The News
Sunday 21 of July 2024

Clash of Two Opinion Leaders

John M. Ackerman,photo: Cuartoscuro/Selene Pacheco
John M. Ackerman,photo: Cuartoscuro/Selene Pacheco
Both are in the Mexican government payroll but it will be their points of view which will set the ideological tone for the presidential election

As an objective observer of Mexican politics an attention-grabber is the participation of two foreign-born but now nationalized Mexican citizens in politics. These two persons are Chilean-born journalist Pablo Hiriart and U.S.-born law professor John M. Ackerman.

About the only thing in common Ackerman and Hiriart have is that Ackerman has a law doctorate and Hiriart has a journalism degree (communications) from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM); the buck stops there. Hiriart was educated in Mexico but Ackerman has also an MA and a PhD on political sociology from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

The contrast between them, otherwise, is brutal. I can’t see two more different individuals who write political columns in the Mexican press as these two. Verbal push has come to shove and Hiriart makes it a point to attack Ackerman; Ackerman usually responds in an indirect way but acknowledging he is under intellectual siege.

Their object of dispute is none other than presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) leader of political party National Regeneration Movement (Morena).

For readers not acquainted with Mexican politics, AMLO was presidential candidate for the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in 2006 and 2006 but in 2013 AMLO splintered from PRD to form Morena to become a “genuine” left wing party taking more than half of PRD militants with him. AMLO will definitely be the Morena candidate in the 2018 presidential elections.

Pardon this previous intro to today’s story “characters” but it is of utmost importance to understand the shape of politics to come in Mexico from now until presidential election-day next July 1, 2018. Remember, time flies.

Hiriart definitely represents the Mexican establishment’s point of view and given his background may even still be in the government’s payroll. He’s been director of the official Mexican government news agency Notimex, he was editor of the government owned newspaper El Nacional, but now he’s acting as an “independent” columnist.

A journalism anecdote about Hiriart is that he was the founding editor of daily La Razón but turned in his resignation to owner Ramiro Garza Cantú claiming there was an “unacceptable meddling of another newspaper editor in the internal life of La Razón.” Gossip has it that La Jornada editor Carmen Lira influenced Garza Cantú, so Hiriart quit. By the way, Carmen Lira hates Hiriart’s guts I learned from first hand sources.

Ackerman, on the other hand, is not a journalist but he’s a militant of Morena and doggedly defends AMLO’s ideology. He writes weekly columns for leftist daily La Jornada and muckraking magazine Proceso. He sends out his column through a blog with a following of circa 400 thousand readers.

Of course both subjects of this observation write in Spanish, though Ackerman is editor of a scholarly English language magazine called Mexican Law Review.

What strongly grabs my personal attention is Pablo Hiriart’s constant daily barrage of critique against AMLO and Morena often criticizing Ackerman for siding with AMLO. Reality has it that I don´t read his columns anymore not because he is attacking AMLO – every government crony in the nation does – but because of the tedious repetition of the same official onslaughts claiming that AMLO is “a threat to Mexico” and according to Hiriart, what’s happening in Venezuela will happen in Mexico if AMLO is elected president.

Of course indirectly Ackerman answers not just Hiriart but the myriad of pen pals like Hiriart who I suspect spend daily time writing letters to the editor contradicting whatever AMLO says and does; for Hiriart and these pens even the flowers AMLO gets from admirers smell like tummy gas.

Of course, Ackerman is not your regular next door former gringo. He definitely leans to the left and even has defended the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro but has toned down recently after Maduro imposed the new national assembly which according to many will perpetuate Maduro in power.

In any case, the issue is not Venezuela but the contrasting points of view of two persons born and raised in another nation who nowadays have their own audiences in Mexico.

Ironically, both are in the Mexican government payroll but it will be their points of view which will set the ideological tone for the presidential election.