Mexico: Obrador’s election offers cautious hope for the working class

Andrés Manuel López Obrador celebrates his election victory

On 1 July broad left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador, widely referred to as Amlo, was elected as President of Mexico. With a sweeping victory of 53.19%, and the most votes won by a presidential candidate in Mexico’s history, Amlo brought his party MORENA (National Regeneration Movement) to power for the first time. The two other major contenders, Ricardo Anaya of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), and José Antonio Meade of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), received 22.28% and 16.41% respectively. Throughout the twentieth century Mexico’s presidency was largely under the control of the PRI, until 2000 when the PAN won the elections, and remained in power for 18 years. Amlo’s victory brings a welcome change. Sheila Rubio reports.

Amlo has previously run for the presidency as the candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) as well as having been the head of government for Mexico City where he expanded social programmes for the poor. In both his previous presidential runs he came second, most notably in 2006, denied first place due to fraudulent elections (see FRFI 192 Aug/Sept 2006). Over a million people took to the streets in protest, flooding the Zocalo Square in Mexico City. In 2012, after another electoral defeat, Amlo left the PRD and founded MORENA. MORENA ran in the 2018 elections as part of the Juntos Haremos Historia (Together We Will Make History) coalition which includes the social democratic Labour Party and the right-wing Social Encounter Party.

Mexico has the second largest economy in Latin America with a GDP per capita of $9,723, yet half of its population lives in poverty and corruption is rampant. Amlo stood on a platform of fighting corruption and increased social spending, but his most radical position was on immigration. Mexico is a major route for migrants travelling to the US and Amlo has opposed Trump’s border wall plans. He has said he will not ‘continue the dirty work’ of assisting the US in arresting migrants. Instead he will focus on jobs and industry in Mexico. Part of this plan includes renegotiation of the NAFTA trade deal, which sparked the Zapatista uprising in 1994, to reduce the flow of immigration to the US by investing in Mexican and other Central American economies.

Given the broad political spectrum in Amlo’s coalition, his government runs the risk of making concessions to the Mexican right-wing. While he has promised to have ‘an emphasis on helping the poor and forgotten’, he has also said ‘We do not want to fight the US’. It seems he will not materially challenge US influence in the region. His economic plans are based on money gained from fighting corruption and selling off state assets like official helicopters and planes and the presidential palace. He promises to use commercial flights and transform the presidential palace into a cultural space for the people to enjoy, and slash the presidential salary by 60%. Yet he will not confront the root cause of poverty in Mexico: underdevelopment resulting from US imperialism.

Amlo is comparable to the current wave of broad left and social democratic figures like Jeremy Corbyn rather than the radical and vibrant Latin American leaders like Hugo Chávez, Evo Morales and Rafael Correa – who were all backed by popular anti-imperialist movements. Amlo’s election shows that the poor and oppressed of Mexico are fed up with years of conservative rule and are hungry for an alternative to the poverty and violence that has shaped modern Mexico. New possibilities may open up for social movements and indigenous activists who have faced government repression, but real and lasting change will depend on the building of a powerful anti-capitalist movement. Amlo’s victory must be welcomed, but what difference it will make to the working class and oppressed of Mexico remains to be seen.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 265 August/September 2018


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