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AMLO This Week: Pay Cuts, Security and Friendly Neighbors

López Obrador offered new details on his plans to clean up and reshape Mexico’s government.
amlo
Mike Pompeo, Steven Mnuchin and Andrés Manuel López Obrador
PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

Swayed by promises to eliminate corruption, Mexicans largely forgave Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s lack of detail when they voted him in as president on July 1. 

In the two weeks since, López Obrador and his team have tried to fill in some of the gaps. 

As president-elect, AMLO has mostly stood by promises he made during the campaign. This week he pledged to remove presidential immunity, roll back gas prices and increase production at Pemex, and said taxes won’t increase in real terms for the duration of his six years in office.

On security, López Obrador fleshed out a plan to consult international experts, religious leaders and others for ideas to reduce violence related to the drug trade. These “peace and reconciliation forums” will begin on Aug. 7 in Ciudad Juárez and continue through October, after which the incoming administration will release its finished strategy. 

The pace of big ideas should slow this week, as López Obrador and other top officials take the next four days off to recover from a grueling end to the campaign. Here’s a more detailed look at week two of the AMLO transition: 

Clean, Lean Government

López Obrador publicized a controversial plan to overhaul the administrative relationship between states and the federal government. The plan calls for dozens of delegates representing federal agencies in each of Mexico’s 32 states to be replaced by a single state coordinator.

Several of López Obrador’s proposed coordinators are former gubernatorial candidates. While the move is aimed at limiting corruption and cutting government spending, observers raised concerns that the change would clear away a significant check on executive power – and provide a platform for the coordinators to run for governor in future elections. 

López Obrador said opposition to the plan from governors themselves had been limited. He added that in the short-term his government would not pursue a fiscal reform to put more tax revenue in the hands of the states, but that in exchange he would not use federal disbursements to reward political allies or punish foes. 

López Obrador also released a 50-point “republican austerity” plan, which among other things would prohibit officials from receiving gifts worth more than 5,000 pesos (about $265), limit per diem expenses, and bar officials from traveling in private planes. López Obrador promised to cut his presidential salary by more than half, to 108,248 pesos per month, and backed a constitutional reform so that no public official can earn more than the president.  

U.S.-Mexico Relations

López Obrador often says that the best foreign policy is a good domestic policy. But this week he showed that he still views U.S.-Mexico relations as a priority. 

Ahead of his meeting with a U.S. delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on July 13, López Obrador’s team detailed its four areas of focus in the crossborder relationship: trade and NAFTA; social and economic development to reduce immigration; development in Central America; and reducing crime and violence in Mexico.

López Obrador gave the U.S. delegation a proposal based on those four points, which he says will be made public after it has been received by Donald Trump. 

Marcelo Ebrard, the former Mexico City mayor tapped as Mexico’s next foreign relations secretary, added some detail to the incoming government’s goals, saying that he would pay particular attention to the treatment of the 12 million or so Mexicans currently living in the U.S.

Jesús Seade, who will lead the next government in NAFTA negotiations, said that transition officials are already collaborating with President Enrique Peña Nieto’s team in the ongoing talks.  

“The government is the government, so they’re in charge of the negotiation,” Seade told reporters. “We’re accompanying them.”

Right-Hand Woman

Olga Sánchez Cordero, a former Supreme Court judge and López Obrador’s nominee for interior secretary, has been one of the most visible faces of the transition thus far.

This week she put a socially liberal spin on the coming administration, saying that it would seek to decriminalize abortion nationwide. During the campaign, López Obrador, whose Morena party ran in coalition with the right-wing, anti-abortion Social Encounter Party, suggested abortion should be held to a popular referendum

Sánchez Cordero has also said that the government would consider liberalizing drug policy as part of its plan to reduce violence.

But the next interior secretary will likely play a less hands-on role in tackling violence than did her predecessor. López Obrador plans to reconstitute the Secretary for Public Security, whose functions were fused with those of the interior department after a constitutional reform promoted by Peña in 2012. López Obrador says Alfonso Durazo, a former congressman and longtime ally, will lead the new department.

The interior department’s budget will shrink by around 70 percent, according to one transition official, and undersecretaries will be reduced from seven to three. López Obrador said he would name Tatiana Clouthier, a former teacher who many saw as one of the campaign’s most effective surrogates, as undersecretary for citizen participation. Clouthier is one of several women expected to hold high-level positions in the coming administration, including nearly half of López Obrador’s cabinet and his nominee for ambassador to the U.S., Martha Bárcena. 

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Russell is AQ’scorrespondent in Mexico City

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Any opinions expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect those of Americas Quarterly or its publishers.
Tags: U.S.-Mexico Relations, AMLO, Andrés Manuel López Obrador

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