Fanaticism and Anti-Communist Crusade: Meet Mexico’s Far Right, Where Pocketnarists Hide | International

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A meeting, a photo, and Pandora’s box opened. The leader of the Spanish ultra-rightist Vox party, Santiago Abascal, landed 10 days ago in Mexico City, where he met with senators from the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and even with two politicians from the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). The meeting unleashed a storm in the two associations, which oppose the centre-left government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The PAN removed the political operator who organized the act, and the PRI completely disengaged itself from any agreement with Vox. Abascal arrived looking for adhesions to the so-called Charter of Madrid, a kind of manifesto “in defense of freedom in the Iberian sphere”. That is, the germ of a culture war, a crusade he intends to wage in the region by waving the scarecrow of an alleged communist threat.

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The PAN is a conservative organization that harbors some radical voices and sectors, but as a whole, experts do not consider it comparable to Vox, founded in 2013 precisely as a split in a neoliberal force with broader ideas, the Popular Party, with which it later , however, would come to pact. The question is whether López Obrador’s Mexico has electoral space for the far right and for an authoritarian discourse that goes beyond isolated demonstrations. And who can embody this rhetoric, which almost always goes hand in hand with religious fanaticism and ultra-Catholicism. Francisco Abundis, director of the opinion analysis consultancy Parametría, sees the country as resistant to this trend. “Politics and religion don’t usually mix. From the outset, the Mexican doesn’t like to put the two things together”, he says. Furthermore, the data indicate that, even in the case of believing and practicing citizens, the percentage of voters willing to follow the instructions of a priest is low. This predisposition is less, at least among Catholics, points out Abundis.

A front to brake AMLO

This does not mean that the extreme right does not exist in Mexican society. “Of course there is, and it is not just an expression of political bias, but it is exposed in the political, economic and social aspects. There is also a fourth item, which is the intellectual”, argues Luis Ángel Hurtado, a consultant and academic at the Faculty of Political Science at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. “The most visible movement today, although not the only one, is FRENA”. This is the acronym (which also means “brake” in Spanish) adopted by the National Anti-AMLO Front, which gained prominence a year ago by improvising a camp in the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square, to protest against the government.

FRENA leaders define themselves as a “popular and peaceful movement that wants to act now to remove” López Obrador from office. For this, they say they have “legal tools, social pressure and the media”, and their leader, Gilberto Lozano, businessman and former president of the Rayados club, in Monterrey, is involved in a campaign to revoke the president’s mandate. Adopting the same speech as Vox, he claims that a plan sponsored by the Forum of São Paulo is in progress to implement communism in Mexico, including population control and redistribution of wealth.

Aspect of the FRENA camp installed in Mexico City's main square, the Zócalo, in October 2020.
Aspect of the FRENA camp installed in Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo, in October 2020.Hector Guerrero (CUSTOM_CREDIT)

Hurtado recalls that this organization also fits into the tradition of the Mexican ultra-right, with a general religious bond and specifically Catholic. At the same time, it differs in that it is a public movement, as opposed to reserved societies such as Los Tecos (initially linked to the Jesuits, until the order disassociated itself due to an armed attack), Los Conejos (which had links with the Salesians) and El Yunque. “They were sworn groups, and in the oath they promised to keep it a secret. This element in FRENA is uncharacteristic. His goal is for López Obrador to resign, and he differentiates himself from other ultra-right groups such as the FUA [Frente Universitária Anticomunista] and El Muro, who expressed themselves in a more violent and radical way. In the case of FRENA it is not like that”, he continues.

Yunque, synarchists and conspiracies

There is the same thread that unites the past and the present in the history of the Mexican ultra-right. It began almost a century ago, at the time of leftist president Lázaro Cárdenas, and later with Adolfo López Mateos. “It is very interesting to see how the threat of communism always appears, and there are people who believe, although it is not true”, comments Fernando González, a UNAM academic who has been studying this phenomenon and the consequences of what he calls “conspirative Catholicism” for decades.

On the map on the far right, two universities and two cities, Guadalajara and Puebla, are important. Under Cárdenas’ mandate, the University of the West was founded in Jalisco, capital of Guadalajara, which later became the Autonomous University of Guadalajara, the first private center in the country. This, says González, was “a nest of tecos”, and from there also come some of the founders of the PAN in that state. Almost 20 years later, between 1953 and 1955, El Yunque (“the anvil”) was founded in Puebla, by the hands of Manuel Díaz Cid, historic ultra-right ideologue, and Ramón Plata Moreno, murdered in 1979 after leaving the Mass. from Christmas. In 1965, the researcher recalls, in order to understand the reach of the delusional aspirations of this movement, the organization’s top leadership held a meeting in which “they allege that Pope Paul VI is an Ashkenazi Jew and will declare the vacant see.” González observes that “from the 1960s onwards, El Yunque was already in the Coparmex employer, and between 1977 and 78 they decided to infiltrate the PAN”.

But before El Yunque, another nationalist organization with extreme right-wing positions emerged in the state of Guanajuato, the União Nacional Sinarquista (“synarchy” is the government of a capable elite). Attached to it was a surname that—by pure chance—matches that of the leader of the Vox. Adalberto Abascal, father of Salvador Abascal, one of the founders of synarchism, who in turn was father of Carlos Abascal, now deceased, secretary (minister) of Labor and Government of Vicente Fox (PAN). Fernando González places him as the leader of El Yuque at one point.

Vox’s strategy

Personal or even sectorial connections do not make the PAN an organically far-right party. Hurtado considers this to be a “media issue, because the PAN is not ultra-right, but there are members who are playing for the 2024 elections and want to make noise.” “In recent years we have seen a very different PAN from the ultra-right parties that existed in Mexico, which were a wing of the synarchist movement.” It is a broad formation, and even López Obrador, in the ideological antipodes of the PAN, invited this Sunday the governor of Nayarit, of that party, to participate in the federal administration when his term ends.

Spanish Vox party leader Santiago Abascal poses for a photo in the Mexican Senate with PAN politicians.
Spanish Vox party leader Santiago Abascal poses for a photo in the Mexican Senate with PAN politicians. SENATORS OF PAN

EL PAÍS spoke last week with American journalist and essayist Anne Applebaum, an expert on ultra-rightist organizations and the decline of liberal democracies, about Vox’s strategy, which has also registered its mark in Mexico. For her, this is an internationalization plan. “They are very interested in maintaining international alliances that help parties of this type to be born in other places”, he says. And this is especially true in a region that in recent years has taken the path of self-styled leftist projects. But it remains to be seen, as Francisco Abundis points out, whether any political figure will be able to assume the role of Santiago Abascal in Mexico with realistic electoral aspirations, going beyond a possible projection of the right in states like Guanajuato, Querétaro or even Jalisco.

Two figures who have gained importance within the far right that idolizes President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil have passed through Mexico in recent weeks. Blogger Oswaldo Eustáquio and truck driver leader Zé Trovão even recorded videos together in the Mexican capital. The second was the centerpiece of the stoppage carried out by truck drivers last week, which demobilized at the request of the Government and the arrest of the representative himself. Both had requests for preventive detention issued by the STF minister Alexandre de Moraes as part of the investigation of the fake news.

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