Transforming Mexico: AMLO’s first 100 days
In this Friday, March 8, photo, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, right, stops to greet and talk with local residents during a rally in Leon, Guanajuato, Mexico. Lopez Obrador's first 100 days in office have combined a compulsive shedding of presidential trappings with a dizzying array of policy initiatives. | Marco Ugarte / AP

Mexico is celebrating the first 100 days of its cuarta transformación, or “fourth transformation.” The reference is to earlier major revolutions in Mexico: Independence from Spain, secular reforms under President Benito Juárez, the Mexican Revolution of 1910, and now the current transformation after the removal of the corrupt regimes of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) and PAN (Partido Acción Nacional), the self-described conservative party.

The new president of Mexico is Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or familiarly, AMLO. He has a long political history in Mexican politics, having twice previously lost elections for the presidency, both times under contested circumstances.

Some of the initiatives the new AMLO government has taken during its first 100 days:

— Disbanded the CISEN, the national intelligence service. It was involved in spying on Mexican citizens and carrying out political repression. The file that the agency had kept on the president himself was opened and was found to include accusations he was a member of the Communist Party of Mexico. It also included such claims against Mexican campesinos (small farmers). “They did not even know what communism was,” AMLO has said of the charge. All of the archives prior to 1985 will be opened to the public after ensuring privacy rights and upon completion of requisite archival work.

— Doubled retirement program payments for all the elderly previously known as 70 y Más (70 and older), while also reducing the retirement age from 70 to 68. The program was also expanded to include those receiving regular social security retirement payments. This is one of several initiatives called Plan de Bienestar (Wellbeing Program).

— Doubled the minimum wage in border states and increased it in the rest of the country as well. Minimum wages in Mexico averaged 20.76 pesos a day (around $1 per day at the current conversion rate) from 1960 until 2019. Wages in Mexico are still quite low compared to the U.S. The general minimum wage is now about $5 per day.

— Established a program to ensure that all young people between the ages of 18 and 29 receive scholarships for study or paid apprentice work programs. This program is paid by the federal government. The apprenticeship work program occurs under the supervision of a tutor (family member, employers, etc.).

— Established a program for agricultural support to small farmers and ranchers, including loans on verbal agreement; breeding cows; price guarantees for corn, milk, and other farm commodities; and much more.

— Refused to participate in any intervention against Venezuela, even after heavy indirect pressure from the U.S. The president of Mexico cited the principles of the country’s own constitution preventing interference in the internal affairs of other countries, respect for self-determination, and its prohibition on the use of violence to settle international affairs.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, center, sits with an assistant as he travels in economy class aboard a commercial flight from Guadalajara to Mexico City, Saturday, March 9, 2019. In his first 100 days in office, Lopez Obrador has answered more questions from the press, flown in more economy-class flights, posed for more selfies with admiring citizens and visited more genuinely risky areas with little or no security than several combined decades of his predecessors. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

— Passed a constitutional amendment to establish a national guard to address crime in the country. The focus is on crimes affecting the majority of the population.

Just like everywhere else, the question always posed by the Mexican corporate-owned press and the right wing when it comes to new social services is: “Where will the money come from?”

AMLO’s response: “We will stop the corruption.” Some measure already taken:

— The Mexican Constitution requires that no person in public service can make a higher salary than that of the president. López Obrador cut his salary in half and then reduced pay for higher-ranked personnel across the government. Some of the savings were used to increase salaries for lower-level government officials.

— In a difficult short but intense few weeks, Mexico stopped the majority of the gasoline/diesel theft that had been targeting pipelines, marine vessels, and tanker trucks. Much of this theft was organized by corrupt politicians and insiders at PEMEX (Petróleos Mexicanos), the state-owned oil company. The theft, amounting to about $3 billion U.S. dollars per year, has been going on for decades. AMLO promises to do the same for the theft of medicines and other expenditures in the health care sector. Mexico already has a Medicare for All system, but it remains grossly underfunded due to massive political and corporate corruption.

— The president has stopped what he calls “neoliberal theft and privatizations.” He is protecting and re-capitalizing state enterprises like PEMEX and the electric supplier CFE (Comisión Federal de Electricidad).

— Mexico stopped major corrupt corporations from getting enormous tax rebates and evading taxes. In one single case involving the distribution of Mexico’s world-famous Corona beer, the amount exceeded untold billions of U.S. dollars.

AMLO has implemented many innovations, such as putting social service money directly into the hands of recipients, thus keeping corrupt officials and corporations from stealing it. He also holds daily press conferences starting at 7 am which are broadcast via YouTube. This is aimed at getting information directly into the hands of the people of Mexico without corporate media “interpretation.”

These are only some of the changes already taken or currently in progress. Many more “cuarta transformación” actions are expected soon.


CONTRIBUTOR

Alvaro Rodriguez
Alvaro Rodriguez

Alvaro Rodriguez is a long-time labor and community activist. He writes from Texas.

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