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Mexico opposition plots judicial coup as dirty tricks campaign fails

With an electoral wipeout at the hands of the progressive Claudia Sheinbaum looming, right-wing forces are spending millions on slander and manipulation to discredit Amlo’s ‘4T Transformation’ agenda, reports DAVID RABY

IN recent articles, I have documented the political collapse of the Mexican right and the virtual certainty that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s Morena party and its allies will win the June 2 elections with a large majority, both for president (with Claudia Sheinbaum) and for Congress.

I still believe this to be the case, but what I did not foresee was how far both the Mexican and the international Establishment would go to undermine the credibility of Amlo and the 4T Transformation.

They are spending millions of dollars on a dirty campaign of rumours, innuendo, slanders and outright lies, which are unlikely to win over voters in Mexico (indeed, they may well have the opposite effect), but which are aimed more at questioning the election’s legitimacy and to create a hostile international environment.

In the past few weeks, we have witnessed an avalanche of attacks in both conventional and social media trying to smear the president and his associates with “narco” connections, this for a man whose personal integrity has never been in doubt.

It began when three media outlets (ProPublica, Insight Crime and DW News) published on January 30 articles rehashing reports of investigations into possible 2006 links of Amlo with drug cartels. These investigations by the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) were based largely on hearsay and were officially closed in 2011 for lack of evidence.

Despite confirmation from US officials that these investigations had long been closed, a massive social media campaign swiftly developed disseminating hashtags like #NarcoPresidente.

Then on February 5 right-wing presidential candidate Xochitl Galvez spoke at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC, accusing Amlo’s “populist” government of “flirting with Russia and China” and of undemocratic concentration of power.

She indicated that if she won the elections she would open up the energy sector, infrastructure, education, health and security to foreign interests, and openly called on the US to interfere in the elections to defeat Morena.

Trolling by bots of “NarcoPresidente” and similar hashtags soon reached over 200 million hits, and it was easy to demonstrate that that they were based on automated fake accounts, demonstrating above all that millions of dollars were being invested in this.

On February 18 the opposition returned to conventional tactics with a mass rally in the central Zocalo square. Pulling out all the stops they were able to mobilise 90 to 100,000 supporters: impressive, but only a third or a quarter of the number who would turn out for Claudia Sheinbaum’s official campaign launch on March 1.

Then on February 21 came another twist in the dirty tricks saga: none other than the New York Times bureau in Mexico sent a letter to Amlo’s press officer Jesus Ramirez Cuevas, declaring that there was a new US investigation into possible narco links of Amlo and his associates, relating not to 2006 but to the current administration.

The letter quoted three informants with totally unsubstantiated allegations of meetings between the president, members of his family or associates and drug traffickers and monetary transactions. The letter (authored by a female journalist with long experience) then had the effrontery to demand a reply by 5pm the same day.

Amlo quite rightly replied that the NYT, a supposed “newspaper of record,” had shredded whatever remained of its reputation and had become a “filthy rag” (pasquin inmundo) of professional slanderers.

Despite this, the allegations were swiftly taken up by many other media outlets in the US and Mexico and used to cast doubt on both the president and Sheinbaum.

At least Amlo was able to reaffirm that Mexico has good relations with the Biden administration, and a couple of days later none other than US ambassador Ken Salazar made a public statement declaring that “as far as we are concerned, there is no investigation of President Lopez Obrador.” 

He added that relations with Mexico had never been closer and referred to the regular high-level meetings to discuss co-operation on trade, migration and security.

But this is far from the end of the matter: it reflects a rift in the US Establishment in which Republicans, but also many Democrats and institutions like the DEA and the CIA, with backing from powerful financial and media interests, want to discredit Mexico’s Transformation.

Early in March opposition circles in Mexico began to resort to new dirty tricks involving direct action and manipulation of popular protest. The complex issue of truth and justice for the families of the 43 Ayotzinapa students (who disappeared in Guerrero State in 2014 under the old regime), which Amlo has vowed to resolve and to which he has devoted enormous efforts, has still not been closed and is being exploited by NGOs, lawyers and foreign agencies sympathetic to the opposition.

On March 6 a faction of the Ayotzinapa relatives, led by an opportunistic lawyer and others, protested outside the national palace and then used a truck to break down a door and burst into part of the palace complex during Amlo’s morning press conference. With incredible restraint, Amlo insisted that no violent repression be used in preventing their advance, and repeated his promise to meet the relatives in person in the near future.

Then on March 7, two students currently enrolled in the Ayotzinapa College were involved in a confrontation with Guerrero State police, and one of them was shot dead by an officer. It is well known that the state police are still riddled with corruption, and protests immediately erupted.

But again, Amlo has insisted on a full investigation by federal authorities, and the two police officers involved are under arrest. It seems clear that the opposition is involved in promoting such provocations, and only complete honesty, calm and a firm hand by Amlo and his government will thwart such dirty tricks.

Then on March 13 Sheinbaum, campaigning in the south-east, denounced what was becoming increasingly clear for all to see: the opposition, recognising the inevitability of its crushing defeat at the polls on June 2, is using dirty tricks and its continuing control of the judicial system to discredit the elections, and its ultimate goal is to annul the elections on spurious legal grounds.

But, said Sheinbaum, the Mexican people are more and more determined to achieve victory, and massive popular participation in the elections can and will defeat these attempts at a judicial coup. Indeed, this looks like being the only solution, and the reactionary Establishment’s fear of losing power for good — of a peaceful revolution — will only bring to fruition what they most fear.

David Raby is a retired academic, journalist, and co-ordinator of the Mexico Solidarity Forum (www.mexicosolidarity.org.uk). Follow him on X @DLRaby.

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