Mexico president reaches midterm with high approval rating

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador is holding a massive rally in Mexico City to mark the mid-way point in his six-year term, amid polls showing about two-thirds of Mexicans approve of his administration

Via AP news wire
Wednesday 01 December 2021 21:05
Mexico Decree Power
Mexico Decree Power

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador held a massive rally in Mexico City Wednesday to mark the midway point in his six-year term amid polls showing that about two-thirds of Mexicans approve of the job he is doing.

López Obrador’s masterful use of televised news briefings, his folksy style and personal austerity have apparently won over Mexicans, despite any number of indicators suggesting the country isn’t doing so well.

Mexico is approaching 450,000 COVID-19 deaths, has inflation of around 7% and an almost unabated wave of drug gang homicides. But with no mask requirements — a hallmark of his administration, which has eschewed mass testing and travel bans — on Wednesday the president can do what he loves best: bask in crowds of cheering supporters.

Patricio Morelos, a political science professor at the Monterrey Technological Institute, said the president has an unusual ability to market his politics.

López Obrador “controls the political agenda, controls the public opinion tendencies, and that has allowed him for the last three years to tell us every morning in the ‘mañaneras’ what Mexico's political reality is," Morelos said.

The “mañaneras” are briefings López Obrador has held almost every weekday since he took office on Dec. 1, 2018. While not really news conferences — seating and admission limits question largely to a preselected core of supportive web sites and bloggers — the televised briefings have given Mexicans unprecedented access to a president who likes folk sayings and eating at working-class diners.

The president clearly has the common touch, and was disappointed when last year's Dec. 1 rally was held without crowds because of the pandemic. Even though the omicron variant of the coronavirus has caused concern, López Obrador said earlier this week, “It has been too long, and we have to gather” in the Zocalo, the capital's sprawling main plaza.

The pandemic also caused an 8.5% economic contraction in 2020, and while the economy recovered about 6.4% in the first nine months of 2021, it is still hurting.

Ana Laura López, a 37-year-old cleaning employee, reflected glumly on the day.

“I don't have anything to celebrate today because I am worse off than I was three years ago,” López said as she ate a chicken taco a neighbor had given her. López, no relation to the president, sat in a car where she has lived since losing her steady job during the pandemic. A hotel where she previously rented a room also closed because of coronavirus.

The $73 López makes every week sweeping streets isn't enough to rent an apartment, or even a room, in the rough Obrera neighborhood of Mexico City

Nor has crime gotten much better; Mexico's nearly 29,000 homicides in the first ten months of 2021 are just 3.6% below the 30,030 in 2020.

The Mexican peso has dropped in value against the U.S. dollar, and rising fuel prices spurred inflation.

Francisco Velasco, a 55-year-old barber, also isn't doing well. He was laid off during the pandemic from the barber shop where he had worked for 23 years.

Velasco has rented a tiny storefront barbershop in the Obrera neighborhood to try to support his wife and three children.

“Prices have gone up a lot even though the president promised they would go down,” Velasco said, though he doesn't blame López Obrador. “Things will get better,” he said. “Three years isn't enough for the president to do anything. ... It takes more time.”

Adding to López Obrador's luster is the utter lack of any opposition figure with credibility or charisma.

But the president hasn't done himself any favors by dismissing academics, critics, nongovernmental organizations, businessmen and opponents and lumping them all together into one basket as “conservatives” nostalgic for the old day — a sort of “us versus them” approach to almost everything.

“You cannot govern by making enemies of a significant part of the population," Morelos said. “Having a more open president would do Mexican democracy a lot of good.”

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