Stubborn and obstinate, that's AMLO according to his associates

Stubborn and obstinate, that's AMLO according to his associates
Andrés Manuel López Obrador – Illustration: René Zubieta/EL UNIVERSAL

Stubborn and obstinate, that's AMLO according to his associates

Misael Zavala
Mexico City
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López Obrador is considered by his associates a modest but stubborn man

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The morning of January 13, 2017, Beatríz Gutiérrez Müller celebrated her 49th anniversary with a slice of chocolate cake. Alone, sitting in front of her, was Andrés Manuel López Obrador, her husband, who sang Happy Birthday to her A Cappella at an unassuming restaurant in Tampico, Tamaulipas.

The couple has thus spent the last 12 years of their lives, the same amount of time they've been married. Instead of large celebrations and luxurious parties, they have embarked on a tour across the country in an unending campaign for the Presidency of the Mexican Republic.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) is a baseball fan, a sport he plays every chance he takes a break from his life in politics.

That student of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) who majored in Political Sciences and Public Administration with a grade point average of 7.8 has on his back two presidential elections (2006 and 2012). As the candidate of the left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) for both, he lost them twice: one to the conservative National Action Party (PAN) and the second against the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

In 2018, with his party, the left National Regeneration Party (MORENA), this native of Tabasco is running for the third time to match the record of politician Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas Solórzano, son of the former President of Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas.

At 64, Obrador's pace has turned a bit slower. A change which can also be heard in his paused speech. The experience of two previous campaigns running for the big one is visible in the white of his hair and the wrinkles of his hands.

However, according to his campaign team, he is still the same stubborn and obstinate man he's always been. He rests little, he travels at all times in the passenger seat of his vehicle, and he likes to chat with his drivers as they ride along the Mexican highways – which he boasts he has traversed more than twice in his travels across the 2,448 municipalities of the country.

Agustín Guerrero, one the unconditional members during campaigns, explains this change in attitude:

“Andrés Manuel now recognizes that all the leftist and the progressive electorate isn't enough to win the presidential election and he is opening up to other alliances. It's a strategic change."

Those closest to him have also noticed the change. He's not the same man whose strategists discussed proposals that just fell on deaf ears. It's his third time running for President, and he listens, pays attention to the strategy, and has changed his speech from “shut up, chachalaca" (a noisy bird) to “peace and love.”

It's common now to listen during his rally speeches, similar to sermons, quotes from the Bible to talk about God's love and forgiveness.

In his wallet, he always carries an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a couple of amulets he has been gifted during his travels, and in his left wrist he sometimes wears a woven bracelet with a tiny cross. In several occasions, he has openly declared himself a Christian.

Furthermore, as a type of ritual or belief, he registered his preliminary candidacy on December 12, the day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and observed the Holy Week, which are solemn days for the faithful, as he kicked off his campaign on April 1st instead of March 30th.

AMLO, the calmed one. A few weeks ago, on January 23rd, López Obrador found himself in the middle of the night in the community of Los Altos in Chiapas. In a tire repair shop, the person in charge fixed two tires of the Suburban SUV Obrador was traveling in after a few minutes earlier both tires had been punctured by inhabitants of Bachajón with whom Obrador had a small misunderstanding.

López Obrador refused to leave his team behind and remained unfazed. He talked with some of the locals without a security detail, without bodyguards – something unusual in a political leader.

“We'd hope Andrés Manuel got more security personnel, we want to look after him because of the insecurity in the country but he refuses. He says the people will look after him and he has been saying that for years,” confesses Yeidckol Polevnsky, national leader of the left National Regeneration Party (MORENA).

Even when his wife and his youngest child, Jesús Ernesto, travel with him, he has no security measures and it's common to see the 10-year-old boy coming and going during rallies, playing with members of the party.

Yet there is one thing his associates have managed,  according to Polevnsky: convince López Obrador to see reason and reducing his work agenda, from five to three events a day. After all, for medical reasons he has been ordered to reduce his workload.

Obrador has routine check-ups after the heart attack he suffered in 2013. Doctor's have advised him to go for morning walks every day and to keep his temper under control.

Despite his medical condition, López Obrador hasn't lost his appetite. You can find him eating seafood in Sinaloa, traditional Mexican “gorditas” in Petra's diner in Zacatecas, or barbacoa (sheep cooked over an open fire) at "El Carnalito" restaurant in the State of Mexico.

He doesn't get tired of traveling, on the contrary, he feels rejuvenated. His non-stop campaign has left him almost a full understanding and dominion of his audience. Obrador combines proposals with baseball analogies – his favorite sport – to say he will win by a “beating” or defend himself by claiming his rivals are attempting to “eject” him.

And those who know him know he is not a man of fashion. His closet includes dress shirts and formal trousers, guayaberas, sweaters, and plain jackets, in addition to pairs of worn shoes he refuses to get rid of.

López Obrador, who was born in Tepetitán, Tabasco, welcomed his 64th birthday in Chiapas. He took that November 13th off – something unusual in him – to spend the day with his family in Palenque, at La Chingada, a villa he inherited and the source of inspiration behind his speeches and several of his 15 published books – a green sanctuary where he will move to if he fails in his third run.

López Obrador, similarly to some leftist characters like Cuauhtémoc Cärdenas and Porfirio Muñóz Ledo, has a past with the center-right Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

With pride, he always states he is an admirer of poet Carlos Pellicer, whom he helped in 1976 during his campaign as an external candidate of the PRI to the Senate of the Republic.

After conflicts with some of the sectors of the PRI, Andrés Manuel left the party in 1983. It was then that under the wing of the National Democratic Front Party, he ran for Governor of Tabasco in 1988. He lost the election to the PRI.

From his first electoral loss, the shadow of fraud – which would later turn into a movement which paralyzed the main avenue in Mexico City – has chased him.

Obrador grew up as a politician, along with other figures of the Mexican leftist current, such as Heberto Castillo, Cuautémoc Cárdenas, Porfirio Muñóz Ledo, Ifigenia Martínez, and others who founded the left Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in 1989.

He soon took the lead all the way from Tabasco, opening a gap for the left to become a stronghold from which López Obrador now leads his campaign. He led in 1991 the so-called Exodus for Democracy – a 50-day walk from Tabasco to Mexico City seeking to defend the triumph of Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas.

At 40, in 1994, and with an established leadership, AMLO ran for the second time for Governor of Tabasco, this time with the PRD. He lost again and accused his rival, Roberto Madrazo Pintado, of fraud. Years later both, Obrador and Madrazo, would face each other once more in an electoral contest but this time over the Presidency. Neither of them won.

Obrador has never been a senator or a deputy, only Mayor of Mexico City, an office he won at the urns. This time, he strives to make history together with his four children (Ramón, Andrés, Gonzalo, and Jesús) and the support of his wife.


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