Andrés Manuel López Obrador

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Andrés Manuel López Obrador
Head of Government of the Federal District
In office
5 December 2000 – 29 July 2005
Preceded by Rosario Robles
Succeeded by Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez (Acting)
Leader of the Party of the Democratic Revolution
In office
Preceded by Porfirio Muñoz Ledo
Succeeded by Pablo Gómez Álvarez
Personal details
Born November 13, 1952 (1952-11-13) (age 67)
Macuspana, Mexico
Political party Party of the Democratic Revolution (1989–present)
Other political
Institutional Revolutionary Party (1976–1988)
Spouse(s) Rocío Beltrán Medina (1979–2003)
Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller (2006–present)
Alma mater National Autonomous University of Mexico

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (born November 13, 1952), also known as AMLO[1] or El Peje,[2] is a Mexican politician who held the position of Head of Government of the Federal District (roughly, Mayor of Mexico City) from 2000 to 2005, before resigning in July 2005 to contend the 2006 presidential election, representing the Coalition for the Good of All, a PRD-led coalition that also includes the Convergence party and the Labor Party. He is the leader of "MORENA" (National Regeneration Movement) in Mexico and the candidate for the PRD in the 2012 presidential election.[3] He was married to Rocío Beltrán Medina —who died January 2003—, with which he had 3 sons: José Ramón, Andrés Manuel y Gonzalo Alfonso. He married again on October 16 2006, with Beatriz Gutiérrez Müeller, she is the mother of his fourth son: Jesús Ernesto.[4]


Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) was born in Macuspana, in the southern state of Tabasco, in 1953.[5] He joined the PRI in 1976 to actively collaborate in Carlos Pellicer's campaign for a senate seat for Tabasco. A year later, he headed the Instituto Indigenista (Indigenous People's Institute) of his state. In 1984, he relocated to Mexico City to work at the Instituto Nacional del Consumidor (National Consumers' Institute), a Government agency.

López Obrador is rumored to be an Evangelical Christian or Presbyterian, which would be consistent with other natives from his home state but at odds with his image as a center-left politician. López Obrador publicly denied being a Protestant, and in a television interview he called himself a Roman Catholic.[6][7]

López Obrador was president of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in his home state. He resigned his post working for the government of this state in 1988 to join the new dissenting left wing of the PRI, then called the Democratic Current, led by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas. This movement formed the National Democratic Front and later became the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

In 1994, López Obrador ran for the governorship of his home state, but lost to the PRI's Roberto Madrazo in a highly controversial election[8] where Roberto Madrazo was questioned for his excessive expenses in political propaganda.

López Obrador gained national exposure as an advocate for the rights of indigenous people when in 1996 he appeared on national TV drenched in blood following confrontations with police force for blocking Pemex oil wells to defend the rights of local indigenous people impacted by pollution.[9]

López Obrador was president of the PRD from 2 August 1996 to 10 April 1999.

Head of Government of the Federal District

On 2 July 2000 he was elected Head of Government of the Federal District—a position akin to that of a city mayor, but that oversees the whole Federal District—after having won with 38.3% of votes.[10] His candidacy was contested by political opponents who claimed he was not a resident of Mexico City, but they negotiated not to make an issue of it.

Public image

During his time as Head of Government, López Obrador became one of the most recognizable politicians in Mexico. López Obrador left the Federal District government with an 84% approval rating according to Consulta Mitofsky, a leading pollster;[11] according to an article by Reforma newspaper, López kept 80% of the promises he made as a candidate.[12][13]

Political agenda

As mayor, López Obrador implemented various social programs that included extending cash checks to help vulnerable groups in Mexico City,[14][15] including single mothers, senior citizens and the physically and mentally challenged. He also founded the first new university in Mexico City in three decades, the Universidad Autónoma de la Ciudad de México UACM.

López Obrador hired Rudy Giuliani to craft a zero-tolerance policy that would help reduce the escalating crime in Mexico City.[16][17]

López Obrador (center) with former President Vicente Fox (left) and former México State governor Arturo Montiel (right).

He directed the restoration and modernization of Mexico City's historic downtown, which has 16th-17th century buildings and a large number of tourist attractions. He led a joint venture with Carlos Slim Helú, a native of downtown Mexico City, to expropriate, restore, rebuild and gentrify large parts of the area, creating attractive shopping and residential areas for middle and upper income residents.

López Obrador used fiscal policy to encourage private sector investment in housing.[18] He granted construction firms large tax breaks and changed zoning regulations to make construction projects more financially attractive. This led to the construction of more condominiums and office building during his tenure than during any other period in Mexico City history. New high density condos have emerged in the upscale neighborhoods of Polanco and Lomas.[19]

To improve traffic flow in the city's two main inner city roads, Periférico and Viaducto, he added sections of second stories to their existing infrastructure. The effect of this in aiding the traffic problem in Mexico City is positive, but only about 10% of the total length of those roads was renovated at a very high cost. An express bus service, the "Metrobús", based on the successful Curitiba model, was built down Avenida Insurgentes, cutting through the city some 20 km from north to south.[20]

Legal and political controversies

  • He saw his law enforcement record stained by the lynching of federal law enforcement officers doing an undercover investigation in Tláhuac, in November 2004.[21] The Police of Mexico City were able to rescue one agent.[22] However, the city's chief of police, Marcelo Ebrard, and the Federal Secretary of Public Safety, Ramón Martín Huerta, were both accused of not organizing a timely rescue effort. López Obrador was then severely criticized when his Secretary of Government, Alejandro Encinas, declared that the lynching was part of the traditions (usos y costumbres) of the people.[23][24] After a thorough investigation, López Obrador gave Ebrard a vote of confidence, despite a request from President Fox for López to relieve him of his duties. Later, using his constitutional powers, Fox fired Ebrard, while Ramón Martín Huerta, a member of Fox's cabinet, received a reprimand, and continued to hold the Secretary of Public Safety until his death in a helicopter accident.[25][26] López Obrador later appointed Ebrard as Secretary of Social Development, and supported his candidacy in the PRD primaries to run for the government of Mexico City.
  • The opposition claims that the ageing metro system was neglected (see Mexico City Metro). Funds assigned to its maintenance were diverted to the construction of the new upper levels of major routes in the city. In lieu of the planned subway line along Avenida Insurgentes, López's government deployed a lower cost solution, the Metrobús, with lower capacity and cost than an underground line would have had.

Removal of immunity from prosecution

Banner supporting López in front of the Palacio de Bellas Artes.

All elected government officials in Mexico, from mayors to the President, and all legislators, local and federal, have an official immunity called fuero that prevents criminal charges from being brought against them. If a person protected by fuero commits a crime, there is a process in place aimed at removing the person's immunity so that charges can be brought against such person. This process is called desafuero.

The process was kept slow, until in 2004 the Attorney General's Office asked Congress to strip López Obrador of his immunity under charges of a misdemeanor (ignoring a court order). Under federal law, any person with criminal charges during the electoral process would not be eligible to contest in a presidential election. Because of the general slowness of the judicial system, it was very likely that a process started in 2004 would continue until the presidential campaigns of 2006, and so the process of bringing López Obrador to court would have ended his ambitions of running for the presidency in 2006.

López Obrador used the moment to advance his popularity, and even put himself in a position where he was about to set foot in jail, only to be bailed out by political opponents who claimed López Obrador should follow the same judicial process as anyone else. One of the largest public marches ever seen was organized in support of López against the desafuero.

Most analysts agree that the desafuero process was politically motivated by the high approval ratings shown by López Obrador. However, analysts also agree that Lopez challenged the court to picture himself as a victim of the nomenclature an advance politically. Likewise, some newspaper editorial boards throughout the world charged that the desafuero was politically motivated (including The New York Times[27] and the Washington Post)[28] and that it should be stopped, and that excluding Obrador from the upcoming elections would delegitimize the eventual winner. Still, some analysts believed that López should have faced the force of the law, and thus becoming the only public official in Mexican history to be prosecuted (after a long tradition of impunity in government).

After congress voted in favor of removing López Obrador from immunity, López Obrador asked for leave from his post for a few days. President Vicente Fox, wanting to avoid a political cataclysm, and knowing that the decision made by the congress was against the will of millions of people,[29] appeared on national TV in April 2005, indicating that the issue would not be pursued any longer. The whole deal ended up closed on a technicality, and López Obrador, though without immunity, was not prosecuted (and thus remained eligible to compete in the presidential election). A few weeks later, Attorney General Rafael Macedo de la Concha resigned.

2006 general election

On July 6, 2006 the Federal Electoral Institute (IFE) announced the final vote count in the 2006 presidential election, resulting in a narrow margin of 0.56 percentage points of victory for his opponent, Felipe Calderón. López Obrador appealed against the results and mobilized large protests against the election. However, on 5 September 2006, the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) ruled that the election was fair and that Felipe Calderón was winner and would become President of Mexico.[30]

In contesting the election, López and his party made two primary arguments: (a) that President Fox, the CCE and other organizations had interfered during the presidential campaign, which is strictly prohibited by Mexican electoral law,[31] thereby providing grounds to annul the election, and (b) that the votes were fraudulently tallied on 2 July. Some media believed that López Obrador and his party failed to present sufficient proof of the supposed fraud. Other media believed that López Obrador did present sufficient evidence, and that the Court's decision was flawed. López Obrador's demands couldn't be met because laws didn't allow a full recounting of votes; a recount could only be ordered where there was sufficient doubt about the results. In addition, although in the media, Lopez and his party asked for a full recount they only requested a partial recount to the court. Given this circumstance, a partial recount was made, and Felipe Calderón was again declared the winner.

The court declared that President Fox, and the CCE, a business interest group, had interfered in the elections in the form of campaigning for a given candidate, which is against campaign laws. The TEPJF determined that it was not possible to accurately evaluate the influence on the election results caused by these interferences but estimated the impact of Fox's interference as insignificant to the results of the election, and stated that similarly, it could not gauge the impact of CCE's interference. Therefore the court decided that both interferences could not be considered as a probable judicial cause to annul the election, and the court decided to rule that the election was valid and fair.[32][33]

López Obrador and his party also alleged irregularities in a large number of polling stations and demanded a national recount. He only challenged the votes tallied for President, while in the same election, and through the same organization, votes were also tallied for legislators. The same election, according to López Obrador and his party, was fraudulent and non-fraudulent. The court ruled that the evidence presented did not back his claim of fraud. Ultimately the TEPJF, in a unanimous vote ordered a recount of about 9% of the polling stations.[34] In response to the result, López Obrador's followers proclaimed him "Legitimate President".

Presidential campaign

Andrés Manuel López Obrador

In September 2005, López was nominated as presidential pre-candidate for the PRD for the 2006 general election after the "moral leader" of the party, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, declined to participate in the internal elections when polls showed López had 90% party support.

Until March 2006 he was considered the presidential front runner by the majority of polls; however, polls in late April show a steady decline in López's numbers.[35] Many polls at the time showed López to have fallen to second place. In others he continued at his top position.[36][37][38] López discredited the first polls, indicating foul play coming from Los Pinos.

López Obrador has been severely criticized by left-wing politicians and analysts for including in his close staff many former members of the PRI who actively fought against his party in the 1980s and 1990s,[39] most notably Arturo Núñez (one of the FOBAPROA's author),[40] Manuel Camacho Solís and Marcelo Ebrard. Also the guerrilla leader of the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos, openly declared López Obrador to be a false left-wing candidate, arguing that he is a centrist candidate. The "moral leader" and founder of the PRD, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, did not participate in any campaign events but stated that he would still vote for his party, the PRD.

López Obrador's proposals, including his 50 commitments, produced mixed opinions from analysts. The Washington Post ran a news article indicating that López Obrador used Franklin D. Roosevelt as inspiration for his 50 commitments.[41]

On May 19, Roberto Madrazo, presidential candidate for the PRI, considered by all polls to be in a distant third place, hinted at the possibility of an alliance with López Obrador to prevent Calderón from winning the election,[42][43] after both the parties had criticized the government for what, in their opinion, is supposed illegal support by the federal government for the PAN candidate's campaigning. The PRD has said that both parties have entered into an information sharing agreement regarding the issue.[44][45] This, combined with calls from high ranking PRI member Manuel Bartlett (former interior secretary when the alleged 1988 presidential election fraud was committed) to vote for López,[46] aroused media speculation that the PRI and the PRD would indeed ally.

On May 28, after López Obrador had discounted any such alliance because the PRI and PRD political tendencies cannot be conciliated,[47] Roberto Madrazo indicated that his comments were misunderstood, and that he will not step down nor will he endorse another candidate.[48][49] On 6 July 2006, Felipe Calderón was recognized as the winner of the presidential election by a narrow margin of 243,934 votes, though the claim is disputed by López Obrador, who claims there were widespread irregularities in the vote and wants every single vote recounted[50] (A generalized recount is only legal in extreme circumstances according to Mexican Electoral Tribunal Jurisprudence S3ELJ14-2004 [7]). On July 8, 2006, López called for nationwide protests to ask for a recount of all votes, stating that "the government would be responsible for any flare-up of anger after officials rejected his demand for a manual recount of Sunday's extremely close vote."[51]

López's 50 commitments can be found here.

Post-Election Protests

López Obrador announced his victory to his supporters on the night of the election day stating that according to exit polls he had won by 500,000 votes. He did not cite any polls at the time,[52] later he referenced Covarrubias[53] and IMO.[54] Several days later, the Federal Electoral Institute published its final tally, which had him down by a margin of 0.58%, or approximately 243,000 votes. López Obrador then initiated legal challenges, claiming election irregularities in 54% of polling stations, and demanded publicly the votes to be recounted "vote by vote" in all polling stations. The case was discussed by the Federal Electoral Tribunal (TEPJF) and finally dismissed.

While the case was discussed in the Electoral Tribunal, the IFE has called for the candidates to refrain from proclaiming themselves as winner, president-elect, or president until the final resolution was taken. Both candidates disobeyed this call. In an interview by U.S. Spanish-language TV network Univisión, López referred to himself as "President of Mexico".[55][56]

López Obrador held several gatherings in downtown Mexico City with hundreds of thousands of people attending, pressuring for a "vote for vote" general recount. On 31 July, in an act of civil disobedience, he organized the blocking of 12 kilometers of one of the most important roads in the capital, Paseo de la Reforma, which houses several important hotels, corporate main offices and the Mexico City Stock Market.[57] Business groups said the blockades cost Mexico City businesses located near the areas of conflict daily losses of 350,000,000 Mexican pesos (about US$35 million).[58] In order to compensate, they have asked the Government of Mexico City to exempt them from paying taxes this year.

On Saturday 5 August, the TEPJF met in public session to decide the outcome of the complaints the PRD and its coalition partners filed. The seven magistrates voted unanimously to order the recount of 11,839 ballot boxes in 155 districts (9.2% of the total), despite López's public demand that all votes and ballot boxes be recounted.[59] The TEPJF based its decision of a partial recount on its finding that, despite publicly demanding a vote-by-vote general recount, López Obrador's party filed legal challenges to 71,000 polling stations (54%). Therefore, by law, the TEPJF found it could order a recount of only those 71,000 polling stations in controversy. The TEPJF ruled that it could not order a recount of the votes not in controversy because "the certainty asked by the [López Obrador] Coalition is tied to the respect for the tallies certified by the citizens in the polling stations not in controversy". However, the TEPJF did certify that principles of certainty in elections were grounds for a recount in some of the stations in controversy, since there was evidence of possible irregularities.[60]

López Obrador rejected the resolution as narrow and he and his followers thus intensified their civil resistance. For about two hours on 9 August, protesters took over the tollbooths on four federal highways. These roads link Mexico City to Cuernavaca, Querétaro, Toluca, and Pachuca. The protesters prevented personnel from charging tolls in some of these roads and allowed vehicles to pass freely. Also, hundreds of López supporters surrounded four of the main offices of foreign banks, including Citibank's Banamex, BBVA's Bancomer, and the Mexican subsidiary of HSBC, closing them for about four hours, claiming that the foreign banks "ransack the country" and "widen the barrier between rich and poor" and because, supposedly, these banks had participated in the politics of the country supporting the PAN candidate Felipe Calderón.[61][62]

On August 8 López Obrador sent a message to the press, regarding the blockades, where he explained to the people, "10 reasons" in which he stands to continue the "peaceful civil resistance".[63]

López Obrador held a rally, which he called a "National Democratic Convention", on 16 September, Independence Day, when a military parade was also scheduled to be held. The "democratic convention" started after the military parade.

Claiming that all Mexican institutions are linked and protect each other, López Obrador said that the country's institutions "no longer work" and called for the creation of new ones.[64] He was quoted saying "the big changes in Mexico have never been produced through conventional politics, but in the streets". Some have understood this as a call for revolution.

López Obrador led a rally on the day of the state of the union speech, where sympathizers celebrated the President being prevented from delivering his speech inside congress.[65] They claimed that the President "had created a police state" in the area around the Congress building and interpreted it as a violation of the Constitution that made it impossible for Congress to be called into session, and thereby enabling Fox to address the chamber.[66] He explicitly told his followers not to be lured into violent confrontations, declaring, "We aren't going to fall into any trap. We aren't going to be provoked".[67] He also asked his followers to remain in the Zócalo, instead of marching to the legislative palace, the site of the state of the union speech, as had been planned.

According to a poll published on December 1, 2006 in El Universal, 42% believe that Calderón's victory was fraudulent, and 46% believe that it was not.[68] Nonetheless, 74% of Mexicans believe that the civil resistance should not continue.[citation needed]

"Legitimate Presidency"

Andrés Manuel López Obrador being proclaimed "Legitimate President of Mexico" by his supporters. This designation is purely symbolic and holds no legal force.[69]

On 20 November 2006, Mexican Revolution day, López Obrador's sympathizers proclaimed him "Legitimate President" in a rally at the Zócalo in Mexico City, though no formal poll was taken.[70] The action was planned in another rally, the "National Democratic Convention", in which supporters gave him the title. At the Convention, López Obrador called for the establishment of a parallel government and shadow cabinet. He also advocated the abolition or reform of several institutions, alleging they are spoiled and corrupt, and asked for changes to the constitution to ensure the institutions work "for the people", and provide welfare and assistance to the elderly and other vulnerable groups.

After his supporters proclaimed him as "Legitimate President of Mexico",[69] López created a "Cabinet of Denounciation" to counter all moves done by President Felipe Calderón. It is expected that this "alternative cabinet" be used as a pressure mechanism to the initiatives of the government.[71]

In his speech at the proclamation ceremony, López Obrador promised to "procure the happiness of the people",[72] and announced 20 "actions of government":[73]

  • Foster a process of renewal for public institutions
  • Defend the right to information and demand openness of communication media
  • Attend the migration issues of Mexico, insisting in changing the economic policies of Mexico to increase employment, and oppose the border fence the US plans to build at the Mexico border
  • Denounce injustices and watch public servants, and demand the destitution of Ulises Ruiz and the removal of federal forces from Oaxaca
  • Send legislators from his coalition an initiative to make corruption a constitutional crime, and to diminish the salaries of public servants.
  • Not to increase tax rates for the poor.
  • Press for the formation of a public budget and demand more resources for agriculture.
  • An initiative to Senators from his coalition for a law that controls the prices of goods and services.
  • Creation of a "commission for the truth" to investigate the Fobaproa and watch over the construction of federal public works.
  • Protectionist measures for national producers.
  • Defend the constitutional right for a "just" and "dignified" salary.
  • Legally protect the black market from the economy.
  • Defend the autonomy and democratization of unions, and not allow the privatization of the energy sector.
  • Protect Mexico's natural resources and archaeological sites.
  • Fight for subsidies to senior citizens, and other minorities.
  • Promote in Congress a welfare state.
  • Support for the San Andrés Larráinzar accords with the EZLN.
  • Indiscriminately accept all youth into public education institutions.
  • Guarantee access to public health services.
  • Expand public services into the slums.

Days later, López Obrador announced that he would earn a salary of $50,000 pesos ($4600 USD) a month, provided by donations.[74]

Reactions to the "Legitimate Presidency"

Several reactions to López Obrador's "legitimate presidency" include an opinion by El País saying that López Obrador's "lack of consideration to democratic institutions and rule of law seriously endanger civil peace in Mexico".[75] After speculation of whether or not López Obrador's self-proclamation was against the law, the PRI has said that this political action is not a crime.[76] Liébano Sáenz, chief of staff of former President Ernesto Zedillo, stated that López Obrador "will become the conscience of the nation, which will do much good to Mexican democracy.[77] Raúl Vera López, Roman Catholic bishop of Saltillo, Coahuila, declared that López Obrador's so called "legitimate presidency" is a result of the "profound discontent with how the country has been run," and that Obrador has "very deep moral backing."[78]

A poll conducted by Grupo Reforma indicated that 56% of Mexicans disapprove of López taking the title, while only 19% approve. Sixty-three percent of those polled have also said that the former candidate has lost credibility. Other responses in the poll include 82% describing the political atmosphere in Mexico as "tense", and 45% of the polled blaming it on the PRD, with only 20% blaming it on the PAN, and 25% blaming both parties. (The poll was a telephone survey of 850 adults on November 18 with 95% confidence interval of +/-3.4% margin of error.).[79]

In the first few months of President Calderón's term, he has announced initiatives that mirror those of López, like price ceilings for tortillas,[80] in the form of a "Tortilla Price Stabilization Pact", that protect local producers of corn, a Presidential Decree limiting the President's salary and that of cabinet ministers, and a proposal for a constitutional amendment that, if passed, would significantly lower salaries for all public servants in all three branches of government, and impose a cap on compensation.[81] These measures have been interpreted as actions "seeking to fulfill a campaign promise to incorporate the agenda of election rival Andrés Manuel López Obrador into his government".[81]

Influence in the 2008 PRD elections

In 2008, the PRD held elections to renew its leadership. López Obrador candidate, Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez was opposed by Jesús Ortega. Allegations of fraud by both factions halted recounts and raised doubts about the legitimacy of the election. Media figures commented that, while López Obrador had used phrases such as "fraud", "illegitimacy", "corruption", etc. in the 2006 Mexican elections, the same phrases were now used to describe the PRD's election, and many feared that, no matter what the outcome, there would be a "legitimate" and a "spurious" President inside the Party.[82] According to exit polls conducted by Mitofsky and IMO, Encinas won by 5% and 8% points, respectively.[83]

Occupation of Congress

The Mexican Congress was also taken by legislators of the Broad Progressive Front (FAP), the PRD, PT and Convergence Parties, on April 10, 2008 because of their disagreement with the Mexican Government regarding energy policy discussions, claiming they violated the Constitution. López Obrador's followers took both Houses of the Congress and had them chained so nobody could enter, thus avoiding the approval of secondary laws which modified the legal framework of the Mexican national oil company, PEMEX.[84] Chairs and tables were used as barricades. López Obrador requested a 4-month long debate on energy policies and not a 50-day debate presented by the PAN, PRI, Green Party and New Alliance.[85]


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External links

Further reading

Unless otherwise noted, in Spanish and published in Mexico.

  • Los Primeros Pasos (First Steps)
  • ¿Y quién es? (And who's him?) by: Blanca Gómez
  • Del Esplendor à la Sombra (From Splendor to Darkness)
  • Tabasco, Víctima de un Fraude (Tabasco, Victim of Fraud)
  • FOBAPROA: un expediente abierto (FOBAPROA: an open folder)
  • Entre la Historia y la Esperanza (Between History and Hope)
  • Un proyecto alternativo de nación (An alternate nation project) ISBN 968-5956-97-9
  • Contra el desafuero: mi defensa jurídica (Against the lifting of executive immunity: my legal defense) ISBN 968-5957-90-8
  • La mafia nos robó la presidencia (The mafia stole our presidency)ISBN 970-780-215-4
Party political offices
Preceded by
Porfirio Muñoz Ledo
Leader of the Party of the Democratic Revolution
Succeeded by
Pablo Gómez Álvarez
Preceded by
Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas
Party of the Democratic Revolution nominee for President of Mexico
2006, 2012
Most recent
Political offices
Preceded by
Rosario Robles
Head of Government of the Federal District
Succeeded by
Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez

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