In 2023, Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is starting to look like an incompetent and untrustworthy business partner. Political risk analyst Ian Bremmer, recently compared Lopez Obrador to Donald Trump. Ryan Berg, the Americas Director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, recently explained that a recent wave of nearshoring investment is happening “in spite” of Lopez Obrador’s leadership, not because of it. During March, 2023 a number of English-language news outlets published articles that raise serious questions about Lopez Obrador’s competence and reliability as a business partner.
On March 1, Courthouse News Service published this article about President Lopez Obrador’s struggles to achieve his policy goals and eliminate corruption. Cody Copeland explains, “federal auditors announced they had found ‘irregularities’ totaling over 15 billion pesos (US $816 million) in [Segalmex] and its distribution subsidiaries Diconsa and Liconsa since 2019. That number more than doubles the previous record for government embezzlement in Mexico.”
On March 6, The New York Times published this article about a U.S. government plan to formally dispute President Lopez Obrador’s plan to ban corn imports from the U.S. In the article Ana Swasnon and Linda Qui explain, “Senior [Biden] administration officials have expressed concerns to the Mexican government about the measures for more than a year in virtual and in-person meetings, saying they could disrupt millions of dollars of agricultural trade and cause serious harm to U.S. producers.” President Lopez Obrador signed the update to NAFTA, USMCA, and could soon be forced to navigate the agreement’s dispute resolution mechanism. It is still unclear if Lopez Obrador is willing to pursue nationalist policies even if it means accepting new tariffs on Mexican exports.
On March 20, Reuters published this article explaining that Mexico’s President Lopez Obrador had seized a port owned by a U.S.-based company (Vulcan Materials) in order to import gravel ballast from Cuba for the diesel-powered tourist train he is building through pristine rain forest in southern Mexico. In a statement, Vulcan executives explained, “We are shocked [at] the Mexican government entities that supported this reckless and reprehensible armed seizure of our private property.”
On March 21, The Economist published this article looking at the future of North American manufacturing. The article focuses on Lopez Obrador’s lack of interest in actively developing a coordinated strategy for helping to attract new investment and coordinate industrial development. The article explains, “There exist few federal incentives for investment. Some states offer cheap land, but not the tax breaks that many of their American counterparts do. Nevertheless, this lack of support is more likely to slow the tide than stop it.” Even without guidance from Lopez Obrador, Mexico’s manufacturing sector continues to run on auto-pilot.
On March 27, the Associated Press published an article that explains that Lopez Obrador’s government has introduced new textbooks that include explanations of folksy incorrect grammar such as “hicistes” and “dijistes.” Lopez Obrador seeks to consolidate support with voters who have low levels of formal education and frequently disparages Mexico’s middle class. Recent polls show that 72% of Mexican farmworkers approve of Lopez Obrador, while only 36% of professionals view him favorably. During a recent press conference, Lopez Obrador mocked the snobbery of Mexico’s well-educated upper middle class. “They want us all to talk like physicists, with technicalities,” he explained.
Additional reading: President Lopez Obrador Is Squandering Mexico’s Economic Potential
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