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Landslide Victory For Andres Manuel López Obrador In Mexican Presidential Election

MEXICO CITY — Mexican voters made a decisive choice for a new president on Sunday. In an election with a historic turnout, left-of-center candidate Andres Manuel López Obrador — commonly known as "AMLO" — won a landslide victory.

Thousands marched late Sunday night to Zócalo square, the heart of Mexico City. They were singing, waving flags and celebrating that their candidate has finally won.

"I come here to thank you," said López Obrador, 64, a former mayor of Mexico City and a perennial presidential candidate, to those filling up the city’s main square. He finally got his new job after two failed bids for the presidency. And he got it with an election result that none of his rivals could refute: an astounding 53-percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. That’s more than what his three opponents combined received.

"I will not fail you", López Obrador promised. He said he’ll eradicate government corruption, that he’ll champion ordinary people. He says for the good of all, the poor must come first. He says his administration will make a point to help long-marginalized indigenous communities.

"The country’s pension for the elderly will double," AMLO said.  

In the crowd, Alejandro Vásquez is among the many cheering and waving a flag for López Obrador’s political party: Morena.

"We're gonna work a lot. We're gonna work really hard to make this the best Mexico possible," Vásquez said.

Vásquez is 25 years old and said he’s been supporting AMLO since before he was even old enough to vote. One thing Vasquez hopes the new president will improve is Mexico’s immigration policy. Mexico has toughened its stance toward Central American migrants, partially at the urging of the American government.

"We have to be as good with them as we want Americans to be good as our immigrants. It has to change. It has to change," Vásquez said.

López Obrador received more than twice the vote as the second-place candidate Ricardo Anaya. In a hotel across town, Anaya conceded his defeat with a light and somber smile.

“For the good of Mexico, I wish López Obrador success", Anaya said, while promising to support him for common causes — or strongly oppose, when needed.  

Watching Anaya’s speech is Patricio de la Fuente, spokesperson for Movimiento Ciudadano, one of the parties supporting Anaya.

“It’s a bittersweet thing, but in the end we’re happy. Life goes on and democracy is a beautiful thing,” De la Fuente said.

The spokesman is optimistic on the future of the U.S.-Mexico relations. He said he trusts the diplomats that keep things running — even regarding the presidents.

“We have many issues together and we have to resolve them”, he said.

Outside the campaign headquarters, many citizens await. Among them is Alonso Mejía, a small business owner who voted for Anaya. He says he hopes that the polarization brought by the elections is finally over.

“It’s definitely a relief. It’s been a very long campaign,” said Mejía.

The entrepreneur thinks López Obrador has old-fashioned solutions that won’t work, like trying to end poverty with handouts. He said the elected Mexican president is unpredictable, in a way U.S. President Donald Trump is.

“I mean, Obrador is a bit of a maverick, so is Trump,” said Mejía.

But Mejía says that, regardless of the leaders, Mexico and the U.S. will be able keep close ties. And he also hopes AMLO's victory can bring better times for Mexico.

“I don't think [AMLO] is not gonna be terrible, I just don’t believe in what he believes, but I think he can be positive for the country in a way,” said Mejía.

And while López Obrador’s followers celebrate their candidate’s victory, most observers are honoring something else: in a country where elections are often questioned or marred by political violence, this was a peaceful triumph for democracy.

Mexico's Presidential Election - July 1, 2018

Jorge Valencia joined KJZZ in August 2016 as the station's first senior field correspondent based in Mexico City. His reporting focuses on the business and economics between Arizona and Mexico.Valencia previously covered the North Carolina statehouse in Raleigh for North Carolina Public Radio. He reported on a controversial law that curtailed protections for lesbian, gay and transgender people, and on voting rights and environmental policy issues. He also reported on the shooting of three Arab-American students, traveling to Turkey's border with Syria to report on a project the students had started to help Syrian refugees.Valencia began his journalism career covering crime for the Roanoke Times of Virginia and in internships with newspapers including the Wall Street Journal. He has been the recipient of multiple journalism awards for his work in radio and in newspapers. Valencia studied journalism at the University of Maryland and grew up in Bogotá, Colombia, and the suburbs of Washington, D.C.