Center for American Progress

The Dueling Left: Enrique Krauze, López Obrador, and the Fight for Mexico

The Dueling Left: Enrique Krauze, López Obrador, and the Fight for Mexico

Read this article in Spanish: La Lucha Izquierdista

Enrique Krauze argues in the June 19 issue of The New Republic that Andres Manuel López Obrador, a candidate for president from the left-leaning Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), is a manifestation of the caudillismo that marked Mexico during the 19th and 20th centuries. Krauze suggests López Obrador’s past portends a dark future for Mexico under the leadership of AMLO, as the candidate is affectionately called.

Krauze is certainly not a stranger to this kind of biography. In his books Krauze takes the biographical information of various Mexican leaders and incorporates them into a driving and illustrative myth of Mexico. The great error of his ambitious design is that he believes a priori that individuals, first and foremost, change history, which neglects any contextual factors that have affected Mexican history. He is at it again.

Without discussing the political circumstances of today’s Mexico, Krauze attacks the presidential candidate López Obrador as being “radical and populist, and with a disturbing element of political messianism.” He pretends as if AMLO’s political protest during the 1994 gubernatorial race was out of the norm, and therefore thinks the megalomaniac candidate will lead another protest if he loses. Krauze ignores the many political protests that came out of the late 1980s into the 1990s, including a civil insurrection led by the right of center Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) following perceived voting fraud in Chihuahua in 1986; the protesters went as far as to take over bridges into the United States to disrupt traffic. AMLO’s earlier protest was part of a larger political movement against the Partido Revolucionario Institucional’s (PRI) stranglehold over Mexican politics since 1929.

Not only does Krauze misread Mexican history, he also misunderstands the central fact that AMLO’s election could serve to deepen, rather than reverse, Mexico’s democratic transition. AMLO is bringing a disaffected constituency back into the democratic process just as voters throughout the hemisphere voice concern that democratic reforms of the last decade have not benefited them. By enlivening a population that feels left out of society, AMLO has expanded the political dialogue in the country.

In a country where democratic institutions are weak, voting participation is on the decline, civil society has effectively been dissolved, and continued narco-corruption and crime serve to undermine the legitimacy of government, it is imperative that Mexico work to include all parts of the polity to consolidate and strengthen its democracy.

Krauze, sitting on his intellectual perch, sees AMLO and the poor left as a challenge to his more refined liberalism. And perhaps his own animus has prevented him from supporting AMLO in his quest to increase equality and opportunity in a country where the divide between the haves and the have-nots is increasing.

The election of AMLO will dramatically enhance the political dialogue in Mexico. This new dialogue will force Mexico to confront and address its past failures by making clear to all Mexicans that they have a say in who will represent them. His election will hopefully push the nation in a trajectory that will allow it to become fully democratic such that it is able to arbitrate between various viewpoints and reflect the opinions of all citizens.

In a similar situation during the late 1920s disgruntled peasants joined the Catholic-led Cristero rebellion. The mobilization was at first political but grew to become ever more violent and aggressive. The most encouraging part of today’s mobilization is that the poor have eschewed violence and have found a legitimate political mechanism to assert their opinions, where in the past there were none.

AMLO, for his part, has stumbled on issues throughout his candidacy, and his tenure as mayor of Mexico City was not without its failings. Krauze, however, exaggerates these failings and tries to turn AMLO into a megalomaniac. Krauze incorporates AMLO into his grand theory about Mexican history, thereby oversimplifying a complex character in López Obrador. Most importantly, Krauze fails to address what may be the defining characteristic of this election: the mobilization of the poor and the peasants.

The future of Mexico will be determined on July 2, and if AMLO has done anything, he has brought to light a disaffected public whose concerns, whichever man wins, will need to be addressed.

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