Mexico’s President Takes Office With Ambitious Leftist Agenda

Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was sworn in this weekend amid fanfare as tens of thousands gathered in the capital to celebrate the country’s first leftist president in decades. In his inaugural speech, AMLO addressed security and vowed to end corruption and impunity. We speak with Greg Grandin, prize-winning author and professor of Latin American history at New York University. He says, “The crisis on the border that has been prompted by the Trump administration, but also has deep structural roots, will play out with this hope that AMLO represents. The Latin American left has been defeated everywhere else. AMLO is isolated. Brazil, Colombia, Argentina — these are all major countries that are ruled by right-wing governments.”

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Grandin, before we go, I want to ask you about Mexico and what’s happening today. The new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, was just sworn in on Saturday. Tens of thousands gathered in the Zócalo, the central square of Mexico City. The first leftist president in decades. In his inaugural speech, AMLO addressed security and vowed to end corruption and impunity. You wrote the introduction to his book? The blurb. You wrote a blurb for it.

GREG GRANDIN: Blurb.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of where Mexico is today.

GREG GRANDIN: Well, it’s historic. It’s historic for Mexico. It’s historic for the region. It’s historic in terms of US-Mexican relations. Obviously, the crisis on the border that has been prompted by the Trump administration, but also has deep structural roots, will play out with this hope that AMLO represents.

But the Latin American left has been defeated everywhere else. AMLO is alone. He’s isolated. I mean, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Argentina — these are all countries, major countries, that are ruled by right-wing governments. In some ways, it reminds me of when Hugo Chávez came to power, was elected in 1998 and inaugurated in 1999. There was nobody else. It wasn’t until Lula was elected in Brazil that Chávez had an ally. AMLO stands alone on the hemisphere. He’s got Trump to the north. He’s got these rabid right-wing countries to the south. And so I think his room for maneuver is greatly curtailed.

And he has both an ambitious agenda, but I think he’s also known as a pragmatist and a realist. I mean, he’s going to pardon — you know, he’s going to decriminalize a lot of low-level criminal categories, which is great, and then promising to get tough on violent crime.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And he’s named a Cabinet that’s 50 percent women, right?

GREG GRANDIN: Fifty percent women, yeah, yes. What he can do in terms of the Mexican oligarchy and its deep ties with the cartels is — and the military and security forces, we’ll see how much room he has to maneuver. But his election has — he won with an overwhelming mandate, and that certainly is something.

AMY GOODMAN: Ariel Dorfman, we’re going to give you the last word.

ARIEL DORFMAN: Yes, I just wanted to say that the problem with Bush and how he’s being treated now is the incapacity of most Americans to look at themselves in the mirror and recognize what they have done to the world, which is one of the things that Bush was doing to the world. And I think that’s the main problem. The main problem is, we need to be able to look at ourselves and say, well, what was done there, what was that gesture, that imperial gesture, which he does like this — he snaps his fingers in the air, and he thinks that there’s impunity in relation to that, he can do whatever he wants — we cannot live with a country that does that, because that country ends up having somebody like Trump, which is the excrescence of President Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: We want to thank you all for being with us, Ariel Dorfman, best-selling author, playwright and poet, teaches at Duke University; Greg Grandin, prize-winning author, professor of Latin American history at New York University; and we want to thank José Luis Morín, professor at John Jay College of Criminal justice.

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