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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Mexico’s victor pledges to ‘reach understanding’ with Trump

During a half-hour phone conversation, two leaders discussed topics including border security, trade and Nafta

Mr Lopez Obrador rode a wave of popular anger over government corruption to become the first self-described leftist elected to the Mexican presidency in four decades. Pedro Pardo/AFP
Mr Lopez Obrador rode a wave of popular anger over government corruption to become the first self-described leftist elected to the Mexican presidency in four decades. Pedro Pardo/AFP

Fresh off a landslide victory, Mexico’s newly elected leftist president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador pledged Monday to “reach an understanding” with Donald Trump amid uncertain times for two countries that must seek consensus on everything from contentious trade talks to cooperation on security and migration.

During a half-hour telephone conversation, Mr Trump said the two leaders discussed topics including border security, trade and the North American Free Trade Agreement, adding that “I think the relationship will be a very good one.”

In an interview with the Televisa news network, Mr Lopez Obrador did not provide specifics on what an “understanding” with the Trump administration might look like, except to emphasise the need for mutual respect and cooperation between the two neighbours.

“We are conscious of the need to maintain good relations with the United States. We have a border of more than 3,000km, more than 12 million Mexicans live in the United States. It is our main economic-commercial partner,” he said.

“We are not going to fight. We are always going to seek for there to be an agreement ... We are going to extend our frank hand to seek a relation of friendship, I repeat, of cooperation with the United States.”

Meanwhile, members of the business and political elite who fiercely opposed Lopez Obrador’s populist candidacy pledged to support his presidency in a loyal opposition, and the largely orderly vote in which his rivals conceded defeat gracefully — and quickly — was hailed as a win for democracy in the country.

With nearly three-quarters of the ballots counted, Mr Lopez Obrador had about 53 percent of the vote — the most for any presidential candidate since 1982, a time when the Institutional Revolutionary Party was in its 71-year domination of Mexican politics and ruling party victories were a given.

Rivals Ricardo Anaya and Jose Antonio Meade acknowledged Lopez Obrador’s win even before official results were announced, in a break from past elections. Lopez Obrador himself refused to accept his two previous presidential losses, and in 2006 his supporters set up a protest camp that caused months of chaos in downtown Mexico City.

Mr Lopez Obrador, who rode a wave of popular anger over government corruption to become the first self-described leftist elected to the Mexican presidency in four decades, has pointedly sought to reassure his respect for the constitution, private property and individual rights, vowing there will be no expropriations even as he pushes to “eradicate” endemic corruption.

He announced a team of advisers that includes prominent businessman Alfonso Romo — a friend of telecom magnate Carlos Slim, one of the world’s wealthiest people — and widely respected politician Tatiana Clouthier, formerly a member of Mr Anaya’s conservative party, apparently seeking to signal that nobody should fear his promise of “profound change.”