There is a saying: The worst enemy of the poor is another misinformed poor person who defends the interests of the rich who makes them both poor.
That is the formula that some owners of news media, leaders of the opposition political parties and small business elite members apply towards the segment of the Mexican population that still gets their information through corporate news programs, comedy shows or fake intellectual analysts on television, radio or newspapers.
And I say fake, because every professional loses his authority when he or she lies and uses his/her knowledge to confuse people for the benefit of some groups and his/her own. This could explain why some news anchors are rich in Mexico. Unfortunately, this type of “journalists” or “intellectuals” are not questioned, since we are used to consider them as true and knowledgeable voices. But they select the information and explain it to the Mexican audience as best suits them, no matter how much truth there is in their statements or arguments.
In other words, these individuals are information mercenaries because they sell their professional ethics to the highest bidder, with the sole objective of convincing people that the current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, five years into his term, remains a “danger for Mexico” and is a “dictator”, despite having consolidated the country as the United States’ first trading partner and advancing on the global economic scale from 16th place in 2018 to 12th in 2023.
But that doesn’t matter to them. Their only goal is to return to power with the old political parties (PRI-PAN-PRD) and continue looting the country as they did during the six-year terms of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994), Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000), Vicente Fox (2000-2006), Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018).
Under the neoliberal governments 60 million Mexicans were led to poverty and many to extreme poverty; millions were forced to immigrate and risk their lives in the United States and face weakened worker rights to the extent that countries like El Salvador, the smallest in the continent and with no natural resources, had a minimum wage with better purchasing power than Mexico.
And what can we say about the violence in the neoliberal period, that Mexico became a narco-state and that Felipe Calderón’s (2006-2012) right-hand man—Genaro García Luna, former Secretary of Public Security—now sits in a United States prison, largely for drug trafficking and money laundering. However, the robbery and drug trafficking could be the least of it, compared to the thousands of missing, evicted, and murdered people during that time.
Of course, since the beginning of the neoliberal governments in México, some Mexicans are among the richest in the world, including Carlos Slim, German Larrea, Ricardo Salinas Pliego, and Alejandro Balleres. All of them appear on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires. Unfortunately, a large number of these fortunes were a transfer of wealth from the public to the private sector, through concessions, privatizations, or juicy contracts. As a consequence, the number of millionaires increased as well as the poor.
Former President Zedillo brazenly said a couple of weeks ago in Mexico City that anyone who describes a person as neoliberal is because they have no arguments to understand the “democratic” policy that they applied in their government.
Once again, they want to see us look like fools. They think that we have already forgotten how they looted the country, how they put it in debt and generated poverty and death. For them, that was democracy because the only ones who got rich and took advantage of the government budget were the politicians and the small business elite. And a regular Mexican that is receiving support from the government of the current administration, is described as a “scumbag”.
Let us remember that from 1994 to 2000, Zedillo handed over the national railways to foreigners and after the end of his term he went to work with them. He is the same President who applied Fobaproa, converting all the private debt to public and 25 years later we are still paying. He is the one who changed the law so that a worker could not retire with a pension of 100% of his salary, but rather would receive half. However, he receives a lifetime pension from the Bank of Mexico for more than 100,000 pesos per month (6,000 dollars). The minimum wage in Mexico is around 7,500 pesos monthly, or 425 dollars.
Zedillo, also, was the president who devalued the currency in 1994 in a brutal crisis where thousands of people lost their savings and their jobs, and untold others had to leave the country to the United States. At the end of his six-year term, the US dollar ended up costing three times more than at its beginning.
Zedillo was the same former president who on Wednesday, January 24, in Mexico City, at the Actinver Day forum, criticized President Obrador, calling him “populist” and saying that he is “destroying” democracy. He is criticizing the leader who brought over five million Mexicans out of poverty and has been helping millions of seniors and low-income families; increased the minimum wage by over 200% and has kept the Mexican peso strong against the dollar.
However, the corporate media owners behind every slander, every program, and every comment from anchors and columnists will continue to try to confuse people. After all, they have sufficient economic resources to repeat and insist, day and night, through their programs, that AMLO is “a danger to Mexico”, that he is a “dictator”, an “authoritarian” and will “force us” to live like Venezuela or Cuba. An endless number of falsehoods as the days go by in this election year.
We have to remember that the narrative of fear is very effective and corporate media hopes that using the words dictatorship, danger, authoritarianism, violence, communism, and populism, among many others, will be enough to convince people of their message.
That small business elite, that still feels they were the owners of Mexico, trusts in the forgetfulness of the people, whom they consider so ignorant that they hope that sooner or later the middle class, the lower middle class, or even those from more disadvantaged groups will come out to defend them. That would be their best weapon to counteract the president’s current popularity and, in this way, justify any type of fraud to return to power.
Nicolás Machiavelli once said “it is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” The philosopher maintained that fear is a better motivator than love, making it the most effective tool to control people.
So, when I heard a few weeks ago the character Brozo, on the LatinUs platform, say that México lives in a “dictatorship”—a falsehood that is constantly heard at the tables of opinionologists or news presenters on Televisa, TV-Azteca, Formula, Milenio, among others— I remembered the phrase that Malcolm X mentioned during his fight for the civil rights of African Americans in the United States:
“If you’re not careful, the media will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
And that message essentially means the same thing that motivated the writing of this column: “The worst enemy of the poor is another misinformed poor person who defends the interests of the rich who make them both poor”.
Agustin Duran is a local news editor at the Los Angeles newspaper La Opinion.