March 12, 2018 / 8:07 PM / 2 months ago

Mexico front-runner must respect oil, airport contracts -business lobby

MEXICO CITY, March 12 (Reuters) - Mexico’s powerful CCE business lobby on Monday urged the leftist front-runner for a July 1 presidential election to stop questioning major planks of the government’s economic agenda lest it damage investment.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has led opinion polls by a wide margin for weeks, has gradually moderated his rhetoric and his leading advisers have sought to reassure investors that he will not be an economic liability as president. However, his threats to scrap a new Mexico City airport already under construction and review oil and gas exploration and production contracts issued under a 2013-14 energy reform still worry some investors.

“As we’ve said, you can’t ask the private sector to take part in building a better country at the same time as undermining certainty and the rule of law as conditions for fostering investment,” Juan Pablo Castanon, president of the powerful CCE lobby, an umbrella group for business groups, said at an event in Mexico City.

“For this reason, we businessfolk demand guarantees that the contracts awarded under the energy reform and for the new airport will be respected,” he added. “In a country governed by the rule of law, contracts are honored, and cannot be subject to the will or interpretation of a sitting government.”

Lopez Obrador’s top energy adviser has said that while publicly available versions of the energy contracts appear to be without problems, further investigation was needed to ensure corruption had not tainted the awarding process.

The business community was also worried there were candidates and campaign teams already casting doubt on the validity of the election “depending on who the winner is,” Castanon said, without mentioning Lopez Obrador or his MORENA party.

Castanon’s comments follow a high profile speech by Lopez Obrador at a banking convention last week, in which he stuck to promises to not build a new airport at the current construction site and warned there could be protests if he lost by fraud.

The former mayor of Mexico City, who was runner-up in the previous two elections, organized massive protests in the capital when he was narrowly beaten for the presidency in 2006.

Two polls published last week showed him with a lead of more than 13 percentage points over his nearest rival. (Reporting by Josue Gonzalez; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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