What to do when you lose but can’t let go? Well, if you are Andrés Manuel López Obrador, best known as Amlo, you claim to be the actual government.
No wonder so many Americans, Europeans and Asians think of Latin America as the place where magical realism best describes reality.
It all began in 2006 when the former Mexico City mayor almost became Mexico’s real president, losing the election by a hair. He cried fraud, launched street protests, and excoriated the winner, President Felipe Calderón, as a “presidential usurper.” Then, as a culminating gesture of defiance, he held a mock inauguration in the country’s main square, donning a replica of Mexico’s red, white and green presidential sash and took a pretend oath of office.
With this, many assumed they had seen the last of Mr. López Obrador — at least until the next election in 2012.
But while the leftist has faded from international headlines, he never really went away in Mexico. He went on to found a parallel executive branch of government that proposes new laws, issues statements, holds elections, officiates during Mexican Independence Day, and even circulates its own form of identification card for Mexicans (some 2.8 million Mexicans carry them, according to a Legitimate Government spokesman).
Nowadays, Mr. López Obrador tours the country giving presidential speeches where he is introduced as the real McCoy. After three years of this, he will soon have visited all of Mexico’s 2,438 municipalities. That would make him, he says, the first politician — indeed, maybe even the first man — ever to have done that.
Amlo’s fantasy “Legitimate Government” has volunteer functionaries, real journalists assigned to cover him (who at least get paid for their jobs), and lots of rallies.
You would think that all this nonsense would show results. Think again:
Support for the leftist hovers at around 16% of the population — about half what he got in the 2006 election — according to a June poll in the Mexican daily La Reforma.
Amlo, however, carries on, pretending.