A charismatic politician who has been compared in the Mexican
press to America's Bill Clinton and most recently, in his opponent's television
ads, to Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has the support of
millions of Mexico's poor, who believe he will keep his promise: "I will not steal,
I will not lie, and I will not betray the people."
52-year-old widower representing the leftist Democratic Revolution Party is greeted
enthusiastically in the tiniest villages and the largest slums, often by women
wearing yellow T-shirts that read, "Andres Manuel, you are my rooster!"
his critics, whoich include many in the business world and Mexico's elite, see
Obrador as an irresponsible populist who will ruin the country's fragile economy.
is a man of deep prejudices, and he doesn't think much of the Mexican bourgeoisie,"
Rossana Fuentes Berain, a political analyst at the Autonomous Technological Institute
of Mexico, told the Los AngelesA Times.
As the mayor of Mexico City from
2000 to 2005, Obrador drove a cheap car, lived in a middle-class apartment, and
won over the city's poor by creating a program that provided monthly $60 subsidies
for all residents over 70. His efforts to improve the transportation system included
building elevated roads and special bus lanes to relieve traffic congestion, the
most important public works in the city in 20 years, according to the Los AngelesA
He also hired former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani to craft a zero-tolerance
policy to help Mexico City's intractable crime problem.
However, under his
leadership, several corruption scandals rocked the city and crime remained high.
In an April 2006 Economist profile, Soledad Loaeza, a political scientist at the
Colegio de México graduate school, said that if Obrador did not know of the corruption
in the city government, "he should have."
Roberto Madrazo, one of Obrador's
opponents in the presidential race, called the projects and handouts ploys that
created debt without really fixing the city's problems.
In April 2005, the
ruling Revolutionary Institutional Party, known by its Spanish initials, PRI,
and ruling National Action Party legislators tried to impeach Obrador for refusing
to listen to court rulings which demanded that he halt a road construction project.
A successful conviction on criminal charges would have disqualified him from running
for the presidency.
Congress voted to impeach him, but within days, more
than 500,000 of his supporters took to the streets of Mexico City. A local judge
tossed out the original complaint. The attorney general resigned, and President
Vincente Fox announced that the case would not proceed.
to the mayor's office more popular than ever; polls showed his approval ratings
above 80 percent%.
Obrador's hard-edged speeches during the impeachment
proceedings furthered his reputation for stubborn defiance in the face of criticism
which earned him the nickname "The Rock" as a child.
The eldest of eight
children of a lower-middle-class family in the village of Tepetitan, in the state
of Tabasco, Obrador dreamed of being a professional baseball player.
the 1960s, his family moved to the nearby oil-rich boomtown of Villahermosa, where
he soon became heavily involved with the PRI.
But by 1988, he became disillusioned
with the party's treatment of the poor and helped form the new Democratic Revolution
Party, or PRD.
Obrador has said he would like to raise the minimum wage
-- now $4.50 a day -- and renegotiate parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement
to better serve Mexico's small farmers. He said he also would turn back current
efforts to privatize Mexico's energy resources and increase federal funding for
the energy company Pemex, generally seen as an inefficient state monopoly.
a Q & A with the Washington Post, Obrador rejected the suggestion that his administration
would take an antagonistic stance toward the United States, as have the recently
elected leftist leaders of Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia.
"No. I cannot
do that. We have 20 million Mexicans in the U.S. Eighty percent of our international
trade is with the U.S. So [our policy] has to be different," he said.