In this conversation, president of the Inter-American Dialogue Michael Shifter discusses what Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s landslide win in the 2018 Mexican elections could mean for Mexico and the Western hemisphere. López Obrador faces the challenge of transforming his populist campaign into a practical and effective government while also addressing record homicides rates, rampant corruption, and the nation’s gaping inequality and entrenched poverty. In addition to these domestic problems, López Obrador’s potential relations with US President Donald Trump are a source of deep uncertainty for the region. Mr. Shifter analyzes these complex dynamics and more with Al Jazeera’s Rob Matheson.
Comments by Michael Shifter:
“[Addressing the rising levels of violence in Mexico] is very difficult. It’s an issue that has bedeviled his predecessors. Last year there was a record number of homicides in Mexico at nearly 30,000 [deaths]. López Obrador has claimed that [the violence] is one of his priorities, but his way of attacking it is by reducing poverty and inequality. Whether he will be able to do that and whether that will be sufficient to bring down the levels of violence is unclear. We are going to need more specifics about what his policies will be.”
“The tone has been positive so far [between President Trump and President-elect López Obrador]. President Trump sent a tweet out last night congratulating López Obrador; López Obrador was fairly conciliatory and moderate in his acceptance speech, and it was followed up by a phone call between the two leaders. So I think there is an opportunity to overcome the tension and strain in US-Mexican relations, but I don’t think we can extrapolate too much from [what we have seen]… I think President López Obrador will be much less accommodating and will not sit back. He will challenge and respond more forcefully to President Trump [if Mr. Trump makes insulting comments towards Mexico and Mexicans]. So we can only hope that there is a change in President Trump, but that is very uncertain.”
“López Obrador claims that by cleaning up corruption in Mexico – which is very complicated and has eluded his predecessors as well – that he will then be able to have the resources to finance some of his social programs that he wants to pursue, which are really his top priority… I think the practicalities of that are unclear, and where the resources are going to come from, how he’s going to underwrite some of these very ambitious socially oriented efforts is something we are going to have to see. Of course, the relationship with the United States is very critical, with 80% of Mexico’s exports going to the United States. In order for Mexico to finance these social projects, [the country] must grow, and in order for it to grow it needs trade and investment.”