Lopez Obrador: is he a dictator?
Raymundo Riva Palacio
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 Last week, a debate that sparked in Mexico seemed futile, innocuous and false: Is President AndrĂ©s Manuel LĂłpez Obrador a dictator? Analysts and politicians have labeled him as such from a series of actions and statements that have been fueling the debate. "As a dictator," wrote one of his most acidic critics, Sergio Negrete Cardenas, in the El Financiero newspaper,"LĂłpez Obrador works with demagoguery constantly in a way to disguise his attempts to become more powerful."

Luis F. Hernández, a social activist, wrote for Portal Animal Politics:"Accumulating power for the sake of it is as serious as the obscene accumulation of wealth: both reflect and deepen our country's inequality and corruption."

Since 2018, during the presidential campaign, the number of persons considering LĂłpez Obrador a "dictator" has grown, but in the last two weeks, after forcing a Congress, where he has a majority, to decide for a two-years extension in the term of the president of the Supreme Court, who is very close to him, the discussion returned as lawmakers violated the Constitution by imposing a transitional article.

Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez, one of the most notorious figures in the Mexican press, wrote in the Reforma daily: "The logic of dictatorship is official doctrine. I try to be careful with words. I'm not saying a dictatorship has been established in Mexico. What I'm saying is that his power, his reasons, his practice and values have been legitimized. The constitutional attack to favor an ally of the president has sharply exposed the dictatorship's arguments: the Constitution must be violated because there are causes that are superior to it."

For LĂłpez Obrador, these causes are clear: the legal system in force in Mexico is in the way of his projects, so it must be modified. He wants to install a new regime and is in a hurry for it to be completed. Laws hinder his path.

It annoys the president that environmental groups have brought protections for the destruction of the ecosystem in the jungles of southern Mexico, where without taking into account the environment, the armies of workers and their machines open the forests to build the Maya Train, a dream of LĂłpez Obrador without real possibilities of achieving the tourist success he wishes for.

Another priority project, a new international airport, has had a large area of work halted because authorities have stripped the owners of their land, without compensating them. Because he wants to renationalize the energy industry, he forced the exit of autonomous government regulators and changed laws. Since he needs money, he also forced, under threats of criminal action, that large companies pay taxes that they had already paid.

The press makes him nervous because it puts a mirror on his actions and statements every day, so he always accuses, harasses and defames it. Electoral bodies are a nuisance because they do not apply the law at his will and not their will, so he wants to get rid of them. The counterweights to power that were built as part of the second generation of democratic reforms, have been colonized and new officials appointed, making them sterile, such as the National Commission on Human Rights. Others could soon disappear, like the Institute of Transparency, against which he renewed his fury a few days ago because he presented a constitutional challenge for a pattern of mobile phone users that forces them to provide biometric data without any security mechanisms for the protection of personal data.

Having an unconditional majority in Congress helps LĂłpez Obrador turn into law any initiative that accommodates what he conceives as his government plan, regardless of whether it incurs any arbitrary acts during the process. The new laws are stopped by judges for their unconstitutional structures, which causes greater crisis and increases confrontation in Mexico, which currently lives a growth in its polarization like it has never before lived in times of peace.

There is a firm attempt at democratic regression in Mexico, led by a charismatic president and representing the new archetype of the Latin American warlord, who embodies like few have seen in Latin America. This regression has been accompanied by theoretical leaps in the definition of the state that is found in Mexican national life.

Sergio GarcĂ­a RamĂ­rez, a widely respected jurist who chaired the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, wrote in the El Universal newspaper in January that the construction of a dictatorship in Mexico was underway. "The dictatorship is advancing, gentlemen, at goose pace, as in ancient Prussia or old Italy," he said. "Again, gentlemen, there is the intention to deplete the autonomous constitutional bodies that out a brake on the concentration of power. This trend had been in sight. Today he tries to put down new cards in the game against democracy."

The arguments are solid and can be verified every day, but the conclusion seems, at least at this time, exaggerated. However, those who know Venezuela's experience with Hugo Chavez argue that Mexico is on that route, where LĂłpez Obrador, like the deceased military official, uses the resources of democracy to end democracy. The Mexican president, who says he is proud to be a Democrat, does not sees the concentration of power as an act of authoritarianism, but of transferring the decisions that formerly made by "a minority" to the people, in which he, as representative of the people, decides what is good or bad.

The Mexican debate is more about rhetoric than reality, although the ease with which political society speaks is not shared by critics. LĂłpez Obrador himself has come to say that those rulers who impose confinements or curfews to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus acted as dictators, who seek to limit the movement of people with a strict behavior. For him, this action undermines freedom. If some have conceptual contradictions, the Mexican president has never had a problem to demonstrate his own.

The debate will continue indefinitely and deepen the crisis in Mexican society. It seems irreversible and definite in the Mexican political course ahead. LĂłpez Obrador will continue his process of democratic regression, and there will be legitimate political forces in courts, as well as the press and society, seeking to counterweight and stop those acts considered illegal. But LĂłpez Obrador's authoritarian character does not automatically make him an authoritarian ruler. He is in the process of deinstitutionalization and concentration of power, that is true, but he is still far, in the political scenario, from being an actual dictator. 

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