ROME – Mexico on Sunday elected Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, a leftist candidate, to be the new president. He ran as an anti-establishment candidate on a populist platform, pledging to tackle drug violence, corruption and poverty.
Lopez Obrador’s unconventional credentials are reflected in the fact that he received explicit support from impeached Brazilian leader Dilma Rousseff, former Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner, investigated for corruption, and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro.
Many observers believe Lopez lost the first time he ran for the presidency, back in 2006, due to a campaign connecting him to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Despite clear reservations, after the results were announced the Catholic Church in Mexico expressed its congratulations to Lopez Obrador, often called AMLO, stressing the need to “collaborate in a positive way with our elected officials.”
In a statement released July 2, the day after the election, the Mexican Bishops’ Conference underlined that election day was “in general, orderly and peaceful.”
Ahead of the vote, bishops had asked the people to comply with their civic duty and vote “in conscience” for whomever they saw as the better choice.
“Behind this exercise in democracy is the dignity and freedom of every human being, called to participate in social life,” the prelates said July 2. “We express our appreciation to the election officials as well as all citizens in general. With government and society, working together, we can do great things.”
The bishops also warned that no ruler alone has all the ideas and solutions, and therefore, it’s the responsibility of all Mexicans to continue participating in the civic life of their country, guaranteeing the respect of human rights and the common good.
To overcome inequality, selfishness and abuse, the bishops argued, education, fighting in favor of truth and freedom and against poverty are key.
“We especially urge Catholics to redouble their commitment so that the witness of our dedication and generosity will illuminate social life with the Gospel of life, peace and solidarity,” the bishops wrote.
In addition, several prelates sent out their own statements, with most underlining the importance of the number of people who voted on Sunday.
Among these was Cardinal Carlos Aguiar Retes, Archbishop of Mexico City, who also congratulated Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo, the new head of the city’s government.
In this election, the cardinal wrote, citizens opted for national and local governments “arising from alternation; now it’s up to all of us to collaborate with our authorities so that the desired transformation that society has demanded can happen; so that the country takes a positive direction and poverty stops hurting the social fabric; so that Mexico reaches an optimal level of development and criminal acts cease to be the hallmark of our homeland.”
“No national project is possible without the participation of all, [because] only united will we be able to make Mexico strong,” Aguiar Retes wrote.
Bishop Ramon Castro Castro of Cuernavaca, in the state of Morelos, also released a statement, urging politicians to “work for the good of the people,” regardless of having been elected or not.
“Our state of Morelos needs the balm of reconciliation,” the bishop wrote. “It’s time to heal and strengthen the structures that must guarantee the safety and well-being of the community.”
A source close to the Mexican hierarchy told Crux that despite the challenges presented by some of the political views of the new president, they “have the hope that it will be a positive change.”
One of the things underlined as positive is that AMLO’s cabinet has more women than men, an oddity in Mexico’s politics.
The months leading up to the election were extremely violent for politicians: some 130 were killed during the campaign, with over 40 of them being candidates or people who were contemplating running for office. A majority of them were presumably assassinated by organized crime.
In his address after his victory was announced, López Obrador said that he will fight corruption, including keeping a close eye on his own government and even his family, because “a good judge begins from his home.”
He also promised that business will have freedom of action, and also that there will be “freedom of expression, of association and belief, the individual and social freedoms will be guaranteed,” as well as the other rights consecrated in our constitution.”
AMLO ran as head of a coalition of left-wing parties. Back in May, there was some controversy over a series of leaflets that were allegedly backed by Morena, one of these parties, in which the Catholic Church was accused of a “mafia of power,” and the famed Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of Mexico and the Americas, was reduced to a “story.”
Lopez addressed the scandal, saying that they were related to his coalition, because the movement he’s forming is inclusive and respects the freedom of everyone, including those who venerate the Virgin of Guadalupe.
“In my case, I kneel where the people kneel. I respect the religion of the people,” he said.
Following the norm, many bishops congratulated AMLO. During the campaign there was no clear support in favor of one or another candidate, because between accusations of corruption and open challenges to the Catholic Church’s moral teaching, none of them embodied what the Church was hoping for.
For this reason, the Mexican bishops had settled for asking Catholic voters to look for the “possible good” within the context.
Several local observers have pointed out that the reason many voters went with AMLO, the “anti-establishment” candidate, was because of the out-of-control violence and corruption that has taken a stronghold in Mexico.