Mexico’s new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, was inaugurated last Saturday.
For many of the tens of millions of Mexicans who live in grinding poverty he represents a hope for change.
At the same time he is constrained by the reality of Mexico’s place in the world system—pressured by the neighbouring US and corporate interests.
Lopez Obrador has promised an end to corruption, no mean feat in a country where an estimated 10 percent of GDP goes on corrupt payments.
Included in his programme are limits on top civil service pay and a 60 percent pay cut for the president. He also wants to challenge organised crime by legalising marijuana.
During his inauguration ceremony Lopez Obrador said, “What we want, what we desire is to purify public life in Mexico. I repeat my commitment—I will not lie, I will not steal or betray the people of Mexico.”
A taste of how Lopez Obrador promises to deliver this commitment was given in the period leading up to his inauguration.
He launched a referendum on what to do with a new airport serving Mexico City. It decided to stop construction on the project, a third of which had been completed.
A series of other referenda have been held or scheduled, including on whether former presidents should be prosecuted for corruption.
The Economist magazine bemoaned Lopez Obrador’s airport plan as “preventing the expansion of links between Mexico and the outside world”.
It conveniently forgot that the site—Lake Texacoco—supports an aquifer for drought-vulnerable Mexico City and 150 species of migratory birds.
In the background to Lopez Obrador’s inauguration has been the migrant exodus moving through Mexico toward the US border.
Almost 10,000 people are congregated in the border town of Tijuana. Far from keeping Donald Trump at arm’s length Lopez Obrador has courted the US president, attempting to organise a truce between their seemingly incompatible politics.
Lopez Obrador’s solution to the crisis has been to tout a new £15 billion fund to promote jobs and measures in Central America to decrease migration.
He has approached the White House for backing, an unlikely outcome unless it is tied to even further economic restructuring.
Lopez Obrador has been careful to avoid appearing as a threat to international capital.
But, if he is to deliver on the hopes of the millions who voted for him, he will have to challenge it. And he will have to be placed under pressure from below to do that.