February 27, 2006
Tens of thousands filled Mexico City´s Zócalo on Sunday to hear presidential frontrunner Andrés Manuel López Obrador´s pledge to distance himself from U.S. policies.
While not naming the United States or the administration of George W. Bush, López Obrador made it clear that he would return Mexico to its traditional foreign policy of non-intervention in the affairs of its neighbors.
Conservative President Vicente Fox broke that tradition after taking office in 2000 when he joined the United States in condemning the lack of fundamental liberties in Cuba and elsewhere. Like U.S. foreign policy, Mexico´s under Fox sought to promote human rights and civil liberties abroad.
That´ll change, López Obrador signaled to a crowd estimated between 70,000 and 120,000. Critics of Fox´s foreign relations policy say that Mexico must put a priority on improving its own rights record.
"We´re not going to meddle in the internal life of other peoples and other governments, because we don´t want them meddling in ours," López Obrador told a sea of supporters in the Zócalo.
He added that "the next president of Mexico is not going to be the puppet of any foreign government."
Many Mexicans reject closer foreign policy alignment with Washington, and howled earlier this month when a Sheraton hotel in Mexico City tossed out a visiting Cuban government delegation. The hotel was trying to uphold the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, but in the process violated Mexican anti-discrimination laws.
The incident was only the latest in a rough patch for U.S.-Mexico relations. For months, U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Tony Garza and Mexican officials have traded barbs over continuing drug-related violence and border security.
The Bush administration has avoided comment on Mexico´s electoral debate, but López Obrador Sunday honed in on the thorny bilateral relationship. He vowed to turn Mexico´s 45 consulates in the United States into "prosecutorial offices" that defend the rights of migrant workers. U.S. anti-immigration efforts, including construction of a wall at the Mexico border, have been the object of criticism by politicians from all parties in recent months.
Also on Sunday, López Obrador pledged to lower electric, gas and gasoline prices and vowed to end taxes on food and medicine. He said he´d keep foreigners from investing in the energy sector, yet said he´d make the sector "the gearshift for economic development."
He also said he won´t raise taxes, and added he´d slash the pensions of ex-presidents and cut salaries of cabinet secretaries.
Having led public opinion polls for two years, López Obrador is on track to become Mexico´s first president elected from the left-wing Democratic Revolution Party (PRD). Most polls show Felipe Calderón, of Fox´s National Action Party (PAN), closely behind López Obrador, with Roberto Madrazo of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) in third.
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