On April 22, AMLO said that four journalists defend him: Galván Ochoa, Pedro Miguel, Federico Arreola, and Jorge Zepeda Patterson. Today Zepeda Patterson writes a harsh editorial about him in El Pais.
The title: “LOPEZ OBRADOR AT THE POINT OF NO RETURN?” Zepeda Patterson writes: Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not betrayed his flags, but he has betrayed himself in more ways than one. He remains faithful to his obsession with benefiting the poor and fighting corruption. Still, on coming to power, has left aside the modest and discreet man he seemed to be. Or perhaps he simply betrayed the human being we had built up in our heads.
I suppose there were many signs. I had a distressing oppression in my chest to watch a smiling and happy Andrés Manuel, surrounded by primary school children who sang a hymn full of praise for him. The social fighter I appreciate would have had a fit of embarrassment at the crude exaltation of personality cult and courage at the apparent manipulation of pupils by an opportunistic teacher. But the Andres Manuel in the video enjoyed the moment. He was aware that he was being filmed, in a scene that was at best a lousy copy of the Gospel and, at worst, a propaganda piece worthy of the chubby Kim Jong-Un of North Korea.
Then came the unpleasant displays of servility in the mornings on the part of amateur journalism characters, turned into sudden stars thanks to their willingness to get up early and ask complimentary and convenient questions to the sovereign. “Mister President of all Mexicans, servant of the nation, what do you think of the declaration of the conservative exploiters of the people who yesterday stated …?”. I thought that such displays of opportunism and professional poverty would be gradually evicted by the common sense of a man who, in my opinion, had a career marked by dignity. To my surprise, as the days went by, the president ended up giving them priority in the rounds of questions and did not miss the opportunity to load them with praise and show them off as examples of good journalism. That he calls those who criticize him a bad press is already worrying, but it can be understood (rather than justified) by political passion. I find the displays of abjection in the mornings admirable. On the other hand, it seems to me to go beyond the political and has to do with a fracture in a man whose intelligence and sense of dignity was above that.
I had the opportunity to do an extended biographical profile of López Obrador for the book Los Suspirantes 2006. I deepened and updated it for the versions of 2012 and 2018. What I found was a human being with virtues and defects, stubborn and implacable with his principles and determinations, simple in his approach, austere, dignified, and honest.
To those who prophesied Hugo Chavez, I argued against it by recalling his experience as mayor of Mexico City. It was characterized by a practical, negotiating, and entrepreneurial spirit. My most significant concern was that when he came to power, he would let himself be carried away by a vengeful and punitive attitude against those who had boycotted him during his career as an opponent (the television stations, the money captains, the former presidents, etc.). Yet his inaugural speech surprised everyone with its generosity, its conciliatory spirit, and its inclusive spirit.
Unfortunately for us who voted for Andrés Manuel and continue to believe in his flags, that inaugural speech weakened over the months. The intoxication of power wanted something else. It made me long for the fairy tales that, after the kiss of consummation, usually end with “they lived happily ever after.” The librettists don’t have to battle with the insufferable vanity of the former sleeping beauty, the infidelities of Prince Charming, or the anti-climactic and monotonous everyday life that ends up ruining the honeymoon. Happy tales have the virtue of ending on time. A sexennial presidency don’t.
Beyond the successes and errors that every human being makes, presidents included, it seems to me that something went wrong when Lopez Obrador thought it was possible to say without blush a phrase like “I no longer belong to me.” There is no glory in having won the presidency, as demonstrated by Fox or Calderón, if it is not accompanied by the ability to bring real change and not by words, as has happened so far.
AMLO is convinced that his phrases are meant for the bronze and that his texts are an enlightened gift to humanity; in short, he is confident that he is invested with supposed infallibility, whether it be economy, history, ecology, politics, philosophy or humanism. Humility becomes a reason for presumption.
What the president does not understand is that nothing assures anything. That his peers in history could end up being Luis Echeverría and José López Portillo, and not Benito Juárez or Francisco I. Madero, as he believes. What does it depend on? On whether public insecurity, poverty, or corruption will decrease dramatically. And those, far from having improved in a year and a half, are stagnating or getting worse.
It is increasingly clear the goodwill of the president is not enough for Mexico to be transformed. A concert of many actors is needed (some have been mistreated and alienated by the president for free). The president repeats over and over again that we have not realized that “this has already changed,” but that is not the case. And there are the daily murders to contradict him, soon the galloping unemployment and the corruption scandals we hear about. What has changed, and we must acknowledge this is the political will of the head of state to make Mexico more just for the disinherited. But desire is not the same as the reality for the simple reason that he lives in the Palace.
I do not want to lose hope. It was so unlikely that the elites would allow a man committed to those who have less to come to power that it was little less than a miracle (perhaps that’s where the character’s messianic attitudes come from). It will take another miracle for the president to descend from the pedestal on which he and his sycophants have placed him. Fighting with women, with the national and foreign press, with environmentalists, with investors, with the part of his Cabinet that is not servile and unconditional, with the middle classes, with intellectuals, with scientists and artists and a growing number of others, may have been essential to bring about change and eliminate privileges and distortions. But I fear that many of these disagreements originate from another reason: pride. The simple, straightforward conviction that he is wiser than everyone else, and boasting about it to the applause of his smarmy crowd. Is there a possibility of a return?
Is the statesman within him recoverable without being lulled into a supposed moral superiority? And if the best AMLO does not return, is it worth continuing to support him despite his slips for the sake of the goodness of his flags?
Jorge Zepeda Patterson
For El Pais de España.
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