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Andrés Manuel López Obrador, presidential candidate of Mexico, talks during the XVI edition of the National Forum of Tourism in Mexico City on May 7, 2018. Photo: Carlos Tischler via Getty Images

Mexico elects its next president on July 1, and if present polls hold, the populist Andrés Manuel López Obrador — the former leftist mayor of Mexico City and twice-defeated presidential candidate known as “AMLO” — will prevail.

Why it matters: AMLO’s is a decidedly "Mexico First" agenda. AMLO, if he is elected, and Trump would be natural antagonists, but enablers as well, as each would fit the other’s vision of the bilateral relationship. 

AMLO has made appeals to voters frustrated with the centrist PRI and conservative PAN parties that have governed the country over the past three presidential terms, while problems such as corruption, security and weak administration of justice have persisted. In joining NAFTA, Mexico set aside a century’s worth of grievances to cooperate closely with the U.S.; that its partnership has been met with insults and bullying from President Trump is a boon to AMLO’s narrative that Mexico must course-correct toward nationalism and self-sufficiency. 

Trump’s mistaken belief that Mexico poses a major problem to the U.S. would become a self-fulfilling prophecy with AMLO’s election — especially if the Trump administration does AMLO the favor of scrapping NAFTA before he takes office, instead of updating it. Negotiators from the three North American governments are furiously trying to meet a congressional deadline this week, but it’s not clear that technocratic trade experts’ influence will supersede Trump’s. 

What’s next: For his part, AMLO has been vague and inconsistent about how far he’d go in rolling back Mexico’s opening to the world, and to the world’s markets. He vigorously opposed reforms earlier this decade that have brought foreign investment to the energy sector, as well as labor and education reforms aimed at breaking the monopolistic chokehold of politicized state unions on the Mexican economy. Mexican voters frustrated with the current government’s corruption are turning to AMLO and his messianic assurances that he will clean things up overnight through the sheer force of his personality and example.

Andres Martinez is a professor at Arizona State University's Cronkite School of Journalism and the editorial director of Future Tense at New America.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

Key clean power provision likely won't survive in Dems' spending bill

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A pillar of Democrats' plans to speed deployment of zero-carbon electricity is likely to be cut from major spending and tax legislation they are struggling to move on a party-line vote, per multiple reports and a Capitol Hill aide.

Driving the news: The New York Times, citing anonymous congressional aides and lobbyists, reports that West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D) has told the White House he "strongly opposes" the Clean Electricity Performance Program.

Updated 3 hours ago - World

Fatal stabbing of British MP David Amess declared a terrorist incident

Police outside Belfairs Methodist Church in Leigh-on-Sea, England, on Oct. 15. Photo: John Keeble/Getty Images

Authorities have declared the death of David Amess a terrorist incident, hours after the Conservative Party lawmaker in the U.K. was fatally stabbed while meeting with local constituents in a church in eastern England on Friday.

The big picture: The Metropolitan Police has found "a potential motivation linked to Islamist extremism."

Biden: DOJ should prosecute those who defy Jan. 6 subpoenas

President Biden speaks with reporters at Bradley International Airport in Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that the Justice Department should prosecute those who defy subpoenas from the Jan. 6 select committee.

Why it matters: The president's remarks come one day after Donald Trump ally Steve Bannon failed to show up for a deposition before the committee.