The World Today for May 31, 2024

NEED TO KNOW

Into the Fire

MEXICO

At least nine people died and around 50 more were injured when a stage collapsed in northern Mexico while presidential candidate Jorge Álvarez Máynez was addressing supporters. Máynez of the center-left Citizen Movement was uninjured, the BBC reported. But the incident was the latest ugly incident before voters in Latin America’s most populous country head to the polls to elect a new head of state on June 2.

As the Financial Times explained, assassinations of candidates, allegations of ties to drug lords, and information leaks have marred the run-up to the elections – which are Mexico’s largest – and will see 20,000 jobs up for grabs in Congress, state houses, local legislatures and municipalities.

For example, incumbent President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who can’t run for a second term, recently published the telephone number of a journalist who wrote about American probes into Lopez’s ties to drug cartels. His endorsed candidate from the Morena party-led Sigamos Haciendo Historia coalition, Claudia Sheinbaum, and her main rival, Xóchitl Gálvez of the conservative Strength and Heart for Mexico alliance, have had their info leaked, too. Nineteen candidates seeking legislative office have been killed.

Sheinbaum is the current frontrunner. Polls said she enjoys as much as 59 percent of the public’s support compared with Gálvez, who is hovering around 35 percent, according to the Americas Society/Council of the Americas. Máynez is trailing with between five to 10 percent.

When he won office in 2018, Obrador was portrayed as a leftist. In office, however, he governed as a populist and nationalist with an authoritarian bent, wrote VOA, leaving the country deeply divided. Sheinbaum is a leftist who will likely govern as a progressive.

Her parents helped organize a student democracy protest in 1968 that security forces dispersed, massacring hundreds of youths in Mexico City. “She went to these schools where the ‘children of ‘68’ went, they were active-learning schools run by Spanish Republican exiles, they were free-thinking schools,” Antonio Santos, who has known Sheinbaum since the 1980s, told the Associated Press.

Security is a major issue in the race. At a recent debate, wrote NBC News, Sheinbaum claimed that when she was mayor of Mexico City, surveys showed that residents’ previous sense of insecurity had fallen by a third. Gálvez noted that homicides in her time in office increased by 22 percent, however. Neither proffered new policies to address rampant crime, violence, and corruption in Mexico. Máynez, however, proposed legalizing drugs to end the cartels’ trade.

Those issues are linked to foreign policy, argued World Politics Review. The US wants Mexico to help fight the war on drugs. Mexico needs American investment, especially as American leaders seek to re-shore manufacturing on North American soil to avoid the supply chain issues that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic and could happen in the event of a conflict with China.

As a leftist, Sheinbaum’s instincts could lean toward confrontation, rather than conciliation with the US. She might not have that option, however, if she wants voters to have jobs and food on their tables, and preserve democracy – the US is Mexico’s largest trade partner and main source of military equipment.

At the same time, one of the trickiest issues facing the next Mexican president is the exponentially growing power of the Mexican military, wrote the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

Mexico, unlike elsewhere in Latin America, has been free of military coups and juntas, with the military seen as subordinate to civilian authority, according to NPR.

But while in office, the current president has transferred vast amounts of resources to the armed forces as well as responsibility for tasks civilians previously would have handled – customs and migration, for example – while constitutional amendments granted the armed forces responsibility for public security until 2028. Meanwhile, more than a dozen state companies have been transferred to the military for management, too, such as oversight over airports, usually a civilian responsibility.

“What’s true is that the growth of the military’s footprint has come alongside focused efforts by the president to hamstring much of the civilian state, including the judiciary and institutions such as the elections watchdog and the freedom-of-information agency,” the Washington Post wrote.

“With its oversight over seaports, airports and borders, alongside its ubiquitous presence throughout Mexico, the military has become an invaluable tool for the president to do his will across the territory, centralizing power and sidestepping democratically elected state and municipal governments.”

“For now, Mexico’s generals show no open interest in taking over the country,” it added. “Yet these things have a way of happening incrementally.”

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