Mexico City mayor pledges to change nation, resigns to seek presidency |

Mexico City mayor pledges to change nation, resigns to seek presidency

MEXICO CITY – The Mexican capital’s mayor announced a fight for a “true transformation of Mexico” Friday, before stepping down to seek the presidency in elections next summer.During his last day on the job, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the front-runner in national public opinion polls, emphasized that he put poor people first and resisted an underhanded conspiracy against him, as he summed up accomplishments during more than four years as mayor.”What fills me most with pride is to have brought into practice the principal that for the good of all, the poor come first,” said Lopez Obrador, describing new government spending on pensions for the elderly, student scholarships, and assistance for single mothers and the disabled.”I was myself submitted to strong pressures, a campaign to discredit me and an attempt to run me out of office, orchestrated in the most coarse and democratic way,” he told a crowd at Mexico’s National Auditorium.Lopez Obrador was stripped of his immunity from prosecution in April to face charges in an obscure land appropriation case, sparking protests that culminated in a massive street march. President Vicente Fox defused the escalating conflict by firing his attorney general and declaring the case closed.Constitutional term limits bar Fox from seeking a second, six-year term during elections on July 2, 2006.Lopez Obrador, a 51-year-old former Indian rights activist, is almost guaranteed the nomination of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party.In a brief reference to the yearlong campaign awaiting him, Lopez Obrador said, “I am going to fight, together with many Mexicans – women and men – for the true transformation of Mexico.”City Interior Secretary Alejandro Encinas was to take over the mayor’s duties this weekend and is likely to serve out the remainder Lopez Obrador’s six-year term once confirmed by the city assembly.The outgoing mayor, who built a following on social programs and construction projects, characterized Mexico City as a safe haven for private investment and said people raising concerns about public debt did so out of ignorance or bad faith.Lopez Obrador leaves office with a 71 percent approval rating in the capital, with widespread recognition for new pensions, education and transportation projects, according to a quarterly public opinion poll published Friday in the capital’s Reforma newspaper. The margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.However, 57 percent of city residents felt the mayor did not fulfill responsibilities on reducing crime.Mexico City has sought to purge and professionalize its notoriously corrupt police corps, but high rates of violent crime persist.The kidnapping of a professional soccer coach here last week and independent television ads featuring crime victims – including one mutilated by kidnappers – have focused last-minute attention on Lopez Obrador’s mixed law enforcement record.”It’s lamentable that some sad cases have been manipulated to suggest that crime could not be confronted and to maintain the perception that this was something we left pending,” Lopez Obrador said.The mayor applauded police tolerance in the face of the city’s notorious traffic-snarling protests, noting that “nobody lost their life as a consequence of police repression.”But he did not mention the killing of two federal agents last year by an angry mob in the city’s southern reaches.Federal and city officials had failed to get forces to the site on time, despite hours of warning, and Fox fired the city police chief and a top federal police official as a result.Vail, Colorado

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