Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, May 09, 2019

How's he doing?

News about the Mexican presidency gets pushed off front pages by other news. Here's an evaluation by a BBC reporter.

Mexico's Amlo riding high 10 months after election
When Mexico's populist presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected by a landslide in July, some analysts warned that he could quickly lose support once in office, especially if he failed to deliver on his ambitious promise of delivering a "radical transformation" of his country.
President López Obrado
Four months after his swearing-in, his approval ratings range between 60% and 86% and are the envy of many other leaders in the hemisphere.

But how has the 65 year old commonly referred to as Amlo fared so far and what problems has he been able to tackle?

Just weeks into the top job, Amlo announced that he had launched an operation to fight widespread theft from oil pipelines, a nationwide problem costing the Mexican state about $3bn (£2.3bn) each year.

Besides deploying thousands of troops in the operation, his government also shut down major oil pipelines that criss-cross the country. Almost immediately, shortages of fuel in major cities were reported, causing massive queues at petrol stations.

Nevertheless, polls showed Mexicans supported the crackdown, and normal fuel supply has since been restored.

Official figures suggest the move has significantly reduced the amount of oil being illegally siphoned off daily, from 81,000 barrels in November of 2018 to 4,000 in the first months of 2019…

Amlo has sought an attitude of "peace and love" towards his northern neighbour despite recent public threats by Mr Trump that he would "close the border" with Mexico if the Mexican government failed to stop Central American migrants reaching the United States…

One area where President López Obrador has yet to make an impact is on Mexico's soaring murder rate. This reached a new annual record in 2018 with 28,839 violent homicides across the country, a 15% increase over 2017.

The murder rate has continued to climb since Amlo came to power. In the first quarter of 2019, 8,493 murders were reported, an increase of almost 10% compared with the same months in 2018, according to Mexican government data.

In a speech he gave on 11 March, Amlo acknowledged that "the population is currently in a defenceless state".

"Violence, as we have said many times, cannot be fought with violence (…), the construction of a better, more just and more humane society is the starting point of our public safety policy," he said.

In a move approved by Mexico's Congress, the president has created a new security agency, the National Guard, to enforce his strategy to reduce crime and violence related to Mexico's powerful drug cartels…

He travels around the country on commercial flights after putting Mexico's Dreamliner presidential plane up for sale arguing that it was too lavish for the leader of a country where millions live in extreme poverty.

On his first day in office he also ordered the presidential residence, Los Pinos, to be opened to the public and turned into a cultural centre.

Mr López Obrador and his family will continue to live at their middle-class home in Mexico City's Tlalpan neighbourhood until his youngest son finishes elementary school in mid-2019.

After that, they plan to move to a midsize apartment near his office at Mexico's National Palace, from where he says he will continue to work towards a "fourth transformation" in Mexico's history, following its 1810 independence, the 1854-1857 liberalising reforms led by then-President Benito Juárez, and the wars of the 1910-1920 Revolution.

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