One year into his presidency, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, often referred to as AMLO, is riding high on a wave of popularity. But the country’s homicide rate keeps going up while economic growth slows down, raising questions about when AMLO’s approval—averaging 68 percent on his December 1 anniversary—could take a hit. Pollster Jorge Buendía explains why that support level has thus far remained high, despite his firm Buendía y Laredo’s poll showing that the most Mexicans see the president as losing control of the country’s problems.
“One thing is that many people believe that the reality is something that López Obrador inherited from previous governments,” says Buendía, who adds that many of AMLO’s supporters benefiting from social programs think: “Ok, the economy is not doing well, the country is not doing that well. But, López Obrador has some policies for people like me, and I’m going to benefit from that.”
Buendía says that, on top of that, AMLO has asked for more time to deliver on promises. “It’s kind of a risky proposition for the president to say that: 'oh, we need one more year.' Because then one year from now we will be just seven months from the midterm elections.” At that point, the big question, says Buendía, will be how just how much his support base boosts his party: “Can he transfer his popularity to Morena candidates in the midterm?”
But first in the episode we hear from Alexandra Zapata, deputy general director at the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness, known by the Spanish acronym IMCO. Zapata weighs in on how AMLO is faring on some of his campaign promises, including fighting corruption. “I think Mexico needed a president that put the corruption fight front and center, and that’s something that we are seeing. We’re seeing a president committed both in his personal actions and in his speeches to truly fight corruption,” she said. But she warned that AMLO is not taking the necessary policy steps to boost transparency. “The president, instead of trying to address corruption hotspots, is eliminating institutions...We’re losing ground on the transparency front.”
Citing IMCO’s latest competitiveness index—titled Mexico: Dreams without Opportunity—Zapata covers the hurdles to dealing with rule of law in the country, where only 10 in 100 crimes even get reported. “Mexicans simply don’t think that crimes will be punished,” she says, adding that 80 percent of people in the country live in fear of being victims of criminal activity. But one obstacle is that the president prefers to take steps like undertaking infrastructure project, such as the Tren Maya, because the tough work of “building up judicial reforms and local police forces is not visible.”
- Check AS/COA Online’s AMLO approval tracker.
- Read IMCO’s 2019 Competitive Index.
- Get Buendia y Laredo’s November 2019 presidential approval poll.
- Hear a prior episode with Jorge Buendía on how Mexico’s 2018 election redrew the country’s political map.
- New to the podcast? Check out past episodes of Latin America in Focus and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, Soundcloud, and Stitcher.
This episode was produced by Luisa Horwitz. The music in this podcast was performed at Americas Society in New York. Learn more about upcoming concerts at musicoftheamericas.org.