Leftist takes oath vowing ‘deep and radical’ change
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.
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.