MEXICO – Mexico's new president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, celebrated his inauguration on Saturday with a festive gathering of supporters in the main square of the capital, in front of the secular square of the National Square, where he will set up his offices.
The 65-year-old left-wing leader uses a compact car, avoids military bodyguards and refuses to live in the luxuriously guarded presidential residence, 9 km to the west. He will reside in his modest house south of the city.
One of Lopez Obrador's first official acts was to open the doors to the secret and sprawling presidential residence known as Los Pinos, located in one corner of Mexico City's largest park. Closed to the public since the construction of the first rooms in the 1930s, the complex will now be used for public events.
Gabriela Barrientos, retired secretary, and Jesus Basilio, vendor at the market, were among the first among hundreds to line the door to enter what Basilio called "the people's house, an iconic place in which we will be able to enter first time. "
Yaneth Fierro, a housewife from Acapulco, expressed her disappointment at the many empty rooms. "We wanted to see the furniture, but the 'Gaviota' (the nickname of the former First Lady Angelica Rivera) took everything."
Alan Jemsani, a marketing researcher from a posh neighborhood near the resort, went to another door to have a look before the opening.
"It's a bit sad," said Jemsani. "It was good for the president to live in a good residence, as do the leaders of other countries."
Jemsani is worried about the effects of Lopez Obrador's policy on the economy, noting that stock prices and the Mexican peso have fallen in recent weeks. "People are nervous, including me," said Jemsani.
Inside the precinct, successive presidents had built several houses, ranging from palatial to casual.
There were undeniable signs of luxury: marble, works of art, large closets, bookcases and paneled desks. There was a small cinema in the basement of a building.
"Nobody knew that our presidents lived this way. It's like removing a mask, "said Homero Fernandez, who oversees the complex for the new government. "Under the pretext of national security, everything was very dark and ostentatious."
On Saturday, Lopez Obrador shook hands with the glass of a modest car as his motorcade headed for the National Palace for a dinner with dignitaries and foreign leaders after his inauguration.
The atmosphere on the square was festive. Traditional folk dancers and ranchera ballad singers performed on the stage, while their supporters waved flags with images of Lopez Obrador and vendors of fabric dolls and plastic figurines of the new president.
Santa Flores was overwhelmed with emotion while listening to Lopez Obrador. When he thanked his supporters for being rallied to what he described as a "movement" in power long fought, Flores raised his fist in the air and shouted, "We are there are!" more than 20 years, never missing a call to action or a protest march.
Flores, who lives in Mexico City, has rented a hotel room near the Zocalo to celebrate the new government. Maria Antonia Flores said next to her that Lopez Obrador is the president that Mexico deserves. "We love him because he is honest. He works hard. He never let us down, "she said. "He is not corruptible."
Sofia Zavala and her daughter Jacqueline Flores came from the border town of Mexicali, in the north of the country, to attend the inauguration of Lopez Obrador. The women said they felt that the previous president, Enrique Pena Nieto, cared only about himself, seeking to enrich himself while neglecting vulnerable groups such as the many indigenous communities in Mexico.
"We hope it will be a change for good," said Zavala, holding a flag with an image of the president.
Venezuelan Socialist President Nicolas Maduro was also present at the inauguration. Supporters of Lopez Obrador on the Zocalo applauded when Maduro appeared on large screens, though congressional legislators shouted "Dictator!". The crowd booed Pena Nieto.
Miguel Angel Tolentino, a salesman at one of the many small jewelery shops on one side of the Zocalo, said he did not vote in the July 1 election because he could not choose a candidate. But he had damning words for Pena Nieto. "He was the worst of all. We had more drug traffickers, more deaths, "said Tolentino as buyers looked at the silver and gold medallions of the Virgin Mary that filled the shop windows.
Lopez Obrador's most resounding election campaign at Tolentino was that the president would bring a "radical change" to Mexico and withdraw pensions from former presidents. The Mexican Congress, controlled by the Morena party of Lopez Obrador, has already eliminated these pensions.
Tolentino shook his head disapproving of the practice of paying ex-presidents for life after "they have already stolen a lot".
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