MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican leftist presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Wednesday he rejects the socialist policies of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, responding to market concerns he could put the economy at risk if elected.
The former mayor of Mexico City has been gaining on front-runner Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) over the past few weeks, though he still trails by double-digits in most polls ahead of the July 1 vote.
Lopez Obrador, who narrowly lost the 2006 election when he was branded “a danger to Mexico” by opponents, said he would pursue his own economic model if elected and dismissed the notion his administration could resemble that of Chavez.
“I don’t know the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez. I have never even talked with him on the phone,” he told a news conference in Mexico City. “The model we are going to put in place in Mexico is part of our reality, a Mexican model.”
“We are not going to copy other models,” added the 58-year-old, who is running for a coalition of leftist groups led by the Party of the Democratic Revolution(PRD).
Opponents have repeatedly tried to link Lopez Obrador to the younger Chavez, who nationalized major sectors of Venezuela’s economy after taking office in 1999.
Lopez Obrador’s growing support in the polls coincides with recent student protests that have targeted Pena Nieto and the PRI, accusing both of corruption and authoritarianism.
Lopez Obrador ruled out private property seizures and said he proposes to finance social development with the proceeds of rooting out corruption, spending cuts and a tax overhaul.
At a separate event on Wednesday, Lopez Obrador said he would allow foreign investment in the country’s media businesses, but that local investors should be favored.
In 2006, Lopez Obrador claimed election fraud and launched months of disruptive street protests that choked the capital and eventually alienated many of his supporters.
During the current campaign, the candidate has said he wants to convert Mexico into “a loving republic.” Still, his recent gains in opinion surveys have caused some nervousness.
Last week, a poll that showed Lopez Obrador trailing Pena Nieto by only four points was cited by analysts as one of the reasons the Mexican peso lost value.
Asked if he would again launch protests if he comes up short this year, Lopez Obrador would only say he’s sure he will win.
“Pena Nieto is plummeting, he can’t stop the fall,” said Lopez Obrador. “This isn’t 2006.”
Reporting By Ana Isabel Martinez and Lizbeth Diaz; writing by David Alire Garcia; Editing by Cynthia Osterman