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Home / News / Mixed signals after victory of Mexico's longtime maverick

Early announcements by Mexican president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador have surprised even his supporters. 

When leftist candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador won the presidential elections in Mexico in July, he did so on a promise that radical change would follow.

During the six-year reign of his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), which has ruled Mexico for all but 12 of the past 89 years, Mexico's murder rate climbed to its highest level since at least 1990. It rose 27% to claim 37,174 lived in 2017, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. This was despite Mr Peña Nieto’s pledge to deal with Mexico’s drug cartels differently to the direct confrontation favoured by his predecessor, Felipe Calderón of the conservative Partido Acción Nacional.

Relations with the US also became more complicated with the new administration of US president Donald Trump. 

Mr López Obrador  ran at the head of a coalition that eschewed the country’s three main political parties and promised a break with the old system. He promised to tackle the root causes of crime, such as poverty – rather than use the military strategy of his predecessors – and create a more equitable economic system for Mexican citizens. 

Since the election, however, Mr López Obrador, who is set to take office on 1 December, has sent more mixed signals. Just before July’s elections, one of his main economic advisers, Monterrey agro-industrialist Alfonso Romo, said the president-elect would be open to new auctions for Mexico’s oil and gas fields. The announcement followed a campaign in which Mr López Obrador spent most of the time railing against his predecessor’s 2013-14 energy reforms, which allowed oil and gas production and exploration by private and foreign investors.

In August, however, Mr López Obrador announced that, while he would not propose changes to the reform, he would institute a two-year moratorium on auctioning of new blocks for Mexico’s Petróleos Mexicanos, and raised the required level of national involvement. With a majority of sympathetic lawmakers in Mexico’s Congress, the measures look likely to be implemented.

Elsewhere, his first actions have not been without controversy. Many of his own supporters were taken aback by his decision to appoint Manuel Bartlett Díaz, a veteran PRI operative of dubious reputation, to head the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE).

There are other signs that the change Mr López Obrador had promised may not be as radical, or as sudden, as some had hoped. Despite earlier vows to shift gears in Mexico’s drug war, he confirmed in August that, in the near term, Mexico’s military would remain on the streets.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
fDi Magazine

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