March 24, 2019 / 6:10 AM / 4 months ago

Mexican president jeered by hostile crowd at baseball event

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has enjoyed soaring approval ratings in his first few months in power, got a rare taste of public animosity on Saturday when he was booed at the inauguration of a baseball stadium in Mexico City.

Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during the opening celebrations of the Alfredo Harp Helu Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico March 23, 2019. Press Office Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador/Handout via REUTERS

In an evening ceremony to mark the opening of the new home of the Diablos Rojos de Mexico (Mexico City Red Devils), Lopez Obrador endured cat whistles, boos and cries of “out” from the packed crowd at the stadium close to the city’s airport.

It was unclear why sections of the crowd were hostile towards the president, but the self-professed baseball fan hit back against the criticism, scoffing at his adversaries.

“I’m not going to talk much, because there are some fans here from team ‘fifi’,” he said from the pitch, using a term sometimes rendered as ‘sissy’ he favors to belittle critical voices.

“But the majority of the people are in favor of change and in favor of the king of sports: baseball,” he continued, as the Diablos Rojos prepared to play the San Diego Padres.

Lopez Obrador, a leftist former mayor of Mexico City, took power in December following a landslide election win last July.

During the five month transition, he quickly set about stamping his authority on Mexico, pledging to revamp the economy from the bottom up and upsetting some of the country’s wealthier citizens with his decisions, particularly on economic policy.

His Oct. 29 cancellation of a partly-built, $13 billion new airport for the capital proved especially contentious.

Since taking power, Lopez Obrador has taken a firm grip of the national agenda with daily news conferences at 7 a.m. The public has warmed to it, and his approval ratings have flown as high as 80 percent or above, according to opinion polls.

Amid boos and applause, Lopez Obrador mixed baseball terms and rhetoric from his campaign to tell the crowd he would deliver on promises to defeat the corrupt “mafia” he says is the root cause of violence, poverty and inequality in Mexico.

“We’re going to continue subjecting the ‘mafia of power’ to strikeouts,” he said, winding up his speech quickly before throwing the first ceremonial pitch to open the stadium.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Sam Holmes

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