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Who is Mexico's Lopez Obrador and will he take on Trump?

Who is Mexico's Lopez Obrador and will he take on Trump?
Copyright REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
Copyright REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic
By Alasdair Sandford with Reuters
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Mexico's next president won a landslide in Sunday's election promising to tackle corruption, violence — and Donald Trump.


Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will become Mexico’s first leftist president for decades after an emphatic victory in Sunday’s election.

The 64-year-old former Mexico City mayor took more than half the vote. He has vowed to tackle corruption in a country also marred by extreme violence.

His style has drawn comparisons with President Donald Trump, at a time of tense relations between Mexico and the US.

How significant is Lopez Obrador’s victory?

Even though opinion polls had predicted Lopez Obrador’s win, the scale of his victory is seen as extraordinary. The initial count by the electoral authority gives him more than 53% of the vote, putting him some 30 points ahead of his nearest rival.

It puts to an end virtually a century of mainstream party rule in Mexico. It’s particularly damaging to the Revolutionary Party (PRI) of the outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto, the ruling party that governed the country from 1929 until the end of the 20th century. That’s the biggest share of the vote since the early 1980s.

His victory should give him a platform to tackle priority issues at home and abroad. This will be reinforced if he secures strong backing in Congress.

Lopez Obrador's opponents say his policies lack substance and may endanger the economy, which suffers from poor growth and high inflation.

Has the world gained another populist leader?

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (also known by his initials Amlo) is no newcomer to Mexico’s political scene. He has run for president twice before, his campaigns in 2006 and 2012 also accompanied by loud tirades against opponents he decried as corrupt and inept.

Echoing Trump’s “America First” slogan, he vowed in his victory speech to put "the poor first”. He comes from Tepetitan, a small town in the poor southern state of Tabasco, and is popular in rundown districts of Mexico City, where he was mayor in the early 2000s.

After being accused of authoritarianism he has now sought to calm nerves. In his speech, Lopez Obrador promised to respect individual freedoms under an “authentic democracy” and not introduce a “concealed dictatorship”.

Economically, he’s pledged fiscal discipline while pursuing responsible policies, honouring international commitments. He wants to raise wages and welfare payments without increasing taxes.

How will Amlo tackle corruption?

Lopez Obrador has identified corruption as the “principal cause” of inequality and criminal violence that has plagued Mexico for years.

The campaign was one of the deadliest in decades, while the power of drug cartels means in some areas they are more powerful than local authorities.

The newly elected president promises prosecutions, sparing no-one in his commitment to root out corruption. “Whoever it is will be punished, I include comrades, officials, friends and family members,” he said in his victory speech.

However, he added that the authorities would not act arbitrarily, and there would be no confiscations of private property.


Lopez Obrador vowed to tackle the root causes of corruption, which he identified as poverty and inequality. “Corruption is not cultural but the result of the political regime,” he said.

Can we expect a showdown with Donald Trump?

The US president’s rhetoric and policy towards Mexico — and Mexicans — has been belligerent, to say the least. He still intends to build a border wall and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

However, Trump’s tweet in response to Lopez Obrador’s victory was welcoming. “Congratulations,” he said. “I look forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!”

Lopez Obrador has previously spoken of wanting to make the US president “see reason”, and make Mexico more economically independent of the United States. In his victory speech he said he sought a “friendly relationship and cooperation”.


Perhaps with the millions of undocumented Mexican migrants in mind who’ve gone north and are now under threat, he promised to defend his country’s people who were “living honourably” in America.

Both leaders are seen as having authoritarian tendencies and policies based on economic nationalism. They see themselves as outsiders appealing to the disenfranchised. Both are sensitive to criticism and don’t tolerate opposing views easily.

Some analysts believe that Lopez Obrador will be bolder than his predecessors in challenging Washington, especially Trump.

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