Mexico and the Latin American Left: Blind Spots

After Gabriel Boric’s victory in Chile, we noticed a reaction in Mexico that happened again last Sunday, with Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia. Lopezobradorism celebrated both victories as if they were their own; anti-Lopezobradorism repudiated them as if they were the same.

The interesting thing is not that each side tried to carry grist to its own mill, but that, in doing so, each side clearly showed its blind spots.

Latin America is going through a confusing or, better said, paradoxical moment. The region’s political systems are undergoing multiple changes, but many of the conceptual frameworks through which these changes are interpreted appear inflexible, old-fashioned, incapable of accounting for distinctions, nuances or novelties.

Let us say that, in general terms, the versatility of facts contrasts with the unalterability of ideas. It is hard to believe it, but sometimes it still seems necessary to argue, for example, that not all Latin American left-wing parties are the same (nor are all right-wing parties, by the way).

Even medieval demonology was more sophisticated: it proposed the existence of a plurality of demons, admitted that they had dissimilar characteristics and never jumped to the conclusion that they were all Satan. What would then have been disavowed as theology of very low quality is today admitted, both by devotees of orthodoxy and heresy, as a valid political discourse.

Why? Because equating Boric or Petro with Chávez or Ortega is a simplistic but effective strategy. Simplistic because it exaggerates their similarities (even inventing them when there are none) and belittles, or flatly ignores, their differences. Effective because, by emphasizing those similarities, it creates a confirmation bias that, by telling one side or the other what they want to hear, exempts them from having to deal with the evidence that contradicts them.

Lopezobradorismo extolled the victories of Boric and Petro as if they were its own victory. However, comparing these leaders to the Mexican President would allow us to formulate several criticisms against López Obrador’s administration.

The priority given by Boric’s government to human rights, both in its domestic and foreign policy, has no equivalent in the López Obrador administration. The commitment to undertake profound tax reforms with explicitly redistributive purposes, both in the case of Boric and Petro, is a clear sign of a progressive vocation that has been conspicuous by its absence in Mexico.

And Petro’s commitment to a transition towards clean energy and environmental justice, understood as a form of social justice, is diametrically opposed to what has been the energy policy and environmental negligence of the self-styled Fourth Transformation. More than celebrating, Lopezobradorism should be ashamed of itself.

Anti-Lopezobradorism regretted both triumphs for considering that they represent more of the same, historical errors of foolish or stupid majorities that have not learned their lesson. However, the truth is that the anti-Lopezobradoristas are the first ones who have not learned anything, not only from their own defeats but also from the reasons for the victories of others.

It is not that they are not right in being skeptic, they have plenty of reasons: the problem is that they insist on not realizing that democracy is not won by scolding or belittling the majorities, it is won by understanding them even if there are good reasons for not necessarily agreeing with them.

The Mexican reactions to Boric and Petro teach us that the blind spot of Lopezobradorism is its failures, while the blind spot of anti-Lopezobradorism is its lack of success, while the blind spot both sides share is their inability to deal with what does not fit their preconceived notions. Latin America is changing, but they remain the same. They deserve each other.

* This text was originally published in Expansión Política. It is reproduced with the authorization of its author.

Carlos Bravo Regidor. Historian, journalist and political analyst. He is an associate professor and research coordinator in the Journalism program at the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, A.C. (CIDE). He has been a fellow of the Fullbright-García Robles program, the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, CONACyT and the Centro de Estudios de Historia de México CARSO. His areas of academic specialization are constitutional history, history of political thought, elections and journalism.


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