A Mexican populist rises to face Trump’s America

2/16/2017 The Washington Post

Abel Flores, a 45-year-old day laborer, left central Mexico three decades ago and has not voted regularly in its elections. And yet, as the sun was setting on a recent evening, he was jammed with hundreds of Mexican Americans into a tree-shaded Los Angeles plaza to cheer on a rabble-rousing politician who could take Mexico in a very different direction.

“I don’t normally do this kind of thing,” Flores said, referring to the rally for Andrés Manuel López Obrador, widely known as AMLO. But the day laborer felt Mexico was threatened by President Trump, who has vowed to build a border wall and renegotiate the historic free-trade agreement with the United States.

“AMLO is the only person who can do anything to protect Mexico,” Flores declared.

The outrage in Mexico over Trump’s proposals has elevated a longtime politician who has unnerved the country’s business community with his nationalist views and leftist rhetoric. Political opponents have compared López Obrador with the late Hugo Chávez, a strongman who steered Venezuela toward socialism. While that may be an exaggeration, López Obrador, 63, can bring thousands into the streets on command. His critics worry that his penchant for stubborn resistance could provoke confrontation with the United States, while his fans see him as a defender of the common man.

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