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Friday 20 July 2018

Mexico’s election victor Lopez Obrador reaches out to Trump

The president-elect says he supports renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with the US and Canada.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

By Mark Stevenson, Peter Orsi and Christopher Sherman

The morning after a crushing election victory, Mexico’s president-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has thanked Donald Trump for his congratulations and said he will contact the US leader to “reach an understanding”.

Mr Lopez Obrador said in an interview with the Televisa news network that the US president’s tweet on Sunday night “was very respectful. That is what we always want to maintain with the US government, that there be mutual respect”.

Mr Trump wrote: “I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!”

“We are never going to disrespect the US government, because we want them to respect us,” Mr Lopez Obrador said.

“At the appropriate moment, we are going to get in touch, to reach an understanding.

“We are conscious of the need to maintain good relations with the United States.”

Mr Lopez Obrador had been compared to Mr Trump for his populist, nationalist rhetoric and sometimes touchy personality — as well as his past scepticism about the trade deal.

But he said he supports reaching a deal on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement with the US and Canada. The talks have been stalled over the Trump administration demands for higher US content and a “sunset clause” in the 1994 trade agreement.

Mr Lopez Obrador said he will propose that his own team of experts be included in the talks, and he will make that proposal in a meeting on Tuesday with current President Enrique Pena Nieto.

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President Enrique Pena Nieto (Mexico presidential press office/AP)

The new leader told Televisa he will respect the current team of negotiators and let them continue representing Mexico until he takes office on December 1.

He said he wants to have information on what is being discussed and “to help as much as we can.”

With just over half of votes counted, he had about 53.7% of the vote, a remarkable margin not seen in the country for more than three decades.

A prominent exit poll predicted his party allies were poised to score big victories in congressional and governorship races.

Mr Lopez Obrador, who campaigned on vows to transform Mexico and oust the “mafia of power” ruling the country, rode widespread voter anger and discontent with the governing Institutional Revolution Party, or PRI, of Mr Nieto and had led opinion polls since the beginning of the campaign.

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Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador claims victory (Anthony Vazquez/AP)

The PRI, which dominated Mexican politics for nearly the entire 20th century and recaptured the presidency in 2012, looks set to suffer heavy losses, not just for the presidency but in other races as well.

In brief remarks at a hotel in central Mexico City late on Sunday, Mr Lopez Obrador called for reconciliation after a polarising campaign and promised profound change but with respect for the law and constitutional order.

“I confess that I have a legitimate ambition: I want to go down in history as a good president of Mexico,” said Mr Lopez Obrador, who had lost in the previous two presidential elections.

“I desire with all my soul to raise the greatness of our country on high.”

He said he would “seek to establish an authentic democracy and we do not intend to establish a dictatorship”.

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Supporters of Mr Lopez Obrador celebrate his victory (Emilio Espejel/AP)

Conservative Ricardo Anaya of a right-left coalition and the PRI’s Jose Antonio Meade acknowledged defeat shortly after polls closed nationwide.

Mr Lopez Obrador said individual and property rights would be guaranteed, promised respect for the autonomy of the central Bank of Mexico and said his government will maintain financial and fiscal discipline.

He also spoke of reducing Mexican immigration to the US through economic development.

“Mexicans will be able … to work and be happy where they were born,” he said.

And rather than the use of force to fight spiralling violence, he will look to fix root causes such as inequality and poverty.

Press Association

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