Mexico’s López Obrador: As Popular as He Is Disastrous

Mexico's new president, AMLO, maintains high approval ratings, but is about to usher in a period of economic decline for the country.

AMLO is hardly the first Latin America leftist to enjoy high approval ratings despite taking disastrous public policy decisions (Flickr).

Victor H. Becerra

Mexican President López Obrador continues his honeymoon with the Mexican electorate: according to some surveys, he has 78% approval, and only 19% disapproval. In contrast, thanks to poor economic decisions, such as the cancellation of the new airport in Mexico City and the failure to open Mexico’s energy markets to foreign investment, the country will experience the lowest economic growth in recent years.

Besides the economic stagnation, which is worsening month by month, the other red flags include: the irresponsibility of the Congress, in ceding almost absolute control to López Obrador and his party, and the deterioration of public security, with areas of the country in a virtual state of war, such as in the center of the country (Guanajuato), facing the inaction and irresponsibility of the AMLO government.

The popularity of López Obrador is not rooted in good economic decisions, nor in confidence in his government. For a long time we have known that popularity does not correspond to effectiveness in government.

Thus, his popularity will not solve the myriad problems that Mexico currently faces: the lack of investment, the generalized drop in consumption, the lack of faith in the government and the services it provides from multiple actors in society, the United States Congress’ failure to approve a new NAFTA, while we are entering a difficult time (like the US 2020 presidential election where Mexico will be front and center), with respect to issues of migration, trade, drugs, and security. The poor decisions of the López Obrador government will only expose the country to greater vulnerability.

President López Obrador and his officials are building a popularity based on smoke and mirrors, not fundamental realities, while his administration is trying to spread the money around. And the results are counterproductive: those in the executive branch are beginning to believe AMLO’s lies, rather than discern that they are falsehoods.

The popularity of López Obrador is real, for now, but tenuous, based on expectations that have not yet been fulfilled and will perhaps be impossible to fulfill, such as issues of economic growth or the never-ending fight against corruption. Certainly other administrations, like those of Peña Nieto and Calderón, inherited a disaster. But López Obrador and his entourage have made things worse. That is why it is natural that López Obrador is beginning to suffer from critics and attacks, to be a target for discontent that is increasingly more palpable in real life and also on social networks, which until now had been favorably disposed to him, and uncritical of his policies.

The case of López Obrador, with the seeming dissociation between popularity and good results, is not atypical among the Latin American left. There are the cases of Lula Da Silva or Cristina Kirchner, just to mention some, who were highly popular in their time.

In this sense, President López Obrador and his government are following a dangerous path towards a point of no return, and we will all have to pay the price.

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