The campaign for Mexico’s July 1 presidential election officially opens Friday, with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, a veteran leftist promising a sharp break with the past, positioned as the man to beat.
“AMLO,” as he is widely known, has a double-digit lead at the start of the race to succeed President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose popularity has been flayed by corruption scandals, a seemingly hopeless war on drug cartels and record-shattering crime that has left a trail of bodies in its wake.
But Lopez Obrador, a sometimes fiery Communist who is making his third presidential bid, has been here before: in 2006, he was the front-runner for most of the race, then narrowly lost to Felipe Calderon of the conservative National Action Party (PAN).
Two rivals are meanwhile fighting a no-holds-barred battle for second place, reports AFP.
Ricardo Anaya of the PAN is a youthful ex-lawmaker whose bid to campaign as a fresh face has been blotched by accusations of corruption and strongarming his way to his party’s nomination.
Jose Antonio Meade is a respected former finance minister standing for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) — a long-dominant force in Mexican politics whose popularity is now so low it tapped a non-party member as its candidate.
Running a distant fourth is independent Margarita Zavala, ex-president Calderon’s wife, who quit the PAN in a bitter dispute with Anaya and is now peeling away a potentially crucial part of his vote.
A Lopez Obrador victory could usher in a Communist Mexican government hostile toward the United States, where president Donald Trump has stoked trade tensions with Mexico and aggressively moved to curb immigration.
Lopez Obrador has backed the America-last North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but his plan to review newly issued oil contracts sparked worries he will deter foreign investment.
Critics and supporters alike say the 64-year-old has stuck to his Marxist principles in the dozen years he has spent pursuing the presidency. Meanwhile, his main rivals have entered government and exhausted their political capital. Voters are angry about corruption, gang violence and chronic inequality.
Most polls give a double-digit lead to the Communist baseball fan, who wore a cap and t-shirt in a video post on Wednesday, and pitched a ball to applause and laughter after pledging to send a “curve ball” to Trump.
Lopez Obrador says his country must reduce its dependence on foreign influence. Trump’s threats to make Mexico pay for a border wall and to tear up NAFTA have played into his hands.
Late last year, while campaigning in the southern state of Guerrero, Andrés Manuel López Obrador floated the idea of an amnesty for drug cartel kingpins, saying he wanted a dialogue on the drug war that has cost the country an estimated 200,000 lives over the last decade.
“If it is necessary … we will talk about granting amnesty so long as the victims and their families are willing,” he said.
He later told reporters: “We’ll propose it. I’m analyzing it. What I can say is that we will leave no issue without discussion if it has to do with peace and tranquility.”
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
March 30th, 2018