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Back up and move forward.

1 January 2019

This site was started on the premise that in Mexico history matters… and that our politics and political discourse is a continual recycling and repackaging of our history.  It’s so obvious, even Jude Weber finally gets it.  (I don’t have a Financial Times subscription, so stolen, and google translated from El Financiero):

The portrait and the presence of Benito Juárez are so ubiquitous in Mexico these days that one can almost forgive anyone who thinks that he, not Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known as AMLO), is the one who has just assumed the presidency of the country.

The image of the 19th century lawyer and former president of Mexico is at the center of the new government logo. His huge black and white image was the official backdrop of AMLO during the transition between his election and his inauguration on December 1. His face also appears on the new 500 peso bill ($ 25).

López Obrador, who often says that his dream is to be a president as good as his hero, has moved his office to the National Palace where Juarez worked and, as some newspaper articles suggest, he might even be imitating Juarez’s hairstyle.
However, although López Obrador is a somewhat clumsy public speaker, he is a clever political communicator and his use of history improves the effectiveness of his messages: the past is the prologue.

In his second week of work, he was embroiled in a dispute with the Supreme Court over insisting that no official should be allowed to earn more than his own salary as president, a level he had already set at 60 percent less than that of his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto. To emphasize this point, he read a decree of 1861 in which Juarez announced cuts to his own salary.

Investors are worried about another historical parallel: their desire to place the state oil company, Pemex, at the center of the national oil industry. The intention evokes the image of Lázaro Cárdenas, the former president who expropriated American and British companies in 1938 and created Pemex, and who is next to Juarez and other heroes of independence and revolution in the new logo.

López Obrador has already limited Peña Nieto’s historic energy reform – which put an end to Pemex’s monopoly and opened the sector to private investment for the first time in eight decades – by suspending oil auctions. Meanwhile, a capital injection of 75 billion pesos (3.7 billion dollars) for Pemex, has the purpose of financing the exploration to resuscitate the glory days of the past. But Pemex’s production has been in decline for the past 14 years and has well-deserved its reputation for bloated bureaucracy, corruption and inefficiency.

The story shows pitfalls and lessons for a leftist nationalist president that critics fear will lead Mexico to the economic crisis of the 1970s, and according to an executive director of the oil company “to the decisions of the past that did not work” .
López Obrador has faced financial markets after announcing that he will discard the new partially built airport in Mexico City, which has a cost of 13 billion dollars, after it was rejected in a referendum. But, as the historian Andrew Paxman points out, even Cardenas had to answer to the business elite after the nationalization caused the peso to lose a third of its value from March 1938 until the end of 1940.

López Obrador is a man with a vision. The president has embarked on an anti-corruption crusade, the central axis of what he grandly calls the “fourth transformation” after Juarez’s liberal reforms; the independence of Spain in the 19th century; and the Mexican revolution more than 100 years ago.

López Obrador has called another popular consultation for next year on the creation of a new national guard and on whether the last five presidents should be judged for promoting the neoliberal policies that he blames for impoverishing Mexicans. The date is surely not a coincidence: Juarez’s birthday on March 21.

The historical references of the government clearly have the purpose of being suggestive. But, in the end, López Obrador can arrange things as he wants. You just have to keep your promises.

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