MEXICO CITY – The unique tandem formed by Mexican President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and multi-billionaire telecoms magnate Carlos Slim represents a potentially explosive mix of personalities and interests, especially in light of their ideological differences, although they have proven in the past that they can work together.
One is an austere leftist politician who ascended to Mexico’s highest office on an anti-corruption platform, while the other has the largest net worth in the Aztec nation and seventh-highest worldwide, according to Forbes magazine.
The two respect one another but have had their differences, most recently expressing diverging views a few months ago about the necessity of new $13 billion Mexico City airport
Lopez Obrador threatened during his election campaign to halt the project, saying on several occasions that it was too expensive and a poor use of public funds.
His remarks frazzled investors’ nerves, although he has since toned down his objections and said he will review contracts to see if there were any irregularities or instances of corruption.
Slim, meanwhile, made an unusual public appearance in April to express backing for the project, referring to it at a press conference as a “detonator of the country’s development” and warning that the country’s growth would be stunted if it were canceled.
But Lopez Obrador fired back immediately, noting that Slim had an interest in the project as a contractor and that he should build it with his own money if he believes it is such a good business.
Even so, since his landslide victory in the July 1 presidential election, Lopez Obrador has praised the 78-year-old Slim publicly, saying his business acumen and success has made him a role model in Mexico and around the world.
The two men had a strong working relationship when Lopez Obrador served as Mexico City’s mayor from 2000 to 2005, with the politician inviting Slim to invest in the downtown Paseo de la Reforma thoroughfare.
The magnate opted instead to invest in the capital’s then-rundown historical center, which has since been revitalized and is now a thriving area filled with stores and restaurants.
But Lopez Obrador also has targeted Slim as part of his attacks on the Mexican elite, saying in a 2010 book that the magnate was part of a “mafia of power” made up of politicians and business leaders.
Now with the 64-year-old president-elect less than four months away from taking office, both men seem to be aware that they need one another and that it will benefit Mexico if they can find common ground.