Thursday, June 20, 2024

The AMLOve affair is over: why I’ve changed my mind about the president

So, y’all ever been wrong before?

Man, I sure have. About a lot of things, of course, most of them (mercifully) not too consequential.

One thing I am deeply saddened to have been wrong about is our president.

Don’t get me wrong; I want him to do well because I want Mexico to do well. But, gosh, it’s become so hard to defend him.

Even when he did or said things I didn’t really like, I let them slide, thinking, “Well, at least he’s not a cynic. At least he sincerely seems to be trying to do what’s best for Mexico, which is more than I can say for most other presidents.”

But his choice of friends disturbs me.

El Chapo’s mother? What was that? When I saw the picture of him greeting her warmly, it was the kind of slap in the face that one might feel upon finding their spouse on a romantic dinner date with someone they (with very good reason) deeply dislike.

And Trump. Trump! What is it that President López Obrador finds so appealing about him?

At first, I thought he was simply trying to appease Trump because that’s the smart thing to do when your neighbor is both very powerful and very mentally unstable and unpredictable. After all, if Trump were to get mad, there’s presumably a lot of damage he could have done to Mexico, especially regarding trade. That’s what I told myself too when López Obrador stood conspicuously back as all the other world leaders congratulated Biden on his win.

But no; AMLO seems to genuinely like the guy.

The thing that I hate, hate, hate being wrong about is this: that Trump and AMLO do, in fact, share many similarities, from their open dislike and disparagement of the “mainstream media” to the demonization of anyone not “with” them politically. Another sad similarity is their insistence that only they have the solutions.

Given these similarities, it’s thankfully not a perfect parallel. AMLO, for example, actually had experience governing before becoming the president. I also still believe that, however misguided I think he is now, he at least believes that he’s doing what’s best for his country. While I am starting to seriously doubt that he cares about the way so many Mexicans are suffering with no economic help during the pandemic on top of their health woes, I do believe that he at least took office with the desire to improve citizens’ lives.

I haven’t lost hope that he might come to his senses — I’m not writing him off — but, man, am I sad about how this presidency is going.

The situation with former defense chief Salvador Cienfuegos is also something that’s knocked a few other torches I’d carried for AMLO out of my hand. I’m no crime expert, but I have absolutely no doubt that the U.S. came to the correct conclusions about who Mexico’s ex-defense minister was. The fact that Cienfuegos was determined innocent once back in Mexico without so much as a trial knocked me off my feet.

The issue here seems not to be his guilt or innocence but hurt pride that the U.S. went after him without Mexico’s cooperation or knowledge. And if there’s one thing I know about Mexican culture, it’s that hurt pride, especially when it involves powerful men, is not often tolerated.

But I can’t say I blame the U.S. for leaving Mexico out. After all, corruption often reaches the top levels of government, and any message to the wrong person could tip off exactly the right person, and then it all goes to hell and the bad guy gets away.

I was sure that AMLO was solidly against impunity, but with this, the veil has been lifted. I would so love to know what the president thinks privately; surely he doesn’t really believe that Cienfuegos is an innocent man. Is he embarrassed because he’s given the military so much power lately? Is it that admitting the possibility of corruption in the military means admitting that maybe he made a mistake or two by putting them in charge of so much?

It seems, too, that through his public upset, the president is trying to whip up some anti-U.S. sentiment. Why? Most analyses I’ve read liken him to a growling dog, warning Biden as he comes into office that he doesn’t want the United States to be involving itself in matters down here.

So this is it. I’ve officially fallen out of AMLOve. I kept giving him the benefit of the doubt, assuming that there were certainly many good things that I just wasn’t aware of that might even cancel out the bad, that perhaps my problem was that I didn’t fully understand the things I thought he was doing wrong. It truly has been like ending a relationship: the hardest step is going from assuming things can be fixed to finally deciding that they can’t.

Oh, how I long to be told, “Don’t worry. The grown-ups are here. They’ll take care of things.”

From the looks of things around here, it could be a while.

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website,

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