The first time that Andrés Manuel López Obrador ran for President of Mexico, in 2006, he inspired such devotion among his partisans that they sometimes stuck notes in his pockets, inscribed with their hopes for their families. In an age defined by globalism, he was an advocate of the working class—and also a critic of the PRI, the party that has ruthlessly dominated national politics for much of the past century. In the election, his voters’ fervor was evidently not enough; he lost, by a tiny margin. The second time he ran, in 2012, the enthusiasm was the same, and so was the outcome. Now, though, Mexico is in crisis—beset from inside by corruption and drug violence, and from outside by the antagonism of the Trump Administration. There are new Presidential elections on July 1st, and López Obrador is running on a promise to remake Mexico in the spirit of its founding revolutionaries. If the polls can be believed, he is almost certain to win.
In March, he held a meeting with hundreds of loyalists, at a conference hall in Culiacán. López Obrador, known across Mexico as AMLO, is a rangy man of sixty-four, with a youthful, clean-shaven face, a mop of silver hair, and an easy gait. When he entered, his supporters got to their feet and chanted, “It’s an honor to vote for López Obrador!” Many of them were farmworkers, wearing straw hats and scuffed boots. He urged them to install Party observers at polling stations to prevent fraud, but cautioned against buying votes, a long-established habit of the PRI. “That’s what we’re getting rid of,” he said. He promised a “sober, austere government—a government without privilege.” López Obrador frequently uses “privilege” as a term of disparagement, along with “élite,” and, especially, “power mafia,” as he describes his enemies in the political and business communities. “We are going to lower the salaries of those who are on top to increase the salaries of those on the bottom,” he said, and added a Biblical assurance: “Everything I am saying will be done.” López Obrador spoke in a warm voice, leaving long pauses and using simple phrases that ordinary people would understand. He has a penchant for rhymes and repeated slogans, and at times the crowd joined in, like fans at a pop concert. When he said, “We don’t want to help the power mafia to . . . ,” a man in the audience finished his sentence: “keep stealing.” Working together, López Obrador said, “we are going to make history.” [Continue reading…]