How Canada is undermining Mexico’s environmental and social justice agenda

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has proposed a set of constitutional reforms that aim to strengthen the country’s sovereignty and democracy in various sectors, including energy, mining, and agriculture. However, his progressive policies have faced resistance from Canada, which has a large stake in Mexico’s natural resources and has tried to protect the interests of its mining companies.

AMLO’s vision for a “fourth transformation”

AMLO, who is in the final year of his six-year term, has launched an ambitious project to transform Mexico’s economy and society, which he calls the “fourth transformation”. According to AMLO, the first three transformations were the independence from Spain in 1810, the liberal reform that separated church and state in 1861, and the revolution that overthrew the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz in 1910.

The fourth transformation, according to AMLO, is to reverse the neoliberal policies that have dominated Mexico since the 1980s and have led to inequality, corruption, violence, and environmental degradation. AMLO has sought to increase the role of the state in key sectors, such as oil and gas, electricity, and mining, and to grant more rights and participation to the Mexican people, especially the poor and the indigenous.


One of AMLO’s main goals is to reclaim Mexico’s sovereignty over its natural resources, which he believes have been exploited by foreign companies and governments at the expense of the national interest and the common good. AMLO has halted new mining permits, over 65,000 of which had been granted between 1988 and 2018, mostly to Canadian and US companies. He has also introduced reforms to strengthen environmental protections, increase taxes and royalties, and ensure more consultation and consent from local communities.

Canada’s opposition to AMLO’s reforms

Canada, which has interests in 70 percent of all mining operations in Mexico, has been one of the most vocal critics of AMLO’s reforms. Canada’s Trade Minister Mary Ng has repeatedly expressed concern over the measures that would limit the ability of Canadian companies to profit from Mexico’s resource wealth. Canadian mining companies have also voiced their frustration and threatened to sue the Mexican government for violating their rights and contracts.

Canada’s stance is not surprising, given that the country has a long history of prioritizing access to Latin American resources over other regional issues, such as human rights, democracy, and security. Canada has often supported coups, interventions, and sanctions against progressive governments in the region, such as Venezuela, Bolivia, and Cuba, while ignoring or endorsing the abuses of right-wing regimes, such as Colombia, Honduras, and Brazil.

Canada’s legal and diplomatic efforts to undermine AMLO’s reforms represent a blatant attempt to interfere with Mexico’s democratic process and sovereignty. AMLO and his party, MORENA, have a strong mandate from the Mexican people, who have supported their agenda in the 2018 presidential election, the 2021 midterm election, and the 2024 gubernatorial election. AMLO’s approval rating is also high, at nearly 70 percent.

Canada’s opposition to AMLO’s reforms also contradicts its own rhetoric of promoting environmental and social justice, both at home and abroad. Canada has declared a climate emergency, committed to the Paris Agreement, and pledged to advance reconciliation with its indigenous peoples. However, its actions in Mexico and elsewhere show that it is willing to sacrifice these principles for the sake of its corporate interests and geopolitical alliances.

The future of Mexico’s transformation

AMLO’s constitutional reforms, which include measures to overhaul the judiciary, electoral law, pensions, and environmental regulations, are unlikely to pass in their entirety, as they require a two-thirds majority in Congress, which MORENA does not have. However, they represent AMLO’s final effort to consolidate his legacy and pave the way for his successor, who will likely be either Claudia Sheinbaum or Marcelo Ebrard, both former allies and cabinet members of AMLO.

Whoever becomes the next president of Mexico, they will have to continue the struggle for Mexico’s sovereignty and democracy in the face of external and internal pressures. They will also have to deal with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the migration crisis, and the relations with the US and other regional powers. However, they will also have the support and the hope of millions of Mexicans who have embraced AMLO’s vision for a fourth transformation.

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