Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador made his way to Mexico City’s National Palace as a passenger in a Volkswagon sedan, as photographers riding on the back seats of a swarm of motorcycles tried to capture an image of Mexico’s next president.
Before the car could come to a full stop at the palace a stampede — part media, part fans — rushed toward it.
Cameras flashed and reporters talked over images streaming live on social media and broadcast on television before Lopez Obrador’s meeting with current President Enrique Pena Nieto. Fans shoved their way through the crowd in hopes of a handshake or a selfie with the man known as AMLO.
The former Mexico City mayor and three-time presidential candidate attracts attention like a magnet. Some of that interest is no doubt due to comments he has made that seem to suggest a brighter future for Mexico and its relationship with the United States.
In the week after Mexico’s historic election, in which a new political party founded by AMLO, the National Regeneration Movement or MORENA, triumphed over two parties that have governed Mexico in the past, the leftist politician has struck a polite tone toward President Donald Trump. In speeches and interviews he has declared his desire for friendship and mutual respect.
There certainly are similarities between Trump and AMLO. Both are headstrong nationalists who tout being an outsider and feed off the adoration of massive crowds. “We are going to change the relationship, and Trump is going to learn to respect us. I can guarantee you that,” Lopez Obrador said during a presidential debate in May.
Trump and Lopez Obrador had a 30-minute phone conversation after AMLO’s victory. Trump described the conversation as “excellent.” Lopez Obrador called it “respectful.”
How long the apparent honeymoon period will last is anyone’s guess. “They have to have a face-to-face fairly soon so they can size each other up,” said James Jones, who met AMLO in Mexico while serving as US Ambassador during the Clinton administration.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is scheduled to visit Mexico on Friday to meet Lopez Obrador and discuss immigration, commerce, security and development. AMLO is expected to take the presidential oath of office in December and officially begin the task of tackling a raft of volatile issues that have become ever more contentious and soured US-Mexico relations since Trump won the presidency.