By Frank Jack Daniel
MEXICOCITY (Reuters) – In just 48 hours in office, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has stamped a marked change of style on Mexican politics, with hands-on policies and symbolic moves aimed at narrowing the gap between the government and the people.
On Monday, he held his first news conference, promising to repeat the exercise every weekday at 7 a.m. – a contrast to predecessor Enrique Pena Nieto, who rarely took journalists’ questions, preferring to deliver stage-managed speeches.
The 65-year-old veteran leftist spoke on a range of subjects but, flanked by his security cabinet, spent most of the time talking about plans to personally take charge of stemming a cycle of cartel-led violence that has claimed more than 200,000 lives.
“It is so important to guarantee peace and tranquillity in the country that I am not going to delegate this responsibility, I am going to attend to it directly.”
Lopez Obrador promised a daily update on the violence, including how many people are murdered, adding that 50 people were killed on each of his first two days in government, a number he claimed was already lower than the average.
He flagged he was seeking commitments from Canada and the United States to invest in Mexico and Central America to slow illegal immigration, and said he had yet to discuss strategies to tackle cartels with U.S. President Donald Trump.
While refreshing for Mexicans tired of remote leaders, the shift from a measured to a more freewheeling manner has rattled some – most notably markets that responded badly to abrupt policy shifts announced while his was still president-elect.
In the conference the former Mexico City mayor tried to address concerns around his plan to cancel a $13 billion (10.2 billion pounds) partially built airport in the capital, saying investors in the project would be protected. At the same time, aides offered to pay upfront a portion of debt issued to fund the airport.
A few hours later, he dispatched Pena Nieto’s luxurious and nearly new Dreamliner presidential jet to California to be sold. He is putting most of the rest of the federal government’s fleet of planes and helicopters up for sale.
Lopez Obrador, who prefers to travel coach, was photographed on local airline Aeromar on his first trip as president on Sunday.
In a similar vein, the new government opened to the public the opulent Los Pinos residence used by every president since the 1930s and plans to turn it into a cultural centre. Instead, Lopez Obrador says he will live in more modest quarters.
(Editing by Sandra Maler)