Questions abound as to what exactly Andrés Manuel López Obrador will do after last Sunday’s resounding electoral victory in Mexico. During the campaign, he had studiously avoided pledges that might have damaged his chances by triggering comparisons with the beleaguered South American left or by upsetting financial markets. Many sympathizers criticized AMLO, as the president-elect is commonly known, for fudging his policy commitments and for evading the key issues in debates on violence, economic development, and foreign policy. Others complained that his decision to apply “justice but not vengeance” to members of the corrupt presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto would perpetuate the culture of impunity that has eroded confidence in the law in Mexico. But one thing is certain: AMLO’s electoral formula worked like a dream. There are lessons here. And not just for Latin America.
AMLO not only romped to a historic victory, taking 54 percent of the vote, but he also led his party, the newly created Movement for National Regeneration (MORENA), to overall majority in the Mexican Congress, though in the Senate they may rely on their electoral allies. This is unprecedented support, which comes at a time when the political elite is scorned. A record turnout of 63 percent appears to have driven the AMLO vote, which was a mass rejection of the status quo. That status quo is characterized by an economic policy dangerously dependent on the United States, mass emigration, controversial privatizations, and stagnant wages, producing the worst economic growth in Latin America in the past 30 years. In a country where corruption has enriched a political and business elite, leaving the bottom half of the population trapped in poverty while violence corrodes Mexico’s heroically resistant popular cultural and social ties, the prevailing mood is best summed up by the Spanish phrase ¡Basta ya! (Enough is enough!)
AMLO’s insistent calls to end the mafia del poder—in which two parties have alternated power, together with their corporate allies, since the end of the Institutional Revolutionary Party’s 70-year-long monopoly in 2000—struck a chord at different levels of society. A Sunday stroll through Parque Mexico in the chic district of La Condesa in Mexico City showed support for AMLO ranging from a 20-year-old street sweeper who earned less than $150 a month to young hipsters buying bonbons at nearly a dollar a bite in a chocolate boutique next to the park.