In many ways, Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s victory Sunday in the Mexican presidential elections seemed preordained. The socialist former Mexico City mayor is a two-time presidential candidate. He has been labeled a populist, an outsider, Mexico’s Donald Trump, and a “tropical messiah.” His ascent to the pinnacle of Mexican politics, after failed runs in 2006 and 2012, is as much a testament to his campaign as it is to the fact that Mexico’s dominant political parties are deeply unpopular, the economy is sputtering, and systemic corruption and crime are rampant. In such a scenario, López Obrador, who is projected to win about 53 percent of the vote, was the obvious choice.
But getting elected, in the face of deep skepticism from investors and the business community, not to mention reservations in Washington, was the easy part. López Obrador, who, because of his initials, is known as Amlo, will now preside over a country that struggles with corruption, violence, and inequality, as well as an economic uncertainty because of the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which President Trump wants to renegotiate; and the decline of the country’s oil industry. The new leader has vowed to bring transformation—“We are now in a position like never before to finally achieve real change”—but with few specifics. The path he chooses to achieve that change will be closely watched by his allies as well as his political adversaries and skeptics. For them, the best-case scenario is the route followed in Brazil; the worst: Venezuela.