Francisco Martín Moreno is one of Mexico’s best-known writers, and several of his historical novels have topped the best-seller lists.
So I was very surprised when he told me that he is having difficulties to promote his new book, a novel based on President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The novel, entitled “Ladrón de Esperanzas”, is about a fictional president called Antonio M. Lugo Olea. Its initials are the same as those of the current president of Mexico, AMLO.
His predecessor in the book is another fictional character called Ernesto Narro Steps. His initials, EPN, are the same as those of the recent Mexican president, Enrique Peña Nieto. The cover of the book shows an image, taken from behind, of AMLO – the real one.
The AMLO of the novel is a well-intentioned but messianic and erratic leader, who lies all the time, sometimes without being aware of it. These are some of the things that his critics refer to the current Mexican president.
“This is my first journalistic novel written in real time,” Martín Moreno told me. “And I’m having a lot of problems to spread it.”
Unlike what happened when he released his previous books, it’s costing him journalists to interview him about his new book, he said.
“I must have sent some 60 letters to the radio and television presenters, and only four or five of them answered me,” he said. “When I wrote my previous book, which deals with the history of henequen in Yucatan, they filled me with invitations to interview me.”
When I asked him if he thinks that AMLO is trying to censor his book, Martín Moreno told me that “it is not censorship, but self-censorship. Journalists are afraid of this man. Fear is emerging at an amazing speed. “
It may be the fear of AMLO, the fear of its supporters, or simply the fear of going against the grain. AMLO was elected with 53 percent of the vote, and its popularity has skyrocketed since then. A new poll by the newspaper “Reforma” shows that it has an approval rating of 78 percent.
During his first 100 days in office, AMLO raised the minimum wage by 16 percent and increased pensions. But most economists fear that AMLO’s honeymoon will not last long, because, as often happens with populist presidents, the economy will eventually deflate due to lack of investment.
The International Monetary Fund and most of the major financial institutions have already lowered Mexico’s growth forecasts for this year. Like President Donald Trump, AMLO routinely attacks what he calls “the fifí press,” and the “neoliberal” journalists.
In recent days, he attacked the newspaper “Reforma”, accusing it falsely of silencing the corruption scandals in the nineties. “Reforma” also reported that its main shareholder has been summoned by the tax authorities to question him about a trivial tax bill, in apparent retaliation for the newspaper’s recent journalistic investigations.
What is equally worrisome, there are armies of well-organized tweeters that are attacking and intimidating journalists who dare to ask the president difficult questions, or who criticize him. A study by Mexico’s media lab Signa Lab confirmed these campaigns this week, but said it could not determine whether they are spontaneous or orchestrated by the government.
Perhaps as a result of this type of intimidation, AMLO’s daily press conferences rarely include difficult questions. Often they are seguidillas of compliments to the president disguised as questions, and often raised by very little known means, or practically nonexistent.
All these are bad signals for the future of Mexico. If there is a climate of intimidation against critical journalists at a time when the popularity of AMLO is 78 percent, what will happen when it decreases to 30 or 40 percent, as it will probably happen when the president runs out of money to give salary increases? ?
Mexico still has a large pool of very courageous journalists, but the danger is that they – and novelists like Martín Moreno – will soon be eclipsed and silenced.
At a time when the president of Mexico has almost unprecedented powers – including a large majority in Congress – an independent press is the best guarantee that the country maintains a system of checks and balances. Without that, Mexico could soon have a populist imperial presidency.
Source: CNN, El Nuevo Herald
The Mazatlan Post