Editor’s note: Antonio Ocaranza is an analyst and communicator dedicated to corporate reputation. He was an international spokesperson for Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo and worked as a press advisor at the Mexican embassies in the United States and Canada when Mexico negotiated the Free Trade Agreement with those countries. He has been responsible for communication for companies such as Walmart de México y Centroamérica and Vitro. Today he runs OCA Reputation, a consulting firm that builds, protects and restores reputations for companies and institutions. The comments expressed in this column belong exclusively to the author. See more at cnne.com/opinion
(CNN Spanish) – In 2021, the president of Mexico Andrés Manuel López Obrador redefined his political strategy after the results of the June elections, in which the Chamber of Deputies and 15 governorships were renewed. Although his movement obtained a simple majority in the Lower House and won the governments of 11 states, two aspects shook the president: the defeat of Morena in Mexico City, a supposed morenista stronghold, and the impossibility of passing constitutional reforms due to the fact that his party and its allies did not reach the qualified majority of the deputies.
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The result fueled what seems to be President López Obrador’s greatest fear: that his reforms will be reversed if his party loses the 2024 presidential elections.
This fear explains the four lines of action that the president has undertaken during the second half of the year:
1.- Strengthen his environment: López Obrador has made changes in his inner circle to place very close people in sensitive positions, in many cases from his own state, Tabasco. Thus, he replaced his secretaries of the Interior and Finance, the legal advisor, the person in charge of money laundering investigations, and part of the leadership of several health institutions. The changes have generated concern because they seem to privilege loyalty and not efficiency, and could lead to less dialogue between the government and critics and opponents.
2.- Rushing key works and initiatives: the president is in a hurry to complete his government’s flagship infrastructure projects and consolidate reforms that underpin his economic project. This has led him to promote a controversial constitutional reform to modify the current electricity generation scheme that López Obrador considers “neoliberal”, ensuring that it affects Mexico’s energy sovereignty, weakens the Federal electricity commission and it unduly favors private companies. On the other hand, to ensure that the government’s infrastructure works – the new Mexico City airport, the Mayan Train or the Olmeca refinery – do not face administrative obstacles, the president issued an agreement that obliges government agencies to accelerate procedures and, according to critics and transparency institutions such as the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI), to omit information processes that delay the progress of the works. The court ruled that it is not valid for the information on the works to be treated as “national security.”
3.- Stalking and control of institutions: ensuring the survival of lopezobradorismo requires controlling key institutions such as the Supreme Court of Justice, the Federal Electoral Court, the Bank of Mexico, as well as the commissions that regulate economic activities or independent institutions that serve as a counterweight to the Government (for example, the National Electoral Institute –INE–, the INAI and the Energy Regulatory Commission –CRE–). Either appointing new officials or attacking them publicly, the president will continue to put more intense pressure on the institutions that are adverse to him to try to control their decisions. In recent months, this pressure has also extended to higher education institutions because they play a fundamental role: they are responsible for “the revolution of consciences” in which López Obrador establishes the triumph of his fourth transformation. For this reason, it has attacked the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the University of Guadalajara, the Center for Economic Research and Teaching (CIDE) and the Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico (ITAM), among other institutions, which it accuses of giving sustenance to neoliberal thought, which he assures, has harmed Mexico.
4.- Unleashing electoral ambition: the president accelerated the times of his succession to build a strong Morena candidate towards the 2024 election. His natural inclination is for the head of government of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, and he opened the game against other candidates such as his chancellor Marcelo Ebrard, the leader of the Senate Ricardo Monreal, and his secretary of the Interior Adán Augusto López. Although this move has been a distraction that impacts the discipline of his Government, discussing the succession allows the president to reinforce the call for the continuity of his policies. Another consequence favorable to the government has been to arouse the political greed of opposition parties and make it difficult to build a solid coalition by 2024, as various political parties flirt with the idea of pushing forward their own candidacies.
Fear is a bad advisor and it would not be a good omen if it fueled the actions of President López Obrador. Therefore, understanding 2021 and its impact on the rethinking of the presidential strategy is essential to understand the rest of the six-year term.