Mexico's Leftist Leaders Begin to Backtrack on Austerity

Mexico’s Leftist Leaders Begin to Backtrack on Austerity

The president of Mexico’s Senate smiled into the camera and flipped the lid of his red Tupperware. No costly expense account meals for me, proclaimed Martí Batres, a senior ally of President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador , as he took to social media to challenge legislators to embrace austerity by bringing their own packed lunches.

In the lower House, another senior figure in López Obrador’s Morena Party, Mario Delgado, urged colleagues to follow his lead and bring in a thermos — a bid to save the 4 million pesos ($211,000) the Chamber of Deputies spent on coffee, tea, biscuits and refreshments supplies for July to December.

The austerity drive — championed by a president-elect who drives a modest car, lives in an unpretentious house and flies economy class to official engagements — is a cornerstone of the man-of-the-people policies López Obrador promises to enact to eradicate corruption and distribute wealth more fairly when he takes office on Dec. 1. They include giving up the presidential plane, slashing his own and senior public servants’ salaries, axing bonuses and scrapping nonessential jobs, programs and agencies to channel savings into development projects. We want results, not promises. López Obrador, who says the country is “bankrupt,” has even questioned whether Mexico really needs the flashy Norman Foster–designed airport that is under construction and wants a public consultation next month to ask citizens if they would rather just tart up an existing military airport instead.

There is just one problem: López Obrador’s team is having to row […]

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