Mexico Votes: Beset by corruption, poverty and endemic violence, Mexican voters sent a message of desperation on Sunday by voting overwhelmingly to make socialist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador their next president. This is bad for the U.S., but even worse for Mexico.
President Trump did the neighborly thing in congratulating Obrador on his victory and pledged to work with him. But in fact Obrador’s win bodes ill for future relations.
His talking points for the policies he’ll pursue once in office sound much more like Venezuela’s late socialist dictator Hugo Chavez than, say, Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher.
For starters, Obrador vows to renationalize the oil industry, halt all cooperation with U.S. immigration laws, give amnesty to the drug cartels, boost farm subsidies and remove “multinational” investment in agriculture, encourage mass migration by Mexicans to the U.S., while using remittances from workers in the U.S. to fuel Mexican growth.
Hey, such ideas worked so well in Venezuela after Chavez’s “Bolivarian Revolution,” why not in Mexico?
If you think the U.S. will merely sit back and watch as this happens, think again. U.S.-Mexico ties under President Trump are already strained, with disputes over trade and immigration roiling the waters. Obrador, the author of a book titled “Oye, Trump” (“Listen, Trump”), will test U.S. patience.
The case of Venezuela is instructive, and ongoing. Its citizens are desperately heading for the border as that nation’s socialist economy collapses, beset by food shortages, soaring unemployment, rampant disease, crime and inflation now at a stratospheric 43,000% a year.
Since 1999, the year the socialists took over, Venezuela’s economy has gone from being one of the wealthiest in Latin America, with the world’s largest oil reserves, to one of the most-impoverished nations in Latin America, one that now imports oil and exports people.
“Socialist economic policies — price controls, factory nationalizations, government takeovers of food distribution and the like — have real human costs,” wrote James Kirchick in a Los Angeles Times op-ed last August. “Eighty percent of Venezuelan bakeries don’t have flour. Eleven percent of children under 5 are malnourished, infant mortality has increased by 30% and maternal mortality is up 66%.”
And since then, things have gotten even worse, if that’s imaginable.
Those who remain dumpster-dive, rummage through garbage, and even eat stray pets just to stay alive. Even zoo animals aren’t off limits. Food distribution and the water system have been taken over by the army, a new opportunity for massive corruption and extortion. It’s a horrible situation.
And yet, just a few years ago, celebrity leftists like Michael Moore and Sean Penn and and their political allies, such as socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, lauded Venezuela’s economic model.
The point is, however well-meaning Obrador seems, such a transformation on the U.S. border would be a disaster. It would bring potentially millions more refugees — and possibly even Mexican civil war.
As it is, we share a 2,200-mile border with Mexico, which is our third-largest trading partner. If Mexico’s economy goes south, so to speak, things on the border could get ugly fast.
No doubt, U.S. and other foreign investment in Mexico would plunge. The peso would plummet, and Mexico’s already-frightening criminal violence would spiral out of control.
Obrador built his public appeal on his reputation for not being corrupt. Equally important, however, voters also saw Obrador as an agent of economic change, someone who cares about average people.
“In the last 20-odd years, this includes the government I served in, the economy has not grown more than 2 1/2% per year,” Mexico’s former Foreign Minister, Jorge Castaneda, told Fox News. “Mexicans are not finding deep, well-paying jobs, not seeing their living standards improved, not extracting people from poverty, we’re not reducing levels of inequality which are among the highest levels in the world.”
Quite an indictment coming from a high-level former government official, and sadly entirely true.
It’s a big reason why at least 11 million Mexicans are in the U.S. illegally, and why a renewed surge is likely in the future under the socialist policies pushed by Obrador.
Some 12% of Mexican citizens today already make their home in the U.S. as economic refugees from that country’s failed policies.
And, with more than 60 million of Mexico’s 130 million people now living in poverty, that number will only grow if the economy deteriorates.
Mexicans clearly voted for change. But whether they’ll get the change they’re expecting is another matter.
Socialist governments have a history, once in power, of destroying economies unmatched by any other political system.
Whether it’s the former Soviet Union and the communist nations of Eastern Europe, North Korea, Cuba, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Nicaragua or any number of other nominally “socialist” nations, all fail abysmally.
Obrador may feel he has an enormous electoral mandate to impose his socialist vision on a fed-up Mexico. Looking at the election results, he does.
With 54% of the vote at last count, he easily trounced his foes.
Ricardo Anaya, who led a right-left political coalition, finished second with 23% of the vote. Voters sent a particularly humiliating message to the once-all-powerful PRI party, whose candidate Juan Antonio Meade had hoped to succeed outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto. It finished a dismal third, with just 15% of the vote.
If current polling trends hold, Obrador’s Morena Party also will lead a coalition with two other leftist parties that will control the legislature next year. With a single six-year term, Mexico’s president has unusually broad powers, so Obrador’s policies are likely to find little initial opposition.
The Corruption Factor
To his credit, Obrador is one of the few in Mexican politics without a major taint of scandal. He has vowed to leave Mexico’s lavish Los Pinos compound, the equivalent of the White House, and live modestly in the center of Mexico City.
In a country where politicians view government as an opportunity to get rich quick, Obrador seems to be an exception.
“There’s nothing to fear,” said AMLO on Monday. “I’m not a dictator.”
We hope that’s true.
But in Latin American politics, far-left leaders often start out promising clean government end up dirty. It happened in Cuba, it happened in Brazil, it happened in Venezuela, it happened in Ecuador, it happened in Nicaragua.
It’s not unreasonable to think it might happen in Mexico, too. Socialist countries get socialist results: Misery. Look at Venezuela. Unless Obrador sees the light and pursues moderate economic policies, don’t expect Mexico to be any different.
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Venezuela’s Road To Serfdom
Mexico’s Ballot-Box Reconquista
Zimbabwe’s Coup, Venezuela’s Default, And The Ongoing Failure Of Socialism
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