Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador—a k a AMLO—has been known to bristle when critics liken him to the late Hugo Chávez. But the parallels between the spirit of Mr. López Obrador’s two-year-old government and that of the Venezuelan strongman’s in its early years are impossible to ignore.

Morena, AMLO’s party, launched an effort in the Mexican Senate in December to seize autonomy from the country’s central bank. The lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, will discuss the bill this week. The president seems to be backing off the idea, but if so it is only a tactical retreat.

AMLO is on a mission to complete what he calls “the fourth transformation” of Mexico, and he has to centralize power to do it. He has already wrested control of the Supreme Court, and last month he proclaimed that autonomous regulatory bodies like the federal antitrust commission and the office that provides transparency in federal contracts should be eliminated.

Ahead of the June midterm elections he is signaling that he is ready to buck the authority of two independent bodies charged with ensuring election fairness. Mexican democrats are in a fight for their political lives.

There are obvious differences between AMLO and Chávez. But when the history is written I suspect most of them will turn out to have been driven by economic constraints on the Mexican caudillo, not choice.

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