March 3, 2020 / 6:05 PM / a month ago

Mexican president rejects resignation of senior official, backs him

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Tuesday rejected the resignation of a senior official who had quit due to a departmental spat over a major social program, exposing tensions beneath the surface of the government.

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico February 18, 2020. Picture taken February 18, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

Deputy Welfare Minister Javier May said on Monday he was standing down, firing off a broadside against his superior, Welfare Minister Maria Luisa Albores, whom he accused of stripping him of key responsibilities.

“He handed in his resignation, but I didn’t accept it,” Lopez Obrador told reporters at a regular morning news briefing. “Why did it happen? Due to differences, this happens a lot inside the government, like in families, in everything.”

“He’s going to stay,” he added, describing May as a “first rate” official.

May has been the official in charge of “Sembrando Vida,” an ambitious forestation program focused on Mexico’s poorer south intended to provide jobs and support agriculture.

Mexico has also exported the scheme to Central America in a bid to contain migration from the region.

In his resignation letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, May wrote: “Once the Welfare Minister had unilaterally revoked the faculties required to run the said program, the conditions to remain in charge of it no longer existed.”

Neither May nor the welfare ministry immediately replied to requests for comment.

A source close to May told Reuters that his future would be resolved in meetings during the day.

Separately, a government source said friction had been brewing between May and Albores for months, and that May, a politician from the president’s home state of Tabasco, had the support of Lopez Obrador.

Lopez Obrador, in power since December 2018, has dominated the government from his morning news conferences, at times giving policy direction an improvised feel.

That governing style has caused tensions within the administration and prompted some prominent officials to quit.

The most high-level resignation was that of Finance Minister Carlos Urzua, who quit in July 2019 with a letter that shocked markets by citing “extremism” in economic policy.

Reporting by Dave Graham and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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