Anti-establishment leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed a “deep and radical” change in Mexico as he was sworn in as the country’s president Saturday, after winning a landslide election victory.
The leader, widely known by his initials as “AMLO,” took the oath of office and donned the presidential sash before Congress — where the coalition led by the upstart party he founded four years ago, Morena, now has strong majorities in both houses.
Ending 89 years of government by the same two parties, Lopez Obrador surged to victory in the July 1 elections promising a new approach to issues fueling widespread outrage: crime, poverty and corruption.
But not everyone is persuaded: critics say the sharp-tongued, silver-haired leader has a radical and authoritarian streak. And despite his promises of business-friendly policies, Mexican stocks and the peso have plunged in recent weeks.
That did not stop Lopez Obrador, 65, from doubling down on his promise of a sweeping “transformation” as he started his six-year term.
“It might seem pretentious or exaggerated to say it, but today is not just the start of a new government. It is the start of a political regime change,” he said, the presidential sash newly draped over his dark suit and burgundy red tie.
“We will carry out a peaceful and orderly but also deep and radical transformation.”
After the traditional swearing-in ceremony, Lopez Obrador climbed in his white Volkswagen Jetta — his car of choice — and headed to Mexico City’s central square, the Zocalo, for a colorful second ceremony of his own design.
There, indigenous shamans purified him with incense and flowers, and presented him with a symbolic chieftain’s staff.
“I reaffirm my commitment not to lie, rob or betray the Mexican people,” he said, clutching the long wooden staff.
Jose Angel Mejia, 38, was among the tens of thousands of people who gathered to fete the new president.
“It’s a historic day, I still can’t believe it,” he said, raising his eight-year-old son’s arm in the air in celebration.
“We’re going to have a change at last.”
The new president inherits a sticky set of problems from his unpopular predecessor, Enrique Pena Nieto.