March 24, 2020 / 3:43 AM / 6 days ago

Mexican president vows to bail out the poor, not big companies, in coronavirus response

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico, March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Monday he would focus his response to the coronavirus outbreak on helping the poor rather than major companies as the virus spreads in Mexico, and that he would unveil more details on Tuesday.

Officials counted 367 cases on Monday, up from 316 the day before, with a total of four deaths, including two people who had diabetes.

Although the government has yet to take drastic measures to slow the contagion, such as issuing travel bans or requiring self-isolation, it has banned large events, suspended classes in primary schools and recommended people keep distance from others. Already, small businesses have begun to reel from the impact across the country, where millions live in poverty.

“If we have to rescue someone, who do we have to rescue? The poor,” Lopez Obrador told his daily news conference.

“No more rescues in the style of the neo-liberal period, that provided for banks, big companies. They shouldn’t even be thinking that there will be tax forgiveness or other mechanisms that were used before,” he said.

Lopez Obrador later wrote on Twitter that he would speak at his daily news conference on Tuesday about plans to protect Mexico’s most “vulnerable” population, adding that the country had sufficient public finances.

Lopez Obrador, a leftist, took office vowing to prioritize the poor and has often blamed many of Mexico’s problems on past administrations, including neo-liberal policies that he says only benefited a select few.

Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Tom Hogue

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