You Say You Want A Revolution: Mexico

You Say You Want A Revolution: Mexico

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (widely known as AMLO) was elected Mexico's president on the promise to bring about a "peaceful but radical transformation."


Unfortunately, as "change agents" often do, he's struggling with the transition from campaign poetry to the prose of governing. In just six weeks as president, he's made three noteworthy rookie mistakes.

Mistake #1 – Forgetting that plans have unintended consequences. Criminal gangs steal large quantities of gasoline from Mexico's pipelines. It's a growing problem that deprives the government of much-needed revenue and forces prices higher for consumers. The country suffered 10,363 pipeline thefts last year, up from just 186 in 2012, according to the state oil company Pemex.

AMLO has responded with a temporary pipeline shutdown intended to help investigators locate trouble spots. Instead of transiting the country by pipeline, gasoline is now being directed toward consumers by truck. The unsurprising result? Furious citizens faced with a serious gasoline shortage across a half-dozen of the country's provinces. Lopez Obrador then told the public not to panic, a sure way to instantly lengthen lines at the pump. Shortages will likely continue for (at least) several weeks.

Mistake #2 – Undermining the ability of your own government to execute your ambitious plans. Lopez Obrador won the election in part on a promise to use the power of government to improve people's lives – by encouraging the private sector to boost wages and reasserting control over Mexico's natural resources. But to cut wasteful spending, his Morena party has approved a law that prevents any public employee from earning more than the president ($5,000 per month).

Not surprisingly, significant salary and benefit cuts have persuaded many public employees to move to the private sector or to simply retire. Effective reform requires talented people who understand the systems that need to be changed. Hollowing out the bureaucracy might save money, but it directly undermines the president's government-centered approach to problem-solving.

Mistake #3 – Telling voters that terrible problems aren't so bad. According to the newspaper Reforma, the number of murders committed by criminal gangs rose 65 percent from the last month of the previous president's term to the first month under Lopez Obrador. The president pushed back by questioning the statistics' reliability. Homicide numbers, he insists, should include all murders, not just those committed by organized crime.

Fair enough, and Reforma can fairly be accused of sensationalizing numbers that may later need to be revised, but the government's quibbling response doesn't build confidence that Lopez Obrador recognizes the scale of this deadly problem.

The bottom-line: Transformational attention requires as much careful thought as political courage.

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Ian Bremmer shares his perspective on global politics this week on World In 60: J&J vaccine woes, Blinken warns China, Fukushima water and a large rabbit.

How will the pause of Johnson & Johnson vaccine affect the overall pandemic fight in the United States?

Yeah. Right at it, right? Well, we heard that the FDA has suspended vaccines from J&J because of blood clots. They found six in seven million cases. It's kind of like the suspension of AstraZeneca in Europe. It's likely only going to last for a few days. It's a very small percentage of the total number of vaccines that are being jabbed right now into the arms of Americans. It's not going to really slow America's ability to get everyone vaccinated, but it is going to create more vaccine hesitancy. People at the margins will say, "Is this safe? They said it was fine. Now they're saying it's not okay." I understand why there's enormous caution on the part of the FDA, but I wish, wish, wish the communications had been a little softer around all of this. Also will be a problem in terms of export, as J&J is going to be a piece of that. And again, others around the world will say, "Well, if I don't get Moderna, if I don't get Pfizer, I'm not sure I want to take it at all." So all of this is negative news, though I would still say the United States this year is looking really, really good among major economies in dealing with pandemic.

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In recent weeks, both Pfizer and Moderna have announced early phases of vaccine trials in children, and Johnson & Johnson also plans to start soon. If you know a kid who wants to learn about vaccines, how they work, why we need them, this story is just what the doctor ordered.

Watch the episode: Vaccine nationalism could prolong the pandemic

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take:

Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. Welcome to your week and I've got your Quick Take and thought I would talk a little bit about where we are with Iran. One of the Biden administration's promises upon election was to get the Americans back into the JCPOA, the Iranian nuclear deal. As of last week, negotiations are formally restarted, and pretty quickly, in Vienna, they're not direct. The Americans and Iranians are both there, but they're being intermediated by the Europeans because they're not yet ready to show that they can talk directly to each other. That's Iran being cautious in the run-up to their presidential election coming this summer. But the movement is there. So far the talk has largely been about sequencing the Iranian government, saying that all of the sanctions need to be removed before they're willing to go back into the deal, because the Americans after all, unilaterally withdrew from a deal that the Iranians were indeed adhering to, and the inspections did confirm that.

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Ukraine is once again in a tough spot.

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