MEXICO CITY — A leftist leader vowing to launch a “radical transformation” of Mexico and improve the lives of the poor will be sworn in as president today Saturday Dec. 1st, 2018, opening an uncertain era in a country with deep economic and security ties with the United States.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 65, known as AMLO, takes office as potentially the most powerful Mexican president in decades. Not only did he take 53 percent of the vote in a three-way race, but his party cinched a majority in both houses of Congress and gained control of numerous state legislatures.
López Obrador is the first leftist president since Mexico transitioned from a one-party authoritarian state to full democracy in 2000. He has promised to increase benefits for the poor, young and elderly — all while maintaining budget discipline. He has vowed to fight corruption and slash perks for senior officials, even declining to occupy Los Pinos, the Mexican White House. The estate will instead be turned into a public park, set to open today Saturday Dec. 1st.
The election of a leftist “is a historic, very important change for Mexico, and it’s very healthy in a country with the grotesque inequalities that we have,” said Jesus Silva-Herzog Marquez, a prominent political scientist who teaches at the Tecnologico de Monterrey university.
Yet, he and many other Mexicans are unsure whether López Obrador will govern as a practical-minded centrist — as he did as mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005 — or an autocratic populist. While there are moderate, U.S.-educated appointees in the new cabinet, analysts say power has shifted from the kind of technocrats who had steered Mexican financial policy since the mid-90s.
In November, the stock market tumbled 14 percent and the peso weakened after López Obrador and his party announced proposed limits on bank fees and the cancellation of a $13 billion airport in Mexico City that was already under construction. The sell-off occurred as Brazil’s markets soared on the election of a far-right politician.