Mexican leftist candidate answers business critics with 'Pejenomics' plan

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The leftist front-runner for the Mexican presidency has issued a pithy guide to his economic vision for the country to allay fears over his business savvy, albeit while doubling down on his sharp criticism of a few influential entrepreneurs.

FILE PHOTO: Leftist front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the National Regeneration Movement (MORENA), gestures during the 16th National Tourism Forum at the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City, Mexico May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

Under the title “Pejenomics,” presidential race leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador outlined his plans with a playful reference to his nickname “Peje” - a type of thick-skinned fish found in his home state of Tabasco in southern Mexico.

A war of words broke out when Lopez Obrador last week accused members of the corporate elite of impeding democracy and conspiring to keep him out of power, prompting a powerful business group to rebuke him with a newspaper ad.

Stressing that “the vast majority” of Mexican entrepreneurs are “dedicated, innovative and honest,” Lopez Obrador’s paper again pointed a finger at a select few bosses.

“It is important to stress that the criticism expressed by Lopez Obrador is directed at a small group of businessmen that have made their capital by means of corruption and influence trafficking,” it said at the outset of the paper, which circulated widely on social media on Thursday.

Opinion polls suggest that Lopez Obrador’s third presidential bid could be the best chance yet for the runner-up in the past two campaigns. Accusations that he would be an economic liability proved damaging to his previous tries.

After once suggesting he could unpick the centerpiece of the current government’s economic agenda - the opening of the oil and gas industry to private capital - Lopez Obrador has gradually shifted toward more moderate economic positions.

“Pejenomics” sought to dispel concerns that a Lopez Obrador victory could destabilize the economy, scotching the notion he would nationalize businesses or burden them with regulation. Instead, Mexico needed more competition, it said.

The medley of proposals sketched out in the 17-page manifesto included fostering entrepreneurship, renewable energy technologies, domestic industry and small businesses, plus stirring up competition in banking and making the country self-sufficient in food.

But it offered few details on how it would achieve them.

Writing by Dave Graham; editing by Jonathan Oatis