Mexico presidential election front-runner vows to fight Trump with left-wing policies

A left-wing populist who has railed against President Trump’s immigration policies in no uncertain terms appeared set to ascend to Mexico’s presidency as voters went to the polls Sunday.

This is Lopez Obrador’s third bid for the presidency and some analysts see it as his best shot after 12 years of near-permanent campaigning. However, his opponents warn he could set the country back decades with an interventionist economic policy that has led previous opponents to compare him to the late Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.

Lopez Obrador has presented himself as a champion of poor and rural Mexicans who would root out corruption, give scholarships or paid apprenticeships to youth, and increase support payments for the elderly. He’s also promised to grant amnesties to some criminals amid a wave of violence that’s the bloodiest seen in at least two decades — and to take a reduced presidential salary.

Presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, of the MORENA party, during general election in Mexico City, Mexico, Sunday, July 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador promised a “transformation” for Mexico amid violence and political scandal. (AP, File)

But while Lopez Obrador has railed against Mexico’s “mafia of power,” he’s saved some of his strongest words for Trump. He launched his presidential campaign in the border city of Ciudad Juarez and vowed that Mexico would reassert itself as a “free, sovereign and independent” nation. He returned to that theme Wednesday in his closing rally at the massive Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, vowing that Mexico “will never be the piñata of any foreign government.”

In between, Lopez Obrador has ripped the Trump administration’s policy of separating families who cross the border illegally as “arrogant, racist and inhuman.” He’s also vowed to roll back some of outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto’s policies toward Central American migrants who cross Mexico’s own southern border, saying that his government would no longer do Trump’s “dirty work.”

The other candidates include conservative Ricardo Anaya, of the National Action Party, or PAN, in a right-left coalition, and Jose Antonio Meade of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Independent candidate Jaime Rodriguez has been polling a distant fourth, in single digits.

All four presidential contenders have lambasted Trump’s policies and rhetoric toward migrants and Mexico, but backlash also has landed heavily on Pena Nieto, who critics say has not pushed back hard enough against the president on trade, migration and the proposed border wall.

Only two parties have occupied the presidency in modern Mexican history: The PRI, from 1929 to 2000 and again since 2012 under current President Enrique Pena Nieto; and the PAN, from 2000 to 2012.

The election winner will take office Dec. 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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