With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

Despite Setbacks and Elite Opposition, AMLO Remains Popular in Mexico

From the roadside stand in this muggy stretch of southern Mexico where Carmelo Morrugares sells coconuts for a living, the 45-year-old father of three says he can see his country changing for the better.

There’s his pay, which has doubled from $5 to $10 daily thanks to a series of minimum-wage hikes. And there are the hefty welfare payments that his elderly father and student daughter now receive from the government.

Then there’s the highway itself, repaved amid a boom of fresh investment across the impoverished south.

For all this good fortune, Morrugares credits one man: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

“He’s a visionary,” said Morrugares, who cheered on the president recently as he zipped past the coconut stand on his way to promote a refurbished train line that will pass through this region. That the famously frugal López Obrador traversed the dense tropical forest by car instead of helicopter said it all.

“Presidents before would just fly over,” Morrugares said. “We’ve never had a leader so close to the people.”

That sort of praise isn’t something you hear much in Mexico’s wealthier enclaves, where criticism of López Obrador has reached a fever pitch. Detractors, tens of thousands of whom marched in Mexico City last month, hate everything about the president: his moralizing tone and his ill-fitting suits, his disregard for democratic norms and his embrace of the military, his hypersensitivity to critique and his insistence that every problem can be blamed on a single enemy — the rich.

But as they pen newspaper columns and fire off tweets insisting that Mexico has never been worse off, his critics are speaking largely to themselves.

López Obrador is one of the most popular leaders on Earth.


As the sun sank over the Pacific near the Oaxacan port city of Salina Cruz, 63-year-old Carlos Estrada hurried to finish work in the salt mine where he has labored since he was 15.

Wearing a brace to support his back, he heaved 110-pound bags of dirt onto the shoulders of his son, who was building a shallow basin used to isolate salt from seawater.

Estrada always assumed he would work until he died, like his father and grandfather before him. As one of almost 60% of Mexicans toiling in the informal economy, he is not eligible for a pension.

But López Obrador has vastly expanded the nation’s welfare system, giving cash transfers to 10 million older Mexicans along with millions of students, young workers and people with disabilities.

When Estrada turns 65, he’ll receive $300 every two months, enough to allow him to retire. “If God wills it and I’m still alive then, I will really enjoy it,” he said.

If there is one López Obrador policy that has pumped up his popularity, it is these direct payments. In Oaxaca, nearly every household is benefiting from at least one of the entitlement programs.


Read entire article at Los Angeles Times