Left­ist takes oath vow­ing ‘deep and rad­i­cal’ change

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - WORLD - By Christo­pher Sher­man and Maria Verza Christo­pher Sher­man and Maria Verza are As­so­ci­ated Press writ­ers.

MEX­ICO CITY — An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador took the oath of of­fice Satur­day as Mex­ico’s first left­ist pres­i­dent in more than 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 en­cour­ages Mex­i­cans “not to buy abroad, but to pro­duce in Mex­ico what we con­sume.”

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

“I prom­ise, and I’m a man of my 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 harked back to his hero, ex-Pres­i­dent Lazaro Car­de­nas, who na­tion­al­ized the oil in­dus­try and re­dis­tributed land dur­ing his 1934-40 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.

“I want to say that since July 1, the day I was 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 had 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.

Al­fredo Estrella / AFP / Getty Images

An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mex­ico’s new pres­i­dent, waves to mem­bers of Con­gress af­ter re­ceiv­ing the pres­i­den­tial sash in Mex­ico City. He rose to promi­nence as a protest leader.

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