Leftist firebrand AMLO leading Mexican election polls

Perennial candidate has high hopes for July 1 election

Today's expression: Buck the trend
Explore more: Lesson #57
June 21, 2018:

Andres Manuel Lopes Obrador, a leftist candidate pledging to fight corruption and revive the agricultural sector, is leading in the polls leading up to Mexico's July 1 presidential vote. He is both similar to and very different from Donald Trump. Learn how to use the English expression "buck the trend."

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With elections approaching, Mexico appears to be breaking for AMLO

Hi everyone, I’m Jeff, and you are listening to Plain English, the podcast that goes at the right speed for anyone learning English and looking to improve. On today’s episode, Mexico gets ready to elect a new president on July 1, and one candidate, known by his initials AMLO, is in a strong position just days before the vote. At the end of today’s episode, I’ll show you how to use the English expression “buck the trend.”

Today is episode 57, so that means you can read a word-for-word transcript of this very program on our web site by going to PlainEnglish.com/57. You know, I’ve heard from so many people who say they listen the first time in their car or on their commute, and then listen again at night and read the transcript when they have more time. I think that’s a great idea. The transcripts are very helpful in understanding each word, but I also think you should challenge yourself and try to get through the episode the first time without relying on the transcript. So that is one option—but however you like the program, JR, the producer, and I are happy to have you along.


AMLO with a big lead ahead of Mexico’s election

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, better known in Mexico by his initials AMLO, has opened up a wide lead in the polls ahead of the July 1 presidential elections. AMLO is what we would call a perennial candidate in the United States—he has twice run for the Mexican presidency and twice lost: first, to Felipe Calderón of the National Action Party, or PAN, in 2006, and then to the current president Enrique Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Out of Mexico’s three biggest political parties, AMLO has belonged to one and been defeated in presidential bids by the other two.

But the third time may very well be the charm for the firebrand leftist from the Mexican state of Tabasco. Depending on the poll you read, he has between a 17% and a 25% lead over the next-most-popular candidate. And he’s doing it as head of a political party that he founded, called the Movement for National Regeneration, or MORENA. It’s running together with two smaller parties under the moniker, Together We Will Make History.

AMLO has been around the block in Mexican politics. He rose to prominence in his home state of Tabasco, where he was the state party leader first for the PRI and second for the Party of the Democratic Revolution, or the PRD. His first elected position was Head of Government of Mexico City. He resigned that position to run for president in 2006, and he has been in the public eye ever since.

His positions can be described as nationalist and left-wing. He is at the same time very much like and very much different from Donald Trump. They are similar insofar as they both appeal to the nostalgia of past times—Trump for manufacturing in America, AMLO for agriculture in Mexico. They also both make strong appeals to patriotism among voters in their respective countries. The biggest similarity between the two leaders, though, is that both AMLO and Trump appeal to people who are frustrated with a political status quo characterized by corruption and inaction.

In Mexico, the current president, Peña Nieto, came to office promising to reform government and clean up corruption, but is widely seen not to have fulfilled that promise. He has been tainted by scandal, too. His wife bought a luxury home from a government contractor. The former treasurer of his party was arrested for corruption. And in one issue very dear to Mexicans’ hearts, his government bungled an investigation into the disappearance of 43 children on a school bus; many people think the police, or the army may have been involved. Given this backdrop, you can understand why Mexicans are receptive to AMLO’s message that the ruling political class must be broken before the country can realize its true potential. This, incidentally, is very similar to the message that carried Trump to victory on the other side of the Rio Grande.

But AMLO’s priorities are quite different from Trump’s, and in this way the two are total opposites. AMLO has pledged to give Mexican students universal access to universities, increase aid to students and the elderly, provide free fertilizer for the nation’s farmers, cancel a new airport under construction in Mexico City, and an old favorite of reformers, cut salaries of politicians. Under the current president, Mexico has liberalized its energy market, which used to be run by a state monopoly, Pemex; AMLO would bring the energy markets back under state control.

He is such an interesting candidate at this time because he is in keeping with the worldwide trend of a populist revolt against the dominant political class. An AMLO victory would be of a piece with the Brexit vote, Trump’s victory, and many of the Continental elections in Europe. But it would also be bucking a trend. He is in many ways a classic Latin American leftist—the kind that has been defeated recently in Argentina, Guatemala, Peru and just last Sunday in Colombia.

I should say a few words about his opponent, since the vote hasn’t happened yet, and it would be foolish to write off Ricardo Anaya too soon. Anaya is the candidate of the center-right National Action Party. He served a term in Congress, but has found more success as a political operative, engineering big wins for his party in regional elections last year. He is generally seen as more polished, nerdy, and comfortable making presentations to businesspeople and universities; he doesn’t have the same connection to voters as AMLO has. Elections are July 1.


I want to thank Felipe from Parana, Brazil, who left a very nice review for us on Facebook. He says he listens almost every day, which is great. Thank you, Felipe, for your nice review. Josué from Queretaro, Mexico, also left a great review for us on Facebook. I have been to Queretaro; it is a very nice colonial city with a nice historic center. I took the Noche de Leyenda tour in Queretaro when I was there—it was a lot of fun. I also want to say hi to Annebeth from the Netherlands and Susan from the United States.

If you would like to connect with us on Facebook, you can find us under the user name PlainEnglishPod. We are also on Twitter with the same name, PlainEnglishPod.

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Expression: Buck the trend