Mexico’s Sheinbaum Downplays Idea That AMLO Would Direct Her From Afar

(Bloomberg) -- President-elect Claudia Sheinbaum said her predecessor and political mentor won’t direct her administration from afar once she takes office in Mexico, addressing widespread questions about the potential for Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s continued involvement in government affairs.

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Sheinbaum made fun of the idea that AMLO, as the outgoing president is known, could have a “red telephone” on her desk to ensure a direct connection between them, but conceded that she could seek his advice if something “terrible” happens in the country. She blamed their mutual adversaries for suggesting that the ex-president would be calling in often.

“I said to him, ‘But if something terrible happens in the country?” and he said, ‘Well, if that’s the case....” I said, “The homeland comes first.’ And he said to me, ‘The homeland comes first.’ These are the conversations that we are having in this historic transition, because we have the privilege of having known one another for a long time, and of having worked together for nearly 24 years,” Sheinbaum said to the press on Wednesday.

AMLO, who’s finishing this government with approval rates near 60%, has promised to withdraw from politics when his term ends. He’s said he intends to retire to a ranch he inherited in southern Mexico and spend his time writing a book. Few in Mexico believe he will completely leave the spotlight, or at least refrain from exerting his influence in national politics. In particular, his championing of a controversial judicial reform suggest he’s not done having a say.

In a tongue-in-cheek tone, Sheinbaum added that she had proposed to AMLO in one of their many informal conversations that he remain involved as former President Lazaro Cardenas did after his administration. Cardenas, who governed from 1934 to 1940, was part of the development of a river basin. Sheinbaum said Lopez Obrador replied “No, no, I won’t accept.” Her light-hearted narration of these events underscored the ease with which the two of them chat, as the press closely follows the power dynamic between the two.

Sheinbaum, who will take power on Oct. 1, plans to name additional members of her cabinet on Thursday after naming an initial group of six last week. Jose Antonio Peña Merino, known also as Pepe Merino, will be the head of an agency for digital transformation, she added Wednesday.

(Update with additional details starting in second paragraph.)

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