By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
In a landslide victory, Mexicans elected the nation’s first socialist president since the 1930s. Andrés Manuel López Obrador campaigned on the promise to restore a semblance of normalcy after the rampant corruption of his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, and his conservative Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
Under Peña Nieto, the Mexican economy stagnated, with crime out of control and corruption intertwined with rampant poverty. These nationwide problems convinced Mexicans to elect a socialist in what will be a vain attempt to revive the country.
U.S. political observers say they fear López Obrador will transform his country into another Venezuela. The new president has shown great affinity for Venezuelan socialist dictators Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro.
New President Supports Illegal Immigration to US
López Obrador’s positive view of illegal immigration worried many experts in the U.S. when he told El Universal newspaper that “[S]oon, very soon, after the victory of our movement, we will defend all the migrants in the American continent and all the migrants in the world.” He added that immigrants “must leave their towns and find a life in the United States” and declared it “a human right [that] we will defend.”
Many people view this remark with deep concern because López Obrador is encouraging illegal immigration into the United States. Mexico greatly benefits from legal migration.
The Central Bank of Mexico reported that Mexicans living abroad sent home almost $30 billion last year. The vast majority of that money came from the United States, surpassing oil and tourism as the nation’s largest foreign income.
These remittances that many Mexican beneficiaries receive have not been widely reported in the U.S media. Some of the money comes from U.S. federal, state or local relief support, especially in jurisdictions with strong sanctuary policies where migrants can free up cash to send home. Many believe López Obrador’s election will not change this practice, but only make it more egregious.
Mexico Is a Semi-Failed Nation-State in Reality
The real issue facing Mexico is how much control will López Obrador have over his own country. Although some analysts view Mexico as a healthy, functioning nation-state that has control over its own borders, in reality the nation is in a virtual state of collapse.
The real government of Mexico are the drug cartels who control vast, dysfunctional neighborhoods where the public openly defies the police and military. This lawlessness encourages citizens to pillage freight trains of their merchandise and steal hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel from the country’s pipelines.
Edgardo Buscaglia, an international crime expert and research fellow at Columbia University, commented: “The logic of the people is that they see politicians and officials stealing big time…and they see themselves as having the same right to steal as the big-time politicians.” Buscaglia added, “You begin to create an ethical code in which, ‘If the upper-class people can steal and get away with it, we can steal, too, with complete justification.’”
Mexicans Are in Despair over Cartels Controlling Their Country
The despair of the Mexican people is profound, widespread and universal. Crime syndicates fill the void left by a corrupt and ineffective government.
That situation has allowed the cartels to exploit the disgust of the people for their central government. As a result, the cartels are branching out into other areas, such as fuel theft, illegal fishing, mining and logging.
The hardest-hit areas are the rural regions where options to earn a legitimate living are limited. The lack of good jobs forces people to work for the cartels’ drug operations. In many parts of Mexico, living conditions resemble those in Afghanistan, Nigeria and even Somalia.
The focus in America is now on reducing immigration. However, the U.S. needs to understand the challenges of how a socialist president – or any president for that matter – can effectively govern Mexico. Any collapse of the Mexican state will surely send hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of immigrants flooding across the U.S. border.
López Obrador’s Enormous Challenges Ahead
The challenge for López Obrador is that he must now deliver on what he promised on the campaign trail. He spent 18 years running for president, vigorously speaking out about the deep-seated corruption, violence and severe inequalities that have plagued Mexico for decades. Now, as president, he will have to deal with these problems.
For example, López Obrador must cope with the frustrating institutional checks and balances that are part of Mexico’s democratic system. He will need to restore the political system to a semblance of order, so that he doesn’t further erode the democratic process.
López Obrador has promised to give a voice to Mexico’s underserved. But he doesn’t seem interested in the democratic process.
For instance, he often criticizes the press, independent civil society organizations and the Supreme Court. López Obrador also holds deep-seated grudges against those whom he perceives have wronged him. Will his government make the country even more ungovernable?
The challenges for López Obrador are enormous. Mexico can be classified as a semi-failed state unable or unwilling to provide the basic rule of law for its people.
For decades, Mexico’s corrupt national police (the federales) and the nation’s legal system have only served the well-connected oligarchy. Mexico has given its ordinary citizens vast, institutional corruption and a failed economy, despite being a country rich in natural resources and abundant, lush farmlands.
Effects of Mexico’s Internal Problems Will Be Felt in US
How López Obrador deals with Mexico’s vast problems will surely be felt in the United States. If he fails, the U.S. will have to deal with the collapse of Mexican civil society. That will be another crisis for Washington to cope with.