Lockdown Skeptic AMLO on Duty in Mexico After Catching Virus

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is continuing to work after contracting Covid-19, holding a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin and attending meetings remotely.

The 67-year-old leader said Monday that Putin had agreed to send 24 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine to Mexico. He tweeted a photo of himself sitting at his desk, without a mask.

Lopez Obrador, known as AMLO, announced his diagnosis in a tweet late Sunday, following a trip that took him to two states amid a surge in infections and deaths in recent days. The nation now has the fourth-highest number of fatalities globally, after the U.S., Brazil and India.

AMLO has taken a relatively relaxed approach to the virus compared to peers such as Colombia, Peru and Argentina. He has refused to impose mandatory lockdowns and pressed hard to keep the economy open for business.

“The president is well and strong and is working on all public matters and will coordinate and attend some meetings remotely and keep giving instructions,” Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said Monday, deputizing for Lopez Obrador at his daily press briefing.

Mexico doesn’t have a vice president and, as interior minister, Sanchez Cordero would assume power for as many as 60 days if the president were to die, until lawmakers appoint an interim leader.

AMLO suffered a heart attack in 2013, which he has said was caused by arterial hypertension. He first exhibited mild Covid symptoms Sunday and is now in the care of Health Minister Jorge Alcocer, according to Jose Luis Alomia, a ministry official.

The Mexican peso was the worst major currency of the day Monday, falling 0.8% to 20.13 per dollar at 4:16 p.m. in New York.

Political Stability

If AMLO’s symptoms turn severe, it could have “major implications” for Mexico’s political stability, Eurasia Group wrote in a note. The president has concentrated power heavily in his own hands and his ruling Morena party is a loose coalition with little coherent ideology beyond support for the president.

“There is no actually functioning cabinet, and the direction and details of policy are all defined by the president himself,” they wrote.

Cabinet members are awaiting test results, said Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, who joined AMLO and former Chief of Staff Alfonso Romo for a call with U.S. President Joe Biden Friday. None of the three Mexicans on the call wore masks. Ebrard wrote on Twitter Monday that he will work from home until he has a definitive diagnosis.

“Lopez Obrador’s government has been a contagion factor: daily press conferences without masks, tours flying coach, and in-person meetings with governors,” said Viridiana Rios, a political analyst in Mexico City.

When asked by reporters last month why he was contradicting Mexico City’s guidance on mask-wearing, the president replied “everyone is free.”

This past week, Mexico reported two days of record increases in deaths due to the virus, registering a high on Thursday of 1,803 fatalities.

The Latin American nation appears last among 53 countries in Bloomberg’s Covid Resilience Ranking.

Lopez Obrador has declined to get vaccinated against Covid-19 until late February, when others in his age group are scheduled for the shots.

The president is fighting to keep his working majority in Congress during midterm elections to be held in June. His approval rating has held above 60% during the crisis, even with the virus raging and the economy estimated to have shrunk around 9% in 2020.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.