Michael Wenye Li / Sun Photography Editor

Academics and students discussed the impact of Mexico's 2018 election on Monday in a roundtable.

October 29, 2018

Academics, Students Weigh in On Mexico’s Historic 2018 General Election

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Tim Shenk, coordinator of Cornell’s Committee on U.S. – Latin American Relations, proudly declared that the election of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico “is a victory for the people of Mexico, and a real defeat for the sitting Oligarchy.”

Shenk and more than a dozen academics and students participated in a Monday afternoon roundtable where they collectively analyzed the impact of the July general election in Mexico that catapulted an outsider candidate to power..

“Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO as he’s often called in Mexico, was elected by a huge majority on July 1st in Mexico for the presidency. He had more votes than any candidate in Mexican history,” Shenk began.

The triumph of AMLO, who is backed up by the Juntos Haremos Historia coalition, has serious historical significance, according to Melanie Calderon ’20, a CUSLAR intern. CUSLAR seeks to promote “justice and mutual understanding among the people of the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean,” and does so by hosting speakers, organizing cultural events and through educational programming.

Calderon argued that AMLO’s victory represents the termination of the 89-year hold to power by the rival Partido Revolucionario Institucional party — Mexico’s primary governing party since 1929 aside from a few years out of power.

She said that while the constitutional amendments of governmental institutions — such as reformation of Federal Electoral Institute, which is now nonpartisan after reforms — certainly buoyed AMLO’s candidacy, the crime wave, “rampant” corruption and the slow economy also contributed to PRI’s downfall.

With the current crime wave in Mexico, “Mexico’s on track to record more murders this year than any other year,” Calderon said, adding that over 120 politicians have been murdered since last September.

The GDP of Mexico has also been experiencing a decline in growth. “It only grows at 2 percent, which is slower than other emerging countries,” Calderon said. “Per capita income has [also] been flat while the wealthiest in Mexico are getting wealthier.”

Meanwhile, Tomasz Falkowski, a postdoc horticulture researcher, challenged what he believed were claims that aimed to smear AMLO by, amongst other claims, comparing him to President Donald Trump.

“[During the election,] there were red-scare tactics,” he said. “And then there was also a lot of dialogue about AMLO being the Mexican Trump, which is kind of ironic given that politically they represent dramatically different ideologies.”

Falkowski believes that such smear tactics remained ineffective, failing to erode AMLO’s electoral support.

“The percentages in the polling stayed remained remarkably consistent throughout the entirety of the election. AMLO was the by-and-far the leader from the get go,” Falkowski said.

Meanwhile, Daniela Rivero, an Ithaca College student studying sociology who is also an intern in CUSLAR, spoke about AMLO himself. She laid out his four policy priorities: trade, migration, security, and development.

On trade, AMLO has been negotiating with President Trump on the pending United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, which is designed to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement, Rivero said.

AMLO also “wants people to migrate out of Mexico out of choice not need,” Rivero said. To accomplish this, he has spoken about various internal developments to convince potential migrants that there are economic opportunities back home in Mexico by improving local infrastructures and raising the minimum wage in areas near the U.S.-Mexico border.

“[The development measures are] meant to act as kind of a last curtain against migration,” she said.

Shenk concluded the roundtable by reminding participants that the election of AMLO is not just an abstract policy issue but a concrete political event with very real impacts for everyday Mexicans.

“As we think about these big issues let’s also remember that these policies and these big elections and these big issues that are going on, at the end of the day they are affecting real human beings,” Shenk said.