AMLO: the deceptions of a populist demagogue

Mexican President López Obrador’s veneer of progressivism wears thin

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) portrays himself as a great liberator, but his policies are neoliberal, misogynist and harmful to the poor. PHOTO: Carlos Tischler
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Since his first appearance as a candidate in now distant 2006, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) ran for president three times as a progressive politician concerned with issues affecting Mexico’s people. In his victorious 2018 campaign, he presented himself as the leader of Mexico’s “Fourth Transformation,” claiming to stand in the tradition of the historic leaders who achieved structural changes favoring the poor during the Mexican War of Independence (1810–1821), the War of the Reform (1857–1861), and the Mexican Revolution (1910–1920). But contrary to all of his promises, the lives of the vast majority in Mexico have worsened since his election.

Here are only a few examples.

Backing state repression and the military. Right off the bat, AMLO violated his campaign promise to send army soldiers, which since 2006 have bolstered national police forces, back to their barracks for six months. Instead, he lifted the national profile of the military by granting it lucrative commercial concessions like construction of a second international airport in the state of Mexico. And he created a new force alongside the army, the National Guard, and made it responsible for security countrywide.

At the same time, AMLO’s strategy to deal with organized crime amounted to the empty slogan, “hugs and not bullets” (“abrazos y no balazos”). The result has been an increase in violence and crime. In the last four years, there have been 121,655 intentional homicides, surpassing the 120,463 that occurred during the entire 6-year term of President Felipe Calderón. Calderón unleashed the so-called “War on Drugs” that ended up being nothing but a pretext to terrorize civilians.

AMLO’s national security policy has been a complete failure. Just last July, a rift arose between the government and the Catholic Church when two Jesuit priests were murdered by drug traffickers in the State of Chihuahua. This unleashed a wave of protest. The church hierarchy called for several “Days of Peace.” On the last day, they organized a national prayer vigil calling for peace between the government and the traffickers but still insisted that the president not protect those responsible for these murders from prosecution.

Attacking feminists and migrants. On gender issues, AMLO has consistently done everything possible to attack, stigmatize, and undermine the feminist movement. He falsely accuses it of being an invention of neoliberals. Last year during the gubernatorial elections in Guerrero state, he backed a candidate of his MORENA party, Felix Salgado Macedonio, who stands accused by three women of rape, sexual abuse, and macho violence. He fiercely protected Salgado. Together with Salgado, AMLO did everything to undermine the credibility of the victims.

In addition, his government has imprisoned women activists. This includes the environmentalist Kenia Hernández, and Magda and Karla (they don’t use their last names) who occupied the National Human Rights Commission offices to protest spiraling violence against women. Here as elsewhere he has sought to intimidate the feminist movement that since the beginning of his presidency has protested against his misogynist and sexist policies, such as cutting funding for women’s shelters and childcare centers.

At his daily televised press conferences, AMLO consistently attacks journalists, women, environmentalists, and all those who oppose him politically.

Regarding immigration, he cruelly attacks Central Americans, migrants from the Caribbean and even Mexicans traveling within the country to reach the United States border. To bolster the policies practiced by U.S. immigration agents at the border, AMLO has sent his newly formed National Guard to Chiapas to prevent migrant caravans from entering Mexico from Guatemala. Today at Mexican airports, travelers are screened for skin color and language accents and many are taken to “transit rooms” where they are held incommunicado, mistreated, and torturously interrogated about whether they intend to migrate to the U.S.

The number of families facing extreme poverty has increased during AMLO’s term. In February CONEVAL, the federal agency that tracks social conditions, reported that the annual percentage increase in extreme poverty, as measured by inability to provide basic necessities, has risen to 13.9% in rural areas and 12.8% in cities. These numbers exceed the annual inflation rate of 7.3%.

An inveterate neoliberal. The president cuts social services to pay down the public debt. His meager 3.5% federal minimum wage increase does nothing to address the current rate of inflation. Or alter the fact that Mexico has some of the lowest wages in the world. He promotes extractivist policies for maximum exploitation of natural resources.

He funds large-scale projects such as the Maya Train to promote tourism and the Trans-Isthmian Corridor, which destroys Indigenous land and harms the environment. He supports and favors the interests of mega­millionaires such as Carlos Slim, Salinas Pliego and Hank González.

As a result of all these policies, AMLO is losing popularity. His MORENA party lost 59 federal deputies in the recent midterm elections. Today, a growing sector of the population is abandoning him. Mexicans are beginning to see that behind his progressive mask there is a neoliberal agent who is sinking the country deeper and deeper into a crisis that will not be solved by hugs (abrazos) and good-will speeches.

Fanny González is on the Editorial Board of El Socialista, the newspaper of the Partido Obrero Socialista, which is a member of the Committee for Revolutionary International Regroupment (CRIR). She is also a founding member of Aborto Legal México. Send feedback on this article to

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