Channeling national pride, Mexican front-runner campaigns by US border

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Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA). reuters

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexico’s presidential front-runner launched his campaign close to the US border yesterday amid tension over US President Donald Trump’s plan to put up a wall between the countries.

If leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador wins the July 1 election, he is expected to be less accommodating toward Mr Trump than the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

His three-month campaign starts in Ciudad Juarez, a tribute to the city’s namesake Benito Juarez, the 19th century Mexican president from indigenous roots whose exiled government resisted a French colonialist intervention from the unruly border city.

Mr Lopez Obrador recently criticised President Enrique Pena Nieto for “governing with recipes sent from abroad,” but he has lately softened his opposition to the government’s policy of allowing foreign investment in the oil industry.

The ruling party candidate trailing in third place, former finance minister Jose Antonio Meade, launched his own campaign yesterday at the other end of the country in the southeastern town of Merida.

Second-place Ricardo Anaya began campaigning on Friday.

Mr Lopez Obrador, a former Mexico City mayor, first ran for president in 2006. He would seek a meeting with Mr Trump “as soon as possible” a senior advisor said, while indicating foreign policy would hew less closely to US regional priorities if he wins.

Mr Trump’s tough trade policies, insults against Mexican migrants and demands for the border wall have angered ordinary Mexicans who see their country as a natural ally of the US.

Mr Lopez Obrador has made clear US-Mexican relations will remain strong if he wins, while promising to throw Mr Trump a “curve ball” and defend Mexican pride. His unconventional, and at times inconsistent, policy stances have sometimes led to comparisons with the US president.

He supports the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the US, but has called to renegotiate the deal to be suspended until after the election.

he 64-year-old continues to play to his leftist base, attacking the current government over a $13 billion airport project he says is tainted by corruption.

He has promised to “consult the people” on reforms and plans to turn the presidential residence into a cultural center, sell the presidential plane and cut his salary in half.

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