(Bloomberg) -- It was a house and a symbol. Just before Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was sworn in on Saturday as Mexico’s president, hundreds lined up to be first to tour the palace of his predecessors -- and to mark a closing of the distance between the rulers and the ruled.
Lopez Obrador, a leftist who campaigned on putting the masses over the elites, has closed the presidential home. The 5,000-square-foot Los Pinos compound housed 14 Mexican presidents since 1934. Nestled in a corner of Mexico City’s central park, it will become a free public venue and museum, said Lopez Obrador, who’s called the property “haunted.”
The new president will live in his own house until the middle of 2019, when his youngest son, now 11, finishes the school year. AMLO will then either rent a home near the National Palace, where he’ll have his office, or set up living quarters in a small section of that building, in the city’s historic center, he says. He pledged on Saturday to work 16 hours a day.
On Saturday, Mexicans from all walks of life wandered gardens long off limits and strolled through the places presidents slept, ate and met, in an underground “bunker.” The last occupant was outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto, whose low popularity stemmed partly from the perception he was out of touch with the public.
“We’ve never had the opportunity to come in here before,” Andres Colina, 44, a shopkeeper at a street market, said as a brass band blared. He brought along his wife and children. “For the first time, we have people in government who work differently and think differently than the people who have been in power.”
Visitors entered through Los Pinos’s green iron gates to shouts of “Obrador!” and “presidente!” Giant screens showed his drive to the swearing-in ceremony. Children climbed on cannons. People posed by a stone monolith with the national seal. Military police officers read to each other from a newly-printed tourist brochure.
The palace’s opening is one of several man-of-the-people moves promised by Lopez Obrador. He’s vowed to sell the presidential plane and fly commercially instead. And he’s said he’ll ride in a white Volkswagen Jetta and get rid of armed security, a plan that’s caused concern among analysts and his own team in what’s currently one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
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