Mexican leader to invite Trump to inauguration, signals shift on Venezuela

Mexico's President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador holds a news conference to announce Marcelo Ebrard as foreign minister, in Mexico City, Mexico July 5, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Jasso

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Thursday he would invite U.S. President Donald Trump to his Dec. 1 inauguration, as the leftist signaled a potential shift in Mexican policy toward Venezuela.

Lopez Obrador, who won election by a landslide on Sunday, said he would invite Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other heads of state to his swearing in.

“An invitation will be sent to Donald Trump. We are neighboring countries, we have economic and trade relations, a bond of friendship,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference.

Relations between the two men will be under close scrutiny to see whether they can move past tensions over migration, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and Trump’s demand that Mexico pay for a border wall.

The 64-year-old Lopez Obrador wants to broker a deal with Trump under which the United States helps economic development in Mexico and Central America, and Mexico works to reduce migration from the region north.

Lopez Obrador broached the issue with Trump on Monday in what he described as a friendly and respectful phone call. Trump said he felt the relationship would be a “very good one.”

An aide to the incoming Mexican president said the call served as a reset in ties between the neighboring countries.

Lopez Obrador’s team is preparing for a joint meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and outgoing President Enrique Pena Nieto in Mexico City at the end of next week.

More openly nationalist in outlook than his immediate predecessors, Lopez Obrador has shown little interest in foreign affairs in the past, focusing on Mexico’s domestic problems.

Replying to a question about the approach his government would take to the crisis in socialist-led Venezuela, Lopez Obrador said: “We’re going to apply the foreign policy of non-intervention of self-determination of nations.”

Non-intervention in the affairs of other states has been a bedrock of Mexico’s foreign policy.

Still, Pena Nieto’s government has spoken out strongly against Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro for what it sees as his undemocratic practices, siding with the United States and seeking votes against the OPEC nation in diplomatic forums.

Lopez Obrador called the news conference to announce that his close aide Marcelo Ebrard, 58, would replace his original pick for foreign minister, Hector Vasconcelos.

Ebrard, who succeeded Lopez Obrador as mayor of Mexico City, is regarded as a political moderate on the left.

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