Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

AMLO Update: NAFTA Tensions

Reading Time: 2 minutesWhether a deal is coming or not, concerns remain over López Obrador’s “Mexico first” energy policy.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Carlos Tischler/Getty Images

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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Not all of AMLO’s advisers are happy about NAFTA. On Tuesday Bloomberg wrote that “leftist hardliners close to López Obrador” had taken issue with efforts to use the trade deal to protect Mexico’s 2013 opening to international oil and gas firms. 

Here’s how the potential bust-up was resolved, according to Carlos Loret de Mola. Negotiators on all sides maintain that a new agreement could still get done before the end of the month. 

But deal or no deal, concerns remain over AMLO’s “Mexico first” energy policy. On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that López Obrador would freeze new oil and gas auctions for the next two years, the latest in a series of measures experts believe could hurt Mexico’s energy industry.

“(AMLO) says he wants to increase production by 600,000 barrels per day … but that won’t happen without more auctions and more joint ventures for Pemex,” Gonzolo Monroy, the managing director of GMEC, an energy consultancy, told AQ. “He says he’ll increase Pemex’s budget, but money isn’t really Pemex’s problem … its problem is capability.” 


AMLO is sticking by his pledge to cancel President Enrique Peña Nieto’s landmark education reform. 

In a joint press conference with Peña Nieto, who signed the reforms into law in 2013, López Obrador said his team would propose a new reform that “takes teachers’ and parents’ perspectives into account.” AMLO has yet to detail the new policy: his team will solicit public opinion in a series of education forums from Aug. 27 to Oct. 29. 

More: Just 9 percent of Mexicans favor canceling the reform, according to a recent Parametría poll; a report finds Peña Nieto’s education department spent more evaluating teachers than training them; Yuriria Sierra writes in Excelsior on Mexico’s education challenges.

What about Elba Esther Gordillo? In her first public appearance since her release from prison this month, the former teachers’ union boss attacked Peña Nieto’s reforms and pledged her loyalty to “the defense of public education.” Gordillo may try to wrest back control of the SNTE teachers’ union, a group that could play a decisive role in AMLO’s education plans. 

“To think that Elba … would win and then calmly (step out of the public eye) is to not know who she is,” Jorge Castañeda, a former foreign minister and friend of Gordillo, told Radio Formula.


AMLO has few good options when it comes to Mexico City’s new airport.

On Aug. 17 he confirmed that a public consultation would help decide between two flawed alternatives for relieving Mexico City’s travel woes: continuing with a project already underway outside the capital, or converting a military airport for commercial use to run alongside the existing airport. Conflicting technical assessments on the viability of the second option have confused the issue. 

More: Denise Dresser notes the project’s symbolic importance in Reforma; magazine Nexos on the project’s negative environmental effects; Gibrán Ramírez defends AMLO’s consultation plan on ForoTV’s “Es La Hora de Opinar.”   


Lázaro Cardenas Batel, the grandson of former President Lázaro Cárdenas and son of PRD founder Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, will run AMLO’s advisory team. See bios for key figures on the presidential staff here.

In a meeting with academics, López Obrador promised to increase – “or in the worst case not reduce” – funding for science and technology.

AMLO met with Japan’s foreign minister on Aug. 17; their teams discussed increasing investment and ideas for earthquake preparedness.


“You behaved very well yesterday.”

– López Obrador to journalists in reference to coverage of his Aug. 20 press conference with Peña Nieto.  

Russell is AQ’s correspondent in Mexico City 


Benjamin Russell is a writer based in Los Angeles and Mexico City, and a former editor of AQ.

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