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Mexican heroes, not Chavez or Lula, inspire leftist

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    Mexican heroes, not Chavez or Lula, inspire leftist By Alistair Bell Mon Feb 27, 2:43 PM ET MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The man favored to win Mexico s
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2006
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      Mexican heroes, not Chavez or Lula, inspire leftist

      By Alistair Bell Mon Feb 27, 2:43 PM ET

      MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The man favored to win Mexico's presidential
      election is often compared to the new breed of Latin American left-wing
      leaders but he prefers to delve deep into Mexican history to find his role
      models.

      Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the leftist front-runner for the July
      election, denies he is a populist in the mold of Venezuelan President Hugo
      Chavez and he rejects similarities to Bolivia's new leader, Evo Morales, or
      Brazil's more moderate president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

      Instead, Lopez Obrador is a keen admirer of Benito Juarez, a poor Zapotec
      Indian who became Mexico's first indigenous president and a modernizer in
      the mid-19th century.

      At campaign rallies, amateur history buff Lopez Obrador lauds Mexico's
      independence heroes in the fight against Spain, and famous revolutionaries
      like Emiliano Zapata and Francisco "Pancho" Villa.

      But he reserves most praise for the liberal Juarez, offering a glimpse into
      the kind of president he might try to be if he wins the July 2 vote.

      "We are inspired by Benito Juarez's sobriety, austerity and the firmness of
      his republican principles," Lopez Obrador told a rally of up to 100,000
      people in Mexico City on Sunday.

      Lopez Obrador, the capital's former mayor, has topped opinion polls for the
      last three years, although his lead has faded a bit since campaigning began
      in January.

      Wall Street investors and Washington policy-makers are anxious to know
      where he fits into Latin America's recent swing to the left. They worry
      Lopez Obrador will wreck Mexico's financial stability by spending heavily
      to create jobs, and that he might also take a firm anti-U.S. stance.

      Lopez Obrador says he would take Juarez, who expanded civil rights and
      curbed Roman Catholic Church powers, as an example.

      Juarez, a steel-willed man whose face adorns Mexico's 20-peso note, is a
      national icon for defeating French invaders, drawing up a federalist
      constitution and bringing a country torn by political and religious chaos
      under the rule of law.

      TOUGH TASK

      Lopez Obrador sees in himself a similar willingness to shake up Mexico,
      blighted by drug gang violence, mass emigration to the United States and
      grinding poverty, said left-wing historian Lorenzo Meyer.

      "What is it that Andres Manuel sees in Juarez? He sees a political leader
      with a task that is almost impossible," said Meyer.

      Lopez Obrador's reluctance to identify himself with other modern leftists
      might be an effort not to antagonize next-door neighbor the United States,
      Mexico's key trading partner.

      "In their own ways, Lula, Chavez and Kirchner have conflicts with the
      United States," said Meyer. "Anything Lopez Obrador might say on foreign
      policy could turn into a problem for him."

      But aides say Lopez Obrador, a widower and former Indian rights activist,
      is driven by a need to leave his own mark on history, in his case by
      raising millions of Mexicans out of poverty and fighting corruption.

      "It is not just about putting the presidential sash on and sitting in the
      presidential seat," Lopez Obrador said on Sunday. "It's about a real
      renovation, a true purification of public life."

      Lopez Obrador will make history of his own if he wins the election. No
      candidate from a left-wing party has ever become president in Mexico.

      Lopez Obrador called former President Lazaro Cardenas the best Mexican
      president of last century on Sunday. Cardenas is remembered for
      nationalizing the oil industry in 1938 and the reference underlined Lopez
      Obrador's commitment to keep private investment away from state oil
      monopoly Pemex.

      Lopez Obrador speaks little about foreign policy and other regional
      leaders, which is no loss for some Mexicans.

      "We don't know much about them," said florist Estela Ramos, a Lopez Obrador
      backer. "We have enough problems in Mexico."

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