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Will AMLO Follow Daniel Ortega by Persecuting Political Opponents?

Amlo seguirá avanzando hacia la dictadura. Imagen: EFE/Mario Guzmán

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Will AMLO follow in Nicaragua’s footsteps? A few months ago, the question would have seemed idle and in bad faith, after all the Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has not acted with the authoritarianism that characterizes the Nicaraguan regime headed by Daniel Ortega and internationally condemned for its increasing persecution of opposition leaders, who are imprisoned under very implausible pretexts.

Curiously, one of the few governments in the American continent that has not denounced the dictatorial practices of Daniel Ortega’s regime is… surprise… the government of López Obrador, and now it is clearer why.

The answer to the mystery is that, apparently, AMLO will (probably) follow in the footsteps of his Nicaraguan colleague, persecuting his political rivals and imprisoning those who could become opposition candidates in the next presidential elections in 2024.

Anaya raises the alarm

Last August 21, Ricardo Anaya (of the center-right PAN), who came in second place in the 2018 presidential elections and leads all polls to repeat as the opposition alliance’s candidate in 2024, directly accused López Obrador of manipulating files to imprison him and prevent him from reaching the ballot.

In an almost 8-minute-long video, Anaya explained, in his own words, that López Obrador “wants to put him in jail, with the testimony of two witnesses balines”, that is, false, that the government would use to support the accusations of corruption that the political operator Emilio Lozoya has launched against the PAN candidate, who adds: “López Obrador wants to screw me the hard way. I’m in his way for his succession plans in 2024. He does not want me to be a candidate and wants to imprison me because he doesn’t like what I say.”

That first part of his statement may sound like the classic political strategy of victimizing himself to increase his popularity, but Anaya goes beyond the generic comment and makes very specific accusations against the Attorney General’s Office.

Once again, in his own words, Anaya explains that “they realized that the file, like everything this government does, was made with legs, and that they were going to make fools of themselves”. So, “in order not to make a fool of themselves, they made a mess: they changed Lozoya’s statement. In other words, they altered the file. Before, he said that they had given me money when I was a deputy in exchange for my vote, on August 8, 2014. But they realized that on that date I was not a deputy and that on that date I was not even in Mexico City.”

He also explained that he will leave Mexico and take refuge in the United States, where he will take the opportunity to have events with the community of Mexican migrants living in said country, since if he stays in Mexico “they will take away my political rights and they will take away the possibility of being a candidate in 3 years.”

In response to the accusation, López Obrador responded that same day that he has “nothing to do with the percussion that Ricardo Anaya is making,” insisted that revenge is not his forte and pointed out that if Ricardo Anaya is innocent, “he should not take refuge or flee; he should defend himself with evidence and with the strength of the truth.”

AMLO will follow the path to authoritarianism. The persecution against Anaya is another step. (Image: EFE)

Will AMLO follow in Nicaragua’s footsteps?

The following day it was confirmed that there is indeed an order for Anaya to appear for an “initial hearing” via remote and conclude in the northern prison in Mexico City, for the alleged crimes of money laundering, bribery and criminal association, which could result in a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

So the attempt to imprison him is real. Now, two other key questions follow:

Does the accusation against Anaya refer to a real crime or is it a political hoax? We cannot guarantee it, but it is notorious that the accusation reeks of a political fabrication. The accuser is Emilio Lozoya (the ultra-corrupt political operator of Enrique Peña Nieto) who was extradited to Mexico, but did not go to jail in exchange for “cooperating with the investigations”, which translated into Spanish means: “in exchange for accusing whoever the regime orders him to”.

Lozoya launched direct accusations against several opposition leaders and operators, including Ricardo Anaya, who is accused of receiving almost 7 million pesos as payment for approving the reform that modernized the electricity industry. There are only two problems: 1) Anaya was not even a congressman when the payment was allegedly made and 2) The electricity reform has always been a banner of the PAN and of Anaya himself. Bribing people to support what they support anyway is suspicious, to say the least.

Is AMLO behind the accusation? Theoretically, the Attorney General’s Office is autonomous and does not depend on the president. However, in practice it is evident that this is not the case. The “autonomous” prosecutor is Alejandro Gertz Manero, whose closeness to President López Obrador’s political project is evident. For anyone with more than two neurons it is obvious that the hand behind the process against Anaya comes directly from the cavernous corridors of the National Palace.

So, yes, there are increasing signs that AMLO will follow in Nicaragua’s footsteps, intimidating and arresting uncomfortable opponents. On August 23rd López Obrador added the cherry of cynicism to this unhealthy cocktail, declaring that “it does not affect going to jail when you are innocent… when you are a social fighter… you can go to jail and instead of feeling bad, you become stronger as a leader”.

Apparently, the Mexican government intends to “strengthen” its opponents by putting them behind bars. And it wants to start with Anaya.

Gerardo Garibay Camarena, is a doctor of law, writer and political analyst with experience in the public and private sectors. His new book is "How to Play Chess Without Craps: A Guide to Reading Politics and Understanding Politicians" // Gerardo Garibay Camarena es doctor en derecho, escritor y analista político con experiencia en el sector público y privado. Su nuevo libro es “Cómo jugar al ajedrez Sin dados: Una guía para leer la política y entender a los políticos”