Mexico Treads a Familiar Path Toward Populism

Real Clear World-01Mexico’s gradual move toward populism has made headlines for more than a year. The foreign press in particular has reported extensively on the popularity of presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, creating a narrative of a recent, inexorable leftward shift among Mexican voters. The underlying reality is far more complicated. Lopez Obrador’s popular approval is the product of Mexico’s enduring, widespread poverty and steadily diversifying political landscape, among other broader, longer-term trends. It’s also the result of prevailing, discrete events, such as the Mexican government’s perceived complacency when faced with U.S. threats during talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

These dynamics will likely create a competitive presidential election in 2018, in which Lopez Obrador or a challenger from a traditional party such as the National Action Party (PAN) or the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) could narrowly clinch power. In keeping with recent history, however, whoever wins next year’s election will enter office relatively weak and will struggle to implement populist policies, especially if Congress and the country’s economic elites disagree with them. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.