Critics Question Policies and Commitment to Democracy of Leading Presidential Candidate in Mexico

By Mark Browne | June 6, 2018 | 8:48 PM EDT

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, is favorite to win the July 1 presidential election. (Photo: AMLO campaign)

Mexico City ( – Left-leaning Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is heavily favored to win the country’s election next month, but continues to face questions about his commitment to democratic institutions and a lack of detail about what he will do if elected on July 1.

“I think there needs to be many more specifics on how he would fight corruption and crime,” said Maureen Meyer of the Washington Office on Latin America, referring to two major issues in the campaign.

Clarity and detail are lacking, she said, on how Lopez Obrador would guarantee the independence of the office of the federal attorney general, as required by newly passed legislation.

Specifics are also absent about the resources he would dedicate to strengthening the criminal justice system if elected, Meyer said.

Violence and crime in Mexico have hit historically high levels this year, and scores of municipal and state candidates have been assassinated.

Lopez Obrador leads the other three candidates in the race, with 54 percent, according to recent polling by the Mexico City firm, Parametria.

His closest rival, Ricardo Anaya, representing a coalition of three parties, garnered 24 percent.

Some critics are concerned that once in office, Obrador, who founded the left-leaning National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party after serving as mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005, would not respect traditional ways of doing business.

But while mayor, Lopez Obrador worked with the business community, especially on the renewal of the city’s historic center, and Meyer said that “until we see differently, there is no reason to think” he would dismantle Mexico’s economic model.

Meanwhile concerns that Lopez Obrador does not respect democratic institutions of government have plagued him ever since he lost his first bid for the presidency in 2006.

Defeated by former President Felipe Calderon, Lopez Obrador declared himself the only legitimate president, and his supporters occupied a portion of the city’s main thoroughfare and the city’s main square for months.

“There has been an effort to demonize him, that he will be a populist who doesn’t listen, but I don’t think there is much substance to the critique,” Meyer told

Denise Dresser, a Mexican political analyst and columnist, said Lopez Obrador’s critics are more concerned about his actions following the 2006 election than about what he did while mayor of Mexico City.

“My question is, what can we expect?” she said during an Americas Society-sponsored discussion in New York City Tuesday with Lopez Obrador’s chief economic advisor Gerardo Esquivel.

“There is a profound lack of clarity as to how he will govern, with whom he will govern, what the agenda be, and especially in economic terms what the future is going to look like.”

The electorate is split between those that see Lopez Obrador as a “fiery populist” who would bring disaster to Mexico and those that believe he has tempered his views and has become a more democratic and institutional leader, Dresser said.

Esquivel argued that Lopez Obrador was leading in the polls because his anti-poverty and economic fairness message is connecting with voters.

Poverty rates are the same as they were in 1992 and half of Mexico’s population lives in poverty today, he noted.

Lopez Obrador’s priority is to fight economic inequality and promote growth without being fiscally irresponsible.

“It is not just corruption, it is not just the violence, it’s also the economic model. It’s the combination of all these three elements which I think is the reason why a lot of people are now supporting Lopez Obrador.”

“There is a very different relationship now with the private sector, and I would say it is a fine relationship.”

Lopez Obrador did not respond to an invitation by the citizens’ crime watch group National Citizen Observatory, for all candidates to state their specific anti-crime policies in a questionnaire.

“He has ideas [but] he doesn’t have any proposals,” said the group’s director, Francisco Rivas.

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