MEXICO CITY — After his landslide victory final yr, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico promised a staggering transformation of his nation — on par with independence from Spain and the Mexican Revolution.
However 5 months into his time period, the brand new Mexico he says he’s constructing seems an terrible lot just like the outdated one he swore to go away behind.
Corruption was an indicator concern for Mr. López Obrador through the marketing campaign, a nationwide scourge he vowed to finish. But his authorities has introduced no main prosecutions of public officers or different distinguished figures on corruption expenses since he took workplace.
Past that, in his first three months, his authorities awarded greater than 70 p.c of its contracts immediately, with out aggressive bids, in keeping with Mexicans In opposition to Corruption and Impunity, an anticorruption group — a pointy reversal from Mr. López Obrador’s promise to interrupt with that custom.
On safety, one other pivotal concern for Mexico, he promised through the marketing campaign to withdraw the navy from the streets, undoing a contentious crime-fighting technique that has led to widespread human rights abuses.
However as an alternative of following by way of, Mr. López Obrador ended up guaranteeing the navy’s function in home safety, whereas murder charges in Mexico proceed to hit their highest ranges in additional than 20 years.
On migration, Mr. López Obrador started his tenure by opening his arms to migrants heading north, criticizing the enforcement method of the earlier authorities. However extra lately, his administration has taken a tougher line as properly, rising the detention and deportation of Central Individuals and others coming into Mexico.
Removed from countering the stiff measures taken by President Trump alongside the border, Mr. López Obrador has usually gone together with them, cautious of a dust-up along with his most vital buying and selling companion.
“He makes these grand statements: ‘Neoliberalism is over,’ ‘Corruption is over,’” mentioned Carlos Bravo Regidor, a political analyst in Mexico Metropolis. “He’s extra fearful about intensifying the message of change than truly embarking on the troublesome and unsure labor of creating change occur.”
Mr. López Obrador has additionally alarmed many Mexicans along with his threat-tinged assaults on the media, together with his admonitions that reporters ought to “behave properly” or “you realize what’s going to occur to you” — an ominous warning in one of many world’s most harmful international locations to be a journalist. At the very least six journalists have been killed since he took workplace.
Over the weekend, about 6,000 protesters took to the streets to name for Mr. López Obrador’s resignation, annoyed along with his polarizing language and leery of his administration.
Nonetheless, Mr. López Obrador stays wildly fashionable within the nation: The latest polling locations his approval score above 60 p.c. That’s largely as a result of he understands the historic distance between the nation’s rulers and its folks — and has vowed to shut the hole.
He put the presidential aircraft up on the market and now flies coach across the nation. He transformed the presidential palace right into a public cultural heart. He reduce the very best salaries for public workers and raised the bottom, and his workplace says all public servants are required to declare their belongings and potential conflicts of curiosity.
These actions mirror his widespread contact, a rarity among the many nation’s leaders, whose excesses and indifference have been longstanding traditions.
A spokesman for the president mentioned the brand new authorities had made different modifications as properly, together with altering the Structure to make corruption, gas theft and electoral fraud critical felonies. Extra legislative modifications are on the horizon, the president’s workplace says, in areas like labor regulation and schooling.
Mr. López Obrador has additionally introduced a broad vary of latest applications for the poor, a central promise of his marketing campaign. If profitable, he says, his applications might elevate some 20 million folks out of poverty throughout his six-year time period — regardless of widespread questions over how he can pay for all of them.
“For the primary time in a long time, there’s a president who talks to the overwhelming majority of Mexicans who not solely felt excluded however despised,” mentioned Carlos Heredia, an affiliate professor at CIDE, a Mexico Metropolis college.
The brand new president additionally has an immense benefit within the legislature: majorities in each homes. With the opposition largely damaged, there are few checks on his energy, which supplies him nice freedom to pursue his agenda however has additionally led critics to stress over his confrontational conduct.
His political dominance was on show early on in his tenure when he canceled a $13 billion airport challenge, a call that value the nation dearly as a result of the bond holders who backed it had been repaid.
However Mr. López Obrador has gained over many Mexicans along with his uncommon accessibility, specifically the televised information conferences he holds each morning at 7.
From his podium, he solutions questions on the day’s occasions and holds forth on every thing from infrastructure to baseball. Against this, his predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, held just a few information conferences that allowed questions in his whole six-year time period.
These periods additionally broadcast Mr. López Obrador’s erratic aspect — his skinny pores and skin, his churlishness and his tendency to launch into meandering soliloquies.
His many public complaints have led his supporters to sentence journalists as properly, unnerving a lot of them.
“Not solely is he sending this message to the folks, he’s additionally sending it to governors and municipal presidents throughout the nation,” mentioned Juan Pardinas, the director of the newspaper Reforma, a favourite goal of the president. “These sorts of assaults have a trickle-down impact.”
The federal government describes these confrontations as wholesome, a part of the backwards and forwards any democratically elected chief ought to have. In any case, the information media “criticize the federal government and train their rights to dissent,” the president’s press workplace mentioned in an announcement. “And we in the identical manner reply and argue every day with out hatred or rancor.”
In fact, these are nonetheless the early days of his administration, and even Mr. López Obrador’s critics acknowledge that Mexico’s deep-seated issues would take time for anybody to repair.
Mr. López Obrador says his administration is already taming issues, together with the nation’s rampant violence. “We’ve got managed the scenario, in keeping with our information,” he mentioned at a information convention in mid-April. The numbers of homicides, he mentioned, “haven’t elevated.”
It was unclear whether or not he was in possession of various information than the figures printed by his authorities, which present homicides in 2019 on tempo to surpass 2018, the deadliest yr because the authorities began publishing the statistics.
Mr. López Obrador’s technique to fight the violence resembles the previous insurance policies he as soon as denounced.
The final two administrations licensed the navy to guide the struggle towards drug traffickers, which curbed neither trafficking nor violence. In the course of the marketing campaign, Mr. López Obrador — broadly recognized by his initials, AMLO — promised to take a unique method.
Then, shortly earlier than he took workplace, he appeared to reverse himself, proposing a brand new safety drive below navy command made up of navy personnel and the federal police to fight crime.
Although the drive, known as the Nationwide Guard, will now fall below civilian management, and no commanders will probably be energetic navy members, some critics query whether or not the brand new method is r only a rebranding of the outdated one.
Mr. López Obrador’s authorities says it should act instantly to stem violence. To safeguard human rights, a traditionally weak level for the navy, the federal government says it has signed an settlement with the United Nations for coaching.
Extra broadly, it contends that its investments in applications to assault the origins of the issue — poverty and an absence of alternative — are additionally a part of the nationwide safety technique.
A few of Mr. López Obrador’s insurance policies appear to succeed in again in time for inspiration.
On vitality coverage, he plans to spend billions of on a refinery, betting his nation’s monetary solvency in a quest for what he calls vitality sovereignty. Some analysts imagine he desires to return to a time when governments noticed nationwide vitality firms as sources of nationwide delight and engines for improvement.
“He’s a 1960s president thrown into the current,” mentioned Jorge Chabat, a professor of political science on the College of Guadalajara. “AMLO’s primary downside is that he was born 50 years too late.”
Relatively than proceed the opening to personal vitality funding that started below his predecessor, Mr. López Obrador has halted it. Now, he’s spending public cash in a bid to revive the dominance of Mexico’s two state-owned vitality giants, the oil firm Pemex and the Federal Electrical energy Fee.
“I feel there may be loads of ideology behind it,” mentioned David Shields, editor of Energía a Debate, a magazine that covers the business. “They wish to transfer in a nationalistic course.”
Power analysts say the technique will show pricey and unproductive, significantly at Pemex, which is struggling below greater than $100 billion of debt whereas oil manufacturing hovers close to its lowest stage in 4 a long time.
One space the place the brand new president got here out swinging was migration.
Upon taking workplace in December, Mr. López Obrador promised a humanitarian method to migrants, transferring away from what he described because the enforcement-first method of his predecessor, Mr. Peña Nieto.
In maybe his boldest initiative, his administration in January started providing arriving Central American migrants an expedited, year-long visa that allowed them to work and journey wherever in Mexico.
After which, in a matter of weeks, the generosity got here to a screeching halt.
After greater than 13,000 folks utilized for the permission — with many saying they had been inspired to go to Mexico by the brand new program’s existence — the method was canceled.
Since then, the López Obrador administration has taken a steadily tougher line towards undocumented migration, seemingly in response to strain from the Trump administration and from communities overwhelmed by migrants.
Mr. López Obrador’s authorities says it stays dedicated to treating migrants with dignity, and plans to take a position billions of in Southern Mexico and Central America to deal with the poverty that drives folks to hunt financial alternative elsewhere.
It says it’s not acquiescing to Mr. Trump’s calls for, however few imagine that.
“The battle between pleasing Trump and being in keeping with human rights and a humanitarian migration coverage is defining this administration’s” response to migration, mentioned Mr. Heredia, the CIDE professor.