Published On: Sun, Jul 1st, 2018

Mexicans want to throw out status quo in presidential vote

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Mexicans fed up with corruption and violence say their country is poised for a historic transformation in Sunday’s presidential election, while others fear the vote will bring a freefall into populism and autocratic rule.

The lightning rod for such divergent opinions is front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the once-fiery leftist who has moderated his rhetoric and sought alliances across the political spectrum after two unsuccessful presidential runs and having led massive protests alleging electoral fraud.

Despite his new image, the 64-year-old candidate universally called AMLO still appears to trust more in his own sense of mission than in the rules of modern economics and still vows to wrest control of the country back from the “mafia of power” that he has railed against for decades.

Such is the level of discontent with Mexico’s political status quo, historically high homicide rates and rampant corruption that even his rivals are trying to convince voters that they represent “real change,” while simultaneously warning that a Lopez Obrador win would herald a Venezuela-like era of economic collapse and authoritarian rule.

“What people have set as the priority in this election is no more of the same,” said economics graduate Rogelio Salgado, 30, who plans to vote for Lopez Obrador. “The point is to vote them all out of office, without exception.”

Salgado runs down the failures attributed to the outgoing government of President Enrique Pena Nieto — low economic growth, murderous gangs and a nonfunctional legal system. “Who wants a continuation of this? People are fed up,” he says.

Lopez Obrador holds a lead of 20 points or more in most polls. But No. 2 Ricardo Anaya — a tech-savvy young conservative politician running for a right-left coalition — hopes people who fear Lopez Obrador will flock to him.

AMLO at campaign closure celebration in Azteca Stadium Mexico City (Photo: Ramon Espinosa, AP)

AMLO at campaign closure celebration in Azteca Stadium Mexico City (Photo: Ramon Espinosa, AP)

Some will, like Alfonso Ulloa, 33, a natural gas specialist at a government energy agency. Ulloa has worked on Mexico’s effort to open its state-owned energy sector, including projects to import cheap natural gas from the United States, and fears Lopez Obrador may cancel such economically important projects.

“I am going to vote for whoever is in second place, to take a bit of strength away from him,” Ulloa says of Lopez Obrador. “The important thing is keeping the economy running, and I am afraid Lopez Obrador will screw it up.”

Running third for the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party is Jose Antonio Meade, who promises a steady hand and experience. That counts for something in a country that faces constant, unpredictable challenges from U.S. President Donald Trump. Meade is also counting on the well-oiled, get-out-the-vote machine of the nearly 90-year-old party, which has spent a total of 77 years in power.

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