‘The favourite candidate in the Mexican presidential election is another Trump.'
Mexico will be electing a new president on 1 July. No matter who wins, there will be little change in the deep political crisis affecting the country. This is the message given by José Carlos G. Aguiar, university lecturer in Latin American studies.
A spiral of drugs and political violence, corruption, impunity and marginalisation of the indigenous people. These are just a few of the many crises facing Mexico today. These problems are slowly undermining all the pillars on which a liberal democracy is founded: the legal state, civil rights and the safety and equality of the country's inhabitants.
President of a one-party state
José Carlos G. Aguiar suspects that the presidential elections of 1 July will change little. Left-wing Andrés Manuel López Obrador will probably win. But, Aguiar says, in fact it doesn't really matter who wins. 'A change in political colour is not enough to lift Mexico out of this deep crisis. Democracy is also about the way you handle power; it's about culture. In Mexico that culture simply isn't there.'
Take Obrador. He portrays himself as an ‘outsider’ and a ‘man of the people’, but he is in fact a professional politician who has been part of the government for decades. As long ago as in 1976 he became a member of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), the governing party in Mexico that ruled the country as a one-party state. Aguiar: ‘And he's by no means the only one. Almost every politician who is in the running for the presidency made his career in the period before Mexico was a democracy.'
Traditional healer as last hope
For a short while there was hope. Independent candidates are now able to take part in the Mexican elections. María de Jesús Patricio, a traditional healer who comes from the marginalised indigenous section of the population - no less - decided to try for the presidency. In an ambitious programme, ‘Marichuy’ wanted to ask ordinary Mexicans what was needed to 'heal' their country. As her use of words shows, there is no doubt in anyone's mind that Mexico is sick.
‘She was the only person with a different political model, far from the established politicians who are so embedded in the corruption of the old regime,' Aguiar explains. 'But, of course, it was too good to be true. An independent candidate has to amass 860,000 signatures, and the support of at least two per cent of the electorate in every federal state. That's impossible for a truly independent outsider. These technical rules serve to protect the political stronghold against external candidates. So the system stayed locked in.'
Deeper into crisis with ‘Mexico's Trump'
The question, according to Aguiar, is whether Obrador can pull Mexico out of the crisis. This professional politician has already made two previous attempts at the presidency, but this time he's set to win thanks to a deliberately populist election programme. He wants to take Mexico out of NAFTA, the free trade treaty with the United States. It makes him remarkably like the president of his country's powerful angry northern neighbour: Donald Trump. ‘And they also share the same populist agendas that are practically impossible to implement. It will simply further add to the lack of confidence in politics.'
Aguiar believes this is typical of a new phase in international relations. 'In the '90s, I myself took part in the demonstrations to bring democracy to Mexico. We wanted to have free elections, but there's little of that left now. We don't even pretend to want the best for our country any more.’ Aguiar does, however, hope that a future generation will no longer accept the way the political system currently works.