Mexico's Next President?

With Mexican President Vicente Fox’s single term due to expire in late 2006, a front-runner has emerged to succeed him: Andrés Manuel López Obrador. While it’s too early to predict the winner, López Obrador enjoys a 5 point lead in the polls over other contenders. The self-described “little ray of hope” for the poor resigned as Mexico City’s mayor on July 31 in order to hit the campaign trail. López Obrador has often clashed with the ineffectual Fox, a businessman-turned-politician who has sought to cultivate close relations with the United States. In contrast, López Obrador zeros in on domestic issues, advocating more government funds for health care, housing, and education. Meanwhile, he has excoriated neoliberal initiatives like NAFTA that have “favored giant transnational firms at the expense of small and medium-sized domestic producers.” If he’s elected, what will be his priorities? What are his views with respect to Mexico’s neighbor to the north?

Many observers have incorrectly described López Obrador as a leftist. In fact, his policies most resemble those of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) before former president Carlos Salinas championed free-market reforms like NAFTA in the early 1990s. The “old” PRI, to which the mayor belonged until he was thirty-five years old, favored extensive government intervention in the economy, low taxes, and national control over Pemex, the huge state oil...

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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.