become law until the legislatures of the three countries approve it. Under the Fast Track provision, the U.S. Congress can only vote for it or against it. The labor lobby of the Democrats are already signalling their opposition.
From the Mexican side, Enrique Peña Nieto will sign for México and the following day it will be AMLO who must convince the Mexican legislature to approve it. It is unclear if AMLO would use his political clout to push it or if he will support it in the end. The NAFTA 2.0 Agreement remains very much in flux and it will have repercussions for the Mexican economy.
Will the experiment work? Only time will tell, but my fear remains that México’s recent progress will be drowned out with the AMLO experiment.
One step forward, three steps back should now replace the too close to America and too far from God mantra of Mexican affairs.