Three years of changes
La Jornada Editorial
Yesterday was the third anniversary of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s inauguration as President of Mexico, and he decided to mark the occasion with a massive rally in the capital’s Zocalo square, to which he delivered a speech which sounded like a State of the Nation address. During this period, the country has experienced many dizzying and profound changes that, at the same time, paradoxically enough, are insufficient. Some sectors of society regret the transformations carried out by the executive branch and others deplore the fact that more has not been done. Nevertheless, it is clear -and this is confirmed by accepted public opinion polls- that a solid majority of the population supports Lopez Obrador’s work and the refurbishing of the public administration undertaken during the current six-year presidential admninistration.
Nothing expresses this reorientation better than the systematic demolition of the symbols of power carried out by AMLO, starting with the conversion of the former official Los Pinos presidential residence into a cultural center open to the public, the elimination of the Presidential General Staff, the austerity policies ordered for all government agencies, and the legal modifications to remove the president’s immunity. At the same time, López Obrador has chosen a direct and plain communication style that is expressed both in his morning press conferences and in yesterday’s event, an unprecedented mass ceremony. But, beyond symbols and speeches, the substance of the transformation lies in a forceful reorientation of the public budget to address the most pressing needs of the most vulnerable sectors of the population, as well as in an administrative effort never before seen to fight corruption, frivolity, and waste in government.
It is undeniable that both lines of action have made it possible to free up resources for the implementation of social programs that would otherwise be unfeasible, such as Youth Building the Future, the universal subsidy for senior citizens, Sembrando Vida, The School is Ours, as well as for strategic public work projects such as the Mayan Train, the Felipe Angeles International Airport, the inter-oceanic highway in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, and various regional programs aimed at local economic reactivation and job creation. No less important, the President has sought to abandon the failed strategy of the war against crime in order to build a completely different public security model, based on the fight against the social causes of criminality and on a non-Manichean understanding of the phenomenon. Certainly, the effects of this decline in crime rates are far from satisfactory, particularly in terms of the territorial presence of criminal organizations, gender-based crimes, and crimes against informants and activists.
Nevertheless, not even the most exalted detractors of the Lopez Obrador administration deny that in these three years public debate has flourished as in no other presidency. The politicization of public affairs, although undesirable in some cases, has translated into an intense and generalized social participation in the discussion and the federal government has renounced the shameful methods of control and influencing of public opinion. There is practically no institution that has not been subjected to critical scrutiny, whether by government officials or opponents, from the Presidency itself to small government units, but also -and this is relatively new- the media, universities, political parties, and autonomous government agencies.
Lopez Obrador’s determination to privilege the general over the particular has generated confrontations between the executive branch and academic, scientific, artistic and social activist sectors. However bitter they may be, such confrontations translate into a massive flow of information -and misinformation- on the functioning of the country’s different facets and, at the end of the day, into a progressive dissemination of legal and institutional data among broad sectors of the population.
Another evident facet of the change experienced in these three years is foreign policy. While the complicated bilateral relationship with the United States has been able to follow unexpectedly peaceful and even fruitful channels, both with the Republican Donald Trump and the Democrat Joe Biden, Mexico’s attitude toward the rest of Latin America has led to a clear recovery of its presence and regional preeminence, and the country is back on the international stage as a point of reference for principled diplomacy.
It would be impossible to summarize all aspects of the transformation in which the country finds itself, as well as to synthesize how much remains to be done to fully comply with Lopez Obrador’s political, economic, social, and institutional program. What very few dare to deny is that the country has changed considerably -even swimming against the stream of the tragic pandemic- and the majority feeling, expressed in the opinion polls and in yesterday’s rally in the Zocalo, is that it has been overwhelmingly for the better.