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Will Mexico Go Down the Populist Route in 2018?

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza

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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.

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza is an IR lecturer and PhD candidate at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She gained her Bachelor's in International Relations at Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City and her MA in International Relations and World Order at the University of Leicester, England. She has spoken at numerous international conferences and has written on topics such as democracy, migration, European politics, Contemporary Mexican Politics and the Middle East.

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Trump Quietly Orders Elimination of Assange

Eric Zuesse

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On June 28th, the Washington Examiner headlined “Pence pressed Ecuadorian president on country’s protection of Julian Assange” and reported that “Vice President Mike Pence discussed the asylum status of Julian Assange during a meeting with Ecuador’s leader on Thursday, following pressure from Senate Democrats who have voiced concerns over the country’s protection of the WikiLeaks founder.” Pence had been given this assignment by U.S. President Donald Trump. The following day, the Examiner bannered “Mike Pence raises Julian Assange case with Ecuadorean president, White House confirms” and reported that the White House had told the newspaper, “They agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward.”

On August 24th, a court-filing by Kellen S. Dwyer, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Alexandria Division of the Eastern District of Virginia, stated: “Due to the sophistication of the defendant and the publicity surrounding the case, no other procedure [than sealing the case, hiding it from the public] is likely to keep confidential the fact that Assange has been charged. … This motion and the proposed order would need to remain sealed until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter.” That filing was discovered by Seamus Hughes, a terrorism expert at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. On November 15th, he posted an excerpt of it on Twitter, just hours after the Wall Street Journal had reported on the same day that the Justice Department was preparing to prosecute Assange. However, now that we know “the fact that Assange has been charged” and that the U.S. Government is simply waiting “until Assange is arrested in connection with the charges in the criminal complaint and can therefore no longer evade or avoid arrest and extradition in this matter,” it is clear and public that the arrangements which were secretly made between Trump’s agent Pence and the current President of Ecuador are expected to deliver Assange into U.S. custody for criminal prosecution, if Assange doesn’t die at the Ecuadorean Embassy first.

On November 3rd (which, of course, preceded the disclosures on November 15th), Julian Assange’s mother, Christine Ann Hawkins, described in detail what has happened to her son since the time of Pence’s meeting with Ecuador’s President. She said: “He is, right now, alone, sick, in pain, silenced in solitary confinement, cut off from all contact, and being tortured in the heart of London. … He has been detained nearly eight years, without trial, without charge. For the past six years, the UK Government has refused his requests to exit for basic health needs, … [even for] vitamin D. … As a result, his health has seriously deteriorated. … A slow and cruel assassination is taking place before our very eyes. … They will stop at nothing. … When U.S. Vice President Mike Pence recently visited Ecuador, a deal was done to hand Julian over to the U.S. He said that because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high, the plan was to break him down mentally…   to such a point that he will break and be forced to leave. … The extradition warrant is held in secret, four prosecutors but no defense, and no judge, … without a prima-facie case. [Under the U.S. system, the result nonetheless can be] indefinite detention without trial. Julian could be held in Guantanamo Bay and tortured, sentenced to 45 years in a maximum security prison, or face the death penalty,” for “espionage,” in such secret proceedings.

Her phrase, “because the political cost of expelling Julian from the Embassy was too high” refers to the worry that this new President of Ecuador has, of his cooperating with the U.S. regime’s demands and thereby basically ceding sovereignty to those foreigners (the rulers of the U.S.), regarding the Ecuadorian citizen, Assange.

This conservative new President of Ecuador, who has replaced the progressive President who had granted Assange protection, is obviously doing all that he can to comply with U.S. President Trump and the U.S. Congress’s demand for Assange either to die soon inside the Embassy or else be transferred to the U.S. and basically just disappear, at Guantanamo or elsewhere. Ecuador’s President wants to do this in such a way that Ecuador’s voters won’t blame him for it, and that he’ll thus be able to be re-elected. This is the type of deal he apparently has reached with Trump’s agent, Pence. It’s all secret, but the evidence on this much of what was secretly agreed-to seems clear. There are likely other details of the agreement that cannot, as yet, be conclusively inferred from the subsequent events, but this much can.

Basically, Trump has arranged for Assange to be eliminated either by illness that’s imposed by his Ecuadorean agent, or else by Assange’s own suicide resulting from that “torture,” or else by America’s own criminal-justice system. If this elimination happens inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, then that would be optimal for America’s President and Congress; but, if it instead happens on U.S. soil, then that would be optimal for Ecuador’s President. Apparently, America’s President thinks that his subjects, the American people, will become sufficiently hostile toward Assange so that even if Assange disappears or is executed inside the United States, this President will be able to retain his supporters. Trump, of course, needs his supporters, but this is a gamble that he has now clearly taken. This much is clear, even though the rest of the secret agreement that was reached between Pence and Ecuador’s President is not.

Scooter Libby, who had arranged for the smearing of Valerie Plame who had tried to prevent the illegal and deceit-based 2003 invasion of Iraq, was sentenced to 30 months but never spent even a day in prison, and U.S. President Trump finally went so far as to grant him a complete pardon, on 13 April 2018. (The carefully researched docudrama “Fair Game” covered well the Plame-incident.) Libby had overseen the career-destruction of a courageous CIA agent, Plame, who had done the right thing and gotten fired for it; and Trump pardoned Libby, thus retroactively endorsing the lie-based invasion of Iraq in 2003. By contrast, Trump is determined to get Julian Assange killed or otherwise eliminated, and even Democrats in Congress are pushing for him to get that done. The new President of Ecuador is doing their bidding. Without pressure from the U.S. Government, Assange would already be a free man. Thus, either Assange will die (be murdered) soon inside the Embassy, or else he will disappear and be smeared in the press under U.S. control. And, of course, this is being done in such a way that no one will be prosecuted for the murder or false-imprisonment. Trump had promised to “clean the swamp,” but as soon as he was elected, he abandoned that pretense; and, as President, he has been bipartisan on that matter, to hide the crimes of the bipartisan U.S. Government, and he is remarkably similar in policy to his immediate predecessors, whom he had severely criticized while he was running for the Presidency.

In any event, the destruction of Assange has clearly been arranged for, at the highest levels of the U.S. Government, just as the destruction of Jamal Khashoggi was by Saudi Arabia’s Government; and, just like in Khashoggi’s case, the nation’s ruler controls the prosecutors and can therefore do whatever he chooses to do that the rest of the nation’s aristocracy consider to be acceptable.

The assault against truth isn’t only against Assange, but it is instead also closing down many of the best, most courageous, independent news sites, such as washingtonsblog. However, in Assange’s case, the penalty for having a firm commitment to truth has been especially excruciating and will almost certainly end in his premature death. This is simply the reality. Because of the system under which we live, a 100% commitment to truth is now a clear pathway to oblivion. Assange is experiencing this reality to the fullest. That’s what’s happening here.

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Quiet Does Not Flow This Don: A Week Of the ‘Pathetic Inadequate’

Dr. Arshad M. Khan

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That the current U.S. president places a premium on loyalty has been evident from the start —  loyalty not to the institutions of government and their legal functions but loyalty to the boss.  Former FBI director James Comey cannot forget a certain memory of Donald Trump’s style recalling for him something familiar.  It took him back to the days when he was investigating the Mafia.  The boss was the dominant center:  the loyalty oaths, serving the boss, the family first … as in this White House, not emphasizing what is right for the country.

It explains some of what happened this week.  In Paris, Mr. Trump was pilloried for foregoing a visit to a First World War cemetery (where Americans are also interred) to pay his respects to the fallen.  He explained it was raining.  The outpouring of criticism included Nicolas Soames, Churchill’s grandson and a Member of Parliament, who labeled Trump “that pathetic inadequate.”

Trump’s tweeting attack on his host, French President Emmanuel Macron, began almost immediately, focusing on his proposal for a European army, his brand of nationalism, even his low poll ratings.  French government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux in response noted November 13 as the day of the 2015 attacks when 130 died in suicide bombings and mass shootings, adding Trump’s attacks on the same day lacked “common decency.”

Mrs. Trump had her own cavils.  She wanted Mira Ricardel, Deputy National Security Adviser, fired according to news reports because she was upset by the seat allocations on the plane during her Africa trip and also because she ascribed negative leaks to her.  Mrs. Ricardel in her seven months at the White House developed a reputation for such leaks as well as of a strong personality tending not to suffer fools gladly.  She has been moved to pastures as yet unknown — not fired because anti-Iran policy architect John Bolton the National Security Adviser hired her as his top aide.  Mrs. Trump appears also to be overcome by the miasma of loyalty and who one can trust or otherwise.

But why has Donald Trump soured on his erstwhile friend Emmanuel Macron.  It is true the French leader’s response to Mr. Trump’s ‘America First’ mantra has been to advocate multilateralism but his words were sharper in Paris this time when he stated, “Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism.”  He didn’t stop there.

Responding to Trump’s repeated shaming of Europeans to increase contributions to NATO, he has called for a ‘true European army’ in an interview with France’s Europe 1 radio, adding when Trump abandons “a major disarmament treaty” that resulted from “the 1980s Euro-missile crisis … who is the main victim?  Europe and its security.”  Later he added that Europe’s increased defense expenditures should be with European manufacturers if Europe is to be self-sustaining and truly sovereign.

One can argue that despite this backdrop, Trump was hoping to win over his bro on another matter so pressing for him … Iran.  He clearly got nowhere.  The Europeans continue to prepare for Iran trade via a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), though Austria the country designated to host the SPV has withdrawn from fear of U.S. penalties severing access to U.S. markets.  The new host chosen is Luxembourg.

The stakes are high.  Should the plan fail, Iran might well decide to build a nuclear weapon.  Will Saudi Arabia perceive it as a threat?  Will Israel launch preemptive strikes?  Will the U.S. join them?  These are unsettling questions.

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Donald Trump and America’s People

Sajad Abedi

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The American mid-term elections in the current situation can be considered one of the most sensitive elections in American history; the unusual character and Donald Trump’s extreme actions at the level of domestic and foreign policy have led the American community to more bipartisan and bipartisan competition than ever before. And in the upcoming election, the Democrats are trying to prevent the victory of the Republicans in any way possible and to control Donald Trump’s extremists through the congressional congress.

The division of the American political community into the scene of the opponents and proponents of Trump

What distinguishes Congressional elections from the last election is the division of American society into the bipartisan opponents and supporters of Donald Trump in this election. In fact, in the new situation, the rivalry of the two main US parties has become more or less a controversial scene based on opposition or alignment with the Trump, rather than on the basis of traditional competition between the two parties. This led to a less pronounced party and rivalry between the two political currents, but the critique of the actions and the character of Donald Trump were centered on Democrats.

In support of this, former US President Barack Obama’s remarks can be seen after two years of silence against his tangled attacks. Obama’s Democrats ‘Democrats’ campaign, and with several releases, has directly targeted Donald Trump. Obama says in his most remarkable remarks: “We are witnessing unprecedented behaviors in the White House, which has violated custom and common habits among Democrats and Republicans. If you are young voters worried about what happened over the past two years at the White House, the only way to monitor this behavior is to have congresses and positions that are emerging for the values and ideals of the United States. “In another move, he released a video message asking the youth to participate in November’s mid-term elections. Obama also said in a speech at the University of Illinois with a direct attack on the White House chairman: “The Trump is a disease itself, not a sign, and now we have the chance to bring wisdom back to the political scene of the country.”

In addition, the bipolar society of Donald Trump’s opponents and opponents is now in a position that some political experts talk about the possibility of a civil war in the United States. In the same vein, Professor Nil Ferguson, a professor at Harvard University, says: “Lately, internal disputes in the United States are intensifying and cultural conflicts are proud. On the Internet, there has long been a kind of civil war in the United States, and this war is getting hotter as the congressional election approaches. Sending a bomb to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton will pave the ground for predicting the civil war in the United States. “Also, Emily Wylan, a science fiction candidate from the University of Texas in an article comparing the civil war in Lebanon and the United States, pointed out that Jonathan Randall had not paid attention to it in his time. “There is a common ground between Lebanon in 1975 and the United States in 2018,” he wrote. Washington believes that Washington has powerful and uncompromising allies that have their own interests and are, in fact, an “ineffective cartoon state”. Meanwhile, the Republican Party of America reminds Lebanon’s conservative forces on the brink of civil war, and Democrats, like the Lebanese advanced parties, are decentralized and dispersed. ”

The November 6 decisive election

In spite of the apparent political divide and political divide within the political community of America between its two main parties, Republicans and Democrats, on the axis of the problem called “Trumpism,” prominent members of the Democratic Party or supporters of the Democratic Party in all electoral campaigns, and sometimes even prominent American figures of art Opponents of Trump have emphasized the decisive importance of the inter-period election and the need for its participation, and since November 6th, it has been remembered as a historic moment to restore rationality to the American political scene.

Indeed, mid-term congressional elections are important for Democrats, which if they win, the two final years of the presidency of Donald Trump can turn into a nightmare and a nightmare for him and his government members until the 2020 election. The symbol of this can be seen in 2014, as a result of the Republican victory in the inter-congressional election, a large level of tensions between the Obama administration and the congress was formed, and even the level of conflict was so advanced that, at a time when President Barack Obama was forced to The federal government closed its 16th day.

Now, if Democrats win the mid-term election, they are considered vital for three reasons. On the first level, if the Democrats win the congress and take over the majority, they can stop most of the Trump government’s approvals that they argue against US national interests. On the second level, a Democratic majority congress can provide grounds for plotting against Donald Trump for engaging in several issues, such as secret relations with Russia, illegal sexual relations and lying. In the event of approval of the problem in the House of Representatives and bringing the matter to the Senate, the Democrats can still be successful in raising the maximum pressure and stopping Trump in his most recent extremism. The third dimension, the decisive outcome of the November 6 Congressional election for Democrats, is that they will create a psychological environment for a grand victory against Trump in the presidential election of 2020, if they win in the recent election. Political facts in American history indicate that victory in inter-parliamentary elections has always had a serious and massive impact on the election of the next American president in the next two years.

The congressional election meets the general satisfaction of Trump

In the midst of the turbulent state of the mid-term elections in the United States, Donald Trump’s premature runaway escapes from accepting Republican defeats. According to the results of the polls, the Republicans’ defeat to a certain extent seems to be necessary; as a result, Donald Trump as a senior Republican party can be the first factor in this defeat; in other words, early election results for measuring public policy satisfaction He will be in the past two years.

In the analysis of the disappointment of the Republicans and the Trump on the victory over the inter-congressional elections, it is possible to look at Trump’s performance at two levels of domestic politics and foreign policy. On the one hand, at the internal level, Trump faces numerous problems at the individual and moral levels, and his moral scandals, economic activities, and his relations with the Russians during the electoral campaign have reduced American confidence and, on the other hand, his domestic policies It is mostly based on racism and even fascism; it has placed non-white Americans in front of him. Meanwhile, immigration policies, his opposition to the colorful people, as well as Trump’s opposition to the general insurance plan introducing Obamawalker, have created a backdrop of dissent and disgust of American citizens from Trump.

At the foreign policy level, Trump’s catastrophic performance in partnering with traditional US allies and his efforts to get close to Russia has put a lot of criticism into the White House’s performance. In fact, Trump has frustrated US voters by importing America into a war of commerce with all the world powers, including China, Russia and even European countries as traditional allies. Also, Trump’s action in support of the Yemeni war that killed thousands of innocent people, and in particular the silence in the savage murder case, the Saudi-critic’s journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, has disappointed the Republican Party’s supporters of the Trump performance. Taken together, these two levels can be said that Donald Trump’s two-year performance at the domestic and foreign levels has turned into Republican Achilles heels in the mid-term elections.

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