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Queer Hope In Mexico’s 2018 Presidential Election

AMLO fever gives LGBTQ+ Mexicans a glimmer of hope.

AMLO, AMLO, AMLO. On social media, radio, car windows, murals on the sides of businesses and homes – if you’re anywhere in Mexico these days, those four letters are inescapable. They stand for the name of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a wildly popular left leaning candidate in Mexico’s current presidential election. Think of a Bernie Sanders type figure, only if Bernie had won the Democratic nomination and was set to win the presidency in a landslide.

As LGBTQ+ activists and the country’s political left rejoice, a troubling storm of political corruption, assassinations, and idealistic naivete from AMLO’s supporters threatens to smash Mexico’s best hope for reducing corruption and improving rights for sexual minorities.


In Mexico, a country with rampant political corruption, assassinations of alternative candidates, low voter turnout, and wide spread feelings of distrust towards politicians, journalists are unsure how to react to the mass movement propelling AMLO to the front of every discussion in Mexico. Will he be killed? Will PRI (the long-ruling, widely reviled party that has been ruling Mexico for over a century) rig the election against him? Is he simply another liar who will abuse his power to gain personal wealth? And yet, it seems as though discussions of AMLO in Mexico always end with an optimistic glow. He has been so, well, not corrupt, for so long, that people cannot help but trust him. The national mood is reminiscent of Obama’s rise in 2008. Somehow, everyone just deeply feels that somehow, if this guy wins, things will change.

Who will survive in Mexico?

The window of acceptable political positions (or as it is called in political science, the Overton Window) in Mexico, and throughout most of Latin America in general, has a sort of leftist flavor all of its own. Although a certain progressive current runs strong, the left in Latin America is very much what might be deemed the ITALICS Old Left.

If we think of the caricature of leftists on the English-speaking internet as anarcho-syndicalist catperson snowflakes, then the Mexican version of the leftist caricature would be the beret wearing, cigar smoking, anti-imperialist revolutionary chic evoked by such icons as Che Guevara or Subcomandante Marcos.


In fact, Marcos’ EZLN rebels are still active and thriving in Chiapas, the southernmost state of the Mexican Republic. My point being that, whereas English-speaking internet leftism has focused a lot on issues surrounding identity and bringing awareness towards the rights and oppression of marginalised groups, the Latin American left brandishes a more classically socialist image of a homogeneously oppressed underclass struggling against a consortium of corrupt politicians and corporations in cahoots with foreign powers to exploit the people.

And while the importance of the global struggle against colonialism and imperialism should not be understated, the focus of the Old Left on strictly economic divisions often overlooks subtler instances of oppression and aggression in society that do not necessarily fit the classical Marxist narrative. This brings us back to AMLO and the impact of his all-but-impending victory on sexual minorities here in Mexico.

The default attitude towards politicians in Mexico is a morbid cynicism built atop centuries of brutal imperialism, corruption, and dreams-turned-dystopia. Which makes the blind optimism lavished upon Lopez Obrador all the more surprising.

While I appreciate and believe AMLO’s promises to combat corruption, help working class families, and reduce economic dependence on the United States; what has he ever done to make so many people believe that his presidency will be a boon to LGBTQ+ people, women, or indigenous people? Nothing, and even more disconcertingly, AMLO’s decades long quest for political supremacy has led his movement (known by the name Morena) to ally with problematic political factions that suggest AMLO is happy to ignore the rights and dignity of sexual minorities. As long as it might increase his odds of garnering sympathy and consequently votes with the country’s wide array of religious and socially conservative voters, of course.


Three Bodies, One Still Living

Two high-ranking members of the Morena political movement founded by AMLO have been murdered this month alone. In a morbid way, much of the public in Mexico see this as kind of a good sign about the party’s moral character. That is because, if they were corrupt, they wouldn’t be assassinated by other corrupt parties. But that leaves a great deal of voters reserved about putting too much hope in AMLO’s victory.

There’s a lot of concern that AMLO won’t make it to the presidency, considering Mexico is a country still plagued with a long, tragic history of presidential assassinations. If they don’t make it, there will be another six years of corrupt rule from the same disruptive, homophobic parties that have despotically ruled Mexico since the 1910 Revolution. Their views may have been thought of as tolerable over a century ago, when Mexico was barely emerging from the dark days of colonial feudalism and foreign domination, but the Mexican people in modern times are at long last ready for a radical new approach to social diversity that speaks to minorities.

Although AMLO is far from perfect in that regard and may not even live to see the presidency, the LGBTQ+ community, ethnic minorities, poor families, and marginalised groups in Mexican society hold their breath, along with the rest of the people of Mexico, in trepidation that AMLO will survive and keep his bold promises to begin the process of change for Mexico’s broken government.

Written by Jessica Salle

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