ACAPULCO,. Mexican leftist presidential frontrunner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador set about wooing the country’s powerful banking community on Friday, seeking to extinguish fears he would seize property, instead targeting graft and poverty alleviation.
Speaking in the Pacific resort of Acapulco at an annual banking convention, Lopez Obrador received applause from the well-heeled audience for a speech that sought to build bridges with a pro-business message of gradual change and unity.
“We will support banks and we won’t confiscate assets,” he said. “There won’t be expropriations or nationalizations.”
Lopez Obrador reminded his audience that he had worked with the private sector when he ran Mexico City as mayor from 2000-2005, but said his government would focus on poverty alleviation.
“We are gong to listen to everyone, respect everyone … for the benefit of everyone – first of all the poor,” he said.
His mainstream opponents, ruling party candidate, former finance minister Jose Antonio Meade, and opposition coalition hopeful Ricardo Anaya, received considerably longer applause for their speeches at the event.
Lopez Obrador, who for years has fought off accusations he would replicate socialist policies of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, also vowed to respect central bank autonomy if he wins the July vote.
According to most polls, the 64-year-old founder of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party enjoys a double-digit lead over his bickering rivals, who have become embroiled in nasty spats over alleged corruption.
Known locally as AMLO, the candidate said there would be few reforms if he becomes president, and those there were would not be until the middle of his six-year term.
Nonetheless, he reiterated that he plans to change the law to allow presidents to be tried for graft. Currently, the Mexican constitution only allows sitting presidents to be prosecuted for treachery against the country and vaguely defined “crimes of the common order.”
Anaya, a onetime leader of the centre-right National Action Party (PAN), who fronts a right-left coalition, is running in second place and has vowed to set up a truth commission to investigate corruption and crime under the current government.
Meade, the candidate of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, is in third place.
Meade has so far struggled to gain traction in a race being run in the shadow of strained relations between his government and U.S. President Donald Trump, who has frequently criticized Mexico.
Lopez Obrador, however, has capitalized on disaffection with the PRI over a slew of political corruption scandals, increasing gang violence and sluggish economic growth.
(Reporting by Stefanie Eschenbacher and Gabriel Stargardter; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel)