In less than a year time Mexico will have its presidential election and the country may well elect leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as its new president. AMLO faces a weakened ruling party and a deeply divided National Action Party (PAN).
AMLO’s winning Mexico’s presidency on his third attempt since 2000 is a prospect that thrills many Mexicans and terrifies others. Mexico may now be ready for more drastic politics since majority of the population has stopped believing that either of the two political parties that have ruled Mexico, PAN and the Institutional Revolutionary Party, (PRI) will do anything different to change the current situation.
The PRI’s nominee whoever it will be, will be tainted by association with the current administration and the 71-year dirty baggage of the PRI regime; the likeliest candidate of the PAN, Margarita Zavala is the wife of a former president blamed for the upsurge of violence triggered by his clumsy crackdown on drugs. AMLO has ranted against privilege, corruption and what he calls the political establishment made up of every single political actor bar his newly created party, National Regeneration Movement, (MORENA). Sweep away all that and, according to him, Mexico will suddenly improve. Many others hear in that message the latent message of a charismatic populist who would only weaken institutions and roll back reforms.
AMLO has capitalised the fact that people are fed up with corruption and he has presented himself an honest politician committed to cure Mexico of the cancer of corruption. His political career and performance though, show a different story. He has shown a common contempt for norms; separation of power and the rule of law. Obrador’s lack of respect for institutions and the easiness with which he is willing to discredit rules that do not suit him would make him an ineffective corruption-fighter. He has also been involved in several acts of corruption: René Bejarano, now a close supporter of AMLO again, was taped several years ago when he was the personal assistant of AMLO receiving enormous amount of money. He backed AMLO in both presidential elections of 2000 and 2006, and has now again made it public he is ready to work closely with him again; the finance minister of AMLO when he was the major of Mexico City, Gustavo Ponce, was also shown betting huge amounts of public money in a casino in Las Vegas; Carlos Imaz, husband of Claudia Sheinbaum, the most likely candidate of AMLO for the governorship of Mexico City, was also taped being bribed by the businessman Carlos Ahumada; AMLO also received the continuous support of the Abarca family of Guerrero who were later involved in the Iguala incident where 48 students went missing and presumably killed; Ricardo Monreal, a prominent figure in Obrador’s newly created party, was also known for conceding millionaire contracts to the friends of his daughter, a total of 16 contracts for 27 million pesos to supply his administration of stationery material; in 2012, a conversation of Luis Acosta Bonino, a campaign strategist of AMLO, was leaked in which he said 6 million dollars would be more than enough to make sure AMLO won the elections; and the most recent case was the local deputy and ex-candidate of MORENA for municipal president in Veracruz, Eva Cadena Sandoval, who was caught taking a bribe of half a million pesos for AMLO.
AMLO created MORENA in 2014, and its launch came at the expense of his membership of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). MORENA is a one-man party, and AMLO is not willing to let anyone else dictate what he wants or what needs to be done. The creation of his own party will also enable him to run for president for as long as he likes. The past July elections in the state of Mexico have again put his worst qualities at the forefront: his inability to hide the most unappealing aspects of his persona for a long time; his personalism; and the structural limitations of his strategy. Following the loss of his candidate, Obrador blamed the defeat just like he did in 2006 and 2012 on electoral fraud. For him democracy is only democracy once him or anyone of his party is elected. The loss of that election can only be blamed on himself and his inability to negotiate deals and put his personalism aside. One natural place for AMLO to look for allies would be his former home, the PRD. Teaming up in the State of Mexico would have delivered a 49% victory over the PRI candidate who got 34%. He cannot blame anyone for his lack of vision in that election, and this could also well be a forecast for the 2018 presidential election.
Coming up 3% points short in the State of Mexico left AMLO and his party with hone of the 31 governorships of the country and no access to potential funding. Under such conditions. If he is to win the presidency next year, tapping into voter outrage at graft, crime, and Donald Trump will not be enough. He will need to broaden his appeal and curtail his threats against and establishment that he sees as the mafia of power and that ironically AMLO was part of for nearly 40 years, first in the PRI and then in the PRD.
In a one-round election, AMLO would win with as little as 30% of the vote; if that happens, Mexico will embark upon a perilous political experiment. What would a presidency of AMLO look like? Just like with Trump and Brexit, the world will have to wait and see. For AMLO opponents in Mexico, there are 2 worst-case scenarios. One would be a northern version of Hugo Chávez who upon gaining power set to radically change institutions and concentrate power around himself. The other would be left-wing version of Donald Trump, who would go at politics like a solitary gunslinger without regard for counsel or consequences.
The fear of AMLO has triggered coalition talk by other parties, namely the PAN and the PRD, who have already teamed up at state level and have had a proven track of victories. If AMLO wants to win the presidency rather than go down as a self-proclaimed martyr of a so-called fraudulent system, he has to be able to convince the voters that he will be less like Hugo Chávez and Donald Trump and more like Brazilian Lula Da Silva. He also needs to rely on the entire left. His loss at the State of Mexico shows that a divided left will only continue losing. The electoral successes PRD has had by uniting with PAN also reduces AMLO’s ability to bully his former party leaders into supporting him. He would then have to do with more negotiation and less personalism. AMLO needs to somehow reconcile with the PRD and unite the left to have a real chance at victory.
AMLO is at heart a populist authoritarian and if he continues with his incendiary speech and non-democratic, authoritarian practices within his own party along with corruption and tainted alliances, he could easily lead voters to settle for unappealing but safer choices. Ultimately, candidates matter more than elections in Mexico, a PRI candidate who can show enough distance from the present administration and a solid career may yet be able to overcome the disaster of this administration. PAN, with or without the PRD need to deal first with its internal divisions just like the PRD, and for the perpetual candidate AMLO, his liabilities remain overwhelming and too serious to claim an easy victory in 2018. At the same time, it is also clear that whoever becomes Mexico’s next president will have little chance of changing the facts on the ground, particularly the unspeakable violence of the drug cartels and the endemic corruption of the Mexican political system despite empty, vague populist promises.
China and Venezuela Deepening Cooperation
In a significant development that underscores the changing dynamics of global politics and economics, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Venezuelan counterpart Nicolas Maduro recently signed several bilateral cooperation agreements in Beijing, highlighting the changing dynamics of world politics and economics. China’s determination to participate in partnerships that promote economic stability and prosperity demonstrates its unwavering commitment to global economic recovery.
The agreements signify a strengthening of their partnerships and span a variety of fields, including trade, the economy, and tourism. The cooperation has been upgraded to an “All-weather strategic partnership,” reflecting the continued dedication of both countries to the advancement and development of the other. The decision by China and Venezuela to strengthen their ties comes as the world is witnessing a transformation in international alliances and trade partnerships.
The economic collaboration between the two countries is one of the most significant aspects of this new era of partnership. The recent agreements are expected to further cement Venezuela’s ties with China, which has long been the country’s major trading partner.Investments in infrastructure development and oil and gas exploration and production are part of the cooperation in the energy industry.
During his visit to China, President Maduro expressed his optimism for the relationship’s future, stating it heralds the start of a “new era” for both nations. Venezuela, which has recently experienced economic difficulties, views China as a dependable ally that can aid in reviving its economy. China, on the other hand, sees Venezuela as a crucial friend in the region and a valuable supply of natural resources.
China and Venezuela’s energy cooperation has broad implications. As the globe grapples with concerns about energy security and climate change, this alliance might have a big impact on the global energy landscape. China’s investments in Venezuela’s oil sector can stabilize oil prices and provide a more consistent supply of crude oil to the global market.
Aside from the energy industry, both countries have pledged to deepen their collaboration in a variety of other economic areas. Venezuela can benefit from China’s expertise in agricultural technologies and infrastructural development in one area. Venezuela may enhance food production and reduce its reliance on imports by modernizing its agricultural sector with Chinese assistance, thereby increasing food security for its citizens.
Additionally, both countries have enormous potential in the tourism sector. Venezuela has incredible landscapes such as the famous Angel Falls and virgin Caribbean beaches, which may appeal to Chinese tourists looking for new travel experiences. Similarly, China’s rich history and culture have always captured the interest of visitors from all over the world, including Venezuelans. The tourist accords aim to make travel between the two countries easier, to foster cultural interaction, and to develop tourism-related enterprises.
Furthermore, the strengthened relationship extends beyond economic interests to include political and strategic considerations. Both countries have reaffirmed their commitment to mutual support in international forums and to no interference in the other’s internal affairs. This strategic partnership is consistent with China’s aim of establishing a multipolar world and strengthening cooperation across developing nations.
The collaboration between China and Venezuela should be seen in the larger Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) initiative. The BRI seeks to establish a network of economic and infrastructure partnerships across Asia, Europe, Africa, and Latin America. A deeper integration of Venezuela into China’s global economic vision through its participation in the BRI could create new trade and investment opportunities.
The potential for economic development in Venezuela is one of the most notable benefits of the China-Venezuela cooperation. In recent years, the South American country has suffered severe economic issues, including high inflation, financial sanctions, and political unrest. China’s investments and assistance can help stabilize Venezuela’s economy, generate jobs, and raise inhabitants’ living standards.
The China-Venezuela connection is a key milestone in the shifting global political and economic landscape. In a changing world order, this partnership has the potential to provide Venezuela with economic prosperity, stability, as well as greater autonomy.
Confusion and uncertainty shape debate about U.S. Gulf policy
Debates about the US commitment to Gulf security are skewed by confusion, miscommunication, and contradictory policies.
The skewing has fuelled uncertainty about US policy as well as Gulf attitudes in an evolving multi-polar world and fuelled misconceptions and misunderstandings.
The confusion is all the more disconcerting given that the fundamentals of US Gulf relations are beyond doubt.
The United States retains a strategic interest in the region, even if its attention has pivoted to Asia. Moreover, neither China nor Russia is capable or willing to replace the US as the Gulf’s security guarantor.
“None of the Gulf states believe China can replace the United States as the Gulf’s security protector,” said Gulf International Forum Executive Director Dania Thafer.
The recent US military build-up in the Gulf to deter Iran with thousands of Marines backed by F-35 fighter jets and an aircraft carrier helped reassure Gulf states in the short term. So has the possibility of the US putting armed personnel on commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz.
The build-up followed the United Arab Emirates’ withdrawal from a US-led, 34-nation maritime coalition in May because the US had not taken decisive action against Iranian attacks on Gulf shipping, including a vessel traveling from Dubai to the Emirati port of Fujairah.
Even so, the United States has allowed confusion and uncertainty to persist. In addition, the US as well as the Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, appear to pursue contradictory goals.
“The US…did not formulate a very clear approach to how the US wants to work with the GCC as a whole” instead of cooperating with individual Gulf states, said analyst Nawaf bin Mubarak Al Thani, a former Qatari brigadier general and defense attaché in Qatar’s Washington embassy.
The Gulf Cooperation Council or GCC groups the six Gulf monarchies – Saudi Arabia, the UAE. Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman.
“Unless the US becomes clear in its intentions about how it wants to proceed with its future defense relationship with the GCC as a whole, I think we will be going in circles,” Mr. Al Thani added.
The United States has unsuccessfully tried to nudge the GCC to create an integrated air and missile defense system for several years.
Former Pentagon official and Middle East scholar Bilal Y. Saab suggests that the US has moved in the case of Saudi Arabia to enhance confidence by helping the kingdom turn its military into a capable fighting force and developing a first-ever national security vision but has failed to communicate that properly.
“Our geographical command in the region, also known as the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), has been conducting a very quiet…historic transformation from being a war-time command to something of being a security integrator…to activate partnerships to attain collective security objectives,” Mr. Saab said.
“This is not just about having confidence in the US role; it’s also about the United States having confidence in the willingness and ability of those Gulf states to buy into this new mission of doing things together,” Mr. Saab said.
“My biggest problem is that we’re not communicating this stuff well… There’s a lot of confusion in the Gulf about what we’re trying to do,” he added.
Analysts, including Mr. Saab, caution that the United States’ recent willingness to consider concluding defense pacts with Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE is at odds with its revamped security approach to the region.
Saudi Arabia has demanded a security pact alongside guaranteed access to the United States’ most sophisticated weaponry as part of a deal under which the kingdom would establish diplomatic relations with Israel.
The UAE initially made similar noises about a defense pact but has since seemingly opted to watch how the US talks with Saudi Arabia evolve.
A defence pact “is incredibly inconsistent with what we are trying to do with CENTCOM… The moment you provide a defence pact to the Saudis or, frankly, any other country in the region, this is where you go back to the old days of complacency, of dependency on the United States as the guardian and as doing very little on your own to promote and advance your own military capabilities,” Mr. Saab said.
His comments may be more applicable to Saudi Arabia than the UAE, which has long invested in its military capabilities beyond acquiring sophisticated weaponry.
The roots of confusion about the US commitment to the Gulf lie in evolving understandings of the US-Gulf security relationship based on the 1980 Carter Doctrine, the United States’ response to Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, and that year’s Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
President Jimmy Carter laid out the doctrine in his 1989 State of the Union address. “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force,” Mr. Carter said.
Robert E. Hunter, then a National Security Council official and the author of Mr. Carter’s speech, insists that the doctrine was intended to deter external powers, notably the Soviet Union, rather than defend Gulf states against Iran or secure shipping in strategic regional waterways.
“The often-misquoted Carter Doctrine…did not refer to the ‘free flow of commerce.’ I wrote almost all of the speech… it was designed to deter Soviet aggression against Iran, following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which began a few weeks earlier,” Mr. Hunter said.
The Reagan Doctrine, enunciated five years later by Mr. Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan, reinforced his predecessor’s position.
“The US must rebuild the credibility of its commitment to resist Soviet encroachment on US interests and those of its Allies and friends, and to support effectively those Third World states that are willing to resist Soviet pressures or oppose Soviet initiatives hostile to the United States, or are special targets of Soviet policy,” Mr. Reagan said.
President George W. Bush’s development of US doctrine after the 9/11 Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington proved more problematic for the Gulf states.
Mr. Bush defended the United States’ right to defend itself against countries that harbor or aid militant groups.
His doctrine justified the US invasions of Afghanistan and, Iraq. Gulf states saw the Iraq war as destabilizing and problematic, particularly with some on the American right calling for a US takeover of Saudi oil fields.
Nonetheless, Gulf states had plenty of reasons to reinterpret the Carter Doctrine to include a US commitment to defend Gulf states against regional as well as external threats.
The Gulf states’ reinterpretation resulted from a US lack of clarity and actions that seemingly confirmed their revised understanding.
These included the United States leading a 42-nation military alliance that in 1991 drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, establishing bases in the Gulf in the wake of the Iraqi invasion, US interventionism following the 9/11 assaults, and the ongoing protection of Gulf shipping against Iranian attacks.
As a result, a lack of clarity and confusion in Washington and the Gulf’s capitals continue to dominate the debate about the US-Gulf security relationship.
Said Mr. Saab: “I would like to understand from the Gulf states whether what we are selling, they are actually buying. What we are selling is…a very real partnership. No longer guardianship, but actual partnership. I don’t know where individual countries stand on these proposals… Until we get common ground on this, there is nothing in the Middle East that we do that is really going to work.”
US Diplomacy in Asia: Navigating a New Era of Cooperation
In an era marked by shifting global dynamics and a resurgent emphasis on diplomacy, the United States must adapt its approach to international relations, particularly in its dealings with Asian countries. China’s recent call for the United States to recognize the shared aspirations of Asian countries has significant implications.
The changing global political landscape underscores the need for a commitment to cooperation, stability, and mutual development. The United States should heed this call and adopt a more cooperative approach in its interactions with Asian countries, which can benefit not only the region but also the entire world. This call from China comes at a time when the U.S. is making diplomatic strides in its relationship with Vietnam.
Vietnam, a significant player in the region, continually emphasizes that enhancing its comprehensive strategic cooperative engagement with China is its top foreign policy objective. This commitment underscores the importance of Asian nations forging partnerships based on mutual understanding and shared goals, rather than divisive politics.
China’s approach to bilateral relations with Asian countries is rooted in principles that promote regional peace, stability, development, and prosperity. It emphasizes that such connections should not target third parties or jeopardize regional well-being.
China’s call for the U.S. to adhere to basic norms governing international relations is an invitation to enter an era of diplomacy that moves beyond the outdated zero-sum pursuit of power politics. Understanding the changing dynamics in Asia is critical to understanding the significance of China’s call. The region is experiencing unparalleled economic expansion, technological advancement, and social development. Through trade, investment, and cultural contacts, Asian countries are becoming increasingly interconnected. Their mutual goals concentrate on maximizing their ability for the greater good.
Indeed, the world has changed since the days when superpowers ruled global affairs. Diplomacy is a more complex endeavor in today’s connected and multipolar world. By adopting a more cooperative approach to Asian issues, the United States has a rare chance to demonstrate its commitment to becoming a constructive global partner.
China’s call for the United States to respect common goals is grounded in a vision of Asian cooperation that transcends historical resentments and ideological disagreements. It recognizes that each country in the area has unique strengths and challenges and that collaboration can help solve those challenges more efficiently.
This call includes not just diplomacy but also economic links, cultural exchanges, and people-to-people relationships. Asian countries are keen to tap into the tremendous potential for trade and investment, and accepting this chance could help not only the US economy but also the stability and prosperity of the entire Asian region.
The US must consider the concerns and interests of all Asian countries, including China. A cooperative strategy that respects each country’s sovereignty and objectives is more likely to yield beneficial results and contribute to regional stability. The days of hegemony and Cold War mentalities are behind, and the future of global politics lies in cooperation, mutual progress, and common goals. The world is watching, and the choices made today will shape the future of international relations in Asia and beyond.
Furthermore, it is important to recognize China’s significant contributions to the prosperity and security of the Asian region and beyond. China’s economic growth and development have been major drivers in maintaining global economic stability. It’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has aided infrastructure development in a number of countries, allowing for economic growth and connectivity.
China’s emphasis on a multipolar world and respect for sovereignty aligns with the values of equality and non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. This position contrasts with previous instances of US interventionism and emphasizes the need to respect individual nations’ autonomy and choices.
While recognizing the significance of cooperation, it is critical to emphasize the dangers of pursuing aggressive policies in Asia. A confrontational strategy, whether through military posturing, containment efforts, or coalition formation to fight China, can lead to increasing tensions and instability in the region. Such acts may unwittingly put governments on the defensive, hindering diplomatic progress.
Whether or not Biden admitted it, his visit to Vietnam was mainly perceived as a major US move to court the Southeast Asian country and leverage its economy in support of the US offensive against China’s trade and technologies.
It’s highly important to remember that Asia is a diversified continent with intricate historical, cultural, and political aspects. The resolution of regional challenges and conflicts is more likely to be successful when strategies that emphasize collaboration and communication are used. History has taught us that engagement and diplomacy are much more successful means of settling conflicts than direct confrontation.
The call from China to the United States to embrace a new era of cooperation in Asian ties is a push for a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous world. Recognizing China’s contributions to global economic stability and its commitment to addressing significant global issues is extremely important. Adopting a cooperative approach in Asia based on equality and respect for sovereignty will pave the way for a brighter future for all nations in the area and beyond.
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