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By Grace Perry
Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Sunday became Mexico’s first leftist president in decades, winning in a landslide victory with more than 50 percent of the vote.
López Obrador — commonly known by his initials AMLO — has a long history in politics. He was Mexico City’s mayor from 2000 to 2005, and he ran (and lost) in the two previous presidential elections. A member of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), López Obrador ran on an anti-corruption platform and a narrative of social change centered around eradicating poverty. His win represents a clear rejection of the status quo and political establishment and a desire for widespread change.
Gaby Soberanis, president of Diversidad Guerrero in Acapulco, said she hopes the changes brought about by his election and presidency are “for good,” and that he’s able to combat the country’s systemic “violence” and “insecurity” through “alliances, programs and public policies in favor of the collective.”
Current President Enrique Peña Nieto is one of the country’s most unpopular leaders in decades, with an administration characterized by scandal and inadequacy in combating crime and violence. According to the Mexican Interior Ministry, nearly 30,000 people were killed last year in the country, making it the worst year on record for homicides.
Peña Nieto was a member of the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which has ruled Mexico for most of the last century. José Antonio Meade, the PRI candidate in this year’s election, finished in third place behind López Obrador and Ricardo Anaya, a center-right politician.
López Obrador has already begun breaking from previous presidents; in his Sunday victory speech, he said, “the state will represent all Mexicans…from all points of view and sexual preferences.”
According to Karolyna Pollorena, an LGBT activist in Mexicali, López Obrador is the first president-elect in the country’s history to specifically mention the LGBTI community in his victory speech. She also said López Obrador will have a more diverse cabinet than previous administrations and more progressive representatives across various government sectors.
“With it [the administration] and the help of the Mexican LGBTTTI+ Coalition, we hope that this new government can help legalize marriage equality in the states where it’s lacking in Mexico and also move forward on issues of legislation that have (stalled) in past governments,” Pollorena said.
Despite his remarks in his victory speech, López Obrador did not campaign explicitly as an advocate for LGBT rights or marriage equality, and he dodged questions on the campaign trail regarding such issues. His electoral coalition also includes the Social Encounter Party (PES), which was founded by evangelical Christians and has opposed previous efforts to federally legalize same-sex marriage.
Given these factors, Alex Ali Méndez Díaz — a lawyer spearheading same-sex marriage efforts in Mexico — said LGBTI advocacy will remain principally centered in civil society.
“It is up to civil society to continue working to make our voices heard and to defend ourselves against any attempt at invisibilization and/or regression,” Méndez Díaz said.
Pollorena echoed Méndez Díaz’s belief that Mexican citizens are the key to progress and should be engaged and active under the new administration, saying “it is now important to invite citizens to get involved and demand that campaign promises be fulfilled when the new administration begins.”
This article originally appeared in the Washington Blade and is made available in partnership with the National LGBT Media Association.