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Three major issues will dominate Mexico’s economy, politics, and relationship with the United States in 2022.
The central axis of Mexico’s quandaries will run through the country’s politics. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador will continue to exert power in an increasingly autocratic fashion, aggravating a conflict between his desire for the government to centrally manage the economy and Mexico’s pre-established commitments in international trade and investment, on which Mexico depends heavily for future development. This economic predicament will continue to create clashes and uncertainty in the country’s business environment and to complicate Mexico’s recovery after the pandemic-driven slump. Moreover, López Obrador will again try to succeed where he has so far failed—to reverse Mexico’s historic energy reforms of 2013 and 2014. To date, the courts, civil society, and economic actors have managed to rein in the president. But his ambitions will persist, and he will carry on with his onslaught on the reforms in 2022.
A second major issue will involve López Obrador’s response to his party coalition’s election losses in June 2021. While he won the presidency in a landslide, with slightly over 30 million votes in 2018, his coalition—led by the National Regeneration Movement, known as MORENA—only drew 20 million votes in 2021. This was largely viewed as a rebuke of his policies by the middle class—and the president’s political anger has only grown in response. Consequently, in 2022 he will try to dismantle Mexico’s exemplary electoral system. Adding to an already polarized political environment, López Obrador will continue his attacks on public intellectuals, the press, the middle class, and the private business sector. The president is not likely to successfully undermine the electoral system next year, but his efforts will further poison the country’s already toxic social and political environment.
A third key issue in 2022 will be López Obrador’s relationship with the administration of Joseph R. Biden. Although the Biden administration has so far tried a traditional political and diplomatic approach to gain Mexico’s cooperation on migration, security, and trade issues, President López Obrador actively dislikes Washington’s plans because he believes they interfere with his vision of Mexico—and ultimately because they run against his nationalistic view of Mexico, one in which the United States is its number one adversary. It is likely that in 2022, the Biden administration will lose some patience and seek to increase pressure on Mexico to collaborate on key issues with the United States.
Apart from these key issues is the important 2024 race for Mexico’s next president. López Obrador has all but announced his preferred candidate—Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City—and is actively promoting her around the country. This will have two key consequences, both of which will emerge in 2022. First, his favoritism will create additional fractures within his party and electoral coalition, as there are two other candidates who want to run—Marcelo Ebrard, the current foreign minister, and Ricardo Monreal, an influential senator from the president’s party. This conflict may weaken the coalition that has been built around the president. Second, the early start of the de facto race for president—though López Obrador’s term does not end until well into 2024—has emboldened civil society to more aggressively oppose his agenda (mostly because he is perceived as having accepted his agenda’s defeat), and has moved the opposition to come together, perhaps with a unity candidate capable of defeating the president’s party in 2024.
The next sections break down these issues into more specific discussions ranging from the political and regulatory environment to the economy, security, public health, and binational and border issues.