Since July 1st, the day of the national election, Mexico has experienced profound changes, and I anticipate this will continue for the next six years (the length of the presidential term). Some international reidents in Merida have told me they feel confused by the conflicting opinions they hear about President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). They wonder if he will be able to fulfill the promises he has made.
During the months leading up to the national election, the traditional political parties did their damndest to demonize López Obrador, a long-time activist, aspiring to the presidency. Their propaganda within, and outside Mexico, described him as an “upstart”, “leftist”, and “unreliable.” They predicted an AMLO victory at the polls, would cause foreign investment to immediately flee, and that he’d steer Mexico towards a fate similar to that of Venezuela, under Chavez. Because he unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 2006 and 2012, many called him an “old loser”.
López Obrador did not give up; he tried to work with the established parties, but he found that many elected members were more interested in their own advancement than in the needs of the citizens they presumably serve. He could not go along with this, and so he launched, the National Regeneration Movement. In Spanish the new political party is called – Movimiento Regeneración Nacional – commonly known as MORENA. No small accomplishment, and for that new party to win the election with 53% of the vote is unheard of.
One has to ask why the citizens of Mexico abandoned their traditional party loyalties to vote for an almost unknown entity. Truthfully, the level of corruption, insecurity, and economic instability had surpassed what the majority of Mexicans could tolerate. Everyone knew that a vote for the traditional parties would mean more of the same old – same old. With AMLO and MORENA, at least they could hope the situation would improve.
Many people also wonder how the lives of everyday citizens will change under Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s leadership.
I am not shy about expressing my opinions, but I think it is important for readers to know what AMLO’s supporters from Merida’s business community, social service providers, educators and artists have to say. So for the next few weeks, I will interview such people and publish what I learn. Today I’d like to start with:
Olga Moguel Pereya
Olga Moguel Pereya
Many know Olga Moguel Pereya as the owner-manager of Amaro Restaurant and Cultural Center. Dining at Amaro, under the leafy canopy of a huge orchid tree, always makes for a wonderful evening. And attending presentations, exhibitions, lectures, and roundtable discussions, organised by Olga in her on-site auditorium is always thought-provoking.
Olga’s father was a career diplomat with Mexico’s Foreign Service; her mother was from Argentina, where Olga spent much of her childhood. She grew up listening to conversations between her parents and their friends from the Embassies of other countries. “Through my association with people from all over the world, I learned to respect cultural, religious and political differences,” says Olga, “and I developed strong opinions of my own.”
Civil and indigenous rights, diversity of all kinds, mental health issues and women’s equality are some of her passionate causes. “It hurts me to see people suffering with no hope that their situation will improve.”
She believes that the governments of the past four decades are responsible for the erosion of social, cultural, and family values in Mexico. “Because they have mismanaged the public treasury to such an extent, the economy is in a deplorable state. There are not enough jobs, and people are so preoccupied with making enough money to provide the basic necessities for their families, they have little time, energy, or other available resources to ensure that wholesome values are passed to their children.”
Olga feels that the example set by the government authorities, their abuse of power, and their arrogance has weakened the spirit of the general population. “When people know that their elected officials are corrupt, what incentive is there for them to follow the rules,” she asks.
“The repressive tactics of the government have only served to create more crime,” she adds.
Olga and I agreed that many people have lost their trust in the conventional parties, and so this is why they decided to elect the candidate who seemed to want change as badly as they do.
“And what will change if there is less corruption? How will this affect people’s day-to-day life?” I asked.
“It will affect everything,” said Olga, “Currently, at least 30% of the country’s budget is diverted from where it should go. This happens in all areas of health, education, and other social services. When this money is back working for the population, there will be better services; the circulation of more money will boost production and create the need for more employment.” In Olga’s opinion, most members of the traditional parties have lost touch with the citizens who are not part of their socio-economic class.
Having said that, Olga threw her hands up in the air – “These politicians were elected to serve the country, not to “serve themselves” – When she calmed down, she added, “López Obrador has always walked with the people. He visits even the smallest villages, and he knows what their needs are.”
She says that AMLO has the loyalty of the majority of Mexicans. She is confident that when they see strong, exemplary leadership, fiscal austerity, and a responsible government, not only will their incomes improve, but so will the national attitude and confidence for the future.“When the people feel more secure, they will shed some of the aggressiveness and the rage that we see in the traffic and in their inclination towards cynicism.”
“But all on his own, AMLO cannot make change happen,” Olga cautions, “It is up to us to follow his lead and adjust our ways too. We need to stop paying bribes, we need to recover our manners, and treat one another with respect – and we need to take care of our children – they are the future.”
Olga reminded me that this year she registered as an independent candidate to represent Yucatan in the House of Representatives. She did not win a seat but she added that she is willing to help the new administration in any way she can.
And through AMARO’s cultural center Olga says she will continue to offer a space for those who wish to voice their ideas. She has defined her role.
To summarize, I would say we all need to do as Olga does. We need to determine our role, and do what we can to contribute to the betterment of the country we live in.
What can members of the international community do? They are not supposed to get involved in political acts. However – supporting people in need is not a political act – it is an act of solidarity.