Mexico: New president vows to smash corruption
Mexico has its first leftist president since 1940, said El Universal in an editorial, and he spent his inaugural speech reassuring Mexicans that he would not turn the country into a failed socialist state like Venezuela. Andrés Manuel López Obrador, popularly known as AMLO, received the presidential sash last weekend in front of thousands of cheering supporters as well as international dignitaries such as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. To the markets, the 65-year-old AMLO promised that “the investments of domestic and foreign shareholders will be safe.” To those who fear dictatorship, he promised not to seek re-election after his six-year term. Ending corruption and impunity, he said, would be Mexico’s “fourth transformation”—after independence from Spain, the liberal reforms of the mid-19th century, and the 1910 Mexican Revolution. The transition will be “peaceful and orderly,” he said, “but also deep and radical.”
He’s already brought “a new spirit of spontaneity,” said Blanche Petrich in La Jornada. After addressing the dignitaries, AMLO held a second ceremony in the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main public square, where he received a spiritual cleansing by indigenous leaders. He didn’t treat them “as ornaments or folklore,” but as the heart of the nation. AMLO also opened up the presidential palace—becoming the first president to do so—and allowed some 30,000 visitors to wander the grounds. Spartan in his habits, he refuses to live in the palace or fly in the presidential plane, and he has slashed the presidential salary by 40 percent, so he will make only around $64,000 a year.
AMLO has an ambitious vision, said El Espectador, but “he has not said how” he intends to make it reality. His Morena party, an unwieldy alliance that includes Maoist groups and ultraconservative evangelicals, offers something—perhaps too much—for everyone. AMLO has promised to pave hundreds of roads; build railways; provide nationwide internet coverage; raise the salaries of teachers, doctors, police, and soldiers; create 100 public universities; and on and on. He claims he can pay for this socialist utopia with the miraculous savings that will flow from conquering corruption. Yet he isn’t confiscating any ill-gotten gains: Bizarrely, he said he “forgives all acts of corruption that occurred prior” to his taking office. Meanwhile, he’s already walked back his promise to take the army off the streets, saying he will keep it in place to fight the drug war.
The people, though, will give him a chance, said Enrique Toussaint in El Informador. Elected in a landslide this summer, AMLO took 53 percent of the vote, and Morena and its allies won majorities in both houses of Congress. He has an enormous mandate “and faces enormous expectations.” If the AMLO who governs is the one who spoke at the inauguration of love and hope, and “not the polarizing one” who denounces the rich and calls his critics “sissies and conservatives,” he can achieve great things. “A new page of Mexico’s political history begins.” ■