MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s leftist presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador vowed on Monday Nov. 20 to boost infrastructure spending but guard economic stability, while his team reiterated that ongoing NAFTA talks should be put off until after next year’s election, Reuters reported.
Lopez Obrador, the front-runner in most polls ahead of the July vote, unveiled a platform that envisioned an austere government to root out corruption and redirect spending to public works and social programs without new taxes or raising the debt-to-GDP ratio.
He rebutted claims he would pursue Venezuela-style socialist policies if elected.
“Let’s be very clear, we are not inspired by any foreign governments, neither Maduro nor Trump,” said Lopez Obrador, referring to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and U.S. President Donald Trump.
The veteran leftist who is known popularly by his initials AMLO, is set to make his third bid for the presidency, this time seeking closer ties with business and moderating some policies to fend off rivals who claim he will wreck Mexico’s economy.
Lopez Obrador has mainly avoided picking public fights with Trump, who is widely loathed south of the border for his anti-Mexican rhetoric. On Monday he said he would seek friendly relations with the U.S. government but would demand respect.
His team repeated his position that talks to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be scrapped until after Mexico’s election because the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto would not defend Mexico’s interests.
“A government like this … lacks the necessary legitimacy to represent the interests of the country in this negotiation,” said Hector Vasconcelos, a former diplomat who helped draw up the government plan and spoke at the event.
U.S., Mexican and Canadian negotiators are currently engaged in a fifth round of talks in Mexico City following Trump’s demand the deal be rewritten to benefit the United States. The talks are due to be wrapped up in early 2018.
The two-time presidential runner-up’s platform also calls for studying the construction of new oil refineries with the capacity to process 300,000 barrels per day.
Lopez Obrador narrowly lost in 2006 and by a larger margin in 2012, in both cases refusing to accept the results which he dismissed as marred by fraud. This time he will run as head of the MORENA party he founded in 2014.
He previously ran a popular, moderate government as mayor of Mexico City, but political rivals depict him as a dangerous firebrand and liken his policies and style to the socialist project in crisis-hit Venezuela.
At a packed 10,000 seat arena, MORENA party delegates voted in favor of a “development plan” that Lopez Obrador said he would implement if elected and after further discussion with supporters.
The folksy orator offered the platform on the national holiday that commemorates the start of Mexico’s 1910 revolution.
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