I recently attended an event organized by Mexico City’s MORENA branch called 2018 in Historical Perspective: EZLN, PRD, Ayotzinapa, Morena, Nochixtlán. John Ackerman, a legal researcher and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM in its Spanish initials), was the presenter.
With the next presidential election just two years away, and as Mexico is in the second half of the six year term of Enrique Peña Nieto, one of the most unpopular Mexican presidents in the country’s history, Ackerman started with this big question: Why hasn’t Mexico shown greater gains for its people after all of the popular political participation it has seen in the past decades?
He starts the timeline during the tremendous social energy in the lead up to the 1988 elections in which many Mexican citizens gathered behind presidential candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (the son of the most highly regarded Mexican president, Lázaro Cardenas, who expropriated Mexican oil from transnational companies, among many feats). Cuauhtémoc was the great hope for breaking the stranglehold of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), which had served the interests of the Mexican elite and of the United States before and after Lázaro Cárdenas’ presidency. Cardenas’ loss to Carlos Salinas Gotari in the 1988 elections was the result of fraud; a computerized vote counter supposedly crashed and when it came back online, showed Salinas Gotari as the winner. The foul stench of voter fraud resurged in 2006 when former Mexico City mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador very narrowly lost to Felipe Calderón amid López Obrador’s party’s accusations of voter intimidation and ballot box stuffing by Calderón’s party.
As a result, and another of Ackerman’s points, Mexico has never had an “official” initial vote to the left, like Bolivia with Morales, Brazil with Lula, Argentina with Kirchner, Venezuela with Chávez, Ecuador with Correa, and Paraguay with Lugo. With the “soft”, parliamentary coups in Paraguay and Brazil (the latter of which is still in an ongoing process that has suspended Dilma while she undergoes an impeachment trial), the recent election of a right wing parliamentary majority in Venezuela, and the election of the right wing Argentine president, Mauricio Macri, who grows ever more unpopular for the spate of neoliberal measures he has carried out since he took office last December, the Latin American left has taken quite a blow. Considering the ground that the left has lost in Latin America (which in most cases has been forcefully taken through political shenanigans, but also has been lost at the ballot box), considering the ongoing or impending implementation of harmful neoliberal reform in countries that used to have leftist governments, and considering that Mexico is suffering through its own set of “structural” (read neoliberal) reforms ushered in by current president Enrique Peña Nieto, Ackerman argues that Mexico is in a prime condition to vote for the left wing candidate, López Obrador, and, one hopes, to avoid the swing back to the right.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or AMLO for short, is running for the Mexican presidency for the third time. In 2006 and 2012 he ran as the PRD (Democratic Revolutionary Party) presidential candidate on a platform against political corruption, losing both times under a dark cloud of irregularities in favor of his opponent. As the PRD became more and more corrupt and aligned itself with the conservative and wholly corrupt PAN (National Action Party of presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderón) and PRI (With a few exceptions, the always corrupt traditional ruling party from 1929 to 2000 and currently Peña Nieto, from 2012-2018), AMLO separated from his old party to continue to build a new party called MORENA, or MOvimiento de REgeneración NAcional (The National Regeneration Movement). He is the MORENA candidate for the 2018 presidential elections.
MORENA was unveiled in 2011 as a “strong grassroots network of supporters” that was also a “political movement intended to fuse together the causes of social reform and political action in an organization that acts beyond the confines of a traditional political party.” 
MORENA’s Declaration of Principles states: “The neoliberal model imposed over the last 30 years has only benefited a minority at the expense of poverty for the majority of Mexicans” and “We are not moved by hate, but rather by the love of our neighbor and motherland. We will fulfill and carry out the changes we propose by committing ourselves to observe the Constitution and national laws.” 
In México, the current phase of the “neoliberal model” referred to above is the attack on teachers, energy price hikes, and the privatization of the health care sector and Mexican oil; all of which are part of the “structural reform” package implemented by the current Peña Nieto administration.
The so-called “educational reform” is actually a labor reform intended to layoff a massive amount of teachers through an unfair evaluation system that educators had been protected from under the Mexican constitution. One brave teacher I got to hear speak from the Section 22 of the National Coordinating Committee of Educational Workers (CNTE) said that the goal of the reforms is to turn schools into businesses. When I heard that, it sent shivers down my spine, as it made me think of the current destruction of public schools in in the USA in order to bring about charter schools. Teachers of the CNTE have been very busy marching for their rights and they are widely supported throughout the country (and abroad!) by parents and others affected by “structural reform”. While the Peña Nieto government is waging a political attack on teachers, it has also physically attacked protesting CNTE members and their supporters, killing eleven and wounding many others in Nochitzlán, in the southern state of Oaxaca.
AMLO points out that despite the fact that the “structural reforms” put forth by the Enrique Peña Nieto government promised to lower both electricity and gasoline prices, the opposite is happening now: Mexico’s Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) has recently announced that consumers can expect higher bills; and gasoline costs more in Mexico than in the United States, where the dollar is stronger. In fact, since the recent privatization of the state oil company PEMEX (that had been the state company since Lázaro Cárdenas’ oil expropriation in the 1930’s), there have been new PEMEX gas stations built north of the border where those experiencing the benefits of the Mexican structural reform have been U.S. consumers, who pay close to half of what Mexican consumers pay at PEMEX gasoline stations in Mexico, and for gasoline refined from the same oil!
Corruption is the cornerstone of all of these harmful reforms and of just about every difficult problem facing Mexico today, according to Andrés Manuel López Obrador. AMLO has wonderful credentials and is a transparency activist in his video spots where he clearly explains the negative effects of structural reform or budget misappropriation by politicians. He promises to cancel these damaging reforms as Mexico’s president in 2018.
John Ackerman argues that those groups that are boycotting elections in Mexico because they are sick of corruption and think that all the parties are equally corrupt will have to keep negotiating with the same institutions, with few to no results, if MORENA does not win. He adds that today’s radical action is not to get upset with voting, but to use it for the right ends.
With about two years left before the 2018 elections, I think AMLO is correctly denouncing the government for how it is mishandling the CNTE teacher’s strike, for how it has put up so many barriers in the way of finding the whereabouts of the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, for the squandering of public funds on such things as the allegedly most expensive presidential plane on Earth for EPN, and for the neoliberal reforms that are handing Mexico’s public institutions to the private sector and to transnational companies. AMLO is speaking to the issues that Mexican citizens are fed up with and proposing solutions that make sense.
Finally, I think an AMLO victory would revitalize the Latin American left that has been so badly damaged in this second decade of our still new century. In the realms of art, music, literature, film, and television, what happens in Mexico is noticed throughout the Americas. There is currently a strong social energy in Mexico, very comparable to that felt in 1988, and if Mexican leftwing voters can win this election after having had three elections taken from them in past 30 years, then the revolutionary spirit will be rekindled; the one ignited by El Comandante Hugo Chávez, by Evo Morales, by Kirchner, by Lula da Silva, and by all of the voters that believed in an alternative to the neoliberal model. And if Mexico can go left, then who knows? Maybe even Perú or Colombia.
If AMLO wins and the process to eliminate corruption begins in Mexico (and it IS a process, not something that just happens overnight), then I think the world would take notice and feel some hope and people-power that is so desperately needed in these turbulent times.
José Argüello is an educator, learner, and internationalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org