(MEXICO CITY) — Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador took the oath of office on Saturday Dec. 1st, as Mexico’s first leftist president in over 70 years, marking a turning point in one of the world’s most radical experiments in opening markets and privatization.
Lopez Obrador pledged “a peaceful and orderly transition, but one that is deep and radical.”
Mexico long had a closed, state-dominated economy, but since entering the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs in 1986, it has signed more free trade agreements than almost any other country, and privatized almost every corner of the economy except oil and electricity.
Now, though, Lopez Obrador talks a talk not heard in Mexico since the 1960s: He wants to build more state-owned oil refineries and encourages Mexicans to “not to buy abroad, but to produce in Mexico what we consume.”
Combined with a deep sense of nationalism and his own place in history, Lopez Obrador’s inauguration is likely to be the most home-grown, populist handover of power in decades.
As to underscore the transition, British Labour Party leaders Jeremy Corbyn showed up for inauguration after visiting Lopez Obrador a day earlier at his house in southern Mexico.
A party statement said Lopez Obrador “faces huge challenges in his mission of transforming Mexico, but Jeremy hopes his election will offer Mexico’s poor and powerless a real voice and a break with the failures and injustices of the past.”
“At a time when the fake populists of the far right are gaining ground internationally — including in Latin America,” the statement continued, Lopez Obrador “has shown that a progressive agenda for change can win power and take on the status quo.”
After taking the official oath of office at the Chamber of Deputies, Lopez Obrador plans to hold another ceremony later in the day on Mexico City’s main square, where a leader of Mexico’s indigenous communities will bestow a traditional symbol of authority — a ceremonial wooden staff known as a “baston.” A grand celebration featuring traditional music will be held in the square.
The country’s 65-year-old new leader is moving the presidential office fully back to the centuries-old National Palace that lines one side of the square, while refusing to live at the luxurious, heavily guard presidential residence 6 miles (9 kilometers) to the west. He will reside instead at his private home.