Amlo: five things to know about Mexico's new president

Mexico’s new leader writes books, is friendly with Jeremy Corbyn, and has more in common with Lula than Trump

Mexico’s ‘tropical messiah’ is more Lula than Trump

Critics deride Andrés Manuel López Obrador – or Amlo as most call him – as Mexico’s “tropical messiah”. Others have painted him as a Donald Trump-style Latin American populist with a big ego and a distinctly dictatorial bent. Even some supporters admit they fret about Amlo’s authoritarian tendencies and whether he is truly a man of the left.

But most analysts believe Amlo has more in common with Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a pragmatic one-time union firebrand who led his country from 2002 until 2011. Like Amlo, Lula spent years trying to become president before succeeding at his fourth attempt.

He plans to rethink Mexico’s war on drugs

During his victory speech on Sunday night Amlo shed some light on how he plans to tackle perhaps the most urgent problem facing Mexico: the growing drug-related violence that this year has claimed an average of 88 lives per day.

Amlo vowed to change the “failed strategy” his predecessors have used to tackle insecurity – a heavily militarized 11-year “war on drugs” which has claimed 200,000 lives.

More than the use of force, we will deal with the causes from which insecurity and violence originate,” Amlo said. “I am convinced that the most effective and humane way of fighting these ills involves combating inequality and poverty. Peace and tranquility are fruits of the justice.”

He’s a writer as well as a politician

Amlo isn’t just Mexico’s new president – he’s also a bookworm and author with no fewer than 14 titles to his name. His tomes include Don’t Say Goodbye to Hope, The Mafia That Took Possession of Mexico and The Mafia That Robbed Us of the Presidency about his first failed presidential bid, in 2006.

One of Amlo’s latest works examines what he calls Trump’s “hate campaign” against migrants and Mexico and is called Oye, Trump! (‘Listen up, Trump!’). “[We must] make [the US] see that … the most important thing is to build, here on earth, a kingdom of justice and universal fraternity where we can live without walls, poverty, fear, discrimination and racism,” Amlo writes.

The book was recently published in English with the title: A New Hope for Mexico: Saying No to Corruption, Violence, and Trump’s Wall.

He’s amigos with Jeremy Corbyn

Amlo’s friends include an influential British leftist: the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, with whom he reportedly spent part of his 2016 Christmas holiday.

“Today brings a new beginning for México,” Corbyn tweeted after Amlo’s landslide win. “[His victory] offers the poor and marginalised a genuine voice for the first time in Mexico’s modern history. I’m sure #AMLO will be a president for all Mexicans.”

The pair are said to have met through Corbyn’s Mexican wife, Laura Álvarez, a former human rights layer who now runs a fair-trade coffee business in the UK. Corbyn, who has longstanding ties to Latin America, has spoken out against human rights abuses in Mexico and last week denounced the killing of more than 130 Mexican politicians during the election campaign.

Amlo reportedly once gifted Corbyn a selection of jipi hats. “Jeremy loved them,” one member of Amlo’s campaign told the Times.

He began his political career living in a shack

Amlo’s political awakening is said to have come during the late 1970s when he worked as a representative of Mexico’s National Indigenous Institute in his native state of Tabasco.

“He went to live in a shack just like the ones the indigenous families lived in,” José Agustín Ortiz Pinchetti recalls in a flattering new biography of his friend. During the six years he spent living with the Chontal Maya people, Amlo and his family slept in hammocks and endured “African temperatures of over 40C” with nothing but a single fan to keep them cool.

“López Obrador took on that role as if it was his destiny, with a missionary’s spirit,” Pinchetti writes.


Tom Phillips in Mexico City

The GuardianTramp

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