In 3rd bid to lead Mexico, fiery leftist puts oil reform in crosshairs

viernes 12 de agosto de 2016 13:19 GYT

By David Alire Garcia

MEXICO CITY Aug 12 (Reuters) - A firebrand leftist who twice narrowly missed becoming Mexico's president is riding high with a fresh bid for election in 2018, vowing to upend a landmark energy sector opening championed by President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Pledging to root out graft and undo several other Pena Nieto policies, populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known by the moniker AMLO, leads most opinion polls for the presidential race.

While AMLO has long railed against the energy reform, the combative 62-year-old would take a series of concrete measures to disrupt it if he wins, said his top energy advisor Rocio Nahle. She said AMLO would seek to wean Mexico off of cheap fuel imports, produce more at home at new refineries and bolster ailing state oil giant Pemex.

In 2006, Lopez Obrador came within less than a percentage point of winning. Six years later he lost by about 6 percentage points to Pena Nieto, who is now deeply unpopular for a series of conflict of interest scandals, a lackluster economy and grinding drug gang violence.

Several recent polls show AMLO leading all likely rivals, with a 36 percent approval rating according to a recent poll by leading newspaper El Universal, which could be enough to win in Mexico's raucous multi-party democracy.

Nahle is the leader of Lopez Obrador's new political party, Morena, in the lower chamber of Congress, and also the party's top energy advisor. She detailed how AMLO plans to cripple Pena Nieto's oil opening.

She said Lopez Obrador, mayor of Mexico City a decade ago, would immediately call for a public referendum on whether oil companies should be allowed to develop projects alone, as Pena Nieto's reform envisions.

AMLO would require that Pemex take minimum stakes in all future oil contracts, and may also seek to revoke two dozen contracts already signed with oil companies.   Continuación...