Mexico’s president sounds increasingly radical. Is a clash with Washington imminent? | Opinion

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In May, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, left, raises arms with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel. The Mexican chief was awarded the Jose Marti Order in Havana.

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This is getting little consideration within the United States, however ought to sound alarm bells throughout the Americas: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador appears to be transferring increasingly towards radical populism as he nears the top of his six-year time period.

Lopez Obrador, maybe to deflect public consideration from a stagnant financial system, rising inflation, rising poverty charges and violence by organized crime teams, is making headlines by defying the United States and turning into extra vocal in his protection of Cuba and different leftist dictatorships. Consider:

In current weeks, Lopez Obrador, has stepped up his rhetoric in opposition to the United States and Canada’s formal criticism that his authorities is discriminating in opposition to their non-public vitality corporations, a doable violation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada free-trade settlement (USMCA.)

He mentioned Mexico’s free-trade deal with the United States can’t come “at the price of our dignity” and introduced that he’ll reply to the U.S. criticism at a army parade to commemorate Mexico’s Independence Day on Sept. 16. That sounds like a dangerous omen.

Economists say the opportunity of a USMCA commerce spat might value Mexico between $10 billion and $30 billion in tariffs and is inflicting excessive anxiousness in U.S. and Mexican enterprise circles. Mexico depends upon the U.S. marketplace for greater than 78% of its export revenue.

Lopez Obrador proudly introduced just lately that he has employed 500 Cuban docs to work in Mexico below a contract with Cuba’s authorities. Human-rights teams say the regime’s state-run enterprise of exporting medical docs quantities to modern-day slavery, as a result of the Cuban authorities retains the majority of the docs’ international wages.

On his determination to rent Cuban docs, Lopez Obrador mentioned on July 23 that, “It’s an instruction that I actually gave, understanding what could be the response of our adversaries, the conservatives.”

On Aug. 13, every so often of late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s birthday, Lopez Obrador’s occasion, Morena, tweeted that Castro’s “historical past, his wrestle and resistance are to at the present time a synonym of dignity for thousands and thousands of human beings across the planet.”

In June, Lopez Obrador boycotted President Biden’s Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, after saying that he wouldn’t attend the assembly until Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua had been additionally invited. Lopez Obrador’s absence was a main blow to Biden’s summit, which was the U.S. president’s first probability to satisfy with the bulk Latin American and Caribbean leaders.

Mexico is among the few international locations that abstained in a current Organization of American States’ vote that condemned Nicaragua for its assaults on the Roman Catholic Church and urging it to launch all political prisoners. The decision was supported by 27 international locations, together with Argentina, whose left-of-center populist authorities often votes alongside Mexico in worldwide organizations.

Perhaps extra ominously for Mexico’s future, Lopez Obrador in current months has elevated his verbal tirades in opposition to the National Electoral Institute, a revered unbiased company that screens Mexico’s elections. This is triggering fears amongst authorities critics that Lopez Obrador might attempt to rig the 2024 elections.

Lopez Obrador says he’ll depart workplace on the finish of his time period in 2024, however some opposition politicians are skeptical. Most consider that he’ll certainly step apart, however solely after twisting the foundations in search of to make sure that his Morena occasion stays in energy.

The most probably cause for Lopez Obrador’s radicalization as of late is that issues should not going nicely in Mexico, and he’s taking part in to his base.

While he’s nonetheless having fun with excessive reputation charges, because of huge social subsidies that could be arduous to take care of in the long term, his reputation is at 60%, down from 81% in early 2019, according to the Oraculus polling firm. And Lopez Obrador misplaced his absolute majority in Congress in final 12 months’s midterm elections.

The variety of poor in Mexico is projected to rise between 1.6 million and a couple of.5 million individuals this 12 months, according to U.N. Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean estimates.

If Mexico’s financial system stays sluggish and poverty retains rising, I wouldn’t be shocked if Lopez Obrador turns into much more radicalized.

That’s what all populists — whether or not it’s Lopez Obrador, or Donald Trump — do when issues go badly: They cater to the extremes to make sure themselves a loyal base of die-hard followers and polarize the residents of their international locations to stay at center-stage. It’s not good for Mexico, or for America.

Don’t miss the “Oppenheimer Presenta” TV present on Sundays at 7 pm E.T. on CNN en Español. Twitter: @oppenheimera; Blog: www.andresoppenheimer.com

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