Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Uruapan, Michoacan state, Mexico, June 8 2018. Picture: REUTERS
Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in Uruapan, Michoacan state, Mexico, June 8 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Mexico City — The politician leading the race to be Mexico’s next leader has said he wants to broker a deal with US President Donald Trump to stem illegal immigration through jobs and development rather than a border wall.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the favourite to win Mexico’s July 1 presidential election, said he hoped to craft a deal with Trump similar to the Alliance for Progress, an aid plan launched in 1961 by then president John F Kennedy to help Latin America.

"Our dream, which we’ll achieve regardless of whether Trump accepts or not, is that the Mexican can work and be happy where he was born," Lopez Obrador said during a campaign event in the southern border city of Tapachula.

Aides to Lopez Obrador, a leftist former mayor of Mexico City, say he thinks he can find common ground with Trump over migration, which has fuelled tension between the two countries. For months the Mexican candidate has been working on his plan to improve wages and create better conditions for Mexican workers. It must also raise living standards in Central America and create more job opportunities there, said Lopez Obrador.

Sceptics, however, doubt Lopez Obrador could persuade Trump to abandon his proposed border wall, a signature campaign pledge that fires up his political base, or that Trump would embrace a programme to create employment in Mexico, which the US president accuses of stealing American jobs.

FIGHTING CORRUPTION

Part of Lopez Obrador’s pitch, aides say, rests on his willingness to say the buck stops with him. The candidate has said repeatedly that Mexico must do more to solve its own problems, including fighting corruption and violent crime, a view that Trump shares.

"Andres’s point is that it’s [Mexico’s] fault, it’s not the fault of the United States," said campaign aide Marcelo Ebrard, who succeeded Lopez Obrador as mayor.

Lopez Obrador’s advisers say his plan has progressed on the back of months of study of the US president. The candidate said he would detail his proposal in due course and that he also wanted Canada to be part of it.

Lopez Obrador has already talked of creating a special zone along Mexico’s northern border with lower taxes and higher wages. His advisers said measures could also be directed at the southern border and elsewhere to contain migration.

If elected, Lopez Obrador will take office on December 1. It is unclear how his plan would be funded or how it will win over the current US president. Aides say he would push for a deal with Trump soon after assuming power.

Reuters