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Mexicans Elect President AMLO

July 9, 2018

Mexicans went to the polls July 1, 2018, selecting candidates for 3,400 federal, state, and local offices, from President to mayor. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador or AMLO and his Movement for National Regeneration or Morena won 53 percent of the vote for president with a vow to reduce corruption and help Mexico's poor.

Morena won a majority in Congress: 307 of 500 seats in the lower house and 68 of 128 seats in the senate, giving AMLO the first congressional majority since 1997. The ruling PRI, which dominated Mexican politics during the 20th century, was poised to fall from 204 seats in the lower house to about 45. Many Morena candidates were previously members of the PRI.

AMLO at 64 is the oldest Mexican president in a century and the first from a southern state (Tabasco) in decades. AMLO promised a New Deal for Mexico, including a public-works program to employ 2.6 million young people at $160 a month, grants for 300,000 university students, and a doubling of pension payments. This New Deal is to be financed by saving $25 billion from reduced corruption and another $20 billion by reducing the salaries of high-government officials.

AMLO promised a fourth transformation of Mexico, after the 1821 independence from Spain, liberal reforms in the mid-1860s, and the 1910 revolution. He accused the "mafia of power" between politicians and business leaders of keeping ordinary Mexicans poor.

Mexico ranks 135th of 180 countries in the 2017 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, tied with Russia at 29 points on a 100-point index in which 100 is no corruption (the US scores 75). Ten former PRI governors are accused of crimes such as embezzlement; they deny the charges. Corruption is often linked to insecurity, especially murders, which averaged over 2,500 a month in 2017 as drug gangs splintered into smaller groups and competed with each other.

Mexico's economy has been on a roller-coaster since 2000, with growth exceeding four percent some years and falling five percent in 2009. Growth averaged 2.5 percent a year since 2012..

Annual Change in GDP

Real average hourly wages have been falling, and were an average $1.40 an hour in 2018. There are several measures of hourly wages. The total labor costs of auto assembly workers, wages, benefits and payroll taxes, was $8 an hour in 2018, and $4 an hour for auto parts workers.

Average Hourly Wages, in 2010 Pesos

Over 40 percent of Mexicans have incomes below the poverty line, and the share of persons in poverty has been relatively stable over the past decade. Poverty rates vary by state. In Chiapas, over 75 percent of residents are poor, while in Nuevo Leon the poverty rate is less than 15 percent.

Mexico's minimum wage has been rising by 10 percent a year, or five to seven percent after inflation. However, relatively few jobs are covered by the minimum wage in Chiapas and other southern states, so the rising minimum wage has more impacts in the industrial states of northern and central Mexico than in the southern states. AMLO is expected to tackle entrenched poverty in southern Mexico, where reductions in poverty may slow emigration.