Progressive Mexican presidential candidate visits Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – Mexico’s leading opposition presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, visited Los Angeles recently to a warm reception in front of City Hall. Nearly a thousand people, supported by the political and social justice coalition Movement for National Regeneration (MORENA, in Spanish), came out to greet him.

MORENA is comprised of several left and center-left political parties, unions, and environmental and social justice organizations.

Estevan Rojas, who was travelled from Sacramento with his grandfather Al Rojas of the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, supports López Obrador because he sympathizes with the undocumented immigrants in the U.S., the need for immigration reform but also for the severe conditions in Mexico.

Some speculate that the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which dominated Mexican politics from the revolution until recently, will be making a comeback with their unofficial presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto, current governor of the state of Mexico.  The young and rich Nieto is favored by many Mexicans, according to The Economist.

López Obrador’s attention peaked at the end of the July 2006 presidential elections, which he lost to Felipe Calderón, of the right-wing National Action Party, by less than one percent of the vote (some records show as low as 0.5 percent). Supporters of López Obrador as well as members of the international community have alleged the election was stolen, with numerous documented cases of systematic electoral fraud – including ballot.

Thousands of his supporters rallied and occupied Mexico City, most notably the Zócalo, the political center of Mexico.

When asked what the public’s reaction would be if López Obrador suffered another stolen election, Chicano peace and justice activist and recent FBI target Carlos Montes said the people wouldn’t allow it.

“I think there would be a bigger uprising in the Mexican nation,” Montes said.

With the resurgence of popular leftist movements in Latin America, specifically South America, many see Mexico as the next country to follow the progressive pattern.

“If Mexico is allowed free and fair elections, then López Obrador will win. I think it would have a tremendous effect on the rest of the nations. Because then you would have Mexico and Nicaragua, El Salvador; you would have the possibility of Guatemala – you had Honduras, which had a democratically -elected left government. Not to mention all Latin America,” said Lincoln Heights Neighborhood Council member Mario Brito.

However, some feel López Obrador is the wrong man for the job.

Ramon Mejia Lopez, a self-described Catholic and National Action representative working in California, was at the rally handing out literature alleging López Obrador of supporting same-sex marriages and abortions and of being gay.

Most people listened briefly, engaged Lopez in discussion or argument and walked away.

“How good you do your job! Rat!” said a nearby López Obrador supporter who was overhearing the discussion.

“If López Obrador would have went in instead of the other president,” said Francisco Gutierrez, an ice cream vendor at the rally, “things would already have been changed. The one that entered hasn’t done anything” for the better.

Valentin Hernandez, a citizen of Mexico living in the U.S., says he is cautious of all people in power. Still, he supports López Obrador.

“In reality, a politician is always talking to you about all the things that they’re going to change,” he said. “But here is the thing – when they talk, it is one thing; and when they’re in the presidency, it’s another. So then what we would want is that at the least 10 or 20 percent of the things that are going on in Mexico would change, then that would be fabulous. Mexico is in ruins right now. And day after day it’s becoming more unsupportable. With [National Action], they had two tries and we didn’t see anything.”

National Action has been in power for 12 years, since it defeated the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Still, 44 percent of the population of Mexico live below the poverty line, according to U.S. Department of State.

During his speech, López Obrador mentioned the problems Mexicans face both in Mexico and in the U.S. The $20 billion sent to Mexico yearly by Mexicans living in the United States, he said, is second only to national oil production in terms of percent of the national income.

López Obrador, with the help of MORENA and the people’s support in Mexico and in the U.S., is providing a solid and multi-level campaign platform for progressive change.

Invoking Cesar Chavez, López Obrador said, “[F]or us, we should insist and assure that we are heard and that a new social order comes replacing the old.”

Photo: López Obrador stock photo. Eneas de Troya // CC 2.0


Luis Rivas
Luis Rivas

Luis Rivas is a native of Los Angeles who lives in Echo Park and works in the San Fernando Valley.  He currently edits the non-fiction online literary journal