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Co-ordinated media attacks on Mexican president AMLO?

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) at the country’s 113th anniversary of the revolution. The Mexican President was the subject of a series of articles, which all seemed to have the objective of linking him with illegal drug trafficking groups but without any proof, the writer says, adding that the media is a tool for regime change, that replaces the ‘brute force of an empire’. – Picture: Presidencia

By Benjamin Zinevich

On January 18, the Baker Institute’s Centre for the US and Mexico released a report titled Mexico Country Outlook 2024. The Institute alleged that in the upcoming election “Criminal organisations may even become an important electoral ally”, without providing any reasoning or past evidence for this claim.

Just over a week after the Baker Institute’s report was published, ProPublica journalist Tim Golden came out with a piece that theorised that AMLO’s 2006 campaign may have received donations that were related to drug cartel businesses. The report was largely based on testimony given by Roberto López Nájera, a former lawyer of drug lord Édgar Valdez Villarreal and informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration. As the ProPublica story points out itself, “officials felt the evidence was not strong enough” and then the Justice Department closed the investigation.

The New York Times continued with this narrative, publishing a piece by Alan Feuer and Natalie Kitroeff on February 22, titled US Examined Allegations of Cartel Ties to Allies of Mexico’s President. However, unlike the ProPublica story, which at least mentioned the name of a source (albeit one that the DEA did not hold in great regard), the Times article asserted these claims on the basis of three unnamed sources and archived reports that Feuer and Kitroeff fail to cite in any certain terms. Similar to the ProPublica article, the article that came out of the New York Times points out that “Much of the information collected … can be difficult to corroborate and sometimes end up being incorrect”.

During his morning press conference that same day, President López Obrador rejected the accusation, saying “It’s all completely false”, and criticising the Times as a paper that felt it is a privileged divine caste that could “slander with impunity”. The head of state said that he and his spokesperson had refused to respond to the list of questions sent to him by Kitroeff which he termed an “ultimatum”. Instead, AMLO read out the correspondence from the Times journalist during his press conference and responded live to the questions – highlighting the gossip and slander that shaped the questionnaire.

López Obrador also said that Washington must address this, to which US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby confirmed there was no investigation into the Mexican President.

President López Obrador included in his remarks a note on the role of the media as a tool that replaces the brute force of an empire. “What helps the oligarchs the most, the ones who believe themselves the owners of the world, in controlling, dominating, are media wars – discrediting popular leaders and those who oppose hegemony … In the end, it is a return to the maxim of Goebbels, Hitler’s head of propaganda, that a lie, when repeated many times, can become the truth,” the Mexican president said.

Following AMLO’s press conference, the New York Times was quick to issue a statement condemning the president for sharing the correspondence and the reporter’s number which was included in the email. YouTube later took the video down of his press conference, alleging it “infringed on community norms” – further feeding the brewing conflict. AMLO called the move by YouTube “arrogant and authoritarian”.

On February 25, dozens of Mexicans and supporters of AMLO’s programme rallied in front of the New York Times building, standing with the Mexican President and condemning the accusatory writings against him.

Former President of Bolivia Evo Morales was quick to express his solidarity with the Mexican leader, “We express our solidarity with brother President AMLO in the face of the campaign of defamation and slander undertaken by people who call themselves journalists, but who only respond to the political, economic and warlike interests of the United States and the local oligarchies,” Morales said.

Analysts have been warning of an increase in right-wing attacks on AMLO and his projected successor, the 2024 presidential candidate Claudia Sheinbaum, ahead of the elections that will be held in June.

In conversation with independent Mexican media outlet De Raíz, Mexican activist Marcelo Aguilar, who attended the NYT protest, commented that it is not surprising for this type of article to be published after the visit of the right-wing opposition candidate, Xóchitl Gálvez to the United States. During her trip she even met with editors of the New York Times.

Aguilar told De Raíz that, “We cannot hide the truth, [the US] has always put its hands in Mexico, because as has been said many times, Mexico is so far from heaven and so close to the United States. It is not convenient for Mexico to move forward with a president who is very loved and supported by the people, because they want Mexico to return to neoliberalism, they want to return to the old regime of privatisations and reforms that favour foreign companies. Because that was carried out with the government of the Fourth Transformation.”

Benjamin Zinevich is an author at Peoples Dispatch

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch