Mexico's New President: Not Your Ordinary Latin Leftist

Andrés Manuel López Obrador – AMLO – received a record number of democratically cast and counted Mexican votes for president on July 1.  The vote count: 53 percent voted for him. 

That victory was signaled to me in February when several brainy young hi-tech workers, Guadalajara's best and brightest men and women, railed during lunch over the "impunity" of President Enrique Peña Nieto's government.  Specifically, they were furious that the three-year-old mystery of the disappearance of 43 college students had not been solved and that any criminals involved in that apparent "massacre" were not in prison.

On September 26, 2014, 43 young men from Ayotzinapa (ah-yoht-zeen-AH-paw) Rural Teachers' College in the state of Guerrero (Acapulco) bused to Iguala (ee-GWAH-lah), a city between Mexico City and Acapulco, to publicly demonstrate for more funding for education and for their rural college.  

Various official explanations by the Mexican federal government of the disappearance have never been proven, nor have the students or their bodies been discovered.  Despite myriad theories presented by the federal government, the disappearance has not been definitively solved.

The best reporting of the disappearance was by Andalusia Knoll of Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) in January 2015. 

Current termed out Mexican president Peña Nieto and his two federal attorneys general have not solved the crime, and other than accuse some police officers, a mayor, his wife, and their alleged drug gang bosses of killing the young men, little has been done.  No one has been convicted of ordering the disappearance or the murder of 43 young men.

Thus the profound unhappiness expressed to me by the bright people in Mexico's "Silicon Valley" – Guadalajara – in February.  These people had no problem denouncing President Peña Nieto and his political party, the old Stalinist "ruling Party" of old, known as the PRI. 

Another political casualty is AMLO's old party, the once-ultra-left-wing political party known as the PRD.  AMLO ran unsuccessfully for president twice as the PRD presidential candidate (2006, 2012).  The PRD elected some governors and senators in southern Mexico.  Despite initial success, it has ceased to be a major political force because those it managed to elect were worse than the old Stalinist party's pervasive corruption.

Photo credit: Agencia de Noticias ANDES.

The December 1 presidency of AMLO is being organized in the neighborhood of my birth, the Colonia Roma of Mexico City on Chihuahua Street.

Calming Mexico's business class is mission number one for the old leftist.  The now open petroleum business that is so important to Mexico will not be dragged back into 1938 Mexico, when it nationalized the entire industry, one the largest of the era, from mostly British and American private companies. 

Word is out of the transition team that President López Obrador will sponsor slashing salaries of congress people and high-ranking bureaucrats.  Mexico News Daily reports that he will propose a 50% reduction to salaries paid to federal elected and appointed officials.

If approved, deputies (congressmen) will earn monthly salaries of 37,336 pesos (U.S. $1,983), senators 58,700 pesos (U.S. $3,120).  López Obrador will, under his plan, receive half the current presidential salary of 209,135 pesos (U.S. $11,090).  All perquisites and benefits currently enjoyed by politicians will be eliminated.

But first, canceling an order of $1.2 billion for new American-made helicopters for the Mexican Navy and Marines is a hint at a nascent austerity the new president is planning to implement.

At a transition office news conference, President-Elect López Obrador established goals for his six-year term that include:

  • Establishing a federal Secretariat of Public Security.
  • Eliminating political immunity known as the fuero and other privileges currently afforded to government officials.
  • Including corruption, petroleum theft and electoral fraud on the list of serious crimes for which there is no right to bail.
  • Incorporating the "Estado Mayor Presidencial" – the Mexican version of the U.S. Secret Service – into the Secretariat of Defense.  Interesting, considering that López Obrador says he won't use presidential bodyguards.
  • Modifying or repealing the 2013 educational reform that gave control to unions.
  • Establishing the right to free, public education at all school levels in article 3 of the constitution.
  • To mimic the U.S. Constitution's "impeachment" provisions, López Obrador is proposing a legally binding consultation mechanism that enables the presidential term to be revoked.  In other words, Peña Nieto should have been fired as president.
  • Reviewing the need to increase the minimum salary in the northern border zone.
  • Announcing that the national added value tax (IVA) of 16 percent will be slashed in half in the northern border zone to 8 percent...the new tax zone is from the border with the U.S. about twenty miles into Mexico.  This will encourage more spending in Mexican border cities by Mexicans that now shop in the U.S.  Sixteen percent makes many consumer items more expensive in Tijuana, say, than a hundred yards north into neighboring San Diego.

Can Mexican president-elect López Obrador successfully attack "impunity" and the "corruption" that chokes Mexico?  Missing from his promises is he hasn't promised to solve the disappearance of the 43 students on September 26, 2014. 

We hope he requests help from the U.S. and that President Donald J. Trump gladly loans President López Obrador the help needed to solve the crime of the century, the crime that may have elected López Obrador president of Mexico.

Contreras is the author of The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars In Trade (Floricanto Press) and The Armenian Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy (Berkeley Press).  He formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.

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