Last Sunday was the one-year anniversary for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, as Mexico’s current president. AMLO won the presidency promising to radically change the politics of the country. He promised to end the violence and reign in the corruption. His promises amount to what he has dubbed as the Fourth Transformation of México.
The Fourth Transformation of México, as envisioned by AMLO and his supporters, is the fourth fundamental political change of the country. The first transformation was the War of Independence. The second one was the Guerra de Reforma, a civil war between liberals and conservatives over religious influences over the politics of the country. By the time the Reform War had ended, the Catholic Church was severely restricted by law. Most of the restrictions were lifted under the presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who also pushed forth a robust political agenda that led to NAFTA.
The third Mexican political transformation was the Mexican Revolution. The Mexican Revolution created a political system that was left-of-center on most social issues but, nonetheless was not too far left. This system was sustained by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI).
Although the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) moved the political center more to the right, México largely remained left-of-center.
There are many interpretations of what the fourth transformation means but, in essence, it can be summed up around oil. The Mexican economy was heavily dependent on oil exports as its primary national economy. Oil paid for many social benefit programs for decades.
Carlos Salinas de Gortari moved the Mexican economy away from oil and made México a global powerhouse of manufactured goods for exports. It is based around NAFTA.
It is argued by some that NAFTA exasperated the economic inequality of the country and increased corruption. It is also argued that drug cartels are a product of the global economy. What those arguments do not consider is that economic inequality in México has existed since the Aztec Empire. It was never resolved.
Likewise, corruption is part of the Mexican culture. It was has been ingrained through several generations of Mexicans under the “mordida” system. Drugs are just an extension of the culture of corruption and the tradition of “fayuca” (contraband) that exists to this day in the form of the tianguis (street bazars) across México.
AMLO’s Fourth Transformation ostensibly imposes political and social reforms that solve the problem of corruption and tames the violence by avoiding targeting drug cartels with the military.
One year later, the violence in México is at an epidemic level. AMLO’s solution was to take the military out of engaging the cartels and creating and deploying a national police force. The national guard, or national police force was created and deployed before they were fully prepared. Their fast deployment was to pacify Donald Trump by using the newly created national guard to interdict asylum seekers using the migrant caravans to cross México on their way to the United States.
AMLO deployed his national guards to work for the U.S. government to resolve the migrant caravan crisis and left a vacuum for the cartels.
AMLO still insists that oil is the solution to his domestic agenda, although he seems to have realized that he needs NAFTA to fund his agenda. That is the reason that the USMCA is something that AMLO worries about and why he wishes that the U.S. Congress adopts it sooner than later.
For AMLO it is not about the USMCA, but rather that Trump could send the Mexican economy into a tailspin if he decides with withdraw from NAFTA for political reasons.
What AMLO worries about is Donald Trump disrupting NAFTA by issuing the six-month declaration that the U.S. will withdraw, exasperating the Mexican economy. Trump may try to force Nancy Pelosi’s hand on the USMCA by issuing the withdrawal notice triggering the six-month withdrawal process. A Trump notice would reverberate across the Mexican economy like a tsunami.
AMLO wants to avoid that at all costs so that he can continue to focus on his domestic agenda. Oil, however, remains AMLO’s immediate solution to implementing his national agenda.
The question of whether México is undergoing the Fourth Transformation remains unanswered as AMLO has been unable to keep his promises.
AMLO, however, remains well-liked by Mexicans in general. Like Donald Trump, AMLO has his die-hard supporters that support his agenda regardless of the deliverables he delivers and the missteps he makes along the way.
One year into AMLO’s presidency, the question of the Fourth Transformation remains on shaky ground.