Mexico will elect a new president on July 1, and the leftwing populist candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, is leading by a wide margin.
This being Mexico, Lopez Obrador's lead has led to widespread speculation about what kinds of dirty tricks the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) will use to ensure that its own candidate, Jose Antonio Meade--currently in third place--ends up the winner.
Lopez Obrador, often called AMLO, for his initials, has run twice before. In 2006, after results showed he had lost by a mere 0.06 percent, he cried fraud and led massive protest marches. In 2012, he again demanded a recount. Now, he has launched a new party, MORENA, published a book called !Oye, Trump!, and is riding a wave of disgust with the current regime.
In the first presidential debate, all of the candidates, including Meade and second-place Ricardo Anaya, the rightwing coalition candidate, devoted most of their time to attacking the frontrunner.
Sounding like a Mexican Bernie Sanders, Lopez Obrador mostly ignored his rivals' charges that he would coddle criminals and hurt foreign investment. He returned over and over to his main themes: poverty, inequality, and a corrupt political establishment.
The establishment has responded with campaign ads suggesting that Lopez Obrador is a dangerous radical who will plunge the country into chaos. "?Miedo o Meade?" is the tagline on one PRI television ad. In it, a father frets about economic uncertainty, and how he will afford his kids' tuition. "Don't worry," a colleague tells him, "Meade is going to win." Then the tagline swims up, offering voters a choice between fear or the ruling party's status-quo candidate.
The problem, for the PRI, is that fear, for many people, is already the status quo.
Mexico had its most violent year on record in 2017, with more than 25,000 homicide cases.
The current Mexican president, Enrique Pena Nieto, has been accused of fostering an atmosphere of impunity, of being complicit in the disappearance of forty-three student teachers who were protesting government education reforms, and of spying on members of the press, who work in what Reporters Without Borders has labeled the most dangerous country for journalists in the Western Hemisphere. The group said Mexican journalists who cover political corruption or organized crime are "often systematically targeted, threatened, and gunned down."
I got a snapshot of the anarchy that forms the backdrop to Mexican politics...