According to the London based newspaper Financial Times, Mexico’s president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador likes to surround himself with photographs or busts of his historical heroes. But in a video posted on social media on October 30 he had a new prop. Prominent on a table beside him as he smiled into the camera was a book called Who’s In Charge Here?
The leftist nationalist clearly wanted to send the message that he answered only to the Mexican people, not to the financial markets or investors who had been staggered by his decision, announced a day earlier, to scrap a partially-built 16.5 billion USD airport project in Mexico City.
The move came after the incoming government organized an informal “people’s poll”, which critics say lacked legitimacy and was biased against the project. But the carefully constructed scene’s unequivocal subtext was: “I am in charge now.”
It was a first taste of the participatory democracy Mr López Obrador had promised. He had long opposed the costly airport project, which had been under fire from environmentalists. Investors, who had quietly been assured by some in the incoming government that the project was safe, were aghast, despite its promises to repay financial obligations in full.
“There’s been a change in the country. We have to let some people know that there is another Mexico now,” said Mr López Obrador in the video. “I’m not going to be decorative.”
The 65-year-old history buff takes power this Saturday December 1st, as a latter-day Aztec emperor, with the opportunity to centralize vast power under his command after a landslide victory — he won 53 per cent of the vote — on July 1. The result gave him the strongest presidential mandate in a generation.
He controls both houses of congress and can immediately put his stamp on the Bank of Mexico, where two seats have come up on the five-member board, and on the Supreme Court, where two vacancies will become free by February.