Irene Estefania Gonzalez / Inter-American Dialogue

On May 11, the Inter-American Dialogue hosted an event titled “Anticipating the Mexican Elections”. This discussion, moderated by Michael Shifter, featured panelists Shannon O’Neil from the Council on Foreign Relations, Juan Pablo del Valle from Mexichem, and Enrique Bravo-Escobar from the National Endowment for Democracy.

O’Neil opened the discussion breaking down what we may see after July 1 if Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) were to win the elections. In regards to the US-Mexico relationship, O’Neil commented that AMLO would accept an agreement around NAFTA, but his economic approach would be more inward looking, focusing on agricultural policy, energy sufficiency and investment in refineries. In terms of security cooperation, O’Neil predicted “a slow-down, maybe a pause, until the new administration re-evaluates this cooperation. AMLO is not naturally inclined to the US.” She also commented how, unlike Peña Nieto, we could expect AMLO to respond in a more public manner to Trump’s tweets and statements. Regarding Mexico’s stance vis-à-vis the rest of Latin America, she projected a pullback from a more active role in the negotiations on Venezuela and the issue of Central American migrants.

Del Valle noted that he is not as certain that the election results have already been decided by stating “we have 50 days until the elections, so it is about AMLO but also Anaya”. As a business leader, he also expressed concern regarding the uncertainty of an AMLO presidency because he did not know where the candidate stands with his ideology or economic policies. He expressed that, in the face of that uncertainty and potential changes, he could foresee international companies leaving Mexico, which would present opportunites for Mexican businesses.

Bravo-Escobar described the election as “a referendum on whether we want things to continue in Mexico as they have been or if it is time for a change. If it is a referendum on change, AMLO is the only candidate that represents that.”  When asked about differences between AMLO’s 2018 campaign and his 2006 and 2012 presidential races, Bravo-Escobar explained that the main difference today is that AMLO has gone outside his comfort zone and recruited other actors through coalitions. He noted that these coalitions include conservatives and evangelicals, which help bring in votes from part of the electorate that would otherwise not vote for him.  

Shifter proposed a set of questions to the panelists, which focused on what Mexico will look like after July 1 if AMLO were to win. O’Neil expressed a fear that “he will keep policy within the party and not the government. AMLO may centralize policy making, and those in his cabinet may not be able to have an actual impact”. Bravo-Escobar disagreed with this argument, saying that he didn’t see any radicalism in the way AMLO governed as the mayor of Mexico City. Del Valle brought back Anaya into the conversation, drawing a comparison between their campaign platforms on the independence of the judiciary, economic models, and social programs.

The event concluded with an open Q&A with the audience in which questions were raised regarding the Mexican Congress, the impact for press and media of an AMLO presidency, and what may happen on July 2 if AMLO were not to win. As del Valle mentioned in his closing comment “Mexico will only lose if the election is not democratic, not based on the results”.

Watch the full recording of this event here