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Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011

Reforma interviews López Obrador;
he has become '$200 billion peso man'

Populist presidential candidate says that much can be cut from federal budget; says same amount can be recovered by reducing corruption;
and says same amount can be raised by taxing rich more

amloFormer Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, in an interview with the Mexico City newspaper Reforma, said the idea of legalizing drugs should be given thought. The populist presidential candidate said he is opposed to negotiating with organized crime, but indicated that the social programs he put in place in Mexico City could help reduce crime if applied nationwide. Asked whether he would investigate President Felipe Calderón for the way he has conducted the war on organized crime, López Obrador said he was a Juarista and was going to move Mexico forward, not look backward. He said he hoped to return the military to its barracks during the first year of his presidency.

López Obrador has been against a value-added tax on food and medicine because that would affect the poor most. He recognized that the government has insufficient tax resources for its 3.5 trillion peso ($261 billion) budget, but said he would try to solve the problem by cutting spending $200 billion pesos ($15 billion), reducing corruption (which he said could save another 200 billion pesos) and implementing a more progressive taxation scheme where the rich pay more, which he said could pull in another 200 billion pesos. Could these ideas be the equivalent of the 7% growth Vicente Fox sought for his 2000-2006 presidential term (which never happened) and of being the jobs president Felipe Calderón said he would be (that didn't happen either).

On education matters, López Obrador said he hoped to end the stranglehold that teachers union leader Elba Esther Gordillo has on the nation's schooling. He said he hoped to provide high school and university education for all, saying it is better to have youths in school than in the streets committing crimes.

He said he would like to see more TV networks than just Televisa and TV Azteca.

He was against re-election of legislators and municipal officials but for independent candidates and against holding a second round of voting if no one wins a majority.

López Obrador's May visit to Tijuana, where he said the PRI's return to the presidency would be like Santa Anna's disastrous returns to power.