Above photo: Mexican President President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in a press conference on February 28, 2023.
Condemns State Dep’t ‘meddling’ against electoral reform.
Responding to State Department criticism of Mexico’s popular electoral reform, President AMLO denounced US “meddling”, support for coups, and the Monroe Doctrine. He said, “There is more democracy today in Mexico than in the United States… because here the people govern, and there the oligarchy govern”.
Mexico’s leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) gave a fiery speech condemning the US State Department’s “bad habit” of “meddling” in other country’s “internal affairs”.
“There is more democracy today in Mexico than in the United States”, López Obrador said, “because here the people govern, and there the oligarchy govern”.
AMLO lamented that politicians in Washington “still will not abandon the two-century-old policy, the Monroe Doctrine, of thinking of themselves as the world’s government”, calling it a “centuries-old habit of the US government and US elites”.
As an example, López Obrador pointed to Peru, where he said “the US ambassador is the advisor of the coup-mongers, who trampled on the liberties and democracy in that country, unjustly overthrowing the President [Pedro Castillo] and imprisoning him”.
AMLO also denounced US corporate media outlets for spreading propaganda against his government, supporting Mexico’s right-wing opposition, and “protecting the mafias of economic power in the world”.
US State Department and media back opposition protests against Mexico’s very popular electoral reforms
López Obrador is Mexico’s first left-wing president in decades. When he came to power in 2018, he broke a decades-long cycle of bipartisan rule, which he blasted as the “neoliberal period” in which the “oligarchy” ruled the country.
In addition to expanding social programs, a key part of AMLO’s political agenda has been electoral reform.
For decades, Mexico has faced rampant corruption and very reputable accusations of electoral fraud. López Obrador has vowed to change that.
His government proposed legislation to reform Mexico’s National Electoral Institute (INE). The plan is to simplify the country’s voting system, cutting funding to highly overpaid executives, while making it easier to vote for people living in rural areas, those with disabilities, and Mexicans abroad.
Numerous INE executives already get paid more than the president himself, and the huge sums of money in and around the institution has made corruption a systemic problem.
A survey from late 2022, which was conducted by the INE itself, found that the vast majority of Mexicans support electoral reforms, with 74% to 93% of people agreeing with proposed reforms, such as cutting funding and creating elections for electoral magistrates.
In fact, the poll found that 52% of Mexicans support replacing the INE with an entirely new institution called the National Institute of Elections and Consultations (INEC), while just 40% of people oppose this.
Although electoral reform is widely popular among the Mexican people, it has angered the country’s political and economic elites, as well as their backers in Washington.
On February 26, Mexico’s right-wing opposition parties – many of which are closely linked to drug cartels and have benefited from decades of systemic corruption – held a march against the Mexican government’s proposed electoral reforms, calling for the INE to be left alone.
Major US media outlets showered the protests with support. The US State Department expressed its approval as well, criticizing the electoral reforms.
CIA official turned State Department spokesman Ned Price applauded the demonstrations as part of a “great debate” to “support healthy democracy” in Mexico.
AMLO denounces US “meddling” and the Monroe Doctrine
López Obrador denounced the US government’s “meddling” in a press conference on February 28.
“The US State Department [has] the bad habit, always, they meddle in affairs that don’t involve them”, he said.
This contradicts the attitude of “President Biden, who always talks about equality, rhetorically”, AMLO added.
Condemning this “bad habit” of the United States, the Mexican president lamented, “They still will not abandon the two-century-old policy, the Monroe Doctrine, of thinking of themselves as the world’s government”.
He continued: “What do I say, with all due respect, to Mr. Blinken of the State Department? That there is more democracy today in Mexico than in the United States”.
“Instead of meddling, acting in an interfering way in our internal affairs, if they want to continue with the same policy, they should take care of what is happening in Peru”, AMLO said.
In Peru, he warned, “the US ambassador is the advisor of the coup-mongers, who trampled on the liberties and democracy in that country, unjustly overthrowing the president [Pedro Castillo] and imprisoning him“.
“But this is nothing more than the State Department. It is its nature”, AMLO argued, denouncing the “centuries-old habit of the US government and US elites”.
“When I say that we have more democracy than they do, it is because here the people govern, and there the oligarchy govern, nothing more”, AMLO added.
The Mexican president also criticized the Wall Street Journal, which had a front-page story praising the right-wing opposition protest against his government.
AMLO said the newspaper was promoting “the march of the corrupt”. He quipped that the Wall Street Journal “and other newspapers in the United States protect the mafias of economic power in the world”.
The leaders of the march were “corrupt” and “hypocritical”, López Obrador argued. He noted that it featured many of the same politicians who voted against his proposed policies to support pensions for elderly Mexicans and scholarships for students.
“That is their mentality. They are very conservative and very hypocritical”, he said.
AMLO likewise made fun of the hyperbolic media outlets and opposition activists who “say that we are dictators”.
He also lampooned right-wing politicians who claim, “You are either with me or against me”. Instead, AMLO countered, you are “either with the people or with the oligarchy”.
Ignoring documented history of recent fraud, US media demonizes Mexico’s electoral reform
López Obrador is one of the most popular heads of state in the world. He has consistently enjoyed an approval rating of between 60% and 70% since he came to power in 2018.
His proposed electoral reform is very popular as well.
The main goal of the reform is to simplify Mexico’s electoral system, and trim down the National Electoral Institute (INE), which is notorious for its massive bureaucratic bloat, and which provides a lot of room and money for corruption.
President AMLO has often pointed out that some high-level INE officials make more money than he does.
By streamlining the system, López Obrador hopes to make it much more difficult for Mexican elites to steal elections.
Throughout his career, going back decades, AMLO has campaigned against the rampant corruption in Mexico’s political and electoral system.
A progressive outsider, López Obrador ran against the two parties that dominated Mexican politics: the center-right neoliberal PRI and the hard-right conservative PAN. Both are infamous for their documented involvement in corruption.
The PRI governed the country (under various names) from 1929 until 2000, and then returned in 2012. The PAN reigned from 2000 to 2012.
AMLO came very close to winning the 2006 presidential election, losing by a fraction of a percentage point. He accused his right-wing opponent Felipe Calderón of stealing the election through fraud.
Calderón, who served as president from 2006 to 2012, is well known to have close links to drug trafficking and corruption. Former officials in his government said he oversaw a “death squad” that killed civilians.
Calderón’s chief of security, Genaro García Luna, was found guilty in a US federal court in February of having collaborated with the bloody Sinaloa Cartel and protected drug lord El Chapo Guzmán.
In the 2012 presidential elections, the neoliberal PRI returned to power. López Obrador once again came in second place.
AMLO accused the PRI of buying 5 million votes. And there was ample evidence for his accusations – these are not at all like Donald Trump’s baseless allegations.
In the wake of the 2012 elections, numerous videos went viral on social media showing long lines of Mexicans who received payment cards to vote for the PRI.
A diehard right-wing Colombian hacker who is currently in prison, Andrés Sepúlveda, told Bloomberg in 2016 that he helped PRI candidate Enrique Peña Nieto rig the 2012 elections, by stealing data, hacking phones, installing spyware, manipulating social media, spreading fake news, among other dirty tricks.
Bloomberg wrote (emphasis added):
When Peña Nieto won [in 2012], Sepúlveda began destroying evidence. He drilled holes in flash drives, hard drives, and cell phones, fried their circuits in a microwave, then broke them to shards with a hammer. He shredded documents and flushed them down the toilet and erased servers in Russia and Ukraine rented anonymously with Bitcoins. He was dismantling what he says was a secret history of one of the dirtiest Latin American campaigns in recent memory.
For eight years, Sepúlveda, now 31, says he traveled the continent rigging major political campaigns. With a budget of $600,000, the Peña Nieto job was by far his most complex. He led a team of hackers that stole campaign strategies, manipulated social media to create false waves of enthusiasm and derision, and installed spyware in opposition offices, all to help Peña Nieto, a right-of-center candidate, eke out a victory.
Sepúlveda’s team installed malware in routers in the headquarters of the PRD candidate [AMLO], which let him tap the phones and computers of anyone using the network, including the candidate. He took similar steps against PAN’s Vázquez Mota. When the candidates’ teams prepared policy speeches, Sepúlveda had the details as soon as a speechwriter’s fingers hit the keyboard. Sepúlveda saw the opponents’ upcoming meetings and campaign schedules before their own teams did.
Money was no problem. At one point, Sepúlveda spent $50,000 on high-end Russian software that made quick work of tapping Apple, BlackBerry, and Android phones. He also splurged on the very best fake Twitter profiles; they’d been maintained for at least a year, giving them a patina of believability.
Sepúlveda managed thousands of such fake profiles and used the accounts to shape discussion around topics such as Peña Nieto’s plan to end drug violence, priming the social media pump with views that real users would mimic. For less nuanced work, he had a larger army of 30,000 Twitter bots, automatic posters that could create trends. One conversation he started stoked fear that the more López Obrador rose in the polls, the lower the peso would sink. Sepúlveda knew the currency issue was a major vulnerability; he’d read it in the candidate’s own internal staff memos.
Just about anything the digital dark arts could offer to Peña Nieto’s campaign or important local allies, Sepúlveda and his team provided. On election night, he had computers call tens of thousands of voters with prerecorded phone messages at 3 a.m. in the critical swing state of Jalisco.
As an alleged victim of voter fraud, AMLO has insisted on the importance of electoral reform, to make the country’s corruption-ridden system more equitable.
In February, Mexico’s Senate approved “Plan B” of the proposed electoral reform. This version is much less ambitious than the overhaul that was proposed in 2022 (Plan A), but which did not get enough votes to pass.
Despite the law being watered down, Mexico’s right-wing opposition – which is notoriously corrupt and unpopular – has capitalized on it to try to portray AMLO as a would-be “autocrat”.
This is despite the fact that López Obrador is only going to be in power for one term, and has made no efforts to change Mexico’s law restricting presidencies to a single term.
Mexico’s conservative opposition has powerful friends in Washington, and particularly in the US press corps.
The editorial board of the Washington Post, which is owned by billionaire oligarch Jeff Bezos, blasted AMLO’s electoral reform as “a knife stabbing at the heart of Mexico’s democracy”.
Reuters cited anonymous “critics” who “warn it will weaken democracy“, while the Los Angeles Times did the same to portray it as a “threat to democracy“.
Neoconservative activist David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and accomplice in the illegal US invasion of Iraq, claimed in The Atlantic that “liberal democracy in Mexico is under assault”, demonizing democratically elected President AMLO as “erratic and authoritarian”.
Not one of these media outlets mentioned the 2022 INE survey that found that 74% to 93% of Mexicans support AMLO’s proposed electoral reforms, or that the president has consistently had an approval rating of between 60% and 70%.