Wealthy elites in Mexico have been organising to facilitate a soft coup against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador before his term has finished, according to a document which was revealed to the public by the president’s office. The leaked document was allegedly drafted by Bloque Opositor Amplio (the Broad Opposition Bloc, BOA) a collection of rich and powerful figures in Mexico who are organised in opposition to the current president.
Ben Norton, an investigative journalist with The Grayzone, has published an in-depth exposé on the alleged coup plot against and the main players involved. Norton, who is based in Nicaragua, explained to Sputnik the significance of what has been revealed.
Sputnik: Break down the key aspects of this story for the average person who may not even have heard of it.
Ben Norton: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (known popularly by the initials AMLO) is the first left-wing president Mexico has had in roughly 40 years. A former mayor of the capital Mexico City, López Obrador has been a major progressive force in politics for many years, and won the 2018 presidential election in a landslide.
AMLO is not a revolutionary socialist like, say, Fidel Castro or Hugo Chávez; rather he is a progressive nationalist and social democrat. But in his presidential campaign, and since entering office, López Obrador has made opposition to neoliberalism a key political goal. He pledged to “end the dark night of neoliberalism”, and to accomplish this, AMLO declared the creation of a new revolutionary movement he calls the Fourth Transformation.
López Obrador has made poverty reduction and job creation a major priority of his administration. He has also aggressively combated corruption, which has been a systemic problem in Mexican politics for decades. The previous neoliberal president who served before AMLO, Enrique Peña Nieto, for instance, apparently took a $100 million bribe from the notorious drug lord El Chapo Guzmán. Peña Nieto was from the neoliberal political party the PRI, which has governed Mexico on and off for decades.
AMLO is not a committed anti-imperialist, but he has tried to steer Mexico in an independent direction. For decades before him, Mexico’s foreign policy was largely subordinated to the USA. López Obrador has made independent decisions that have angered Washington, like providing refuge to Bolivian President Evo Morales, who was overthrown in a US-backed fascist military coup in November, or holding a historic meeting with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Mexico City.
On the issue of Venezuela, AMLO has also played an important role softly resisting the US coup attempt. Mexico has refused to recognise US-backed coup leader Juan Guaidó as the supposed president, and has even said Mexico would sell Caracas gasoline.
López Obrador has likewise criticised the US-backed “war on drugs,” which was launched by Mexico’s former right-wing Mexican President Felipe Calderón, and which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of Mexicans and destabilised the country. Calderón is a close ally of Washington, and a powerful, very rich, and corrupt oligarch with an outsize position in the Mexican right. Calderón was a leader of the right-wing political party the PAN, the other major party that has dominated modern Mexican politics. And Calderón has been helping lead the attempt to destabilise and ultimately overthrow AMLO.
In addition to the 2018 election, AMLO likely won the 2012 presidential election as well, but it was probably stolen from him. This is a controversial issue in Mexico, but López Obrador personally declared victory at the time. Although the Mexican government ultimately recognised Peña Nieto and his neoliberal PRI party as the victor, a Colombian hacker later admitted that he and a team of hackers were paid to manipulate the election results on behalf of the PRI.
Sputnik: Who are the main individuals and groups behind this apparent conspiracy to depose president AMLO?
Ben Norton: The main opposition forces trying to overthrow López Obrador are the right-wing business elites, who are powerful oligarchs in Mexico, and the political parties that have dominated Mexican politics for decades, the PRI and the PAN.
As is the case in the US and many other capitalist countries, average working-class people in Mexico grew distrustful of the previous two-party dictatorship, which always pushed the same neoliberal economic policies, subordinated Mexico to Washington, and was plagued by rampant corruption. So AMLO created his own new party, called Morena, which led him to his landslide victory in 2018.
Some other right-wing leaders, especially Felipe Calderón, have tried to echo this strategy, creating new political parties. But these are largely rebranding campaigns, and these new parties are essentially just PR vehicles, with little to no grassroots support, for these once prominent politicians to try to regain power.
Like most capitalist countries, Mexico’s media is overwhelmingly controlled by right-wing oligarchs, who have a vested interest in trying to overthrow the progressive López Obrador government. So there is a lot of extreme media bias and disinformation against AMLO, Morena, and the Fourth Transformation.
Leaked documents released by the López Obrador government show that there is in fact an alliance of these powerful oligarchic forces to try to overthrow AMLO. This group, which calls itself the Broad Opposition Bloc (Bloque Opositor Amplio, or BOA), consists of some of the aforementioned right-wing leaders, the PRI and the PAN, and powerful business leaders in Mexico. They also claim to have the support of most of the press, including the top media outlets in the country.
BOA likewise says in the executive summary of its strategy that it has backers on Wall Street, in Washington, and at foreign media outlets.
Another name worth mentioning is an opposition group that is much more extreme in its tactics, and much more explicitly anti-democratic. It calls itself the National Anti-AMLO Front (Frente Nacional Anti-AMLO, or FRENA), and FRENA is apparently part of the BOA, but represents the radical right wing of the alliance.
Sputnik: How do we know that the documents revealing this alliance are genuine?
Ben Norton: We can’t be 100 per cent certain that the BOA document is genuine, because it has not been officially confirmed by those involved in the alliance – in the same way we can’t be 100 per cent sure about the authenticity of most leaks published in the media, because the sources of the leaks often refuse to confirm or in some cases even deny that they are real.
Let’s not forget that the leaks from Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning remain officially unconfirmed, although we know they are genuine. That is the nature of leaks like this, that pose a meaningful challenge to powerful interests.
But what we do know is that all of the people listed in the BOA document have a track record of trying to remove López Obrador. And the document that was leaked is just the executive summary of the strategy, so it does not get into specifics.
Sputnik: Why would these various forces want to take the extreme method of overthrowing AMLO, who was only recently elected as president of Mexico?
Ben Norton: Well it depends which group you are referring to. The larger Broad Opposition Bloc, BOA, is not calling for a military coup. Rather it is plotting to remove AMLO by spreading constant propaganda through the media outlets that its members either directly control or at least have influence over, thereby weakening López Obrador’s support base; then trying to take control of Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies in the 2021 legislative elections, and impeaching AMLO before his term ends in 2024.
But more radical opposition groups like FRENA are demanding that López Obrador be removed as soon as possible. This extremist faction, which again is listed as part of BOA but is not one of the most prominent members, is openly demanding that AMLO be ousted by this November, and would be willing to support a military coup if need be.
Sputnik: You have described the National Anti-AMLO Front (FRENA) as “far-right”, why is that?
Ben Norton: Because FRENA is, according to any consistent definition of the term, far-right. It spreads outlandish conspiracies claiming that López Obrador is a “communist dictator” (he is neither of the two), and that his Morena party is using dastardly policies like education equality, feminism, and LGBT rights to try to turn the country into a big gay atheist dystopia.
FRENA’s leader, Gilberto Lozano, is a filthy rich oligarch, one of the most elite people in all of Mexico. And he has repeatedly shown his extremist views on social media, where he is quite active. Lozano wrote an open letter to Donald Trump and Mike Pence asking for US support against López Obrador. He is also deeply xenophobic and has tried to attack some of AMLO’s top aides by claiming they are foreign fifth columns because they were born in other countries, even though they are naturalised Mexican citizens.
Among the other prominent FRENA members is a Christian fundamentalist who claims that feminism is worse than the coronavirus and who publishes YouTube videos purporting to teach parents how to convert their gay children back to heterosexuality. This FRENA extremist, Juan Bosco Abascal, claims there is a global conspiracy of satanic Freemasons who are trying to “de-Christianize” Mexico. He also maintains that López Obrador is using COVID-19 as a weapon to impose communism.
These extremists’ absurd views can’t be taken seriously. They are the fascistic edge of Mexican politics. But they are powerful oligarchs and businessmen who have a lot of influence in Mexican society, and pose a very dangerous threat to democracy.
Sputnik: Is there evidence of support from either the US government or others in the country for this apparent pro-coup element in Mexico?
Ben Norton: Thus far the US government has remained pretty quiet about López Obrador. It is clear that the US wants to remove him and restore a more compliant neoliberal president. But Washington recognises that it has some major obstacles to doing so.
AMLO does have very significant popular support (consistently well over half of the population), and the institutions that could try to remove him from power, such as the military, are much weaker in Mexico than in other parts of Latin America. Also, even more importantly, Mexico is a key trading partner of the US.
Donald Trump and the policy planners around him understand that, if Mexico is destabilised, it would gravely hurt the US economy, and would doubtless also create a wave of immigration that would mostly go north – something Trump is obviously obsessed with trying to stop.
Also AMLO is not a staunch anti-imperialist. He has to some degree been willing to play ball with Washington. He is a left-wing nationalist who wants to develop Mexico and solve his country’s deep internal problems. In that sense he is a progressive leader of a country that is partially colonised. But AMLO is not a radical.
Yet López Obrador is not a puppet either, and the US has already punished him for taking independent positions, especially in regard to Venezuela. Under AMLO, Mexico has been an important, rare voice in support of diplomacy and multilateralism in institutions like the Organization of American States (OAS), which is almost entirely dominated by the US and right-wing puppet regimes.
When López Obrador said Mexico would be willing to sell gasoline to Venezuela, a few days later the Trump administration hit the country with sanctions, hurting the value of the Mexican peso.
Thus far, Washington’s support for the right-wing opposition is mostly quiet. That is typically how these campaigns work. They start behind the scenes, and if they are unsuccessful, they escalate tactics.
AMLO still has four more years in office, just in this term. There is plenty of time for the destabilisation campaign to grow. So, he is doing a careful balancing act.
Sputnik: What has the response been in Mexico to these apparent revelations, both from the government as well as from the wider society?
Ben Norton: President López Obrador has denounced these campaigns against him, but does not comment on the topic very often. He is more focused on trying to govern the country and oversee his ambitious infrastructure programs. And focusing on his political enemies’ destabilisation plots could make him look weak.
AMLO and his Morena party do however have a very popular grassroots base of supporters who have been organising against the right. They are very active on social media, and independent left-wing media outlets are flourishing in Mexico.
The right is weak in Mexico right now, and it is unlikely that it could seize power democratically. If these right-wing oligarchs want to retake power then, they will have to do it through authoritarianism. We have seen the same thing happen in Bolivia, where there was a fascist military coup in November, as well as in Ecuador and El Salvador. And of course the US empire has always happily backed this right-wing authoritarianism if it deemed it necessary to reimpose control.
The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.
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