Millions of Mexicans yesterday headed to the polls in a watershed election that was almost certain to see a silver-haired leftist who has vowed to take on the country’s corrupt ruling elite elected president of Latin America’s second-largest economy.
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as most people call him, the 64-year-old former mayor of Mexico City, has put promises to eradicate corruption and fight poverty at the heart of his campaign and was expected to cruise to victory.
The election came against a backdrop of widespread exasperation with political sleaze and soaring violence, with the country on track to register its most violent year in recent history with more than 13,000 murders already committed this year.
For months, polls have given AMLO a 20-point lead over his closest rival, a 39-year-old lawyer and yoga aficionado, Ricardo Anaya.
“We can already affirm that Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is the next president of the republic,” Claudia Sheinbaum, a close AMLO ally tipped to become Mexico City’s next mayor, told jubilant fans at his final pre-election rally on Wednesday night. “I am convinced we are standing at the gates of a new era.”
About 100,000 Lopez Obrador supporters had reportedly packed Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium for the rock concert-style jamboree — the final act in a punishing six-month campaign that has seen the candidate repeatedly crisscross Mexico with his promises to wipe out corruption and pump the recovered funds into social projects.
“[Corruption] is the main cause of social inequality and economic inequality — and insecurity and violence also stem from corruption,” AMLO, who was making his third bid for the presidency, said in his eve-of-election address. “We will get rid of this corruption, this cancer, that is destroying this country.”
Outside, street hawkers peddled T-shirts and trinkets emblazoned with the image and the gospel of a man who followers describe in quasi-religious terms and detractors dismiss as Mexico’s populist “tropical messiah.”
“Peace and tranquility are the fruits of justice,” an AMLO quote stamped on to one mug said. Another carried more words of wisdom from Mexico’s likely next president: “Outside the law, nothing; above the law, nobody.”
“It’s so exciting to know that someone is going to change our Mexico,” said Esmeralda de Jesus, a 21-year-old campaign volunteer who was among the crowds. “I believe in his project. I believe he can change the country. That’s why I’m with AMLO.”
Marti Batres, the president of AMLO’s party, Morena, compared the coming sea change to the dawn of the welfare state in 1940s Britain.
“It is a historic moment. This is the culmination of so many years of history,” he said.
Once sworn in as president in December, AMLO would immediately act to pacify the country and help the poor by starting to build Mexico’s very own welfare state, Batres said.
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