AMLO’s Attempt to Transform Mexico

Jeremy Corbyn lost the U.K. election but progressive Mexican leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, has been in power for one year. He is carrying out the plans described in his 2018 book “New Hope for Mexico,” writes Rick Sterling.

Celebration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s 2018 election victory, Mexico City. (Salvador alc, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

By Rick Sterling
TFA Report

With 129 million people, Mexico is the 10th most populous country in the world. It has the largest population of any Spanish speaking country and is twice the size of the United Kingdom.

Mexico is in a period of profound change. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and the Morena Party are charting a dramatically new path for the country.

From 2000 to 2005 Lopez Obrador was head of government for Mexico City. He left office with an 84 percent approval rating, according to one study, having implemented 80 percent of his campaign pledges. In 2006 he ran for the presidency as candidate of the PRD (Party of Democratic Revolution). The election was extremely controversial, with 49 percent of the population believing it was rigged against Lopez Obrador. Felipe Calderón was declared the winner.

In 2012 AMLO ran for president again. And again, there were widespread “irregularities” and Enrique Peña Nieto declared the winner. Following the election, AMLO founded a new party called the Movimiento de Regeneración Nacional (MORENA)

Finally, in the 2018 election, AMLO decisively defeated the other candidates and his party, MORENA, won a majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and Senate. He assumed office on Dec. 1, 2018.

New Hope for Mexico

López Obrador analyzed Mexico’s problems and his solutions in the 2018 book “A New Hope for Mexico.” He describes how corruption and neoliberal politics have led to “rampant inequality, shocking poverty, frustration, resentment, hate, and violence.”

AMLO says, “In Mexico the governing class constitutes a gang of plunderers…the astounding dishonesty of the neoliberal period (from 1983 to the present) is wholly unprecedented.” He names the officials and oligarchs who have profited from privatizing public institutions. He describes how changes implemented under President Carlos Salinas even took away the right of children to free education.

López Obrador explains, “The first thing we must do is to democratize the state and retool it as an engine of political, economic and social growth. We must rid ourselves of the myth that development requires blind acquiescence to market forces… Mexico will not grow strong if our public institutions remain at the service of the wealthy elites.”

AMLO describes the decline of Mexico’s industrial infrastructure in the neoliberal period. Banks were bailed out while “neoliberal technocracy has led to partiality with respect to hiring, and always at the expense of unions. There have been massive waves of firings.”

AMLO describes ambitious plans: building sources of renewable energy and refineries to make the country energy self-sufficient; building a transportation corridor to move containers between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans; guaranteeing crop prices to enable food self-sufficiency; expanding tourism in the Caribbean, Mayan and Olmec regions; planting large areas with timber and fruit trees; giving loans to hundreds of thousands of small farmers; providing training and internships for youth.

He says that development is possible by cutting wasteful spending: “By cutting back on purchases of ships, planes and helicopters…[we will] sell those used by high ranking officials including the president; we will keep only those used for medical emergencies, security and public safety… The first priority must be serving the poor. Only through the creation of a just society will we achieve the revitalization of Mexico.”

He contrasts his goals for Mexico with those of the U.S., where the Trump administration has increased military spending while slashing spending on housing, transportation and education.

López Obrador believes neoliberal economic policies have been especially detrimental in villages and rural areas of Mexico. As a result of these policies, small farmers have lost their livelihoods and food imports have risen dramatically.  He writes, “The abandonment of our rural areas has taken a heavy toll on production, has increased migration, and fostered societal breakdown and violence.”

Andrés López Obrador (center) in San Baltazar Chichicapam, Oaxaca, March 2016. (Israel Rosas83, CC BY-SA 4.0.)

López Obrador says, “The crisis of public safety and violence that we face today is the product of a poorly conceived war on drugs that relies solely on coercive means. The security crisis that plagues Mexico is a result of a confluence of factors: poverty, injustice, and exclusion, aggravated by the inefficiency of the authorities and corruption within the police and the judiciary.”

He proposes to combat police and judicial corruption, to use the army and navy to protect public safety, to develop and utilize a National Guard, and to change laws regarding drug use. Above all, he emphasizes, it is necessary to provide positive alternatives for youth: “The belief that the deterioration of our social fabric can be combated only through use of force is profoundly wrong and highly dangerous, as Mexican history amply confirms.”

During his 2018 presidential campaign, López Obrador visited several U.S. cities to address Mexican Americans. His words are relevant for all Americans:

“We must convince and persuade those who were brainwashed by Trump’s campaign rhetoric… We must reach out to lower- and middle-class American workers, explaining that their problems are rooted in the poor distribution of income… We must raise awareness among Americans of good faith who have been tricked by the propaganda campaign against Mexicans and foreigners….”

One Year as President

After one year in office, the AMLO government has significant accomplishments: the minimum salary was dramatically increased while top government salaries and outlandish pensions were cut; small loans and grants are going directly to farmers; five key agricultural crops have a guaranteed price; the billion dollar gas-thieving cartel has been exposed and attacked; a $44 billion infrastructure plan has been launched; and programs to benefit youth, the disabled and elderly have begun.

AMLO sets an example of hard work and transparency. Each day begins with a 7 AM press conference broadcast on his twitter feed.  The presidential jet is up for sale and he flies on commercial airplanes. During this first year in office, he has not left the country but travels constantly within Mexico seeing the conditions of hospitals, schools, factories and the small cities and towns that make up so much of the country. The presidential palace has been opened to the public. 

While AMLO has a 67 percent approval rating, and is steadily implementing his campaign pledges, there are challenges and opposition. The Mexican economy has been near recession throughout the year. The bond rating for the state-owned oil company (Pemex) has been downgraded so that investment loans will be more expensive. Some major development plans have significant opposition. For example, indigenous organizations have opposed the proposed Maya Train. In response, AMLO says the project will only go ahead if the people want it.

Violence is still a major problem. As analyst Kurt Hackbarth has written, “The Mexican right is cynically using a crisis of its own making in an attempt to destabilize AMLO, taking Mexico’s people as hostages.”

The MORENA majority in Congress plans to legalize marijuana and create a federal agency to regulate its sale. But as Hackbarth says, “Legalization and the targeting of cartel finances must go hand in hand with the slow but necessary work of reestablishing the presence of a social state that decades of savage capitalism have allowed to wither: education, health care, housing, arts and culture, dignified alternatives to cartel employment, and an urgent redistribution of wealth…” These goals are precisely what is outlined in AMLO’s book and seemingly where he wants to go.

Evo Morales holding a press conference in Mexico City after seeking refuge in Mexcio as a political refugee, Nov. 13, 2019. (EneasMx, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons)

The changes in Mexico are also important on the international stage. Through most of the 20th century Mexico had a foreign policy of non-intervention and independence from Washington. They maintained relations with Cuba, supported the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and broke relations with the Pinochet coup government in Chile. But in recent decades Mexican foreign policy has been subordinate to Washington. With AMLO and the MORENA Party in power, Mexico is returning to a foreign policy based on independence, self-determination and non-interference.

The difference was important early this year when the U.S. and Canada tried to impose a new government on Venezuela. The subordinate Latin American countries went along with Washington. Mexico did not.

As the recent coup in Bolivia unfolded, President Evo Morales’ life was threatened. Mexico sent a plane for his escape and granted him asylum. AMLO said to a huge crowd, “Evo was the victim of a coup d’etat! And from Mexico, we tell the world, ‘Yes to democracy, no to militarism!'”

As the Trump administration escalates its economic and political attacks on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, Mexico’s independent stance is especially important. AMLO’s administration has stood up against the U.S. at the Organization of American States and the anti-Venezuela Lima Group. Recently AMLO welcomed Ecuador’s former socialist leader Rafael Correa, followed by Cuba’s President Díaz-Canel. Argentina’s newly elected progressive president, Alberto Fernández, made his first foreign trip to meet AMLO.

Both internally and internationally, a new and hopeful process is happening in Mexico.

Rick Sterling is board president of Task Force on the Americas, a 35 year old anti-imperialist human rights organization focused on Latin America and the Caribbean. The original version of this article was published in TFA Report.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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21 comments for “AMLO’s Attempt to Transform Mexico

  1. Mabo Zerauj
    January 5, 2020 at 08:27

    English: Unfortunately AMLO’s words do not support his actions. And you’ve forgotten several facts.

    He backed the construction of a new airport, with a popular consultation. It’s illogical to ask someone who doesn’t know about it. From there comes a tendentious and manipulative way of handling things, in other words. Corrupt.
    In CFE, has one of the most corrupt representatives of the PRI. Manuel Bartlett. He is the same person who was in charge of manipulating one of the elections, where the opposition to the PRI at the time was going to win.
    His morning lectures have nothing of democratic. Is useless hears if he doesn’t listen. Everything for him is divided into black and white. You’re either with him or against him. Period.
    Many social programs disappeared them and offered that those resources would arrive otherwise. Never happened.
    And there are even more facts.
    I think you need to go deeper. And not leave with the idea of the supposed change that he promises. The years will give me the right, unfortunately, but it’s just another corrupt politician.

  2. michael
    January 3, 2020 at 06:28

    Trump is too discombobulated to interfere (and the neocons are focused on Iran and Ukraine). Once Biden is back in charge, he’ll get things back to normal, and the drugs and cheap exploitable labor caravans will be heading north again in record amounts.

  3. IvyMike
    January 2, 2020 at 20:18

    The Author wants to give Mexico the Colombia Treatment. The drug Cartels never went away in Colombia, with the civil war ending the Government was able to bring them into the political fold and the Media quit writing about them. This seems to be Amlo’s approach, just quit fighting, lets all be friends. Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States. American drug users have been responsible for more innocent deaths and more failed states than W and Obama together.

    • Paul Guzman
      January 3, 2020 at 19:16

      Finally, somebody saying that American Drug Users! I think you’re on to something Ivy.

  4. michael
    January 2, 2020 at 17:24

    I am assuming that AMLO’s criticism of the Mexican bank bailouts was the 1995 $20 million from Bill Clinton (who like Trump when Congress refused to fund his wall, went ahead with funding anyway)? NAFTA caused the Mexican bank failures (among other problems). Almost all the money from the Bailouts went to the Rich in Mexico and foreigners who bought up high yielding bonds, the tesobonos. Many (most?) economists thought that Mexico would be better off defaulting. The Mexican banks are now almost all owned by International banks, which will come down hard on AMLO if he deviates from neoliberal austerity programs. He seems a good man trying to help his people, but that paints an American target on his back in Latin America. Wish him luck!
    By now it is clear that the CIA, mostly, controls the narco states like Columbia, Honduras and Mexico (and soon Bolivia?) In addition to drugs, human trafficking and the caravans of illegal aliens are critical to keeping American labor’s wages at 1980’s levels while the rentiers’ and money-shufflers’ incomes keep rocketing upwards. Morally and legally it is wrong to exploit Latin Americans at half-wages while disposing of/ deporting those who object. Congress has no interest in solving the immigration problem, since their rich donors’ profits depend on this steady stream of cheated labor.

    • Dianne Foster
      January 3, 2020 at 04:16


    • Paul Guzman
      January 3, 2020 at 19:20

      You hit the nail exactly on the head!

  5. elmerfudzie
    January 2, 2020 at 14:54

    When this CONSORTIUMNEWS article appeared, I was in the throes of reading two relevant documents, Tao vs Christian dualism and war-fighting and Barnett’s five flows of Globalization that appeared at Dissident Voice in January 2016. This first article, based on concepts of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism in Chinese culture in contrast to the western Tri-une God, and for all intents and purposes, the Vatican as a guiding institution, among Western Occident citizens at large.

    ASIDE: Please don’t blow a fuse my Protestant Brothers and Sisters. You may recall, we settled that issue during the JFK election debates.

    Mexico is, in a single phrase, a treasure trove for the United States. Their people maintained our strong and balanced population demographics while boomers decided to favor advanced education and careers over the nuclear family. It served our banking cartels by moving huge sums of laundered dope money into speculative stock markets and recently gave us it’s very lifes’ blood, seventy thousand of it’s youth, during drug related gang wars just to feed the veins of our heroin addicts.

    Mexico put summer grown vegetables on our diner plates all winter long and like clockwork, the migrants and mestizos annually harvest our vineyards with back breaking labor, on next to nothing wages. Mexicans are in the Christian family, hold the same religious and political beliefs and systems, democracy and freedom. Their language is the easiest to learn, the Spanish language does not use symbols and pictures in written communication as Asian based ones so often do.

    Mexico is rich in oil, manufacturing finished products, wide varieties of agricultural foodstuffs and mineral deposits.

    Will the day ever come when a pipeline will be constructed from Alaska down along I-5 to bring fresh water to the bone dry lands of central California and northern Mexico?

    Mexico will eventually belong to one superstate, an amalgam of Mexico, USA and Canada, possibly a single currency as well. A future that is already underway, thus contradicting the “non-integrated gap” that configures Mexico into the “Seam State” category as defined by Admiral Andrew K. Cebrowski and author, Thomas PM Barnett in short, a summary of the have and have not nation(s). A future picture of this Pentagon-ic world with a map showing the new configuration has already appeared and gas been adopted within many military circles.

    The southern tip of Mexico is a vast real estate opportunity for millions of US retirees. The seasonal thermocline-like air temperatures between the mountain tops and the valley’s can be as much as forty five degrees Fahrenheit. No need to board a jet and fly two thousand miles south when your snowbird home can be down in the valley while your summer home is nestled in the cool dry Mexican mountains directly above.

    HINT: CIA! divert your stock and other investment monies into Mexican real estate, not dope growing and pushing, let our addicts be damned, they are anyway.

    How about this proposal, one US retiree will be given Mexican citizenship with real estate development rights (99 year lease?) in exchange for two full citizenship(s) granted for Mexican’s already living in the USA without proper “papers”, surely a loathsome term in quotes, reminds me of Nazi Germany.

    That bullet dodging, Pascual Ortiz Rubio brought forth the Estrada Doctrine, in a clear but unintended opposition to the Monroe doctrine. It was Mexico that initially favored the concept of international law, self determination and non intervention and the peaceful resolution of disputes. Why do we continue to listen to the frantic, always in a state of panic, D.C. beltway crowd? Why pay heed, credence, to the rants of a Puritanical Christian Right shogun like Pence? Who cares what the latest drivel is from the Oval office?

  6. January 2, 2020 at 14:44

    Good clear report.

    What a remarkable and ambitious man AMLO is.

    I hope for his success, but I’m sure Washington’s plug uglies are making plans.

    One might think he is much more secure in a large country like Mexico, as opposed to a place like Bolivia, but you need key elements like the military tied to you, something that saved Venezuela.

    I am ashamed to have to read these words:”The difference was important early this year when the U.S. and Canada tried to impose a new government on Venezuela.”

    Justin Trudeau has been a weak and ineffective prime minister, and he leaned a good deal on Chrystia Freeland as foreign minister. She is well liked in Washington and is actually a Neocon Lite.

    It has been such shame because Trudeau’s father, Pierre, was a strong and independent leader, one of those setting Canada’s good international reputation in the 20th century. It seems to have all been forgotten now.

    Pierre started excellent relations with the Cuba the US was terrorizing, quite an irony now with Washington’s new pressures on Cuba, and never a squeak from Justin.

    Pierre also opposed America’s holocaust in Vietnam (3 million killed) and threw open the doors to all young Americans opposed to the War. Tens of thousands came to Canada.

    What a difference a generation can make. All we hear from Justin is Millienialist mush and not a brave word about anything.His new minority government took Freeland out of foreign affairs, but she still has responsibility with Washington and she’s being groomed to be Justin’s successor in the Liberal Party. Ugh.

    Carlyle was right, history is biography.

  7. Guy
    January 2, 2020 at 14:07

    AMLO has a good track record in governance of the city of Mexico .With the support of the citizens of Mexico he can do the same for the country.Gods speed!

  8. Hide Behind
    January 2, 2020 at 12:49

    One potential downside to Mexican political planning is increased tensions caused by immigration between it and US.
    The tensions will still be of Mexican nationals leaving for US but that issue may well pale as the increase in numbers of multiple nationals immigrants crossing Mexico’s Southern borders , only to be stopped along US- Mexico border.
    The numbers of Central and refugees from poverty and oppresive governments is expected to increase into over 150,000 persons this year and increasing hearly.
    The US increasing military, Border Patrols, wall construction, inancing of local and Border states police and numbers of Corporate Security halting entry into US will leave Mexico having to both aid in US operations and having to support massive amount of unskilled, barely if at all literate, old-young, man- woman and children, not just with food and shelter but health care as well.
    So not only will the government need to raise funds for its own peoples well being a huge part of available funding will go to immigrant problem.
    Already Mexico has enlarged its military and police along US border and refugee camps, but also from its southern border and along most used immigrant routes North to US border.
    Even as-if Mexico does increase in wealth it will face along its southern border the same problems US braces along its southern border , illegal immigration.
    The worsening conditions brought on by US and Europes financials of installing oppressive leadership’s in Central and South America, whose following of neo- liberalism privatization programs causing massive seperation between the haves and have nots, until fleeing their countries by the poor has not just become a flight from poverty but a necessary means for survival for those poor.
    Cut the BS , US white population is fighting the thought they will soon be a minority of US population, and live in fear of Souther most States becoming Mexicanized.
    All of Brown skins crossing US border are called Mexicans when a large portion of them come from 10 outher nations.
    Can Mexico do a better job at integrating immigrants Into their society than US has done in past and has now grown worse into an inhumane policy driven agenda of punishment by destruction of families cohesion of kidnapping children?
    Time will tell.

  9. January 2, 2020 at 12:22

    Excellent reporting and information that is long over due. Viva Mexico and it’s ear to the needs of it’s people….

  10. January 2, 2020 at 11:17

    “The first priority must be serving the poor.” – such sentiments processed through the NYT’s and WAPO editorial board will of course seamlessly translate to = “he’s a communist dictator who must be removed.”

    Thanks for this report. It’s the best most inspiring “news” I’ve read in some time.

  11. Jeff Harrison
    January 2, 2020 at 10:48

    A remarkably encouraging piece. It’s good to see someone standing up to the evil doing plutocrats in Washington.

  12. Punkyboy
    January 2, 2020 at 10:44

    How in the hell did we allow this to happen! Right on our doorstep no less – what an embarrassment! Mexico asserting itself as a sovereign and independent socialist-leaning country under a popular leader we didn’t put in power (apparently). Hmmmmmm. AMLO better watch his back. This simply can’t go on. Oh, I suppose it’s better to have Mexico a calm buffer between us and the rest of the chaos we’ve caused South of the Border, but we can’t let it get away with too much more or we’ll risk the rest of the world wondering why we can’t leave THEM alone, too.

    • January 2, 2020 at 13:00

      Don’t worry. Buttigieg will send our army to ‘help’ with their newly designated TERRORIST cartels. Makes it easier to accidentally coup AMLO.
      Of course Mexicans fear our meddling!

  13. Daniel Lazare
    January 2, 2020 at 08:17

    No one admires Rick Sterling’s work more than I do. Bu as brilliant as he is on Syria, on AMLO he’s all wet. There is no such thing as “a poorly conceived war on drugs that relies solely on coercive means.” There is only a war on drugs — full stop — in which coercion can only grow more and more dominant due to the very nature of the effort. Imagine 1920s-style Prohibition and then raise it to the nth degree by employing all the most up-to-date technology in terms of firepower, electronic snooping, etc. The result will be a tidal wave of violence that doesn’t merely envelop a few cities like Chicago or Detroit, but entire continents, causing states to collapse and turning vast territories into war zones. That’s the US-sponsored war on drugs after nearly half a century. Every effort at reform turns out to be either ineffectual or counterproductive, which is why the only way out is to confront it head on via a full-blown policy of legalization. Admittedly, this means confronting US imperialism. But difficult as this may seem, AMLO will otherwise go the way of Enrique Peña Nieto, winding up unpopular and despised. Remember — mass violence was a major factor in Djilma Rousseff’s defeat in Brazil, and it will be AMLO’s undoing as well.

    • rick sterling
      January 3, 2020 at 13:09

      AMLO’s different approach includes legalization of marijuana, vastly more opportunities for youth (10 million scholarships and apprenticeship programs), crackdown on cartel finances (see article below), weeding out corrupt police and judges, and a dramatically different moral stance. He rails AGAINST the previous campaigns which mostly involved government guns against cartel guns. The situation has been deteriorating for 25 years. It won’t be solved overnight but I think there may be dramatic progress. Kurt Hackbarth writes some good articles from in country.


  14. Steve
    January 2, 2020 at 06:29

    I wish AMLO success but let’s be honest, the cartels run Mexico, not the government. It’s a narco state. The government only controls what the cartels allow it to control. It’s no different than Columbia in the 1980s.

    • Guillermo Fregozo
      January 2, 2020 at 21:40

      You must be an avid consumer of drugs to talk like that… If you do not know the country stop your non sense. And the Southamerican country you cite here, its name is COLOMBIA.. TAKE NOTE..

  15. Skip Scott
    January 2, 2020 at 06:08

    Let’s hope and pray for AMLO’s continued success, and his health and safety. He is challenging the forces of Empire, and no doubt the jackals have made plans. He should especially watch out for corruption and sedition in the ranks of his military and police.

    It is ironic that the change he is trying to implement is exactly what is needed here in the USA. If he is successful, someday the “immigration problem” will be gringoes fleeing to Mexico!

Comments are closed.