"PUTIN IN MEXICO?", Letter to the Editor, The Washington Post, January 12th, 2018

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Dear Michael Larabee,

Frida Ghitis’ blog post from this past January 11th, “A Mexican presidential candidate is getting an unexpected boost from Trump — and Putin” is full of inaccuracies and outright falsehoods.

According to the journalist, the frontrunner for the upcoming Mexican presidential elections, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is “anti-American”. This is false. López Obrador has explicity called for establishing “a harmonious relationship” with Washington. “When we work together, everyone wins. But in confrontation, the United States and Mexico will both lose”, López Obrador wrote a few months ago in The Washington Post.

Ghitis also fantasizes about me supposedly serving as an agent of Vladimir Putin in the López Obrador campaign. She states that “months ago” RT television “started giving vast amounts of time to López Obrador´s main English-language spokesman, John Ackerman”. This is an outright lie.

My participation on RT television during 2017 consisted of two two-part interviews on the AP produced show “The Keiser Report” anchored by Americans Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert, for a total of one hour of airtime.

My own collaboration with RT is strictly limited to social networks. Since 2016, I publish a weekly 2-minute videocolumn in Spanish, in which I express myself with absolute freedom about the most relevant political issues of the day. The widespread censorship, violence against journalists and government control over the media have pushed many Mexican dissident journalists and intellectuals towards international media outlets, such as CNN, BBC, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, Telesur and RT, in order to have an opportunity to get out our message.

Without such opportunities, speech would be much more restricted for analysts like myself whose views do not coincide with the sitting government.

In addition, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a “spokesman” for López Obrador in any language. I am a tenured, full professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Editor-in-Chief of The Mexican Law Review and an independent journalist with two bi-weekly columns at Proceso magazine and La Jornada newspaper, respectively. I have indeed endorsed López Obrador, as the only presidential contender capable of combatting corruption and strengthing democratic institutions in Mexico, but I do not work on his campaign. My opinions are my own.

My wife, Irma Eréndira Sandoval, a graduate of the University of California, a distinguished full professor at the National University, a former fellow at Harvard University and the Sorbonne, and one of the leading scholars in anti-corruption studies in Latin America, has indeed been tapped by López Obrador as his future Comptroller General. But only a sexist stuck deep in Cold War paranoia could imagine that she has gained this future post through help from her husband or from Moscow.

I conclude by pointing out that if Putin were really interested in intervening in the Mexican elections in order “to weaken the West and to discredit democracy”, as Ghitis supposes, he would not support López Obrador, but the sitting authoritarian regime led by President Enrique Peña Nieto. As I have documented elsewhere, over the last five years Peña Nieto has sunk Mexican institutions, destroyed democracy, and allied with Donald Trump.

If Russia really wanted to create chaos south of the Rio Grande, the best strategy would be to support Peña Nieto in his bid to impose his successor, José Antonio Meade, by any means necessary, not by supporting López Obrador´s struggle for free and fair elections.

The fabricated, fake news about a possible Russian intervention in the Mexican elections is pure fantasy. I respectfully call on Ms. Ghitis to do a little bit more research on the situation in Mexico before simply reproducing lies and speculations spread by agents of the Mexican government through the US media.


John M. Ackerman

Twitter: @JohnMAckerman

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