Most Mexicans back president's holdout stance on congratulating Biden, poll shows

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A majority of Mexicans support President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s decision to hold off congratulating Joe Biden so far on his victory in the U.S. presidential election, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.

In contrast to the approach of most world leaders, Lopez Obrador has not recognized Biden’s victory over U.S. President Donald Trump, arguing Mexico should wait until legal challenges launched by the incumbent over the Nov. 3 election have played out.

Lopez Obrador was critical of Trump in opposition but has been careful to avoid provoking him since taking office two years ago, and has even described him as a friend of Mexico.

Asked in a poll by newspaper El Financiero whether Lopez Obrador was right to withhold his congratulations to Biden until the vote count had been finalized, 57% of respondents backed the president, whereas 25% said they disagreed with him.

According to the survey, President-elect Biden is far more favorably viewed in Mexico than Trump, who strained ties with aggressive rhetoric and by threatening to impose tariffs on Mexican goods if Lopez Obrador did not curb illegal immigration to the United States.

Some 45% of those polled expressed a positive view of Biden, while 16% saw him in a negative light. By contrast, 74% had a negative opinion of Trump, and just 11% a positive one.

Some of Biden’s fellow Democrats have voiced frustration about Lopez Obrador’s attitude to congratulating him. Still, only one in five poll respondents expected the delay to hurt ties between Mexico and the United States.

On balance, more Mexicans thought relations were likely to be good between Biden and Lopez Obrador than to be bad, in contrast to how they perceive them under Trump, the poll showed.

The survey polled 410 Mexican adults from Nov. 14-15 and had a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percentage points, the paper said.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Alistair Bell