AMLO may seem like a curious choice for “Tyrant of the Year,” especially given the fierce competition for the title, but once you see who leads and finances the NGO in question, it all makes a bit more sense.
Index on Censorship is a London-based NGO that has been around since the Cold War and bashfully describes itself as “the global voice of free expression.” It publishes a quarterly magazine of the same name that features articles on free speech and the restrictions imposed on it by certain governments around the world. At the end of each year, it conducts a curious exercise: it asks its readers to vote for whom they believe was “Tyrant of the Year.” For 2022, despite apparently “tough” competition, “one leader surged ahead, by a mile,” the NGO says. That leader was Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (aka AMLO).
Weirdly, the NGO did not disclose how many people had actually voted for AMLO, or for any of the other contenders in the poll. This year’s “rogues’ gallery” included Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Nicaragua’s left-wing President Daniel Ortega, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un, Egypt’s brutal strongman, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, China’s Xi Jinping, and, of course, Vladimir Putin (no list of authoritarian world leaders would be complete without him).
Conspicuously absent from the gallery was Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who last year banned the activities of most of the country’s opposition parties, led an all-out assault on workers’ rights and is now conducting a fire sale of Ukraine’s most valuable assets. Even before 2022 had begun, the UN Human Rights Council was warning that fundamental freedoms in Ukraine were being “squeezed”. The UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Nada Al-Nashif, flagged concerns about “restrictions on the free expression of critical or unpopular opinions, and on participation in peaceful assemblies on sensitive topics, as well as the safety of human rights defenders in Ukraine.”
A Curious Choice
Yet Zelenskyy didn’t make the cut, for reasons that will become clear later in the article. By contrast, AMLO did. Not only that; he handily saw off all opposition to seize the title. But even as even some of his die-hard opponents will grudgingly admit, he is a curious choice for tyrant, given:
- He is democratically elected, unlike many of the genuine despots mentioned above.
- He has a generally open style of government, holding 2-hour press conferences every morning at which he fields questions on the pressing issues of the day.
- He has pledged to wage an all-out war on corruption since taking office in 2018. As even The Economist conceded in a largely disparaging piece in 2021 (more on that later), AMLO “speaks out loudly and often for Mexico’s have-nots, and… is not personally corrupt.”
- He consistently placed first or second in Morning Consult’s list of the most popular national leaders throughout last year (and into this one). Such a high level of democratic legitimacy is hardly the hallmark of a tryant.
- He is more popular at this stage of his tenure — four years in, two years left — than any of his recent predecessors. Which begs the question: if AMLO was such a tyrant in 2022, why is he consistently scoring approval ratings well above 50%, and in some cases above 60%, at the beginning of 2023?
- He recently led a million-man march through the center of Mexico City with virtually no security detail.
- There are far more deserving candidates for the title, even in Latin America. For one, there’s Peru’s President Dina Bolouarte, whose broadly rejected coup government, which is likely to collapse in the coming days, has so far notched up a death toll of 53 protesters — in just 44 days!
According to Index on Censorship, AMLO is deserving of the title because he…
…has the dubious honour of presiding over the country in which more journalists were killed last year than any other. It is also the country ranked as the most dangerous place to be an environmental defender, according to Global Witness. The number of kidnappings, assaults and arrests under his watch has been huge. Mexico’s climate of impunity makes it possible. López Obrador has also cosied up to the military and Donald Trump and lashed out at women, NGOs and the New York Times.
[Here is a link to the full charge sheet]
So, there you have it: verbally lashing out at the NYT while cosying up to Donald Trump is now the definition of tyranny…
Read the full article on Naked Capitalism