- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2018

Time will tell if President Trump and Mexico’s newly elected leftist president will play ball together, but the first day after Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s overwhelming victory in Mexico’s election Sunday was unexpectedly cordial

The two have extended complimentary tweets and pledges to find common ground since Sunday’s result became clear, belying fears the populist, nationalist leaders were predestined to clash over issues such as trade and immigration.

“Congratulations to Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on becoming the next President of Mexico. I look very much forward to working with him. There is much to be done that will benefit both the United States and Mexico!” Mr. Trump tweeted Sunday.

The White House later revealed that the president and the president-elect spoke directly by phone for about a half-hour, with much of the conversation focused on how the two leaders could cooperate.

Mr. Lopez Obrador, basking in the victory in his third run for presidency, told the Televisa news network Monday that Mr. Trump’s Sunday night message “was very respectful. That is what we always want to maintain with the U.S. government, that there be mutual respect.”

“At the appropriate moment,” he added, “we are going to get in touch, to reach an understanding” with the Trump administration, Mr. Lopez Obrador added.

The 64-year-old president-elect has been a vocal critic of Mr. Trump in the past, condemning his hard-line immigration policy and controversial rhetoric. Last year, Mr. Lopez Obrador wrote a book titled “Oye, Trump!”— “Listen, Trump!” — in which he spoke out against the president as well as the United States’ influence in Mexico.

But with an ambitious agenda to boost social spending, fight corruption and keep government spending in line, Mr. Lopez Obrador will likely need a positive — or at least neutral — relationship with Mexico’s giant neighbor and biggest export partner to the north.

Analysts on both sides of the border were already trying to decide whether Mr. Lopez Obrador will govern as a leftist firebrand or as the relatively pragmatic administrator he was as mayor of Mexico City in the early 2000s. Some see the moderate, pro-business cadre of advisers he recruited for this campaign as a hopeful sign.

“The actions by President-elect Obrador are very encouraging,” Jeff Moseley, president and CEO of the Texas Association of Business, said in an interview Monday. “He has been bringing on to his cabinet very strong pro-business voices that will understand the value of NAFTA and put a balance on the discussion about foreign investment and energy.”

Mr. Trump told reporters Monday his conversation with Mr. Lopez Obrador had gone well, a sharp contrast to the often frosty relations he had with outgoing Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto.

“I think [Mr. Lopez Obrador] is going to try and help us with the border,” Mr. Trump said, saying Mexico’s immigration laws were far stronger than those in the U.S.

With polls long predicting a leftist victory, Mr. Lopez Obrador took at least 53 percent of the vote Sunday — the first time a Mexican presidential candidate has claimed a simple majority in decades.

According to the first official projection, Ricardo Anaya of the conservative National Action Party (PAN) won between 22.1 and 22.8 percent, Jose Antonio Meade of the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) between 15.7 and 16.3 percent, and independent candidate Jaime Rodriguez between 5.3 and 5.5 percent.

Mr. Lopez Obrador now faces soaring popular expectations to tackle issues he championed on the campaign trail, including reducing the exponential levels of crime and corruption in the country that came about under the Pena Nieto administration.

Leftist leaders in the region, including Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, hailed the result, hoping the Mexican result will add to their ranks.

“We are sure that your government will write a new page in the history of Latin American dignity and sovereignty,” Mr. Morales said.

The Mexican peso and stock market reacted calmly to the widely expected election result. But the size of Mr. Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement’s victory could give him working majorities in Congress, allowing the new president to push through major economic policy changes.

In his victory speech, Mr. Lopez Obrador revealed he would review the previous government’s deal to privatize parts of the critical oil sector as part of his anti-corruption program.

S.A. Miller contributed to this piece, which was based in part on wire service reports.


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