Andrés Manuel López Obrador used Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s election victory to kill two birds with one stone. Mexico’s president celebrated the left’s return to power in Brazil and mocked writer Mario Vargas Llosa’s support for ultraconservative Jair Bolsonaro. “Everything that Vargas Llosa touches seems to be salted,” the president commented at his press conference on Monday. “Echar la sal” is a colloquial phrase used in Mexico to say that something or someone brings bad luck.
The Peruvian Nobel-winning president of the International Freedom Foundation, a conservative institution, also hosted a forum held in Madrid on October 20, where they warned of the “dangers of populism” and democratic diseases in Latin America. Former Mexican presidents Ernesto Zedillo (1994-2000) and Felipe Calderón (2006-2012) participated as speakers and criticized the government of López Obrador. Also present was Brazilian judge Sergio Moro, a former justice minister who was instrumental in the court case that ended with Lula’s jailing for corruption in 2018.
“Not only Zedillo and Calderón met in Spain, but also the judge who unjustly imprisoned Lula, who called? Mario Vargas Llosa, and what is the use of that?” asked the Mexican president. López Obrador said that the forum in Madrid was not a coincidence, where the former president of the Spanish government José María Aznar was also present, and assured that Vargas Llosa tried to influence the elections in Brazil. “The meeting is taking place before the elections in Brazil and what happened yesterday, Lula won,” commented the president with a laugh.
“Lula has won, blessed people of Brazil. There will be equality and humanism,” López Obrador wrote on his Twitter account Sunday afternoon, when results were announced that gave the Workers’ Party candidate an irreversible lead. Lula won the second round with 50.90 percent of the vote, the closest result in the country’s history. The return of the former president and union leader consolidated Latin America’s new leftward turn. For the first time, the region’s five major economies have progressive governments: Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.
Vargas Llosa was a presidential candidate in Peru for the center-right Democratic Front coalition, but lost in the 1990 runoff to Alberto Fujimori. López Obrador was not the first to quip about the “curse” attributed to the Nobel laureate as an “electoral jinx”: the vast majority of politicians who support him end up being defeated in the elections. He recently came out against the Colombian Gustavo Petr and the Chilean Gabriel Boric, who were eventually elected.
In May, Vargas Llosa reluctantly opted for Bolsonaro. “It is very difficult for a liberal to admit Bolsonaro’s mischief. Now, between Bolsonaro and Lula, I prefer Bolsonaro,” he said. When Petro won last June, the writer said Colombians “voted wrong.” The author also endorsed Keiko Fujimori, who lost to Pedro Castillo last year, and Mauricio Macri, who fell to Alberto Fernández in 2019. Vargas Llosa’s “curse” has other recent “examples” in Bolivia, Chile and Spain.
This is not the first conflict between Vargas Llosa and López Obrador. “Unfortunately, Mexico is experiencing a dramatic decline with a populist and demagogue president,” the writer said last December during his Foundation’s seminar. The president replied that he was glad to “hear, observe, confirm the fall of Vargas Llosa”. After the victory of Lula, who visited Mexico last March, the president celebrated as if it was a victory against his opponents. “I’m happy, happy, happy”.
subscribe here to bulletin EL PAÍS Mexico and receive all the information keys of the news of this country