It is often said that Morena, the name of Mexico’s ruling political party, not only stands for Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (National Regeneration Movement), but also alludes to Mexico’s Catholic national patroness — the Virgin of Guadalupe, known as “La Morena.” In recent weeks, Morena politicians appear to have forsaken their devotion to La Morena in favor of earthly worship of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who is basking in a steady stream of fervent praise from followers who bow before him and swear lifelong allegiance. At stake is the party’s nomination for the presidency. To gain an advantage in the contest, candidates to succeed President López Obrador have relied on declaring their loyalty and indebtedness to him. This takes on various forms, ranging from overt displays of reverence to assertions that electing the Morena candidate is tantamount to a second term for the current administration. Former Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard has even offered the president’s son a position in his hypothetical government. However, such efforts appear to have had mixed success.
Ebrard, for instance, has proposed creating a secretariat to perpetuate Mexico’s Fourth Transformation, which refers to the president’s 2018 campaign promise to do away with the privileged abuses that have plagued Mexico for decades. To head the new department, Ebrard is eyeing the president’s son, Andrés (Andy) Manuel López Beltrán, who he views as “young and talented.” But last year, Andy López issued a statement that said, “Since my dad became president, I have withdrawn from politics and public life. I am now focused on my ranch and my business.” After hearing about Ebrard’s proposal, he issued another statement on June 19. “Although I appreciate the generous offer, I prefer to stay on the sidelines,” he said. Andy López is not the only member of the president’s family to come up in this competition. Ebrard has garnered support for his candidacy from Pío López Obrador, the president’s brother. Recently, the two were photographed together at Ebrard’s book launch in Chiapas (southern Mexico). Another brother, José Ramiro López Obrador, publicly supports Claudia Sheinbaum.
You’d be hard-pressed to decide which candidate is more fervent in praising their leader. Adán (Adam) Augusto López was so dismayed about stepping down from his position as Interior Minister to launch his candidacy, that his letter of resignation had biblical overtones. “Adam, what are you doing?” said the voice of López Obrador from the heavens one day in March 2005. “I am here, defending you against all the injustices they want to do to you,” answered the protégé. “Adam, come help me,” asked the voice. So Adam left everything behind and swore fealty to his leader. “As long as I have breath in my lungs, I will uphold my oath.” And he’s doing just that, as the resignation letter says. “I intend to carry on tenaciously with your history-making pledge.”
Then there’s the man Mexican journalists have dubbed the “prodigal son.” Ricardo Monreal finally swallowed his pride and met with the president at the National Palace, mending a two-year estrangement between the former friends. The often-critical Monreal now spouts everlasting oaths like, “I’ll be with Morena until death do us part,” and “I’d rather be a nobody than betray the president.”
López Obrador has emphasized the importance of unity among those who seek to succeed him in office. During a recent gathering of his apostles, he stressed the need to remain united against adversaries, critics, unfriendly media and negative energy. His followers share a deep love for both the leader and his vision, and while they may not always agree, they all rally behind the goal of advancing the president’s mission. But the president never asked them to “love your leader above all others.”
“I am committed to fulfilling the goal of our movement and continuing the transformation initiated by President López Obrador,” said Claudia Sheinbaum during her campaign launch. The former head of government of Mexico City (equivalent to a state governor) made this promise to follow in AMLO’s footsteps in a symbolic setting — Mexico’s Monument to the Revolution. The landmark and monument commemorating the Mexican Revolution is also the burial site of former President Lázaro Cárdenas, a giant of left-wing politics in Mexico. López Obrador openly admires and sometimes compares himself to Cárdenas. But for Sheinbaum, there is none better than the current president “throughout Mexico’s modern history,” and promised to walk arm in arm with him.
On March 18, during the annual celebration of the nationalization of the oil industry, the president gave a speech in Mexico City’s Zócalo plaza in front of a large crowd that included all the presidential hopefuls. In his speech, he pledged to continue working for the people and the nation, and promised that any Morena candidate would uphold the commitment. “Continuity is assured,” he told the crowd.
The power of Mexican presidents sometimes extends beyond their own political stripe, but despite his popularity in public opinion polls, López Obrador has endured forceful attacks. When he came down with Covid for the second time, the barrage on social media was fierce. Some political adversaries have raised serious doubts about his health, while criticism of his children has often gone beyond the no-holds-barred political pale.
In response to these assaults, AMLO’s followers tirelessly praise him all the day long as they jockey for position. It’s rare to hear a speaker at the morning briefing who doesn’t start by saying, “As our president has directed...” Then there are those who humbly eschew the presidency, like Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez, who just wants to remain by her leader’s side. “I asked our president, the best we’ve had in recent times, for the privilege of continuing to serve in his Cabinet.” That’s all.
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