Will Mexico become one of Latin America’s democratic lights or authoritarian black holes?


The election victory of leftist Andrés Manuel López Obrador is a boost to Mexico’s institutions amid a tough time for democracy elsewhere in Latin America, says analyst Ioan Grillo (@ioangrillo). Recent developments in Venezuela, Honduras and Nicaragua show that the struggle for democracy in the region is not one of left versus right, he writes for the New York Times:

Strongmen come from both sides, while some of the most advanced democracies, such as Uruguay and Chile, have been governed by both the left and right in recent years. Nor is there a simple battle of populism against liberal democracies. Some nations that are said to have had populist leaders, such as Argentina, have alternated power peacefully, whereas others without them, such as Honduras, have not. The tricky reality is that it is tough to make generalizations across the continent.

While observers discuss López Obrador’s victory, complete with majorities in both chambers of congress and control of nearly half the governorships and state legislatures up for election, another historic earthquake has been overlooked: gender parity in congress, note Magda Hinojosa, an associate professor of political science at Arizona State University, and Jennifer M. Piscopo (@Jennpiscopo), an assistant professor of politics at Occidental College.

When the new Mexican congress sits on Dec. 1, women will make up 49 percent of the lower house and 51 percent of the senate. Mexico will rank fourth in the world for women’s legislative representation. And it will be the only country with an elected senate that is majority female, they write for the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage.

Dissatisfied voters restored the credibility of Mexico’s democracy, analysts suggest.

But does López Obrador’s victory count as one more wave in the tide of populist triumphs over liberal democracy across the world? Paul Berman asks. It is certainly not true that AMLO is another Hugo Chávez, he writes for Tablet.

“We are not looking to build a dictatorship, either open or covered up,” López Obrador said in his first speech after the results came in.

Mexico needs to make sure he keeps this pledge, and builds on his huge victory so that the nation becomes one of the democratic lights of Latin America and not one of its authoritarian black holes, adds Grillo, the author of “Gangster Warlords: Drug Dollars, Killing Fields, and the New Politics of Latin America.”

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