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CONTRARY to the views of Mexican Communist Party leader Pavel Blanco (as reported by Tim Pelzer on August 22), the new Mexican government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (known by his initials as Amlo) is neither neoliberal nor “social democratic” as that term is normally understood.
I recently returned from a six-week visit to Mexico, the country where I began my academic career in Latin American history in 1967.
What I found now was a country inspired by Amlo’s vision of peaceful, democratic but radical transformation.
Amlo and his team are working tirelessly, through constant dialogue with all sectors of society and ceaseless travel across this vast country, to end corruption, reduce inequality, promote real democratic participation and popular welfare.
The new president began by reducing his own salary by 60 per cent and demanding that all high-ranking public officials, elected or appointed, do likewise.
Yes, he talks of “civic austerity,” but by this he means ending luxury spending by public officials (private cars or aircraft, expensive meals and other perks), gold-plated pensions and unnecessary travel. He is also encouraging judicial investigation of all documented cases of corruption.
Amlo is firmly opposed to neoliberal austerity: any layoffs have been of corrupt officials or those employed in patronage schemes created by previous right-wing presidents.
The three million scholarships of the Young People Constructing the Future, which Pavel dismisses as “a gift to business,” are, on the contrary, paid directly to the young people concerned who can choose their workplaces and have their rights guaranteed.
Far from cutting healthcare, Amlo is inaugurating new public programmes in preventative medicine and to combat drug addiction, and has been touring hospitals in the most deprived areas to ascertain their real needs.
He has established over 100 Benito Juarez Popular Welfare Universities in deprived areas, and has ended the previous president’s neoliberal educational reform which aimed to privatise the school system.
Under neoliberal president Pena Nieto teachers were threatened with dismissal if they did not improve their IT skills, but Amlo is encouraging such training with incentives and without sanctions.
Regarding the environment, under a programme called Sowing Life the government has planted more than 500,000 hectares of trees in nine months, creating 230,000 new permanent jobs.
The National Guard being created by the current government is trained to respect human rights and to fight crime by intelligence-gathering rather than brute force; it replaces the extremely corrupt Federal Police.
It is significant that the National Guard has already been criticised by right-wing media for not using force against peaceful demonstrators.
Pavel alleges that the government’s labour legislation will divide unions and allow in “corrupt unions from the AFL-CIO,” but the main problem in the Mexican labour movement is the profound corruption of many existing unions patronised by previous neoliberal and authoritarian governments.
On the very serious migration issue, Amlo has recognised that Mexico cannot control US policy, however unjust.
He has reaffirmed Mexico’s outstanding record of welcoming refugees and said that any refugees who apply to stay in the country will receive fair treatment, but Mexico cannot act as a transit camp for those whose goal is to reach the US, many of them manipulated by organised crime.
Amlo’s government has also negotiated agreements to provide assistance to the Central American countries where most of the migrants originate.
As for the trade agreement with the US, the Mexican government acted firmly but tactfully to defeat Donald Trump’s threat of punitive tariffs.
While the long-term aim is to diversify the country’s trade away from dependence on the US, this takes time and right now an open trade war would be disastrous for Mexico.
Regarding Amlo’s participation more than 20 years ago in the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) governments, as a socialist friend here in Britain said to me: “What matters isn’t where you come from but where you are going.”
Let he who has never sinned cast the first stone. In the massive crisis now faced by Mexico, Latin America and the world, dogmatism is no solution. Amlo has made it clear that he seeks social and economic justice “for the many, not the few.”
It was no coincidence that Jeremy Corbyn attended Amlo’s inauguration last December.
David Raby is a retired academic in Latin American history (Emeritus University of Toronto, former senior fellow University of Liverpool) and sits on the executive of the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.
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