The Left Just Won Big in Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador won on a promise to reverse the disastrous policies of privatization and rampant corruption that have dominated Mexican politics for decades.

Jeff Abbott July 2, 2018

A vendor sells newspapers fronted by the results of the presidential election in Mexico in which leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claimed victory, in Mexico City, on July 2, 2018. (ULISES RUIZ/AFP/Getty Images)

In a his­toric vote on July 1, Mex­i­can vot­ers elect­ed their new pres­i­dent: Andrés Manuel López Obrador (pop­u­lar­ly known as AMLO), the 64-year-old, cen­ter-left for­mer May­or of Mex­i­co City orig­i­nal­ly from the south­ern state of Tobas­co. Togeth­er We Will Make His­to­ry, a coali­tion of the cen­ter-left Nation­al Regen­er­a­tion Move­ment (MORE­NA), the con­ser­v­a­tive Social Encounter Par­ty (PES) and the left­ist Labor Par­ty (PT), suc­cess­ful­ly orga­nized a cam­paign to chal­lenge the Mex­i­can polit­i­cal sta­tus quo, build­ing their plat­form in oppo­si­tion to the dis­as­trous poli­cies of pri­va­ti­za­tion and ram­pant cor­rup­tion that have dom­i­nat­ed Mex­i­can pol­i­tics for decades.

“The PRI had their time to govern. But the people are tired of the PRI and their politics.”

AMLO’s elec­tion is an unprece­dent­ed land­slide in Mex­i­can his­to­ry, with 56 mil­lion of 89 mil­lion eli­gi­ble vot­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing. He will assume the pres­i­den­cy on Decem­ber 1

Just hours after vot­ing cen­ters closed, José Anto­nio Meade, the Pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for the Par­tido de Rev­olu­ción Insti­tu­tion­al (PRI), took to the stage to con­cede defeat, stat­ing, the exit pol­l’s ten­den­cies are not in our favor.” The PRI is a cen­trist par­ty with deep busi­ness ties that grew out of the Mex­i­can Rev­o­lu­tion between 1910 – 1920 and has dom­i­nat­ed Mex­i­can pol­i­tics since 1929.

Ricar­do Anaya was the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date for the Par­tido de Acción Nacional (PAN), a cen­ter-right con­ser­v­a­tive par­ty that has main­tained influ­ence in Mex­i­can pol­i­tics since 1939 and end­ed the PRI’s decades-long hold on the pres­i­den­cy in 2000. Com­ing in sec­ond place, Anaya con­ced­ed defeat and con­grat­u­lat­ed AMLO on his over­whelm­ing victory. 

AMLO’s More­na par­ty is rel­a­tive­ly young in Mex­i­can pol­i­tics, only reg­is­tered as a polit­i­cal par­ty in 2014. Nonethe­less, it scored major vic­to­ries across the coun­try, win­ning the guber­na­to­r­i­al races in the states of Chi­a­pas, Tabas­co, Mex­i­co City, More­los and Ver­acruz. The par­ty also won a major­i­ty in the Mex­i­can Con­gress and Sen­ate, gain­ing at least 127 seats in Con­gress and at least 48 seats in the Senate.

As the count became offi­cial, sup­port­ers of AMLO cel­e­brat­ed across the coun­try, hold­ing ral­lies in Mex­i­co City. 

I will do anoth­er tour of the coun­try as pres­i­dent-elect,” López Obrador, who trav­eled exten­sive­ly dur­ing the cam­paign to learn the prob­lems fac­ing com­mu­ni­ties, told sup­port­ers at mid­night in the Zoca­lo in Mex­i­co City. There will not be a divorce now that we won and we’re form­ing a gov­ern­ment. No, this is the gov­ern­ment of the peo­ple, for the peo­ple and by the people.”

For sup­port­ers in Oaxaca’s Sec­ción XXII of the Nation­al Union of Edu­ca­tion Work­ers (SNTE) and The Nation­al Coor­di­na­tor of Edu­ca­tion Work­ers (CNTE), the vic­to­ry means the poten­tial end of the con­tro­ver­sial edu­ca­tion reform. 

Now comes the work of trans­form­ing the pol­i­tics, soci­ety, pub­lic ser­vices and, of course, edu­ca­tion,” Car­los Bar­rios, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Sec­ción XXII who asked for a pseu­do­nym due to con­cerns of polit­i­cal reper­cus­sions, told In These Times. But the CNTE will con­tin­ue to work from with­in as well to democ­ra­tize the SNTE and the edu­ca­tion sys­tems of the country.”

For the major­i­ty of Mex­i­cans, AMLO reflects hopes for change in the Mex­i­can polit­i­cal sys­tem. His vic­to­ry also serves as a rejec­tion of the gov­ern­ing of the PRI, PAN, and of the neolib­er­al poli­cies such as the pri­va­ti­za­tion of social ser­vices that both par­ties have imple­ment­ed since the 1980s. 

[AMLO] had a pro­pos­al that I feel is the most­ly like­ly to be ful­fill, and one that would ben­e­fit women, chil­dren, small farm­ers, and the pop­u­la­tion in gen­er­al across Mex­i­co,” David, a 23-year-old edu­ca­tion stu­dent from north­east­ern Chi­a­pas who vot­ed for López Obrador, told In These Times.The oth­er can­di­dates have occu­pied posi­tions in the gov­ern­ment, and they did not man­aged their posi­tions well in part due to the cor­rup­tion. This was a major rea­son to not believe in them.”

AMLO cam­paigned on promis­ing to roll back the poli­cies of pri­va­ti­za­tion that have gut­ted social ser­vices since the 1980’s, espe­cial­ly the pri­va­ti­za­tion of ener­gy resources, water and edu­ca­tion. In Feb­ru­ary 2018, he made an agree­ment with teach­ers across Mex­i­co to can­cel con­tro­ver­sial pri­va­tiz­ing edu­ca­tion reforms. In anoth­er ral­ly, he declared that his admin­is­tra­tion would be the end of pri­va­ti­za­tion across the country. 

The edu­ca­tion reform was noth­ing more than a labor reform,” David told In These Times. The reform did noth­ing to improve the edu­ca­tion­al sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try. This is why so many teach­ers oppose the reforms. I believe he will repeal this reform that hurts the economies of teachers.”

The elec­tion of AMLO could help improve the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in Mex­i­co, which has suf­fered great­ly from the vio­lence caused by the Drug War since 2006. Some are hope­ful that the pres­i­dent will de-esca­late and de-mil­i­ta­rize the drug war, although it remains to be seen how his admin­is­tra­tion will pro­ceed on this front.

I will achieve peace, that is my promise,” López Obrador told sup­port­ers in Jan­u­ary 2018. I will achieve peace and end the war. We will not con­tin­ue [the war] with the same strate­gies that have not giv­en results.”

Ahead of the elec­tion, the Mex­i­can busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty attempt­ed to derail the pop­u­lar­i­ty of AMLO by sug­gest­ing he would hurt the econ­o­my of Mex­i­co, Latin America’s sec­ond largest econ­o­my. Alber­to Bailleres, Mexico’s third-rich­est man, even attempt­ed to dis­cour­age the work­ers in his chains from vot­ing for AMLO. The Nation­al Insti­tu­tion of Elec­tions (INE) was forced to inter­vene to stop the cam­paign of dis­in­for­ma­tion against the pop­u­lar candidate.

An elder­ly hotel own­er in San Cristo­bal de las Casas, Chi­a­pas, who asked not to be named, put it more blunt­ly: The PRI had their time to gov­ern. But the peo­ple are tired of the PRI and their politics.”

Vot­ing began at 8:00 a.m., but many polling sta­tions opened up late across the coun­try, to the frus­tra­tion of many vot­ers. Accord­ing to inter­views with 15 peo­ple, some vot­ers wait­ed as long as two hours to cast their bal­lots in San Cristo­bal de las Casas, Chi­a­pas in the polling stations. 

The elec­tion was marred by accu­sa­tion of vote buy­ing, polit­i­cal mur­ders, the bal­lot theft and burn­ing, and insuf­fi­cient num­bers of bal­lots for vot­ers at many polling sta­tions. The lead-up to the elec­tion saw unprece­dent­ed vio­lence against those run­ning for office. Telesur report­ed that there were over 500 doc­u­ment­ed attacks and threats against politi­cians, includ­ing an attack against two can­di­dates for More­na in Oax­a­ca on June 25. More than 50 peo­ple were assas­si­nat­ed on the cam­paign trail. 

Many vot­ers ulti­mate­ly turned to More­na and AMLO due to the fail­ure of the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment of Enrique Pena Nieto to the dis­as­ters cre­at­ed by the earth­quakes in Mex­i­co City, Oax­a­ca, and Chiapas. 

The relief did not make it to the peo­ple that were affect­ed by the earth­quake,” David told In These Times. The fail­ure came from the gov­ern­ment. Con­sid­er­ing this, many peo­ple were dri­ven to change this situation.”

Jeff Abbott is an inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist cur­rent­ly based out of Guatemala. He has cov­ered human rights, social moments, and issues relat­ed to edu­ca­tion, immi­gra­tion, and land in the Unit­ed States, Mex­i­co, and Guatemala. He has writ­ten for the North Amer­i­can Con­gress on Latin Amer­i­ca, Wagin​non​vi​o​lence​.org, and Upside​down​world​.org. Fol­low him on twit­ter @palabrasdeabajo
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