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Terrible Times Coverage of Mexico


I have no particular opinion about Ken Salazar’s performance as ambassador to Mexico. And Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been an absolute clown as president of Mexico.

However, that doesn’t excuse completely inaccurate and frankly ridiculous reporting on Mexico. Unless you really know about Mexican politics, which is maybe 1% of the Times readership let’s say, you simply would have no way of knowing this. Check this out:

Mexico’s election czar delivered a message to the American ambassador: The Mexican president was mounting an all-out assault on the national elections authority, sowing doubt about a pillar of the country’s democracy.

But instead of expressing alarm, America’s top diplomat in Mexico took up one of the president’s lines of attack, entertaining claims that an election long in the past, in 2006, had been stolen from the Mexican leader.

The ambassador, Ken Salazar, said in an interview that he was not convinced that the election was clean, challenging the stance of the United States at a time when democracy is under threat at home and across the hemisphere.

Mr. Salazar, who invited the election overseer to his residence, told The New York Times he wanted to know: “Was there fraud?”

The matter had long been settled — for Mexico’s judicial system, the European Union and the American government — until now.

This ambassador’s willingness to question the election’s legitimacy is the latest example of what several U.S. officials say is a worrying pattern, in which America’s top diplomat in Mexico has appeared to contradict his own government’s policies in the interest of aligning himself with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Now, I’m going to leave behind the rest of the article, which bascially argues with few real facts that Salazar is undermining Biden’s Latin American agenda by being close to AMLO. First, I don’t see how being close to AMLO hurts here, second, Biden basically doesn’t have a Latin American agenda, and third, the evidence that Salazar is somehow undermining the administration here is highly dubious. I’m curious as to how this story even got started and who in the administration leaked all of this to the Times and what agenda that serves.

No, I’m not going to go into that.

What I am going to go into is the claim that the theft of the Mexican election is a) unsubstantied and b) that such a claim would sow doubt among Mexicans into the nation’s democracy.

On the first point, there’s a LOT of evidence that the election was stolen from AMLO in 2006. For a refresher, this was the second straight election that the PAN won, the neoliberal party first headed by Vicente Fox and then, in 2006, which saw the election of Felipe Calderón. To say the least, this was considered an extremely controversial election. There’s an entire lengthy Wikipedia page about it if you want all the details. But to add to that, the PRI candidate, who came in third, himself agrees that the election was probably stolen! We are never going to know if it was really stolen or not. But there were lost of shenanigans there. Enough that AMLO has every reason to believe the election was probably stolen and it hardly hurts U.S. policy to admit that he has a reason to believe this.

What the New York Times is also not going to tell you is that this is hardly the first time this happen. It’s even more likely that the 1988 election was stolen from Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. Here, there’s not even really a question that Carlos Salinas stole the election and the Mexican press and state all lined up to make it happen. The entire opposition to PRI, not only Cárdenas, across the political spectrum, claimed the election was stolen. So this is not some unprecedented thing in Mexican history. This article also ignores the time the PRI probably assassinated its own candidate in 1994! Luis Colosio was campaigning as an actual reformer who wanted to really change the trajectory of the PRI. Salinas probably had him offed for breaking with him over the response to the Zapatista Rebellion. Certainly this is the public opinion of it in Mexico.

So let’s just say that there’s a long history here.

Then, the idea that AMLO’s claims is what is undermining Mexicans’ belief in their democracy is absolutely laughable. That’s the least of the problems Mexicans see in their government. An uncontrolled drug war with extreme violence, deep and seemingly everlasting poverty, endemic corruption at all levels of government, the complete inability of the police to deal with crime that has led to people taking matters into their homes and lynching suspected criminals throughout the nation–I’d say that there’s a LOT of reasons that Mexicans do not trust their government.

That story is absolute trash and we need better coverage of Latin America. AMLO sucks but that’s no excuse for bullshit reporting that traffics in ignorance and lies.

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