Mexico's new left-wing president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has all the political means he needs to reinvent the country, for better or for worse. For now, it's best to be optimistic, says DW's Claudia Herrera-Pahl.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, also known as AMLO, will have an enormous amount of political power. Not only did he and his Morena party make history by capturing more than half the presidential vote for the first time in modern Mexico in a competitive election, they also won several state governorships, the influential post of Mexico City mayor and, if predictions hold, the majority of both chambers of congress.
The results, however, did not come as a surprise: AMLO and Morena benefited from the vast dissatisfaction of the Mexican people, exhausted and seeking a way out of the misery in which they live: a people fed up with the ever-increasing numbers of fellow citizens who disappear; a people that no longer want to live in a country where women, journalists, environmental activists and politicians are targeted for murder; a people fed up with violent cartels that dominate the vast regions where the drug trade and other crimes take place undisturbed. Millions of people in Mexico want to escape this vicious circle of poverty, corruption and violence, and they have pinned their hopes on AMLO.
No chance for AMLO's competitors
His rivals didn't stand a chance. They represented three parties that for decades have failed to find solutions to the problems that plague Mexican society. Despite his great experience, Jose Antonio Meade was dogged by infighting in his long-ruling PRI. Ricardo Anaya, the relatively young candidate for the PAN and PRD — two parties that are actually ideologically far apart — was regarded by many as ruthless, a man certainly not suited to leading the country out of the dead-end street it is stuck in.
Lopez Obrador, on the other hand, is regarded as a messiah. He has made many promises, too. He wants to put a stop to organized crime's rising influence, curb Mafia-like government bureaucracy, end impunity, be an advocate for the poor, fight for justice, commit himself to democracy and national sovereignty and, of course, be tough in the face of US President Donald Trump.
AMLO will have to unite Mexico's various political groups if he wants to make good on his promises, in particular to reduce the huge gap between rich and poor. That likely means giving up the neoliberal policies that made Mexico one of the region's most economically dynamic countries in recent years. AMLO and Morena will have to make clear but also balanced decisions if they want to maintain Mexico's position in the international community. Concerning the economy, they are focusing on the domestic market, fixed prices in agriculture and a revision of the opening of the oil market for private industry. One should not forget how Mexico makes the largest part of its foreign currency: exporting industrial products, the "remesas," or remittances, Mexican migrants send home to their families, oil and tourism. Every single day, 70 percent of Mexican exports go to the US.
Mexico needs peace and economic success
Abandoning this economic model would be a fatal mistake and would ensure the failure to fulfill AMLO's key election campaign promise: to reduce economic inequality. To prevent a further deterioration in US-Mexico relations, continued cooperation in important areas like immigration and cross-border crime is vital.
Mexico needs peace. These days, rural schools are empty because young people prefer to make easy money in organized crime. Last year alone, more than 26,000 people were murdered in the country. AMLO must change that if he wants to show that millions of Mexicans were right in supporting him. There will not be a run-off ballot, so the dye is cast. There is no second chance — Mexico has reached a crucial turning point in its history.
Hope dies last, and that is true for Mexico, too. AMLO deserves a bit of confidence. But anyone who has hopes of eliminating the humanitarian crisis in the country should not forget that whatever he does will affect all 123 million Mexicans, and not just his voters.