- The president’s attacks on the senator suggest he is afraid of her—and her message.
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Xóchitl Gálvez is a Mexican woman with a wide smile and an optimistic aura. She’s also Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s worst nightmare.
With 10 months to go until Mexico’s 2024 presidential election, Mr. López Obrador’s approval rating hovers above 60%. While he can’t run for re-election, his popularity could very well carry the candidate for his Morena party, yet to be named, first over the finish line on June 2.
That is unless a challenger emerges who can unite the opposition and spur high turnout.
Enter Ms. Gálvez, a 60-year-old Mexican senator, who announced her intention to run June 27. She’s gained a remarkable amount of national attention thanks in a large part to Mr. López Obrador, who clearly sees her as a threat.
The president is right to be worried. Ms. Gálvez is an intelligent politician with a happy-warrior vibe. Only a month ago Morena seemed impossible to defeat. That’s no longer true.
Morena goes into this election year with a strong macroeconomic story. AMLO’s agenda has been antigrowth and anti-institutional but peso stability is covering a multitude of sins. The Mexican currency is trading at less than 17 to the dollar—down from 21 in 2021. Robust remittance flows from the U.S. and prudent monetary policy at the independent central bank are the main explanations for the muscular peso. Foreign investment flows into manufacturing, off the back of nearshoring, have also played a role.
AMLO free rides off of peso stability but the credit goes to the economic liberalization that he opposes: free trade, investor protections and transparent monetary policy. Still, Mexico is far below its potential.
AMLO is a populist whose political strategy revolves around class and racial division—and grievance. Opponents in Congress and the courts who get in the way of his nationalist agenda are labeled uppity snobs—or in his vernacular, fifis.
The Frente Amplio por Mexico coalition (made up of the National Action Party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party and the Revolutionary Democratic Party) has agreed to back a single candidate to try to beat Morena.
Ms. Gálvez is one of 13 competitors registered for the coalition primary, which will consist of two rounds and finish on Sept. 3. She’s far from a shoo-in. Other serious contenders are seasoned PAN congressman Santiago Creel and PRI-ista Enrique de la Madrid, the son of a former president. But AMLO has put the candidacy of the upwardly mobile Ms. Gálvez, who’s not a social conservative, in play.
The senator was born in the small state of Hidalgo, to an indigenous father and a mixed-race mother. Her family was poor but she finished school and graduated from the National Autonomous University of Mexico with a degree in computer engineering.
She built successful consulting businesses specializing in “intelligent” buildings. She also started a foundation to fight childhood malnutrition in indigenous communities. During the government of President Vicente Fox (2000-06) she was the head of Mexico’s national institute of indigenous people.
She narrowly lost a 2010 bid for governor in Hidalgo—despite having few resources from her party, the PAN. In 2015 she was elected to serve as mayor of a section of Mexico City. In 2018 she won a proportional-representation senate seat.
In a Twitter video last week Ms. Gálvez noted that AMLO had invoked her name seven consecutive days at his daily press conference at the national palace—11 times on one day. She used photos of a fire on a Pemex platform in the Gulf of Mexico and cartel violence in the state of Guerrero to ask the president if he didn’t have better things to do than talk about her.
The law is no impediment for AMLO when he is intent on destroying an opponent. A court ordered him to give her the right to reply after he accused her of opposing social programs during his daily press conference. He has refused to comply.
On Friday he alleged that in the last nine years Ms. Gálvez’s companies had contracts with the state valued at more than $80 million. Ms. Gálvez denied the charge, calling the president’s arithmetic wrong and his statement a blunder. She also said he had made public confidential tax information and threatened legal action against him.
When he’s not abusing his power, he’s blatantly insulting her. He calls her a puppet of the elite. During a press conference last week he made an attempt to dismiss Ms. Gálvez’s candidacy by likening her to an ambulatory tamale vendor, singing the jingle that all Mexicans know from the street. It’s doubtful that condescension toward a woman who climbed the economic ladder through sheer determination is a winning strategy.
While the president demeans hard work, Ms. Gálvez is talking to the nation about its aspirations, freedom and respect for institutions. Those are themes many Mexicans may want to hear more about.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com
Mary Anastasia O’Grady is an Opinion Columnist, writes “The Americas,” a weekly column on politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada that appears every Monday in the Journal. Ms. O’Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She was appointed an editorial board member in November 2005. She is also a member of the board of directors of the Indianapolis-based Liberty Fund. Energiesnet.com does not necessarily share these views.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally on the WSJ in the July 16, 2023, print edition as ‘That’s Smoke, Not Climate Change’. All comments posted and published on EnergiesNet or Petroleumworld, do not reflect either for or against the opinion expressed in the comment as an endorsement of EnergiesNet or Petroleumworld.
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energiesnet.com 07 17 2023