Fri, Jun 29, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Mexico campaigns close, AMLO looking unstoppable

AFP, MEXICO CITY

Mexican presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador waves to supporters on Wednesday during the closing rally of his campaign at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

Photo: AFP

Mexico’s presidential campaign ended on Wednesday with a fiesta of rallies, as establishment candidates made last-ditch pleas for voters to reject the radical break with the past promised by leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, widely known as “ALMO.”

All four candidates held a series of huge rallies around the nation — none more festive than Lopez Obrador’s in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium, where an A-list of Mexican musicians performed before his speech.

With his anti-corruption platform, the fiery former Mexico City mayor looks virtually unstoppable heading into Sunday’s vote.

Opinion polls have given him a double-digit lead for months. Two polls released on Wednesday — the final day for campaigning and polls — put his advantage at more than 20 points.

Sick of endemic corruption and horrific violence fueled by the nation’s powerful drug cartels, many Mexicans are keen for any alternative to the two parties that have governed for nearly a century: the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the conservative National Action Party (PAN).

“The policies we’ve been applying for the past 30 years haven’t worked. We haven’t even had economic growth,” Lopez Obrador told thousands of cheering supporters as he wrapped up his campaign. “What’s grown is corruption, poverty, crime and violence. That’s why we’re going to send their policies to the dustbin of history.”

Such attacks have left Lopez Obrador’s rivals scrambling to distance themselves from their parties’ legacies, while also warning that Lopez Obrador’s ideas are dangerous.

Judging by the opinion polls, the PRI and PAN candidates — former Mexican secretary of finance Jose Antonio Meade and former congressional speaker Ricardo Anaya respectively — are having a hard time selling that message.

Both were holding out hope they would manage to unite the anti-AMLO vote and win.

“Our coalition is the only one that can beat Lopez Obrador,” Anaya said at his final rally in Leon. “I’m calling on all good people, including those in other parties, those with no party... I am explicitly calling on you to cast a pragmatic vote.”

“The silent majority will win us this election,” Meade said.

Lopez Obrador has clashed with Mexico’s business community, with some saying he might pursue Venezuela-style socialist policies that could wreck Latin America’s second-largest economy.

Seeking to soothe the markets, he has backpedaled on some of his most controversial proposals.

Instead of reversing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto’s landmark energy reform, he now proposes simply reviewing the existing contracts privatizing the oil sector, and he has remained vague on a proposed amnesty for criminals, his idea to deal with violence that saw a record 25,000 murders last year.

Many of Mexico’s 88 million voters are not sure what Lopez Obrador represents other than something new, but in these elections, that might be enough.

“Who cares if they say he’s going to do a bad job running the country? These other politicians have experience, they speak who knows how many languages, and look where that got us. They robbed us, they’re corrupt,” said Teresa Rivera, 68, a maid who had been standing in line since 5am to see Lopez Obrador’s evening rally.

Mexico’s next president faces a laundry list of challenges, including crime, corruption, a lackluster economy and a complicated relationship with the US under US President Donald Trump, whose anti-trade and anti-immigration policies have turned diplomacy with Mexico’s largest trading partner into a minefield.

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