Leftist takes oath of office in Mexico
Migrants, economy and Trump among issues he’ll grapple
Migrants, the economy and U.S. leadership are among the issues the nation’s new president will face.
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 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 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, 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 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 marketoriented 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.