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article imageLopez Obrador: Mexico's next president is 'stubborn' leftist

By Jennifer GONZALEZ COVARRUBIAS, Yussel GONZALEZ (AFP)     Nov 29, 2018 in Politics

"Stubborn" is among the many insults that have been hurled at Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the anti-establishment leftist who will be sworn in Saturday as Mexico's next president.

He considers it a compliment.

The man known as "AMLO" kicked off his third, ultimately successful presidential campaign vowing to use his headstrong personality to fight for the change that many Mexicans were demanding.

"I'm stubborn. It's a well-known fact," he said.

"With that same conviction, I will act as president... stubbornly, obstinately, persistently, bordering on craziness, to wipe out corruption."

Those close to him can vouch for that.

"We're talking about a man whose main quality is his tenacity," Mexican writer and historian Paco Ignacio Taibo II, an outspoken supporter, told AFP.

Lopez Obrador, 65, is one of the most divisive figures in Mexican politics: his critics hate him as fervently as his fans love him.

But his vows to fight for a "radical turn" in Mexico worked in the July 1 elections, in a nation fed up with poverty, corruption scandals and a horrifically violent drug war.

- Fire and ice -

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one of the most divisive figures in Mexican politics: his critics hat...
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is one of the most divisive figures in Mexican politics: his critics hate him as fervently as his fans love him

Lopez Obrador's fiery attacks on the "mafia of power" successfully tapped widespread frustration with politics-as-usual in Mexico, where the same two parties had governed for the past 89 years.

But the two-time presidential runner-up also managed to present a cooler side this time around, answering criticism with humor and laughing off dire warnings about how he would wreck Latin America's second-largest economy.

When enemies accused him of ties to Russia, he slyly turned the insult to irony, donning a Russian ushanka hat and calling himself "Andres Manuelovich."

It turned out his confidence was justified: he won the four-way race with 53 percent of the vote, the biggest margin in Mexico's modern history.

- Anti-graft poster boy -

Lopez Obrador is vowing to lead his anti-corruption, pro-austerity drive by example.

He has cut his own salary by 60 percent and forsworn the presidential residence, scrapped the presidential security detail and vowed to sell the presidential jet.

"Not even Donald Trump has a plane like that," he is fond of saying.

He has clashed with Mexico's business community, with some warning he is a radical with autocratic tendencies.

Seeking to ease those fears, he has appointed a team of market-friendly advisers and backpedaled on some of his most controversial proposals.

In fact, it is hard to guess just what his policies will be.

Many Mexicans are unsure what he represents, other than something new. That proved to be enough.

He has, however, alienated some voters during the transition periods with decisions like the one to cancel a $13-billion airport for Mexico City that was already one-third complete.

He based the decision on a controversial referendum that he organized himself, with no supervision by electoral authorities and myriad irregularities, such as voters casting multiple ballots.

- Burner of bridges -

Lopez Obrador also has a knack for shooting himself in the foot.

In 2006, he led for most of the race. Then he lost his cool in the home stretch and insulted the sitting president, Vicente Fox, as a "big-mouth" (loosely translated).

Many observers have said that may have cost him the race.

Lopez Obrador refused to accept his narrow defeat, proclaiming himself the "legitimate president" in a faux inauguration and setting up a protest camp in the heart of Mexico City that plunged the country into weeks of uncertainty.

He has never hesitated to burn political bridges.

A native of the southern state of Tabasco, he got his start in politics in the 1970s with the ruling PRI party -- now his enemy.

He helped launch a left-wing breakaway, the PRD, in the 1980s.

He made an unsuccessful run for governor of Tabasco in 1994, then leapt to the national political scene when he was elected Mexico City mayor in 2000.

He left the job to run for president in 2006. After a second unsuccessful presidential run in 2012, he spurned the PRD to found his own leftist party, Morena -- now the dominant force in Mexican politics.

The widower remarried journalist and writer Beatriz Gutierrez Muller in 2006. He has four sons.

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