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A Critic of Neoliberalism & Drug War, Andrés Manuel López Obrador Poised to Win Mexico’s Presidency

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Left-leaning presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador appears poised to win Sunday’s presidential election. López Obrador, also known as AMLO because of his initials, emerged as the clear front-runner since jumping into the race. This is the third presidential run for López Obrador, who was the mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005. López Obrador has vowed to wean Mexico off U.S. agricultural imports, increase aid for students and the elderly, and consider amnesty for drug war criminals. We speak to Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy.

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Video squareStoryDec 04, 2018AMLO Stands Alone in the Hemisphere”: Mexico’s President Takes Office with Ambitious Leftist Agenda
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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We end today’s show in Mexico, where left-leaning presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador appears poised to win Sunday’s presidential election. López Obrador, also known as AMLO because of his initials, emerged as the clear front-runner since jumping into the race. This is the third presidential run for López Obrador, who was the mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005. He has vowed to wean Mexico off U.S. agricultural imports, increase aid for students and the elderly, and consider amnesty for the drug war criminals. He visited Los Angeles in February of last year, holding a rally where he spoke out against Donald Trump’s policies.

ANDRÉS MANUEL LÓPEZ OBRADOR: [translated] Today’s anti-immigrant campaign is not only an economic issue, but, fundamentally, a political one. A specific group is taking advantage of the rise of nationalistic sentiments that permeates here and throughout the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, for more, we’re joined via Democracy Now! video stream in Mexico City by Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Policy Program for the Center for International Policy.

Talk about the significance of this election, Laura.

LAURA CARLSEN: This election is without precedent. First of all, it’s the largest election in modern Mexican history, because there are over 18,000 positions, it turns out. It’s all of Congress, as well as eight governorships and the presidency, of course. But all eyes are on the presidency.

What’s happening is that Mexico is poised for a major shift. It’s not a hardcore left, and it’s not the firebrand that the U.S. press likes to portray it as. It’s a relatively moderate leftist, but it’s a significant departure from the neoliberal economic model that has been in place in Mexico and had disastrous results, and from many of the policies that people are simply fed up with.

So, right now, López Obrador has a lead of between 20 and 30 points in the polls. He’s getting up toward 50 percent of the vote, despite there being a field of four candidates. This is unprecedented. It will be the biggest landslide since at least 1994. So there’s a feeling of excitement in the air. And there’s a lot of people who are depositing their hope for a change in the immediate future on this campaign.

But there are a lot of major concerns, as well. There’s concerns about fraud. We’ve been monitoring a number of the forms of fraud with a—through a network that was formed, and are getting ready to deploy observers, because there’s a core part of the establishment, both in the conservative National Action Party and the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, that are unwilling to let go of power, and especially with a left-leaning candidate.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Laura, one of the unusual aspects of this race is that López Obrador, who has run twice for president, is running not with the party that he ran previously. That party is allied with the conservative PAN, the PRD. He’s, in essence, developed a new party or a new alliance, MORENA. Could you talk about that and why the PRD, which has historically sort of been the left-wing party in Mexico, entered an alliance with the PAN?

LAURA CARLSEN: Yes, that’s another unprecedented aspect, that a new party, that hasn’t participated, could have taken such a significant lead.

The history of the PRD is a sad one. Essentially what happened is it began to make a number of decisions that were much more opportunistic and pragmatic than principled, as far as its left-leaning supporters were concerned. And that’s how it eventually ended up making this odd alliance with the conservative party in order to survive politically. But it’s been a process that’s been going on for a while. There’s been an exodus of people from the PRD toward MORENA ever since it’s formed. And, of course, it was formed out of PRD leaders. That’s been taking place to the point where there’s very little left of the PRD at this point. And the left of Mexico is clearly much more aligned with MORENA.

This also reflects a sentiment that all the parties that had been ruling, but particularly the two conservative parties, had created a huge degree of disillusionment among the people. And yet there’s a sense now, since this is a new party—and it’s actually called a “Movement” for National Regeneration, rather than a party—that it could be something different, because the biggest part of this vote, of this movement for López Obrador, is people being sick of the way things are. They were able to use fear against him, as uncertainty, and it worked to a certain degree. But now people are more afraid of the reality that they’re facing, of 200,000 dead in the drug war, of the insecurity, of the levels of corruption, that are totally unsustainable, than they are of what might be a certain amount of uncertainty with a new party and a new person. And that’s a part of the reason why we’re seeing support.

AMY GOODMAN: Laura, let’s talk about the string of assassinations of political candidates in the lead-up to Sunday’s presidential election. Over the last week, two mayoral candidates were assassinated in the state of Michoacán. Telesur reports at least 121 politicians have been murdered since September, making this election cycle the bloodiest in recent Mexican history. And then if you could address what will this mean for the border, for the immigrants coming over the border, if López Obrador wins?

LAURA CARLSEN: Well, first of all, in the violence, it’s the highest level of violence that we’ve seen. You heard the numbers. Just opened the paper today, another mayoral candidate in Oaxaca killed. And this is a kind of a wild card in the elections. We know—it’s clear that if they take out a candidate—and it’s usually organized crime involved in, oftentimes complicit with local authorities—if they take out a candidate, it’s destroying your right to vote for that person. But this is also creating a chilling effect, where there’s high levels of violence, and people may be afraid that the electoral process will be surrounded by violence and then not go out to vote. So this could have an impact in certain areas on democratic participation by keeping people away from the polls, perhaps especially in areas where there could be an opposition vote. That’s hard to quantify, but it’s very, very important.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have 20 seconds.

LAURA CARLSEN: OK. As far as the border, López Obrador is proposing a much stronger stance towards the Trump principles. He doesn’t want to—the Trump lack of principles in immigration, the policies that are coming out. He doesn’t want to confront him directly. But people are very hopeful that there will be a Mexican president who will stand up for Mexicans after this election, because they’ve felt that the PRI government has taken a very weak position in order to renegotiate NAFTA and defend Mexican interests—what it views as the elite interests—in the economic sphere.

AMY GOODMAN: Laura Carlsen, I want to thank you very much for being with us, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program for the Center for International Policy.

Happy birthday, Jon Randolph!

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AMLO Stands Alone in the Hemisphere”: Mexico’s President Takes Office with Ambitious Leftist Agenda

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