President Biden met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday to talk about bilateral and regional issues, according to the White House. Diplomatic nonsense aside, the priority of the call was clear: Both presidents are politically damaged by the mayhem on the US southern border and want it gone.
Let’s be honest, though. It’s about their common goal range.
It is in the interest of the United States that Mexico grows faster and strengthens its democratic institutions. Mr. López Obrador is not interested in growth and is trying to dismantle independent institutions because they hinder his power to command the political economy. Those who disagreed with him were seen as greedy and corrupt.
Picture A is the president’s recent threats to jail his political opponents and prosecute investors who fall short of his energy agenda. This Putin-style thug is unlikely to warrant a conviction, but criminal complaints filed with the attorney general can lead to years of investigations, harassment, and even arrest warrants.
Last week, Mr. López Obrador announced a constitutional reform initiative that would end the independence of the federal agency that governs all elections in the country and of the courts that resolve electoral disputes. . The initiative would also make all seats in the House of Representatives, Mexico’s lower house, chosen by proportional representation, a change that would empower his Morena party.
The initiative is not expected to garner the two-thirds majority needed in Congress for passage. But that doesn’t matter to AMLO, who according to polls still has an approval rating better than 50%. He told his supporters that Mexico’s representative democracy is run by a “powerful mafia” that denies their rights. According to his account, only he can protect their interests. If this electoral reform fails, it strengthens his argument.
The left wing calls what AMLO wants “participatory democracy” but instead it is a dangerous flirtation with crowd rule.
When he took office in 2018, Mr. López Obrador promised to bring about an irreversible “fourth transformation” of Mexico, a vague utopian vision that seemed to require a concentration of political and political power. country plays a key role in the economy. With only two years and seven months left in his six-year term, he’s running out of time.
The April 17 defeat before Congress on constitutional reforms to reverse the 2014 opening of the Mexican energy market was a major setback for AMLO. Those reforms were intended to restore the monopoly power of the state oil company Petróleos Mexicanos, or Pemex, and of the state-owned Federal Electric Commission, or CFE.
Mexicans seem to see no future in inefficient and corrupt state-owned energy monopolies. The reforms never gained the support of the requisite qualified majority in Congress. Even Morena knows they’re a long shot, which is why it’s trying to reduce the number of opposition lawmakers that will show up to vote by scheduling a session for Holy Week and then suddenly. abruptly moved it to Easter Sunday. Desperate supporters of Morena even went wild to block opposition lawmakers from entering the room.
AMLO and Morena are furious about the failure. The day after the vote, the president charged those in Congress who opposed the reform with treason. Members of his party echoed this sentiment, posting “wanted” posters of several dissident congressmen on social media.
This is absurd, but it may not go away. A week ago, Morena leader Mario Delgado proposed a “popular consultation” to determine whether the 223 congressmen who voted against the reform should be tried for treason.
The president turned to the electricity legislation passed by Congress to try to enforce his energy agenda. The new law requires private generators to sell their electricity to the CFE, which means it sets a price like a monopoly. The opponent said not so fast.
Seven out of 11 Supreme Court justices voted that the electricity law was unconstitutional. Because dropping it would require an 8-3 majority, it is correct. But with a majority of courts opposing it, lower courts ruled against it while investors, many of them foreigners, pursued the legal claim.
Mr. López Obrador and Morena were also very upset about this. In a March interview with Mexico’s La Jornada newspaper, CFE director general Manuel Bartlett said there could be criminal complaints against Spanish companies in the power sector. Translation: Negotiate your contracts or face legal certification. Some analysts expect that investors will eventually prevail, but that’s not much consolation as the road from here to there is muddled.
There is no way to deny the fact that the Mexican government, led by Mr. López Obrador, is carrying out blackmail. Joe Biden, the democracy fighter, may want to take note.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.
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