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Leftist Andres Manuel López Obrador Claims a Historic Victory in Mexican Presidential Election (Image Credit: Flikr)

Left-wing politician and former mayor of Mexico City, Andres Manuel López Obrador, also known as AMLO, claimed a historic victory in the presidential election in Mexico. Mr López Obrador won approximately 53 per cent of the vote, which is the largest winning margin seen for many years, as he rode on a wave of public anger against poor economic growth, violence and corruption.

Lopez Obrador, who campaigned to transform Mexico and oust the “mafia of power” ruling the country, capitalised on the discontent with the governing Institutional Revolution Party, or PRI, of President Enrique Pena Nieto. Hailing from a working class family, López Obrador grew up in the waterlogged planes of the southeastern state of Tabasco.

“I confess that I have a legitimate ambition: I want to go down in history as a good president of Mexico,” said Lopez Obrador, who won after consecutive losses in the previous elections. “I desire with all my soul to raise the greatness of our country on high.”

The president-in-waiting, whose term will begin Dec. 1, devoted much of his speech appealing to citizens of all stripes and also reassured those who have eyed his candidacy nervously.

‘Viva Mexico!’ “This new national project will seek to establish an authentic democracy and we do not intend to establish a dictatorship,” Lopez Obrador said. “The changes will be profound but in accordance with the established order.”

Lopez Obrador’s supporters began wild celebrations in Mexico City cruising up and down the central Paseo de la Reforma boulevard honking horns to the tune of “Viva Mexico!” and waving Mexican flags from car windows. Thousands poured into the sprawling main square known as the Zocalo, where the 64-year-old former mayor of the capital had called on his backers to rally. Many danced to the trills of mariachi music.

Mr López Obrador – who is a friend of Jeremy Corbyn’s – pitches himself as the only man capable of cleaning up a political class whose credibility has been gone down thanks to soaring crime levels and years of sluggish economic growth.Hugo Carlos, who voted for Mr López Obrador, said the country needs change. “There is a lot of inequality, a lot of violence in this country,” Mr Carlos said. “This situation has to be changed.”

“Today brings a new beginning for México,” Corbyn tweeted after AMLO’s landslide win. “[His victory] offers the poor and marginalised a genuine voice for the first time in Mexico’s modern history. I’m sure #AMLO will be a president for all Mexicans.”

‘The people are fed up’ Retired teacher Susana Zuniga beamed and said the country was experiencing a moment similar to the Mexican Revolution a century ago. “The people are fed up. That is what brought us to this,” she said.

AMLO’s Policies

Lopez Obrador said individual and property rights would be guaranteed while promising respect for the autonomy of the Bank of Mexico. He said that his government will maintain financial and fiscal discipline.

Lopez Obrador also spoke in support of migrants and said that the most forgotten and humble people of Mexico will be given preference in his government. He said he will seek a relationship of “friendship and respect” with the United States. And rather than the use of force to fight spiralling violence, he will look to fix causes such as inequality and poverty.

“Peace and tranquillity are the fruits of justice,” Lopez Obrador said.

“The anger that the average Mexican feels toward the way things are being governed has favoured Lopez Obrador,” said Shannon O’Neil, senior fellow for Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. “He’s been able to capture the mantle of the person who’s on the outside who wants change.”

“The priority of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s policies will be that all of migrants’ rights are respected, without restrictions. We want Mexico to be a country of refuge,” Olga Sánchez Cordero, one of his top advisers, said in May.

“Now that he has won, he cannot fail this new generation that believes in him,” said Mariano Bartolini, a 29-year-old lawyer who voted for Lopez Obrador in the northwestern city of Rosarito, near Tijuana. “It is thanks to us young people who are supporting him that he was able to get more votes than he did in past elections.”

Mr.López Obrador after casting his vote (Picture Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

President-Elect and USA

With a clear electoral victory, Mr.López Obrador could alter the direction not just of Mexico’s internal politics, which have been transformed with the ruling party’s devastating defeat in Sunday’s election but also the course of U.S.-Mexico relations.

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted congratulations to Andres Manuel López Obrador: “I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!”

Trump and López Obrador spoke for about 30 minutes on Monday morning. Trump said that he had spoken to Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador about border security and believed the new Mexican leader would help the United States with its border issue. He and Lopez Obrador also discussed the North American Free Trade Agreement and a possible separate trade deal between Mexico and the United States.

“I proposed a comprehensive deal with development projects that would generate jobs in Mexico and therefore reduce migration and improve security. The tone was respectful and our representatives will talk,” López Obrador wrote on Twitter.

“I think the relationship will be a very good one,” Trump told journalists after the call.

In the past, López Obrador has likened Trump’s attacks on Mexicans to the way Nazis talked about Jews. He has proposed organizing protests against Trump’s immigration policy. López Obrador “doesn’t see Trump as a lunatic. He sees him as a leader making a political plan,” said Marcelo Ebrard, a top adviser to the incoming president. “Our goal now is to look for common ground, to see what we can put on the table.”

Obrador and NAFTA 

The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) talks have been stalled for several weeks and Lopez Obrador’s entry could change a lot since tensions between Canada and the United States have intensified owing to a trade dispute.

On Monday, López Obrador said the North American Free Trade Agreement is among the top issues he plans to discuss in his first post-election meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto. Trump has also called for revision of the deal to gain more benefits for U.S. workers, but talks have now hit an impasse over cross-border auto production.  “We will support the current negotiators so that this agreement can be signed. A good negotiation will be made for the benefit of Mexico,” he said.

“Canada and Mexico are close friends and longtime partners. We share common goals, strong people-to-people ties, and a mutually beneficial trading relationship that is the envy of the world — reflected in our joint effort to update the North American Free Trade Agreement for the 21st century,” Trudeau said in a statement congratulating Lopez Obrador on his win.

Trudeau later spoke with Lopez Obrador on Monday wherein they discussed their mutual trade interests and their “shared priority of updating the North American Free Trade Agreement for the betterment of their peoples,” said a readout of the conversation issued Monday.

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