Mex­ico marks turn to left with its new pres­i­dent

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - NEWS - BY CHRISTO­PHER SHER­MAN AND MARIA VERZA As­so­ci­ated Press MEX­ICO CITY

Mex­i­cans are get­ting more than just a new pres­i­dent Sat­ur­day. The in­au­gu­ra­tion of left­ist An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador marks a turn­ing point in one of the world’s most rad­i­cal ex­per­i­ments in open­ing mar­kets and pri­va­ti­za­tion.

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 to “not to buy abroad, but to pro­duce in Mex­ico what we con­sume.”

Com­bined with a deep sense of na­tion­al­ism and his own place in his­tory, Lopez Obrador’s in­au­gu­ra­tion is likely to be the most home-grown, pop­ulist han­dover of power in decades.

As to un­der­score the tran­si­tion, Bri­tish Labour Party lead­ers Jeremy Cor­byn showed up for in­au­gu­ra­tion af­ter vis­it­ing Lopez Obrador a day ear­lier at his house in south­ern Mex­ico.

A party state­ment said Lopez Obrador “faces huge chal­lenges in his mis­sion of trans­form­ing Mex­ico, but Jeremy hopes his elec­tion will of­fer Mex­ico’s poor and pow­er­less a real voice and a break with the fail­ures and in­jus­tices of the past.”

“At a time when the fake pop­ulists of the far right are gain­ing ground in­ter­na­tion­ally – in­clud­ing in Latin Amer­ica,” the state­ment con­tin­ued, Lopez Obrador “has shown that a pro­gres­sive agenda for change can win power and take on the sta­tus quo.”

Af­ter tak­ing the of­fi­cial oath of of­fice at the Cham­ber of Deputies, Lopez Obrador plans to hold an­other cer­e­mony later in the day on Mex­ico City’s main square, where a leader of Mex­ico’s indige­nous com­mu­ni­ties will be­stow a tra­di­tional sym­bol of au­thor­ity – a cer­e­mo­nial wooden staff known as a “bas­ton.” A grand cel­e­bra­tion fea­tur­ing tra­di­tional mu­sic will be held in the square.

The coun­try’s 65-yearold new leader is mov­ing the pres­i­den­tial of­fice fully back to the cen­turies-old Na­tional Palace that lines one side of the square, while re­fus­ing to live at the lux­u­ri­ous, heav­ily guard pres­i­den­tial res­i­dence 6 miles to the west. He will re­side in­stead at his pri­vate home.

Closed to the pub­lic since the first parts were built in the 1930s, the com­pound will now be used for pub­lic events, and it was thrown open to the pub­lic on Sat­ur­day.

Gabriela Bar­ri­en­tos, 71, a re­tired sec­re­tary and Je­sus Basilio, a mar­ket ven­dor, 55, were among the first to line up at the gate to en­ter what Basilio called “the house of the peo­ple, an em­blem­atic place we will be able to en­ter for the first time.”

Bar­ri­en­tos, a long-time Lopez Obrador sup­porter, said “this is a day that will never come again. I was al­ways on the front lines, and fi­nally this day has come.”

Lopez Obrador won a crush­ing vic­tory in the

July 1 elec­tions af­ter two pre­vi­ous, un­suc­cess­ful runs for the pres­i­dency.

ED­UARDO VERDUGO AP

Mex­ico’s new Pres­i­dent An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador sings the Mex­i­can na­tional an­them at the end of his in­au­gu­ral cer­e­mony Sat­ur­day in Mex­ico City.

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