Mex­ico’s pres­i­dency swings to the left for first time in more than 70 years

Mi­grants, econ­omy and Trump among is­sues he’ll grap­ple

Daily Southtown (Sunday) - - FRONT PAGE - By Christo­pher Sher­man and Maria Verza

MEX­ICO CITY — An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador took the oath of of­fice Satur­day as Mex­ico’s first left­ist pres­i­dent in over 70 years, mark­ing a turn­ing point in one of the world’s most rad­i­cal ex­per­i­ments in open­ing mar­kets and pri­va­ti­za­tion.

In his first speech to Con­gress, Lopez Obrador pledged “a peace­ful and or­derly tran­si­tion, but one that is deep and rad­i­cal be­cause we will end the cor­rup­tion and im­punity that pre­vent Mex­ico’s re­birth.”

Mex­ico long had a closed, state- dom­i­nated econ­omy, but since en­ter­ing the Gen­eral Agree­ment on Trade and Tar­iffs in 1986, it has signed more free trade agree­ments than al­most any other coun­try and pri­va­tized al­most ev­ery cor­ner of the econ­omy ex­cept oil and elec­tric­ity.

Now, though, Lopez Obrador talks a talk not heard in Mex­ico since the 1960s: He wants to build more state-owned oil re­finer­ies and he’s en­cour­ag­ing Mex­i­cans to “not to buy abroad, but to pro­duce in Mex­ico what we con­sume.”

Even so, Lopez Obrador has tried to send con­cil­ia­tory sig­nals to fi­nan­cial mar­kets, roiled in the weeks be­fore he took of­fice.

“I prom­ise —and I’m a man ofmy word — that the in­vest­ments of for­eign and in­ter­na­tional in­vestors will be safe, and we will even cre­ate con­di­tions that will al­low them to get good re­turns,” he said, “be­cause in Mex­ico there will be hon­esty, rule of law, clear rules, eco­nomic growth and con­fi­dence.”

But he also harkened back to his hero, ex-pres­i­dent Lazaro Car­de­nas, who na­tion­al­ized the oil in­dus­try and re­dis­tributed land dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“We are go­ing to gov­ern for ev­ery­one, but we are go­ing to give pref­er­ence to the most im­pov­er­ished and vul­ner­a­ble,” Lopez Obrador said. “For the good of all, the poor come first.”

The first for­eign dig­ni­taries that Lopez Obrador greeted were U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump, the daugh­ter of and se­nior ad­viser to Don­ald Trump.

“I want to say that since July 1, the­day Iwas elected, I have re­ceived re­spect­ful treat­ment from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump,” Lopez Obrador said.

But he faces a chal­lenge with a car­a­van of thou­sands of Cen­tral Amer­i­can mi­grants camped out on the bor­der, which Trump threat­ened to close to keep them out.

Lopez Obrador said he wanted to reach an agree­ment with the gov­ern­ments and com­pa­nies in the U.S. and Canada to de­velop Cen­tral Amer­ica and south­ern Mex­ico, so peo­ple wouldn’t have to em­i­grate — “to ad­dress in that way — and not with co­er­cive mea­sures — the mi­gra­tion phe­nom­e­non.”

Lopez Obrador was clear in blam­ing ex­treme market-ori­ented poli­cies he calls ne­olib­er­al­ism for Mex­ico’s prob­lems.

The row­di­est re­sponse from Con­gress came when Lopez Obrador pledged “not to per­se­cute of­fi­cials of past ad­min­is­tra­tions,” say­ing “re­venge is not my strong suit.”

Leg­is­la­tors re­sponded by count­ing loudly to 43 — the num­ber of stu­dents kid­napped and dis­ap­peared in Septem­ber 2014 — to re­mind Lopez Obrador of his prom­ise to es­tab­lish a truth com­mis­sion to find out what hap­pened to the stu­dents — a pledge he re­peated Satur­day.

Pros­e­cu­tors have said they were kid­napped by cor­rupt po­lice and turned over to a drug gang that killed them and burned their bod­ies.


Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador says he will work with the U.S. and Canada to de­velop Cen­tral Amer­ica and south­ern Mex­ico, so peo­ple won’t have to em­i­grate.

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