When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Enjoy unlimited access to quality journalism.

Limited time offer

Get your 30-day free trial!
Sources

Mexico's Election, Between Fear And Disgust

There are three candidates but really just two choices in Sunday's presidential election in Mexico: Move forward? Or try to recreate the past?

A young man cheers to presidential candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador at a rally in Mexico on June 27
A young man cheers to presidential candidate Manuel Lopez Obrador at a rally in Mexico on June 27
Luis Rubio

-Analysis-

MEXICO CITY — Mexico's upcoming general elections bring to mind the words of David Konzevik, an economist from the other end of the Americas. "Anyone who thinks things can't get worse," the Argentine intellectual famously quipped, "doesn't know the history of Argentina."

Indeed, in 1913, Argentina had the world's 10th highest per capita GDP. Today it ranks 57th. The reason is decades of bad economic policies ostensibly aimed at solving problems of corruption, welfare and poverty. Instead of advancing, the country has regressed, and Argentines have stumbled from one crisis to another over a century. So when people here say, "things couldn't get any worse," I think about Argentina and say to myself that yes, things actually can get much worse — and fast. Just ask people in oil-rich Venezuela who are living in a state of misery and desperation amid the worst social and political crisis of their country's history.

Sunday's elections are a crossroads for Mexico, and as voters contemplate their choices, there are three distinct dynamics at play. First, this is a dispute between the future and the past. Second, it's a referendum of sorts on the outgoing Enrique Peña Nieto administration, and its perception as massively corrupt. And third, the contest hinges on the various candidates themselves, with their respective virtues and flaws.

In the most basic sense, this is an election about two distinct visions and platforms, represented on the one hand by conservative Ricardo Anaya and the government-backed José Antonio Meade, and on the other by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO, as he's known.

The first two candidates, each with his specific characteristics and abilities, share future-oriented ideas about overhauling the country by following the example of more successful countries. AMLO, in contrast, touts a return to Mexico's origins — back to before it tried to modernize, when the government imposed its vision on society, the president was all-powerful, and things just worked better, or so the candidate believes.

This is a dispute between the future and the past.

AMLO​"s proposition is based on the principle that things were fine before the 1980s, when governments began the liberal reforms that, in his opinion, ruined the country's natural development. His model is certainly appealing. But it doesn't resolve the country's current problems of poverty, inequality and lack of growth.

Regardless of how viable the candidates' various proposals really are, this election is about two radically divergent ways of reading the world, about broad directions rather than specific policies. The fundamental question being posed is this: Should Mexico advance, or return to the past?

A key factor in how people answer that question is the outgoing Peña Nieto administration, essentially for its shortcomings but even more for its distance from the daily reality of ordinary people. Its electoral propaganda — which basically tells Mexicans to stop complaining — and countrywide tours have shown an utter inability to grasp people's anger over corruption and the government's apparent indifference to the lives of everyday citizens.

In this sense, anger with Peña Nieto is competing with fears of a return to the past with AMLO. Disgust with the president is real. Meade's fate, therefore, depends on being seen as his own man. Anaya's fate depends on being able to convince people he really can run a government. And each needs to distinguish himself from the other while showing voters that they're both forward-thinking.

The individual strengths of the candidates also matter. Anaya has been a successful legislator and is heading a coalition of political forces that might have seemed inconceivable a short while back. His stamina and grit have taken him to where he is. López Obrador, who has been in politics for decades, was a successful mayor of Mexico City and has remained relevant for his personal integrity and honesty, but also by raising pertinent issues like poverty and inequality. Meade, who has been a senior official for decades, is more familiar than anyone with the workings of bureaucracy, and has a clear and structured vision of challenges facing the country.

We Mexicans must now choose between radically divergent visions of government and personalities with differing histories and skills. Will our decision and choice resolve our problems? Or will we follow the example of Argentina and keep digging ourselves a deeper and deeper hole?

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

China

How China's Mass Protest Took The World By Surprise — And Where It Will End

China is facing its biggest political protests in decades as frustration grows with its harsh Zero-COVID strategy. However, the real reasons for the protests run much deeper. Could it be the starting point for a new civic movement?

Photo of police during protests in China against covid-19 restrictions

Security measures during a protest against COVID-19 restrictions

Changren Zheng

In just one weekend, protests spread across China. A fire in an apartment block in Urumqi in China’s western Xinjiang region killed 10, with many blaming lockdown rules for the deaths. Anti-lockdown demonstrations spread to Beijing, Shanghai, Wuhan, Chengdu and other cities. University students from more than half of China's provinces organized various protests against COVID restrictions.

Why and how did the movement spread so rapidly?

At the core, protesters are unhappy with President Xi Jinping's three-year-long Zero-COVID strategy that has meant mass testing, harsh lockdowns, and digital tracking. Yet, the general belief about the Chinese people was that they lacked the awareness and experience for mass political action. Even though discontent had been growing about the Zero-COVID strategy, no one expected these protests.

Keep reading...Show less

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.

The latest