New era in Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)’s inauguration as the new president of Mexico means not only the resurgence of the political left, but a profound transformation in the structure of the entire country.

“By mandate of the people of Mexico, we begin today the 4th transformation of the country,” wrote the new government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who is known as AMLO, in its new official Twitter account. “It will be peaceful and orderly, but deep and radical. No more corruption! No more privileges!”

Last Saturday, December 1, between a great ceremony, two speeches, a party in the Zócalo de D.F. and even protests against one of the guests, AMLO became Mexico’s first leftist president in more than thirty years.

The inauguration was attended by representatives of almost 50 countries, including the Vice President of the United States, Mike Pence, the Vice President of the People’s Republic of China, Shen Yueyue, the President of the Assembly of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Kim Yong-Nam, and Senator Hirofumi Nakasone of Japan.

The President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, the Governor of Belize, and the President of the Republic of Suriname also attended the event.

After many years of experience in politics dating back to the 1970s, and after a failed attempt at the presidency in 2006, AMLO has become a figure representing reform for a country experiencing significant corruption and violence.

It was thanks to his performance as Mexico City’s Head of Government from 2000 to 2005 that AMLO emerged as a national political figure. He is often in direct communication with the media, and he enjoys overwhelming popular support, at around 90%.

Infrastructure initiatives such as the elevated viaduct in the Anillo Periférico of the Valley of Mexico, and his pension program for adults over 70, transformed him into a leader “that keeps his promises,” according to a 2003 survey.

After two attempts in 2006 and 2012 to reach the presidency, AMLO modified his strategy in 2015, when he formed the new “Morena” Party, from which he launched his “Alternative Project for the Nation 2012-2024” that promised to put an end to corruption in the country. In August 2018, AMLO won the presidential election with an historic 53 percent of the vote. His party will also be the majority in Congress.

During his inauguration speech, the new president made more than 100 promises to the Mexican people, including the transformation of corruption into a serious crime, reducing the salaries of public officials, separating the economic and political powers, and respecting the contracts and decisions of previous governments.

But it seems that AMLO’s effect will go beyond his electoral promises. As The Economist explained, the new president has become a symbol of political transformation - his campaign was called “the fourth transformation” echoing the Mexican Revolution of 1910 - and his presence has silenced most of his critics.

His conciliatory strategy, which contrasts with his tone during most of the political campaign, has led him to accept Trump’s new version of the North American Free Trade Agreement while ensuring that government decisions will be submitted to the vote of the people.

“What looks like extra accountability is, in fact, a way of amassing power,” explains The Economist. “The referendums marginalize Congress. But AMLO is prepared to go through the legislature, especially if he fears the people’s verdict.”

These types of reactionary decisions have made many critics warn of a possible “Mexican Hugo Chávez,” referring to the deceased Venezuelan leader.

However, according to Foreign Policy, AMLO would have more similarity with the Trump scheme than with Chávez’s.

“López Obrador makes many people nervous for many of the same reasons that Donald Trump did during his run to the White House,” explains Foreign Policy. “He galvanized voters by attacking a corrupt establishment, made fantastic promises that seem hard to square with economic or fiscal reality, and he’s flirted with authoritarianism.”

Only time will tell what the final version of this new government will be. However, there is no doubt that AMLO will be an historical phenomenon for the region.