The Mexican president is holding a huge parade ahead of the 2024 elections

MEXICO CITY — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador held a massive march in Mexico City’s main square attended by tens of thousands of people on Saturday.

Although it was called to commemorate Mexico’s 1938 expropriation of the oil industry, many in Saturday’s rally agreed that it will be the de facto opening of the 2024 election that will choose the president’s successor.

This could be one of the last rallies that López Obrador, known for his folksy style and charisma, will lead. The nomination of the Morena party’s presidential candidate will begin this year. After that, the party’s candidate is likely to take center stage.

But most people agree that few presidential candidates can measure the popularity of a president whose approval rating is routinely above 60%. This is especially true for the Morena party, which was largely built around López Obrador.

Alberto Martínez, 59, said he hopes Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum will be the party’s candidate. “We like his education, his thoughtfulness,” Martinez said. But he settles for anyone Morena chooses.

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According to most polls, Sheinbaum is the frontrunner in the race, followed by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.

“The important thing is that López Obrador’s ideology continues,” Martínez said. “This train is already in motion, someone just needs to get on and drive it.”

One of López Obrador’s heroes, former president Lázaro Cárdenas, delighted Mexicans when, on March 18, 1938, he expropriated the largely foreign-owned, privately held oil industry.

One of López Obrador’s main policy initiatives was to save the state oil company founded by Cárdenas from crushing debts and low oil production.

Protesters in the Zocalo wholeheartedly endorsed López Obrador, who has taken a nationalist stance and drastically reduced the ability of US anti-narcotics agents to operate in Mexico.

Blas Ramos, 69, an electrical engineer, held up a sign that read: “Out of Mexico, FBI, CIA, Gringos!”

He said the president was right to oppose U.S. calls to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations or to use the U.S. military to fight the gangs.

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They are “hypocrites,” he said of U.S. politicians who demand such measures, “because they are doing nothing to reduce drug use” in the United States. The synthetic opioid fentanyl, which kills about 70,000 Americans each year, is produced mainly in Mexico using precursor chemicals smuggled in from China.

López Obrador has claimed that Mexico does not produce fentanyl — a claim most experts disagree with — and that the United States has a fentanyl problem because American families don’t hug their children enough.

Ramos was confident that the president’s movement, which he calls “Mexico’s fourth transformation,” will not end when he leaves office in September 2024.

“It’s a movement that started a long time ago,” he said. “We’ve been waiting for this movement all our lives.”

“This movement will not end in six years,” Ramos said, referring to the length of Mexican presidential terms. “It’s a process that takes 30 to 40 years.”


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