Can the Church work with Mexico’s radical new president?
The election of the left-wing populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador as Mexico’s president provoked
widespread jubilation. Those celebrating in Mexico City cried tears of joy and brandished López Obrador merchandise: flags bearing his image, dolls stitched in his likeness. One supporter said: “I’ve been waiting for this for 12 years. Now, things will change.”
At the bishops’ conference headquarters, the reaction was more muted. In a statement the bishops said they would “collaborate in a positive way” with the new president, but added: “No ruler on their own has all the ideas and all the solutions.”
Amlo, as he is known, has promised “profound change”. His priorities are to crack down on corruption, somehow reduce Mexico’s spiralling violence and address endemic poverty, with more support for such groups as pensioners and farmers.
Although much is uncertain, Amlo is potentially an ally for the Church. He is a moderate on social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, once telling a radio interviewer that they were “not that important” compared with the endemic problem of corruption.
As mayor of Mexico City from 2000 to 2005, he built a “close” relationship with Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, according to Fr Hugo Valdemar Romero, former Archdiocese of Mexico City spokesman. (The now retired cardinal is often associated with the country’s elite.)
Amlo’s own faith is a little fuzzy, with hints of New Age spirituality. He was an altar server as a boy and is still a practising Catholic “up to a point”, according to a priest who knows him. But he has been pictured receiving a blessing from an Evangelical pastor and has had to deny being a Seventh-Day Adventist. He describes himself as a “Christian in the broadest sense” and a former aide says he carries a Bible everywhere.
His mission is a moral, even spiritual one. In his early years helping indigenous people he lived in a shack in the desert. “When we obtain the presidency,” he said, “we must not only seek to achieve material wellbeing – we must also seek wellbeing for the soul.”