In an unlikely stop in his pre-campaign trail, Andrés Manuel López Obrador made a quick visit to the industrial, private sector-intensive city of Monterrey last week. This is hostile territory for López, since the state of Nuevo León has not traditionally sympathized with the leftists parties with which he has associated (PRD, PT, Convergencia). His visit gathered around 1,200 middle- and upper-class listeners. Some were supporters, but most were just curious as I gathered from the low intensity of response to applause moments during the event.
His message was somewhat different from his usual populist rhetoric. The radio and TV spots, as well as his speech in Monterrey have all toned down. Wearing a slick suit and tie (as opposed to his usual more down to earth Guayaberas) and talking to the business community, López portrayed himself as a modern leftist, blaming the media for showcasing him as an “enemy of the wealthy.” One of his new soundbites states “I am not against businessmen. I am against wrongfully accumulated wealth.” López is not clear about what he means when he says that wealth is wrongfully accumulated, but he did mention a couple of specific targets as culprits: large media corporations Televisa, Telmex and TV Azteca and the PRI and PAN bureaucrats.
López accused Televisa and TV Azteca of controlling the news, limiting his exposure and pushing PRI’s Enrique Peña Nieto as their candidate in order to maintain control of Mexico. In his words, Peña Nieto is “the candidate of the power monopoly.”
While López is definitely right in saying that mainstream media in Mexico is biased, this bias holds true for both media that love and loath him. In this sense, he is no more a victim of the media than any other politician. He’s just become less effective at wooing most of them. You don’t see him complaining about all the media coverage he used to get when he headed Mexico City’s executive and knew how to play the media’s game.
Moreover, he really can’t blame newspapers and TV for having a tarnished image. Because it wasn’t the media that blocked Mexico City’s Paseo de la Reforma or kidnapped Mexico City’s Zocalo (Main Square) to install the famous National Democratic Convention after López decided that a majority vote against him meant that someone had stolen the election. At the time he called this “peaceful civil resistance” and in all fairness, he did send out messages to his followers asking them not to fall into any type of provocation that would lead to violence… but creating chaos and blocking business? No problem!
López’ post-2006 election antics were undoubtedly a political mistake. In a by EL UNIVERSAL 71 percent of Mexicans disagreed with López and the PRD’s attempt at blocking Calderón from accepting the presidency in the Mexican Congress. Nobody likes a sore loser and everybody hates a sore loser who gets in their way and paralyzes a city. And yes, most people disagree with López creating a fantasy “legitimate government” and taking a monthly paycheck from obscure sources over six years in order to keep campaigning for 2012, making him an intricate part of that “putrid system” he so vocally opposes.
During the recent event in Monterrey, López cynically defended taking a city hostage as a means to control the rage of supporters after “Calderón stole the election.” His pitch is that millions of people were ready to take arms to defend his “legitimate government” so he had to do something. I guess walking away and accepting facts was not in the cards. When did organizing blockades of banks and other businesses—costing a city millions of pesos in damages and commercial transactions lost—and causing chaos in highways and main streets become an appeasement tactic? Fact: in 2006, López showed his rabble-rouser face and most of Mexico didn’t like it, so now he’s changing up his game and telling a different story.
In Monterrey he attacked Televisa, TV Azteca and Telmex of wrongfully accumulating wealth, but he went on to say that they should be allowed to accumulate more of it by letting Telmex enter the TV business and Televisa explore going into VoIP, because “that promotes open competition.” He also said that if he reaches the presidency, he “will not expropriate anything or anybody. What we will have, is more competition.” This is an unlikely sales pitch from somebody who within the first five minutes of his speech called neoliberalism “a policy of greed."
It is obvious that López is once again trying to reach out to non-hard line supporters and undecided voters from the center-left, center and center-right ideologies, as he claims that the “MoReNa movement” he heads is inclusive and welcomes all schools of thought and creed. During his speech he also called for more efficiency and competitiveness in the energy sector. That’s a real hard sell coming from him. López cannot be the appeasement, open market and competitiveness candidate and at the same time attack economic liberalism and the legally extinct but still combative SME (Sindicato Mexicano de Electricistas), one of the main sources of incompetence in the energy sector. Mr. López, you can’t have it both ways.
In his closing remarks, López’ proposals included putting young people to work, combating corruption, better coordination between military and police forces, better coordination between federal and state authorities, and alleviating poverty. All important issues, yes, but do enough people believe that López is the one who would actually solve them? Within the political left, Marcelo Ebrard seems a more likely candidate. And even in the unlikely event of him regaining the people’s trust, López is a little late in the game to shift gears. Plus, his clunker might have taken too big of a beating in 2006 to catch up.
*Arjan Shahani is a contributing blogger to AmericasQuarterly.org. He lives in Monterrey, Mexico, and is an MBA graduate from Thunderbird University and Tecnológico de Monterrey and a member of the International Advisory Board of Global Majority—an international non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of non-violent conflict resolution.