“Right now, former President Trump is declaring that they are going to arrest him. If that were the case…it would be so that his name doesn’t appear on the ballot. I say this because I too have suffered from the fabrication of a crime, when they didn’t want me to run. And this is completely anti-democratic…. Why not allow the people to decide?”
Lopez Obrador (usually referred to by his initials “AMLO”) and his party had been accused by a prominent Mexican journalist in 2022 of colluding with the Sinaloa cartel in order to win some local elections. (AMLO flatly denied the accusation.)
AMLO is by no means a Trump ally. He played a large part in causing the border crisis that Trump had to deal with during his term and which Biden has since allowed to recur. Still, he and Trump have always had a common “outsider” status. Their relationship was kind of volatile when they were both in office.
So why is he doing this? One reason is that he’s very unhappy with Joe Biden for his criticism of the violence in Mexico — to which he shot back with the accusation that Biden was behind the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea. AMLO seems especially irritated by American politicians (Trump included) referring to Mexico as corrupt, backward, and dangerous. He recently pushed back on U.S. political rhetoric about making war on Mexican cartels with the unsupportable claim that Mexico is safer than the U.S.
The context here is very important. Until the turn of the century, Mexico’s elections were rigged as part of a one-party system. Even those within the one party (the Institutional Revolutionary Party) who favored modest reforms were susceptible to being assassinated before they could be elected. Today, the nation is plagued by cartel violence, many politicians remain startlingly corrupt, and law enforcement remains far less trustworthy than it is in the U.S.
As president of a nation struggling to grow, weighed down by organized crime and the stultifying power of his own leftist populism, you can imagine why someone like AMLO would have such a chip on his shoulder, given perceptions from El Norte.
When AMLO speaks up for Trump on his pending indictment, he has a hidden agenda, in addition to whatever correct observations he is making about the flimsy and transparently political case against the former president. AMLO is really trying to insinuate that the politics of the U.S. are just as corrupt or worse than that of Mexico.
As whataboutisms go, it’s at least a whataboutism motivated by patriotism.
At any rate, it sounds more like something Trump would say than anyone else in the U.S. In fact, he and AMLO share in common not only their outsider persona, but also false claims of having an election stolen from them. AMLO claims that this happened to him twice — in 2006, when he lost by about 250,000 votes, and even when he lost by more than 3 million votes in 2012.
So if AMLO and Trump sound like best friends on this topic, it’s probably less surprising than it sounds at first.