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Mexican president sees Cabinet turbulence as healthy

July 10, 2019
This Dec. 14, 2017 photo shows Carlos Urzua during a press conference where he was presented as a cabinet member of presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico City. Urzua, named treasury secretary under longtime ally López Obrador, resigned Tuesday, July 9, 2019, complaining of the appointment of unqualified officials by “influential people in the current administration who have clear conflicts of interest.” (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s leftist president gave an unusually frank description of the divisions in his Cabinet Wednesday after Treasury Secretary Carlos Urzua resigned.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested Urzua had formal, old-fashioned tendencies, while the president wants a more radical, rapid transformation.

“You cannot carry out a new policy with same neo-liberal, technocratic mindset,” Lopez Obrador said in discussing Urzua’s resignation the day before.

Urzua said in a resignation letter that unqualified officials were appointed by “influential people in the current administration who have clear conflicts of interest.” He also complained that policy decisions were made “without sufficient justification.”

López Obrador said one of his differences with Urzua was over the head of the country’s tax agency.

López Obrador has encouraged tax authorities to stop the longstanding practice of forgiving back taxes owed by business magnates.

The president has also embarked on a sometimes extreme policy of cutting government spending and waste, eliminating tens of thousands of government positions. The official López Obrador placed within the Treasury Department to carry out those cuts apparently had frictions with Urzua.

He said Urzua also had “notorious differences” over key appointments to development banks with the president’s chief of staff, Alfonso Romo, who has served as the administration’s liaison with the business community.

López Obrador also differed with the former Treasury head over the language to be used in the administration’s multi-year development plan, which is aimed at fighting corruption, waste and concessions to influential businessmen.

“People thought that it was almost illegal for me to talk about greedy small groups of people, or looting” of government funds, López Obrador said, suggesting Urzua wanted to use a less conflictive approach.

López Obrador said the public disagreements were a healthy sign of democracy.

“In a democratic government that seeks to transform the country, there are always going to be disagreements,” he said.

Also striking was López Obrador’s willingness to roil financial markets. Mexican stocks and the country’s currency dropped on Tuesday following Urzua’s resignation. Urzua had offered to postpone announcing his resignation until the weekend, when most markets are closed, but López Obrador said he encouraged him to do it right away.

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