[Ed. – I agree with Davidson that AMLO isn’t on the level of Maduro (Venezuela) or other thuggish socialists of the region. But Lopez Obrador does come with radical-left baggage. It’s not clear how or if that will compound the governability problem in our neighbor to the south. The one thing I would say is that, with Trump in the Oval Office, no attempted radical outcome is guaranteed.]
The problem with all these conservative analyses is that they ascribe far more agency and ability to Mexico’s president and central government than is warranted. The Mexican state as it exists is almost entirely incapable of the sort of strategic vision and planning that Obrador’s detractors in the American press ascribe to it. Conservatives with hawkish views on immigration especially write about Mexico as if it’s a healthy, functioning country with control over its own borders, north and south, not a place where civil society is in a state of collapse.
Hanson nods toward this reality, noting that “drug cartels all but run the country on the basis of their enormous profits from unfettered dope-running and human-trafficking into the United States.” Yet the thrust of his argument is that Obrador represents a serious threat—as if the Mexican state is in control of the country in a meaningful way.
By all accounts, it is not. Last week, the Associated Press reported on the rise of “mass crimes” throughout Mexico, in which “whole neighborhoods [defy] police and military personnel,” stealing freight trains full of merchandise or illegally tapping fuel pipelines. Much of the crime is reportedly driven by widespread despair and disgust for the government among common people, which powerful criminal syndicates are exploiting…