John Oliver on why the Mexican election is a big deal


Don’t discount Mexico or its upcoming elections. It has strange politicians, serious problems, and a chance to turn it all around soon.

Mexico is frequently ignored in the realm of serious politics, but that’s not really fair or justified. After all, “Mexico is a nation of 123 million people,” according to John Oliver on Last Week Tonight. No, that does not necessarily include all those college kids that descend on Cancun every year like the worst flock of migratory birds imaginable.

For Mexico isn’t merely a tourist destination. For starters, it is a nation full of people, living real lives and dealing with significant triumphs and issues of their own. Mexico also shares a huge border with the United States and is one of its largest trading partners, despite what the Trump government is trying to do to NAFTA.

Mexico also happens to be facing, without much exaggeration, the biggest election in its national history. It’s all going to happen next Sunday, on July 1.

Why should we care about Mexico’s election? This election is a huge deal for both Mexico and everyone else who will be dealing with the nation hereafter. The Mexican people can replace massive parts of their government, including many local politicians, the president, and their entire Congress. That’s significant, especially because many Mexican people hate current President Enrique Peña Nieto.

The problem with Nieto

Why do so many people reserve a special bile for Nieto? After all, he started off so well. The Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) supported Nieto, who himself benefited from the decades-long dominance of the PRI. Nieto made many promises about reforming the notoriously corrupt Mexican government and bringing crime and violence under control. Yet, Nieto managed to take those expectations and initial goodwill and drive them directly into the ground over the course of six years.

Corruption actually got worse under his watch. It got so bad, in fact, that people can take corruption bus tours in a twisted tourist day trip, as shown by Oliver. Overall, corruption is a serious and rampant issue within the Mexican government. The governor of the state of Veracruz, Javier Duarte, basically bankrupted his state via dirty business such as this. Then, when extradited from Guatemala and finally charged, he presented cameras with a strange series of facial expressions.

Meanwhile, violence has risen dramatically in Mexico, with only 2 percent of crimes actually solved by investigators. Perhaps the worst (or at least most visible) offense occurred in 2014 when 43 Mexican students disappeared. They were almost all certainly murdered via brutal gang violence, though authorities aren’t exactly sure what happened to each student. This all happened under Nieto’s watch, despite his earlier and rather grandiose pledges to eliminate such violence. Some even allege that the Mexican government had a hand in the killings, or at least in allowing them to happen.

Mexican presidents can only serve one six-year term. Nieto, who took office in 2012, cannot run. This means that the Mexican people can elect a new person as this crucial juncture. Who has a chance of taking over from Nieto?

El Bronco

First, there’s Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, also known as El Bronco. He probably won’t win, given the current polling numbers. However, he is simply too intense to not briefly include here.

Calderón thinks criminals should have their hands cut off, for one. He is also virulently against the concept of Santa. Yes, Santa Claus. For a while, the young Calderón apparently didn’t know about the existence of Mr. Claus but has since has come out strongly against the concept of a man who gives out presents in a single, world-spanning night with the help of a magic sled and some reindeer. El Bronco claims to have told his children every day that Santa Claus is not real.

At this point, Santa Claus himself interrupted Oliver, who was initially delighted to see him. He wanted El Bronco to know that he does exist and that he is on Santa’s naughty list. When Oliver asked what Santa does all the rest of the year, Santa had a decidedly NSFW answer.

“This is so different than what I thought meeting you would be like,” Oliver added. “Please, just leave Santa. Leave! Never meet your heroes,” he warned the audience.

Back on track, Oliver revealed that Ricardo Anaya is actually polling second right now, despite the fact that Anaya is a policy wonk with a love of boring charts. “Clearly, this guy is a bit of a nerd,” Oliver concluded, even if he tries to look cool by playing the recorder. That clip has released a “tsunami of memes” if nothing else.

AMLO rises

But even recorder memes aren’t going to boost Anaya much, at least in the face of AMLO. That’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the current front-runner for President of Mexico.

This is AMLO’s third time running, after losses in 2006 and 2012. He’s a pretty sore loser, even going to far as to hold a fake inauguration and claiming that he’s the true president.

He’s promised to break down the corruption problems, help the poor, and generally held himself as a populist paragon. After a while, the language of AMLO’s commercials sounds like a Mexican Bernie Sanders. Well, except his policies seem to change on a whim and without much concrete policy. Which, and sorry to bring this up, makes him more like a Mexican Donald Trump, somehow.

AMLO is a bit of a cipher, really. He’s received support from far-right Christian parties via a humanlike tiger figure that’s stepped straight out of a nightmare that has revisited your dreams long after you thought it had left you.

However, AMLO also has the support of a campaign commercial that is firmly rooted in two people doing the nasty — but not before they confirm that they’re both voting for AMLO. Certainly, he’s presented himself as a leftist.

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It’s true that there are serious problems with Mexican politics and law enforcement right now. But there are also a few honest politicians and dedicated journalists, despite significant violence against them.

“I sincerely hope the candidates they choose at every level are worthy of the trust that’s placed in them,” said Oliver. Mexicans have a lot of work ahead of them if they are to truly turn around a corrupt and oftentimes violent system.