People in Veracruz say about AMLO: “We’ve never had a leader so close to the people”

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Mateo Martinez Mendoza, 27, prepares salt evaporation ponds in Salinas del Marques, Oaxaca, where he and his father are generational salt field miners. Salt evaporation ponds are artificial basins designed to extract salt from the seawater.(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

SAYULA DE ALEMAN, VERACRUZ.- From the roadside stand in this muggy stretch of southern Mexico where Carmelo Morrugares sells coconuts for a living, the 45-year-old father of three says he can see his country changing for the better.

There’s his pay, which has doubled from $5 to $10 daily thanks to a series of minimum-wage hikes. And there are the hefty welfare payments that his elderly father and student daughter now receive from the government.

Then there’s the highway itself, repaved amid a boom of fresh investment across the impoverished south.

For all this good fortune, Morrugares credits one man: President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

“He’s a visionary,” said Morrugares, who cheered on the president recently as he zipped past the coconut stand on his way to promote a refurbished train line that will pass through this region. That the famously frugal López Obrador traversed the dense tropical forest by car instead of helicopter said it all.

“Presidents before would just fly over,” Morrugares said. “We’ve never had a leader so close to the people.”

A man sits at a table with coconuts for sale.

That sort of praise isn’t something you hear much in Mexico’s wealthier enclaves, where criticism of López Obrador has reached a fever pitch. Detractors, tens of thousands of whom marched in Mexico City last month, hate everything about the president: his moralizing tone and his ill-fitting suits, his disregard for democratic norms and his embrace of the military, his hypersensitivity to critique and his insistence that every problem can be blamed on a single enemy — the rich.

But as they pen newspaper columns and fire off tweets insisting that Mexico has never been worse off, his critics are speaking largely to themselves.

López Obrador is one of the most popular leaders on Earth.

He won in a landslide four years ago vowing to finally put the “poor first” in a country that he said had been hijacked by a corrupt and conservative elite. And despite a stagnating economystaggering levels of violence, and growing evidence that his efforts to reduce inequality have failed, his approval rating still tops 60%.

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Source: Los Angeles Times

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