On Sunday next week, Mexicans will be electing hundreds of legislators and other state and local officials with the election attracting the attention of the latest edition of The Economist, which describes president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and his policies as dangerous populism. The leading piece of The Economist has been met with outrage and ridicule in Mexico since the magazine insists Mexicans should absolutely not vote for Morena, the party of the incumbent president.
The piece labelled AMLO Mexico's false messiah, claiming that he is a danger to Mexican democracy and that his power needs to be curtailed. The magazine brought up several arguments to back the stance, saying, for example, that the president calls a lot of votes, but not always on topics that are best resolved by voting. Holding a referendum to measure public support for a pet project or for a decision to prosecute former senior officials on corruption charges is, according to The Economist, a stunt and a mockery of the rule of law.
Mexico's president was also accused of having disdain for expertise and a love of ideas that have been tried and proved not to work – like pushing private capital out of hydrocarbon extraction, electricity generation and distribution, and railroad transportation, or deploying the military to build infrastructure projects.
The Economist acknowledged that AMLO is not personally corrupt, unlike much of the ruling class in Mexico, and has done a lot of good for the have-nots. Nevertheless, it said voters have to deny him a parliamentary majority for the remaining three years of his presidential term because he is power-hungry. Washington could be of assistance, the piece suggested.
Coming from a publication that takes pride in having once been called the journal that speaks for British millionaires by Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin, the lecture on how Mexico should be governed did not land well.
AMLO himself has said the label given to him was stupid, false and meddling. Speaking the day after publication, he said The Economist was acting unethically and disrespectfully toward the Mexican people.
It's like if I were to go to the UK and ask the British people to vote for my friend from the Labour Party, he explained. AMLO apparently was referring to the former UK Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, who, incidentally, is not a politician favoured by the 'millionaire's journal' either.
The message seems to be taken with scepticism by the president's supporters. Some pointed out that The Economist was not particularly original in its religious-themed description, borrowing it from the Spanish-language publication Letras Libres.
Others suggested the British magazine clearly had an agenda that had little to do with the well-being of the Mexican people and much to do with the return on investment for international corporations. After all, the big business-friendly platform of Mexico's previous president, Enrique Peña Nieto, received glowing reviews from the Western press. Peña Nieto left office in 2017 with an approval rating of just 12%, leaving behind an economic crisis and paving the way for AMLO's win of 53% of the popular vote during the following year's presidential election.
The former president is under investigation for possible corruption, which is extraordinary in Mexico since ex-presidents can't be reelected but their six-year decisions go unquestioned.