An old name returns to rule a tough city

Joy on the streets as a populist overturns the corrupt old guard

The last time a man called Cuauhtemoc fought for Mexico City was almost 500 years ago. He was emperor of the Aztecs and his opponent was a Spaniard called Cortes.

Yesterday there was no bloodshed, only noisy celebrations, as the populist politician Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, named after the emperor, won the capital from the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) for the first time.

Mr Cardenas, 63, becomes the first elected mayor of Mexico City in 70 years, making him the second most powerful man in the country after President Ernesto Zedillo, and providing him with a stepping stone for a presidential bid in 2000. After the PRI conceded defeat on Sunday night, a triumphant Mr Cardenas greeted supporters of his left-of-centre Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) outside the mayor's office on the Zocalo, the capital's huge main square, only a stone's throw from the site of the Aztec emperor's defeat by Cortes. The night erupted into an orgy of fireworks, balloons and mariachi bands.

"This is a triumph for the people, a triumph for those of us who kept fighting for democracy," said Mr Cardenas, son of a revered former president from the PRI and himself a PRI-ista until he broke away 10 years ago, out of disgust over the party's lack of democratic ideals.

"Cuauh-tem-oc, Cuauh-tem-oc," supporters chanted as hundreds of taxis drove in convoy around the square until snarling themselves in a huge traffic jam.

Mr Cardenas, widely know as el ingeniero because of his civil engineering degree, sees the job as mayor as a step towards emulating his father, General Lazaro Cardenas, PRI President of Mexico from 1934-40, and Mexico's most popular President this century because of his land reform and nationalisations.

Proud of his part-Indian heritage, General Cardenas named his son after the emperor who fought Cortes in 1521. Cuauhtemoc ran for president in 1988; he and most Mexicans believe he won but was robbed through fraud. His opponents say a future Cardenas presidency would end in populist measures and economic ruin but Mr Cardenas has tried to calm investors with trips to the US and an about-turn on his earlier rejection of the North America Free Trade Agreement (Nafta).

A change in image from his dour, wooden approach to an almost Blair-style campaign of flashing teeth - coupled with public disillusionment with the country's economic crisis - gave him a landslide victory over the PRI and the conservative National Action Party (PAN) in Sunday's vote.

It may be the second most powerful post in the country, but being mayor of this violent, smog-ridden capital could also be political quicksand. If he runs for President, Mr Cardenas will be mayor for only 20 months and PRI militants may do all they can to compound his city problems and thereby scupper his presidential bid.

Corruption among the police and a lack of security will be the new mayor's priorities, along with industrial and vehicle pollution, public transport in a city of more than 20 million and inadequate water supplies.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there