Can Mexico Be Saved?

The Peril and Promise of López Obrador

Presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador gestures as he addresses supporters after polls closed in the presidential election, in Mexico City, Mexico, July 2018 Goran Tomasevic / REUTERS

In 2012, Mexico’s future looked promising. The election of a dashing young president, Enrique Peña Nieto, imbued the country with a new sense of energy and purpose. Back in power after a 12-year hiatus, the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, had promised to reinvent itself and shun the corrupt authoritarianism it had practiced during the seven decades it ruled Mexico. As the country seemed to reach a consensus on long-delayed structural reforms, the international press heralded “the Mexican moment.” According to the cover of Time magazine, Peña Nieto was “saving Mexico” by opening up the energy sector to foreign investment, combating monopolies, changing archaic labor laws, and leaving nationalism and crony capitalism in the past. 

Just six years later, however, a historic election swept the PRI from power and delivered a landslide victory to its nemesis, the antiestablishment leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador, and his party,

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