World / Politics

Mexico’s new ‘common man’ president hits the ground running, as he looks to sell official jet

AP

Mexico’s newly inaugurated president hit the ground running Monday with his pledge to govern as a common man and end decades of secrecy, heavy security and luxury enjoyed by past presidents.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sported slightly ruffled hair at his first early morning news conference as president, which started at 7 a.m. local time.

“Isn’t that a change, that I am here, informing you?” Lopez Obrador asked reporters. While past presidents have very seldom held news conferences, Lopez Obrador promised to do so on a near-daily basis, much as he did when he was mayor of Mexico City from 2000-2005.

Lopez Obrador took his first airplane flight as president Sunday, boarding a commercial flight with the rest of the passengers. He has promised to sell the presidential jet as an austerity measure.

Lopez Obrador arrived at Mexico City’s National Palace in the same white compact car he used before taking office Saturday. Lopez Obrador refused the military bodyguards used by past presidents and travels with a small staff of aides who provide security. He usually travels tourist class.

“I feel safe, protected and supported by the Mexican people,” Lopez Obrador said.

He also claimed that the number of murders had declined Saturday and Sunday, his first two days in office.

In the first 10 months of 2018, homicides in Mexico have run at an average of just over 80 per day.

But Lopez Obrador said the average over the weekend was about 50, according to initial reports. He cautioned that those totals are preliminary and still under review.

The president and his staff said necessary work would continue to safeguard the foundations already built at the proposed new Mexico City airport project he plans to cancel in favor of expanding existing airports.

Officials have not determined what will be done with the vast foundations built on a former lakebed known as Texcoco. But some further work is needed to keep the slabs from decaying or sinking.

Lopez Obrador has promised to protect investors who bought bonds to fund the construction, but on Monday the airport fund issued an auction offer to re-purchase $6 billion worth of the bonds at a price of 90 cents to $1 on the dollar of principal amounts, suggesting some bondholders may take a haircut.