Changing the Guard in Mexico: AMLO’s Opportunities and Challenges
In Mexico’s July 1st elections, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) won a stunning landslide victory. Although his triumph was widely predicted, the scale thereof was still a surprise. AMLO won almost 53 percent of the popular vote, and was the most popular candidate in every state in the country except Guanajuato. Cementing his victory was his Morena party’s performance at all levels of government: winning a majority (with its coalition partners the PES and PT) in both chambers of Congress, winning 5 out of 9 state governorships, and winning a majority of state-level legislatures (19 out of 32).
This gives AMLO the opportunity to construct not only an ambitious legislative platform, but also to create a governance capacity unseen in the modern democratic era in Mexico. Given the potential here for successful legislative negotiation combined with the overwhelming nature of AMLO’s electoral victory, hopes for the new administration are already very high.
Herein lies the first major challenge for the President-elect. He will, for sure, enjoy an extended honeymoon period with the Mexican public, but the nation is justifiably anxious to see progress on solving the country’s problems sooner rather than later.
These problems are deep and varied. The first concerns the economy. AMLO has promised higher rates of economic growth, but must first avoid a financial meltdown, capital flight, or further volatility in the value of peso due to investor anxiety. He has begun well, sending a message of stability, economic orthodoxy, and continuity directly and through his economic team. Secondly, he must address the decade-long problem of rising violence and loss of territorial control to organized crime. This is a problem that has beaten successive PAN then PRI administrations, with some of Mexico’s best minds among them. Third, there is the issue that helped get AMLO elected: rampant corruption in government and society. AMLO has promised that the problem will be solved through his honest leadership example as President, but naturally, Mexican analysts and voters are skeptical. Fourth, there is the question of how to handle Mexico’s energy sector. AMLO has made clear his desire to reverse the 2013 reform that opened the oil and gas industry to foreign and private investment, while respecting the law of the land. Lastly, there is the inimitable challenge faced by Donald Trump and the bilateral relationship with the United States. AMLO must navigate a fine line between ensuring stability and the national interest on one hand, with protecting national pride and his own image in the eyes of Mexican voters, oftentimes in the face of attacks and insults from Washington, DC.
In this short paper, Wilson Center Mexico Institute experts give their take on these challenges and how the new administration can respond. Over the next few months, the Mexico Institute will provide new analysis and new insights into these questions as new evidence emerges.
- Introduction by Duncan Wood, Director, Mexico Institute
- AMLO's Victory and the Issue of Corruption in Mexico, By Viridiana Rios
- Economic Policy and NAFTA, By Christopher Wilson
- Forwards, Backwards, or Sideways? AMLO and Mexico's New Energy Model, By Duncan Wood
- AMLO and Migration, By Rachel Schmidtke
- Mexico's Security Challenges, AMLO's Proposals, and the U.S. Approaches, By Eric Olson
- Resetting U.S.-Mexico Relations, By Earl Anthony Wayne
About the Authors
Columnist, El Pais; Instructor of US-Mexico politics at Harvard Summer School
Advocate for Latin America, Refugees International
Eric L. Olson
Director of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, Seattle International Foundation
Earl Anthony Wayne
Former Career Ambassador to Afghanistan, Argentina, and Mexico; Distinguished Diplomat in Residence, School of International Service, American University
The Mexico Institute seeks to improve understanding, communication, and cooperation between Mexico and the United States by promoting original research, encouraging public discussion, and proposing policy options for enhancing the bilateral relationship. A binational Advisory Board, chaired by Luis Téllez and Earl Anthony Wayne, oversees the work of the Mexico Institute. Read more