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Will Mexico Go Down the Populist Route in 2018?

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza



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’s Foreign Policy Reflects his Servitude to Deep State Global Oligarchs

Rahul D. Manchanda, Esq.



President Donald Trump was elected by the American people in order to pursue policies designed to strengthen and fortify America’s economy, position in the world, and to restore policies to protect and assist the American worker.

More specifically, Trump was elected to help protect and safeguard the American people.

But Trump’s inexperience with foreign policy threatens to undermine all of this, and undo all of the progress that he is making.

By placing into power Mike Pompeo as State Department chief, Gina Haspel as CIA Director, and John Bolton as National Security Advisor, Trump is moving the United States closer and closer to outright war, culminating in World War 3.

Obviously, China and Russia will never back down over their support of both Iran and Syria, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (“JCPOA”) Iran Nuclear deal shelved any hope or ambition of nuclear proliferation in that country, as well as opened up that nation to full transparency, inspections and monitoring by the international community, including by the USA.

And diplomacy and calmer heads have allowed North Korea to also come to the negotiating table, in the last few weeks to try and place their nuclear arsenal into the dustbin of history.

But the track records of the above 3 individuals show that they have no interest in diplomacy or cooperative foreign policy, but rather they have focused on bullying, browbeating, chest thumping, fiery rhetoric and provocative actions which will only bolster and fortify China and Russia’s burgeoning military and economic relationship (they were strategic competitors/ enemies before the Neo-Conservatives pushed them together with their misguided foreign policy objectives, support of clandestine terrorism, ISIS, and other catastrophic decisions by the Neo-Con foreign policy establishment, led by men like John Bolton, Richard Perle, Frank Gaffney, Bill Kristol and others).

This has also further pushed the Eurasian nations further into the orbit and influence of Russia and China, while fleeing the West.

The fact remains that the United States can become “great again” when it comes to domestic policy, even with such internationally consequential acts such as tariffs, but it can never become the pre-eminent international power that it used to be, even 10 years ago.

China and Russia have completely altered the global landscape both militarily and economically, and will not budge or yield one inch in either, without a major military confrontation where everyone in the world would die.

America needs to accept this reality, have some humility, cooperate with other powerful nations, and stop trying to revert back to the unipolar world order of yesterday, briefly enjoyed for a few years after the fall of the Soviet Union.

It’s ok to “Make America Great Again,” but it is both short sighted and fool hardy to try and make the world “American” again, without first accepting that the entire world and its people would be obliterated in the process.

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Major Topics to Consider to Determine the Direction the 2018 Mid-Term Elections



The 2018 mid–term elections, since Donald Trump won the November 2016 election against Hillary Clinton, is a significant test for the incumbent administration. Make no mistake, while Mr. Trump’s political and policy rhetoric has not ingratiated him with a majority of the American electorate, the battle for the House, Senate, and state governor’s races will not be a cake walk for either Democrats or Republicans when voters decide that first Tuesday in November. With the 2020 Presidential elections on the horizon, too, the chances for one group to take a popular lead will be hard to predict given the missteps this president and the two parties have incurred. Yet voters can assess the elections by exploring certain factors that help influence their decision making.

It is too early to tell the outcome of the November mid-terms. Though according to the latest polling figures regarding job approval ratings, nearly 63% of Americans disapprove of the President’s job performance, meaning it can influence the respective party vote. This rating has much to do with Mr. Trump’s fashion of presidential leadership. Therefore,US Leadership will be the first of three areasexamined when deciding who wins or who loses in the upcoming elections. Can presidential leadership translate to who wins? Does a person being a president in earnest, that Trump is not, make the argument that leadership is an important influencer and that the image of U.S. leadership, now, is weaker worldwide than it was under Barack Obama and George W. Bush, according to Gallup. As Presidents come and go every four or eight years, they represent American integrity and power throughout their administrations. While past presidents are more discreet in their approaches to allies and adversaries, it should be noted that Mr. Trump’s tact is more public than discretionary. The US President’s approach to his office is reflected by his personality and policies that may, if not already, have negative implications for the US as a global leader.

For instance, voters should ponder Europe’s reactions to what the American President calls “Making America Great Again” and “America First?” This point of view signifies a blatant change in American directionfrom previous administrations. European capitalstoo are public when it comes to highlighting their confidence level in the US; this confidence factor has taken a hit as exemplified with the recent UN vote against moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. There, 128 countries voted “NO” in the resolution condemning the United States. With American diplomacy being devalued, along with his lack of understanding on policy matters, Mr. Trump’s temperament does not bolster the definition of what we are used to regarding presidential or leadership quality.While the US still remains a power both financially and militarily, Trump’s decisions and actions have hurt the country dropping it to 8th place on U.S. News and World Report’s annual “Best Countries” list. Due to President Trump’s unpopularity and countries viewing the U.S. as less trustworthy and more politically unstable, the argument that we can overcome these anomalies is now being challenged by the likes of China, while placing the country behind Sweden and Australia, to name a few.Though a portion of the Republican base will vote Republican come “hell or high water”, all the problems emanating from the President’s office should influence most voters in deciding whether the party of Trump is worth the bother.

It is believed that the problems America faces is about attitude rather than instant action and Donald Trump prefers to tell world than work behind the scenes, or at least that’s what it seems like. What is worrisome are our allies’ thoughts that the President lacks a sense of history, political and global understanding of US policies impact on many countries…certainly not a good start to developing close ties with Asian and European allies.

In the end the outcome to how America will change under this president will be tested via the ballot box wherepresidential leadership will be questioned. The need to deal with trade, terror, and international relationships in the wake of President Trump’s approach dealing with people can possibly hinder both domestic and international agendas. With Russian meddling at the top of the controversy list, with China’s becoming more engaged in trade, foreign policy and the like, and with European leaders looking to maneuver out from the American umbrella that President Trump advocated, there seems to be a change in direction that in the long-term hurts the country’s respect and image and leadership capacities. The mid-terms will either signify a pleasure or displeasure of the Trump agenda and administration’s prestige that only Mr. Trump can rectify which possibly equates to a win for the Republican majority in both House and Senate this November.

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Why America’s major news-media must change their thinking

Eric Zuesse



America’s ‘news’-media possess the mentality that characterizes a dictatorship, not a democracy. This will be documented in the linked-to empirical data which will be subsequently discussed. But, first, here is what will be documented by those data, and which will make sense of these data:

In a democracy, the public perceive their country to be improving, in accord with that nation’s values and priorities. Consequently, they trust their government, and especially they approve of the job-performance of their nation’s leader. In a dictatorship, they don’t. In a dictatorship, the government doesn’t really represent them, at all. It represents the rulers, typically a national oligarchy, an aristocracy of the richest 0.1% or even of only the richest 0.01%. No matter how much the government ‘represents’ the public in law (or “on paper”), it’s not representing them in reality; and, so, the public don’t trust their government, and the public’s job-rating of their national leader, the head-of-state, is poor, perhaps even more disapproval than approval. So, whereas in a democracy, the public widely approve of both the government and the head-of-state; in a dictatorship, they don’t.

In a dictatorship, the ‘news’-media hide reality from the public, in order to serve the government — not the public. But the quality of government that the regime delivers to its public cannot be hidden as the lies continually pile up, and as the promises remain unfulfilled, and as the public find that despite all of the rosy promises, things are no better than before, or are even becoming worse. Trust in such a government falls, no matter how much the government lies and its media hide the fact that it has been lying. Though a ‘democratic’ election might not retain in power the same leaders, it retains in power the same regime (be it the richest 0.1%, or the richest 0.01%, or The Party, or whatever the dictatorship happens to be). That’s because it’s a dictatorship: it represents the same elite of power-holding insiders, no matter what. It does not represent the public. That elite — whatever it is — is referred to as the “Deep State,” and the same Deep State can control more than one country, in which case there is an empire, which nominally is headed by the head-of-state of its leading country (this used to be called an “Emperor”), but which actually consists of an alliance between the aristocracies within all these countries; and, sometimes, the nominal leading country is actually being led, in its foreign policies, by wealthier aristocrats in the supposedly vassal nations. But no empire can be a democracy, because the residents in no country want to be governed by any foreign power: the public, in every land, want their nation to be free — they want democracy, no dictatorship at all, especially no dictatorship from abroad.

In order for the elite to change, a revolution is required, even if it’s only to a different elite, instead of to a democracy. So, if there is no revolution, then certainly it’s the same dictatorship as before. The elite has changed (and this happens at least as often as generations change), but the dictatorship has not. And in order to change from a dictatorship to a democracy, a revolution also is required, but it will have to be a revolution that totally removes from power the elite (and all their agents) who had been ruling. If this elite had been the nation’s billionaires and its centi-millionaires who had also been billionaire-class donors to political campaigns (such as has been proven to be the case in the United States), then those people, who until the revolution had been behind the scenes producing the bad government, need to be dispossessed of their assets, because their assets were being used as their weapons against the public, and those weapons need (if there is to be a democracy) to be transferred to the public as represented by the new and authentically democratic government. If instead the elite had been a party, then all of those individuals need to be banned from every sort of political activity in the future. But, in either case, there will need to be a new constitution, and a consequent new body of laws, because the old order (the dictatorship) no longer reigns — it’s no longer in force after a revolution. That’s what “revolution” means. It doesn’t necessarily mean “democratic,” but sometimes it does produce a democracy where there wasn’t one before.

The idea that every revolution is democratic is ridiculous, though it’s often assumed in ‘news’-reports. In fact, coups (which the U.S. Government specializes in like no other) often are a revolution that replaces a democracy by a dictatorship (such as the U.S. Government did to Ukraine in 2014, for example, and most famously before that, did to Iran in 1953). (Any country that perpetrates a coup anywhere is a dictatorship over the residents there, just the same as is the case when any invasion and occupation of a country are perpetrated upon a country. The imposed stooges are stooges, just the same. No country that imposes coups and/or invasions/occupations upon any government that has not posed an existential threat against the residents of that perpetrating country, supports democracy; to the exact contrary, that country unjustifiably imposes dictatorships; it spreads its own dictatorship, which is of the imperialistic type, and any government that spreads its dictatorship is evil and needs to be replaced — revolution is certainly justified there.)

This is how to identify which countries are democracies, and which ones are not: In a democracy, the public are served by the government, and thus are experiencing improvement in their lives and consequently approve of the job-performance of their head-of-state, and they trust the government. But in a dictatorship, none of these things is true.

In 2014, a Japanese international marketing-research firm polled citizens in each of ten countries asking whether they approve or disapprove of the job-performance of their nation’s head-of-state, and Harvard then provided an English-translated version online for a few years, then eliminated that translation from its website; but, fortunately, the translation had been web-archived and so is permanent here (with no information however regarding methodology or sampling); and it shows the following percentages who approved of the job-performance of their President or other head-of-state in each of the given countries, at that time:

  • China (Xi) 90%
  • Russia (Putin) 87%
  • India (Modi) 86%
  • South Africa (Zuma) 70%
  • Germany (Merkel) 67%
  • Brazil (Roussef) 63%
  • U.S. (Obama) 62%
  • Japan (Abe) 60%
  • UK (Cameron) 55%
  • France (Hollande) 48%

In January 2018, the global PR firm Edelman came out with the latest in their annual series of scientifically polled surveys in more than two dozen countries throughout the world, tapping into, actually, some of the major criteria within each nation indicating whether or not the given nation is more toward the dictatorship model, or more toward the democracy model. The 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer survey showed that “Trust in Government” (scored and ranked on page 39) is 44% in Russia, and is only 33% in the United States. Trust in Government is the highest in China: 84%. The U.S. and Russia are the nuclear super-powers; and the U.S. and China are the two economic super-powers; so, these are the world’s three leading powers; and, on that single measure of whether or not a country is democratic, China is the global leader (#1 of 28), Russia is in the middle (#13 of 28), and U.S. ranks at the bottom of the three, and near the bottom of the entire lot (#21 of 28). (#28 of 28 is South Africa, which, thus — clearly in retrospect — had a failed revolution when it transitioned out of its apartheid dictatorship. That’s just a fact, which cannot reasonably be denied, given this extreme finding. Though the nation’s leader, Zuma, was, according to the 2014 Japanese study, widely approved by South Africans, his Government was overwhelmingly distrusted. This distrust indicates that the public don’t believe that the head-of-state actually represents the Government. If the head-of-state doesn’t represent the Government, the country cannot possibly be a democracy: the leader might represent the people, but the Government doesn’t.)

When the government is trusted but the head-of-state is not, or vice-versa, there cannot be a functioning democracy. In other words: if either the head-of-state, or the Government, is widely distrusted, there’s a dictatorship at that time, and the only real question regarding it, is: What type of dictatorship is this?

These figures — the numbers reported here — contradict the ordinary propaganda; and, so, Edelman’s trust-barometer on each nation’s ‘news’-media (which are scored and ranked on page 40) might also be considered, because the natural question now is whether unreliable news-media might have caused this counter-intuitive (in Western countries) rank-order. However, a major reason why this media-trust-question is actually of only dubious relevance to whether or not the given nation is a democracy, is that to assume that it is, presumes that trust in the government can be that easily manipulated — it actually can’t. Media and PR can’t do that; they can’t achieve it. Here is a widespread misconception: Trust in government results not from the media but from a government’s having fulfilled its promises, and from the public’s experiencing and seeing all around themselves that they clearly have been fulfilled; and lying ‘news’-media can’t cover-up that reality, which is constantly and directly being experienced by the public.

However, even if trust in the ‘news’-media isn’t really such a thing as might be commonly hypothesized regarding trust in the government, here are those Edelman findings regarding the media, for whatever they’re worth regarding the question of democracy-versus-dictatorship: Trust in Media is the highest, #1, in China, 71%; and is 42% in #15 U.S.; and is 35% in #20 Russia. (A July 2017 Marist poll however found that only 30% of Americans trust the media. That’s a stunning 12% lower than the Edelman survey found.) In other words: Chinese people experience that what they encounter in their news-media becomes borne-out in retrospect as having been true, but only half of that percentage of Russians experience this; and U.S. scores nearer to Russia than to China on this matter. (Interestingly, Turkey, which scores #7 on trust-in-government, scores #28 on trust-in-media. Evidently, Turks find that their government delivers well on its promises, but that their ‘news’-media often deceive them. A contrast this extreme within the Edelman findings is unique. Turkey is a special case, regarding this.)

I have elsewhere reported regarding other key findings in that 2018 Edelman study.

According to all of these empirical findings, the United States is clearly not more of a democracy than it is a dictatorship. This particular finding from these studies has already been overwhelmingly (and even more so) confirmed in the world’s only in-depth empirical scientific study of whether or not a given country is or is not a “democracy”: This study (the classic Gilens and Page study) found, incontrovertibly, that the U.S. is a dictatorship — specifically an aristocracy, otherwise commonly called an “oligarchy,” and that it’s specifically a dictatorship by the richest, against the public.

Consequently, whenever the U.S. Government argues that it intends to “spread democracy” (such as it claims in regards to Syria, and to Ukraine), it is most-flagrantly lying — and any ‘news’-medium that reports such a claim without documenting (such as by linking to this article) its clear and already-proven falsehood (which is more fully documented here than has yet been done anywhere, since the Gilens and Page study is here being further proven by these international data), is no real ‘news’-medium at all, but is, instead, a propaganda-vehicle for the U.S. Government, a propaganda-arm of a dictatorship — a nation that has been overwhelmingly proven to be a dictatorship, not a democracy.

The American public seem to know this (though the ‘news’-media routinely deny it by using phrases such as ‘America’s democracy’ in the current tense, not merely as referrng to some past time): A scientifically designed Monmouth University poll of 803 American adults found — and reported on March 19th — that 74% believed either probably or definitely that “a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy” (commonly called the “Deep State”) actually exists in America.

The question as asked was: “The term Deep State refers to the possible existence of a group of unelected government and military officials who secretly manipulate or direct national policy. Do you think this type of Deep State in the federal government definitely exists, probably exists, probably does not exist, or definitely does not exist?” 27% said “Definitely”; 47% said “Probably”; only 16% said “Probably not”; and only 5% said “Definitely not.”

In effect, then: 74% think America is a dictatorship; only 21% think it’s not. So: this isn’t only fact; it’s also widespread belief. How, then, can the American Government claim that when it invades a country like Iraq (2003), or like Libya (2011), or like Syria (2012-), or like Ukraine (by coup in 2014), it’s hoping to ‘bring democracy’ there? Only by lying. Even the vast majority of the American public now know this.

So: America’s major ‘news’-media will have to change their thinking, to become at least as realistic as the American public already are. The con on that, has evidently run its course. It simply discredits those ‘news’-media.

first published at

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