Reuters/ Mexico City
Mexico’s president conceded that economic growth has fallen short of his expectations, but said that wealth is now more fairly distributed as he celebrated a year in office riding high in opinion polls, in defiance of mounting problems.
A year ago, veteran leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador assumed the presidency pledging to raise economic growth to 4% per year. Instead, the economy has stagnated and slipped into a mild recession during the first half of the year.
“There still hasn’t been growth as we would like, but the distribution of wealth has improved,” Lopez Obrador told a crowd of tens of thousands of supporters in central Mexico City’s Zocalo square on the first anniversary of his inauguration.
“The budget doesn’t end up in a few hands the way it used to, it now reaches the majority of the population,” he added.
Slowdowns in the first year of a new government are not uncommon in Mexico, which has had to contend with the threat of economic disruption by US President Donald Trump.
Lopez Obrador is also battling record levels of violence, which has caused more friction with the Trump administration. But he remains popular, polls show.
Although some surveys show support for him has fallen, one published by newspaper El Financiero this week showed his approval rating was 68%, slightly up on October.
Facing the media every weekday at 7am, the 66-year-old has dominated the agenda for the past year, and his popularity stands in stark contrast with many counterparts in Latin America, where political turmoil has been growing.
Chile, Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador have all been roiled by civil unrest in recent weeks, while support for the government of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who took office a month after Lopez Obrador, has fallen away sharply.
Lopez Obrador has used his morning news conferences to keep up a steady barrage of fire against his political foes, who have struggled to mount a coherent opposition to him.
Nevertheless, political analysts and adversaries say the president will come under increasing pressure if he cannot get a grip on security and energise the economy soon.
“The wallets of the people will be his undoing,” said Ernesto Ruffo, an opposition congressman from the centre-right National Action Party, or PAN.
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