The magnetism that the president still maintains must be understood from the perspective of material needs, enclosing a double paradox that runs through his entire economic policy
The omnipresence of Andrés Manuel López Obrador causes that very few current Mexican issues are finished digesting. The president has made his morning conferences, the morning sessions, his vehicle of communication, the place where he places one topic on the agenda, or where he avoids putting another; the space where, generally, he confronts his adversaries or stages a truce, as this past week with the governors of Jalisco or Guanajuato , red zones of homicidal Mexico.
López Obrador remote controls his messages, with or without reasons; with more or less arguments, knowing that in the communicational battle it has a stretch of advantage. At least until now, the president still has broad support in the population. Few leaders have shown a deep understanding of their country as he holds, which led to the resounding victory of two years ago. After 18 months of government, he is defining his way of governing. The question of whether he was going to maintain the pragmatism that then brought him to victory seems to dissipate over the weeks, more immersed as he is in the confrontation, except for the visit to Donald Trump .
Why such a confrontational leader has broad support in the population two years after his electoral victory is a question that has been repeated in recent weeks in Mexico; Beyond the fact that it has fallen compared to what it had a year ago, the truth is that the support is still significant, especially when compared to other world-class and Latin American leaders. “First, the poor” was one of the campaign slogans and has continued to be a mantra since the National Palace. However, practice does not end up marrying theory . Beyond who López Obrador claims to govern, some questions remain to be resolved: for whom does he do it? Who supports it?
The magnetism that the president still maintains must be understood from the perspective of material needs, enclosing a double paradox that runs through his entire economic policy: the explicit approval of the popular sectors is accompanied, on the one hand, by the implicit approval of the most powerful segments ; on the other, from a forceful lack of results or solid indicators that such approval is supported by the facts. The nationalist line of protectionism, which bears the surnames “austere” and “industrialist” rather than “redistributive”, fits perfectly with this approval pattern: a policy carried out by the poor , designed for the rich, and dressed in colors of the Mexican tricolor.
The survey carried out by SIMO Consulting for EL PAÍS on the occasion of the two years of his electoral victory, draws a range that includes support ranging from 53% who maintain a positive vision of the president’s management to 68% who approve of “a lot “Or” something “its management. The approval reached 80%, according to the average number of surveys maintained by the Oraculus demoscopic portal. The progressive erosion, in any case, has been found in more than half of the Mexicans.
The material core of AMLO
The approval of the president is inversely related to the degree of economic and social well-being (approximated by meeting the needs of space, health and hygiene, comfort, connectivity, etc.). It is also significantly higher among people of working age, and who are self-employed. Marginally, men also trust López Obrador more.
These figures become more significant if possible when we verify that they coincide with the perception of improvement in the household economy: it is substantially higher for the popular strata, men, employed people and those between 26 and 45 years of age. It seems that a center of gravity for López Obrador is in the pockets of these segments of society.
Hard data aligns with perception data only in part. ECLAC estimates would indicate that poverty has been declining since 2016, although little. It is true that these changes are slow by their very nature: for a household to rise out of poverty it requires notable and stable changes in its income pattern, but Mexico’s structural barrier seems far from breaking down.
Furthermore, ECLAC’s own prospects for 2020 are quite dark: the epidemic crisis has the potential to destroy decades of progress (we insist: dying in its slowness for many households) in just a few months.
While these grim predictions are confirmed, denied or adjusted, López Obrador continues with his economic plan that, in reality, does not rest solely on the popular classes.
The implicit approval of capital
In López Obrador’s national protectionist position there is an intrinsic tension: that of governing “for the people” but without completely turning away from the elite. “Tropical”, the analyst Viridiana Ríos has come to call it in an article in this newspaper in which he anticipated the evolution of the power network from certain implicit protectionist equilibria to others not necessarily different in their logic.
The star policies of the current Administration are a key piece in the gear: the Dos Bocas refinery, the Santa Lucía airport in Mexico City, and the Maya Train are the focus of attention and effort in economic policy. In contrast, investment in the main redistributive items hardly increases, while austerity rhetoric floats in each economic intervention by López Obrador or his secretaries. Removing the remarkable increase in social protection, the evolution in the mechanisms that could most endow the Mexican State with universality is particularly meager: health (whose fragmentation is taking a heavy toll on the most vulnerable segments of the Mexican population) and education.
Down below, these large infrastructure projects are being sold as a mechanism for inclusive growth. Something that connects well with his developmental logic based on the impulse of the national industry, and that explains the pragmatism that defined the tone of the meeting with Donald Trump: energy policy was something that floated in all the kind words that were crossed in the meeting.
The interesting thing is that the same strata that keep López Obrador’s high approval deny him recognition for such projects. In any case, a minority of Mexicans agree to dedicate public resources to infrastructure rather than to another objective. But support is less as we move down the socioeconomic scale.
It also turns out that it is these same groups that look to the future with more hopeful eyes. Contrast with looking back is essential: the pattern was, remember, the exact opposite.
It is quite possible that the pandemic and its consequences, which have already been felt in the poorest Mexican households for months, have a lot to do with this contrast. However, this does not imply that, as it has been suggested by government agencies on more than one occasion, the desire to reopen are more present among the popular sectors. On the contrary, epidemiological prioritization (“avoiding contagion” rather than “economic recovery”) is marginally more frequent among people who would have to lose the most.
Probably because they anticipate, as indeed has been happening, that they have the most to lose in a fight against the virus. This is the piece that is still missing in the great national project that López Obrador tries to tie to the “people” in a broad sense: more symmetrical protection mechanisms that align the elite of national capital with workers in more than just a perspective tied to specific infrastructures.
However, the differential support data is undeniable. And whoever confronts López Obrador, Morena or his country project in the months and years to come must begin by listening to the demands of these segments that continue to keep the president above the line that brought him to power on July 1, 2018.
The Mazatlan Post