On a recent Saturday morning in Mexico City, a group of students, farmers, academics, workers, and activists gathered to strategize. The day marked three weeks since the country had elected center-left candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador—known to many by his initials, AMLO—as president.
The eclectic group, members of the People’s Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT), originally united around the fight against the New International Airport of Mexico City, a massive development planned for the outskirts of the capital. The biggest infrastructure project in Mexico in over a century, construction plans for the airport were first proposed in 2001 by then-President Vicente Fox, but were canceled a year later after residents of the surrounding communities of Texcoco and San Salvador Atenco protested the land seizures and ecological damage the venture were expected to bring. Current president Enrique Peña Nieto resurrected the plan in 2014—but in the wake of the July 1 presidential elections, the FPDT hopes to get president-elect AMLO over to their side.
Despite beginning his political career in the PRI—the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which has dominated Mexican politics for most of the last 90 years—and serving more than four years as Mexico City’s Head of Government (a position akin to a US city mayor), López Obrador firmly positioned himself as an outsider running against the status quo. He’s called himself an anti-neoliberal and a nationalist, speaking openly about putting Mexico first, restoring the Mexican countryside by subsidizing peasant farmers, and renegotiating NAFTA. In both the foreign and national press, López Obrador has been painted as a leftist populist challenging the country’s political status quo.
But he may not be the leftist messiah many make him out to be. He won the presidency on his third and most moderate run, this time toning down his anti-capitalist rhetoric and moving to assuage the concerns of the business elite. While AMLO campaigned as an ally of indigenous people and rural Mexicans, members of social movements like the FPDT doubt the authenticity of his rhetoric.