Mexican front-runner, ruling party candidate start campaigns
By MARK STEVENSON
Apr. 01, 2018
MEXICO CITY (AP) — The front-running candidate for Mexico's July 1 presidential election formally opened his campaign Sunday in Ciudad Juarez, the border city that launched some of the country's key resistance struggles.
Leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador depicts his third run for the presidency as a historic battle against corruption and entrenched elites, on a par with the resistance to the French invasion of 1862-1867 and the 1910-1917 revolution. Ciudad Juarez served as a base in both struggles.
Governing party candidate Jose Antonio Meade also launched his campaign Sunday in the colonial city of Merida, the capital of Yucatan state, one of the few governorships that his Institutional Revolutionary Party hopes to retain among the nine statehouses that will be at stake in the July elections.
Meade is running third in the polls. He alluded to Lopez Obrador, saying, "Don't let them take away the future of our children with false promises."
Still, Lopez Obrador seemed to dominate the other candidates' attention.
The third major-party candidate, Ricardo Anaya of a left-right coalition, announced that he will hold news conferences at 7 a.m. every day of the campaign — a move that echoes the morning meetings with journalists that Lopez Obrador held daily when he was mayor of Mexico City in the early 2000s. A fourth candidate, former first lady Margarita Zavala, is running as an independent.
While he has been accused of being a populist and a radical, Lopez Obrador has moved to the center and gave an opening campaign speech that could have played well in the Rust Belt of the United States.
"Those who defend the current economic model talk about modernity, but they don't mention that this 'modernity' is a synonym for the economy of the elite, one that benefits only a minority and excludes the majority," Lopez Obrador said. "They tend to put up the supposed benefits of NAFTA as an example, but the few benefits have come at an extremely high cost."
Like U.S. President Donald Trump, Lopez Obrador expresses some skepticism about the North American Free Trade Agreement. The candidate vowed that "we are going to be very respectful of the U.S. government, but we are going to demand they respect us Mexicans. Neither Mexico nor its people will be treated like a piñata by any foreign government."
"We are not going to rule out the possibility of convincing Donald Trump that his foreign policy and, in particular, his contemptuous attitude toward Mexicans are wrong," Lopez Obrador said.
He stressed that his main campaign promise is to end corruption.
Echoing his favorite president, Benito Juarez, whose 1857 reform movement established secular government in Mexico, Lopez Obrador said, "Just as Juarez separated the church and state, now we are going to separate economic power from political power."
He pledged to cut the country's value-added tax from 15 percent to 8 percent and double pensions for the elderly.
Meade is trying to shake the image of corruption, low growth and high inflation and debt that saddles the PRI. His campaign logo doesn't even include the party symbol, and instead uses a series of three colored arrows or triangles representing the PRI and two tiny parties that are running in coalition.
Meade promised equal pay for women, easier access to credit and more scholarships to study abroad.
He made several other campaign promises, focusing on education, health care and public safety, and also pledged to "get corruption out of politics."
Meade has said in the past that Mexico should do more to stop U.S. guns from being smuggled into Mexico. "We are going to keep the weapons and money from reaching the criminals," he said.
Mexico is suffering an upsurge in violence that seems to defy most solutions so far, and none of the major candidates has submitted a detailed plan on how to handle it.
Meade proposed largely technical solutions to Mexico's problems, depicting himself as the future and Lopez Obrador as someone obsessed with the policies of the past.
"This election boils down to a choice between two things: move forward together, or retreat," Meade said. "My proposal is to move forward ... that is why I am asking for the votes of people who want to build, not tear down, who want to unite, not divide, to advance, not retreat."