Mexican front-runner sets Cabinet ahead of presidential vote

December 14, 2017
Presidential hopeful Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador presents members of his cabinet in Mexico City, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Front-running presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador presented the Cabinet if would form if he wins Mexico’s July 1 elections, and his choice for the top security post quickly sought to downplay his proposal to analyze giving amnesties to criminals.

The amnesty proposal has drawn criticism from analysts who say it wouldn’t work and would weaken law enforcement.

Proposed Interior Secretary Olga Sanchez said the amnesties are among many proposals that Lopez Obrador is weighing, but hasn’t adopted.

Sanchez, a former supreme court justice, said the proposal could simply boil down to offering sentence reductions, plea bargains or protected witness status for some criminals, to better pursue drug cartels.

Sanchez said all three policies are common tactics in the United States. But Mexico has no formal version of plea bargaining, and no phrase to really describe it.

“In the United States what they do in many cases is a permanent process of negotiation to get more information and combat organized crime, including protected witnesses and big sentence reductions,” Sanchez said.

“What he (Lopez Obrador) said is that we have to analyze it as one of the possibilities ... the main issue is to bring about social peace.”

Mexico’s homicide rate has returned to levels as high as at the height of the drug war in 2011, and few of the candidates appear to have concrete proposals on how to bring down the violence.

Lopez Obrador’s Cabinet picks were equally divided between men and women, but tended — like Lopez Obrador’s base of supporters — to be older.

Two key proposed Cabinet spots — Health and Transport — were for a doctor aged 70 and an engineer 80, respectively.

In a move apparently intended to sooth financial markets, Lopez Obrador said he would tap U.S,-educated economist and mathematician Carlos Urzua for the treasury department.

Lopez Obrador leads in polls on the presidential elections, but has lost twice before, in 2006 and 2012.

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