Mexico's messiah?

The mayor who would be president

Mexico’s President Vicente Fox has been in office only three years, but the race to succeed him has already begun. The country’s constitution limits chief executives to one six-year term, so Fox-unlike his sometime amigo, George W. Bush-will not have a chance at reelection. With no incumbent to beat, the field for 2006 is already crowded. The most intriguing candidate thus far is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the politically savvy mayor of Mexico City and a stalwart of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD). Known by the public simply as AMLO, López Obrador is not your average politician; aides report that he “lives like a monk” in a postage-stamp size apartment and walks alone through gang-infested neighborhoods. He has even called for public officials to stop keeping mistresses. As of last month, the mayor was leading in the polls. If he does win, it will be an unprecedented victory for the PRD, a balkanized party that has never held the presidency.

A native of Tabasco, López Obrador began his political career as a grassroots activist with the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which dominated the nation’s politics for seventy-one years until Fox won the presidency for the National Action Party (PAN) in 2000. But as the PRI moved to the right, shifting its support away from a protected welfare state, López Obrador grew disenchanted and helped the leftist-nationalist Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas launch the PRD...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

George Grayson, who teaches government at the College of William & Mary, has written Mexico: The Changing of the Guard, published by the Foreign Policy Association in New York.