Mexico City Mayor Outlines His Priorities if Elected President
Antonio Baldemar Méndez
June 28, 2005
Mexico City's Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador is to run for President of Mexico. On 31 July 2005 he will formally give up the office of mayor in order to register as a Presidential candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution. In a recent interview he defined himself as an economic pragmatist, arguing that he would maintain both a cautious fiscal policy and central bank independence.
"Macro-economic balance has to be maintained," he said. "It is just common sense. Whenever there is economic instability it always hits people who have the least.' He maintains that he would stimulate growth 'primarily through investment in the construction industry." This would have a 'multiplier effect' on the economy. Increased public spending would be financed not by debt or extra taxation - but by eliminating governmental waste.
Obrador ruled out any renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States and Canada, which he has fiercely criticized. "We are talking about asserting our rights within the treaty. We aren't talking about attempting to change it," he said.
His assertions indicate that he would pursue an approach to economic policy similar to Brazil's left-wing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva rather than that of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. This would go some way towards appeasing businesses concerned over his left-wing rhetoric. According to the opinion polls, he now enjoys an advantage of between 12 and 17 percentage points over his nearest challenger.
As Mayor, he recently declared that the fight against poverty occupied first place in his list of 40 campaign points. He explained that the national program against poverty would be similar to that which he applied in Mexico City. He said he considered himself to be 'humanist' rather than 'populist'.
NAFTA, he insists, should be similar to the European Economic Community, which involves not just the free circulation of goods, but also the equal development of member states. Such development could be achieved by strengthening internal markets, investing more in public works, especially the construction industry, and by modernizing the energy sector.
He added: 'Modernization of the petroleum industry would be a medium term project. What I am outlining is consolidation.' Within three years the country should be self-sufficient in gasoline and gas to the extent that energy could be exported at competitive prices, while being available to the home market at fair prices. 'We cannot industrialize in Mexico under the present situation of prohibitive costs for gas and electric power,' he said.
On the national debt, he insists that the truth is told. Mexico's true debt stood at 280,000 million dollars, not the150 thousand million dollars claimed by the government.
He said that much was made of the fact that of the main foreign currencies that flowed into the country, some 18 thousand million dollars came from Mexican manpower hired in the United States. 'We celebrate this, the sending home of millions of dollars every year, but this should cause us shame. These workers left the country out of necessity, emptying it, abandoning our whole productive capacity.'
He said the whole economic model should be changed to guarantee work in Mexico. He said it was 'revolting' that on average a Mexican citizen died every day attempting to cross the frontier. 'It has to change. We can't say that the current economic politics have worked. Where have they worked? There has been no economic growth to generate employment. The national debt has tripled in 22 years. The Federal Government has sold most of the national assets. Where have the economic policies succeeded? Why do they insist on more of the same? This is not a matter of ideology, it is political, technical, a matter of practical judgment.'