What's Going Down in Mexico? Free Market Moves or Status Quo?

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The lefty Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is still demanding a recount (along with hundreds of thousands of his closest friends), but Felipe Calderon is now the presumptive next president of Mexico, with a 244,000 edge out of 41 million votes cast.

The Los Angeles Times profiles him under the headline "A Free Market Man," the evidence for which the story presents is that Calderon wants to open up Mexico's state-owned oil company Pemex to foreign investors (which will require 2/3 congressional approval), impose a flat tax (with the idea it will increase the government's collection ability, currently low), and "relax labor laws to make it easier for employers to hire and fire."

The San Francisco Chronicle, meanwhile, describes him as a "centrist" who

will continue the historic mechanisms of the Mexican state to keep social stability–paternalism, (welfare) assistance and subsidies," said Arnoldo Cuellar, executive editor of El Correo, a daily newspaper in Guanajuato state, one of the PAN's [Calderon's party, which has overcome the PRI that dominated Mexico through most of the 20th century] strongholds.

"And like Fox, he will focus more on stimulating business, and he will tacitly encourage traditional values," said Cuellar. "He's basically a status-quo candidate. He doesn't want to change much. There's nothing you can really say about him one way or another."

Reason's David Weigel on the non-threatening nature of modern Latin American leftism.

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  1. Whatever you think of Obrador, based on the history of Mexican elections, he has a basis on which to be suspicious of the results.

    PAN’s candidate seems very status quo but Mexico under Fox, while underwhelming, the economy has been more stable than most past regimes and such mediocore stability should not be overlooked or dismissed, in fact, may there be more of it.

  2. It doesn’t really matter who wins. Both sides make their promises, and any predicted benefits that would accrue from their respective philosophies will be eaten up by corruption. It’s a corruptocracy.

  3. Mexican elections are rather clean nowadays, at least since 1994. Indeed, without a doubt they are cleaner than elections in USA.

    http://www.ife.org.mx/preguntas_frecuentes_english.htm

    http://www.ife.org.mx/important_dates_times.htm

  4. The elections may be clean (though I disagree wholeheartedly), but the government is still corrupt from the federal level right down to the local police.

  5. Calderon won’t – probably can’t – be more objectively pro-market than Fox is. His margin of “victory”, assuming no fraud charges stick, is razor thin. What’s worse for him is that, when you add the third place votes of the PRI’s candidate, lefty parties won a majority of presidential votes. PAN also only got pluralities in both houses of Congress. A PRD/PRI coalition can guarantee the blessings of divided government to our hermanos Mexicanos.

    Calderon’s best hope is that Obrador comes off looking like such a sore loser that support for the lefties softens.

    Kevin

  6. Regardless of who wins any progress in Mexico will be grindingly slow. There is a vast gulf between formal law and tradition and in Mexico tradition always has the upper hand. Mexicans have next to zero respect for entrepreneurs or economic innovators of any kind. For them, patronage is everything. Virtually every individual is tied into a patronage network and any innovator is viewed only as a threat to those networks. People think only of what they can lose not what they might gain.

    Oil wealth and remittances further shield the system from its natural economic consequences. I fear it can limp on for a long time.

  7. “People think only of what they can lose not what they might gain.”

    That’s one reason Felipe Calderon captured the most votes on July 2, according to the IFE. People who were previously frozen out of patronage networks or unable to access credit found themselves slowly getting ahead – or more accurately, not going backwards. (The peso is stable and many macroeconomic indicators are pretty good.) Not every PAN voter comes from the upper class.

    What Lopez Obrador’s PRD represents is a PRI revival, where people are once again linked to patronage networks. Many unions, once the PRI’s most loyal stalwarts, backed Lopez Obrador for a reason. As for the PRD speaking of democracy … some of the worst offenders from the 1988 fraud backed the recent PRD campaign. As a co-worker here keeps saying, “The PRD is a garbage can for the PRI’s worst politicians.” Subcomandante Marcos also said something similar.

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