Mexico’s AMLO Is Said to Consider Adding Tequila Crisis Veteran

(Bloomberg) -- Mexican presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is considering asking Guillermo Ortiz, who guided Mexico through the Tequila Crisis, to join his cabinet if elected, according to two people familiar with his thinking.

Ortiz is being eyed for his experience and reputation in international markets, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing private conversations. Lopez Obrador, or AMLO as he’s widely known, is also considering Santiago Levy, who served as Ortiz’s deputy, as a potential addition to the administration, according to two other people.

Mexico’s peso and stock market have slumped in recent weeks on concern about how Lopez Obrador would run the nation’s finances and his promise to boost social spending without increasing taxes. Lopez Obrador is considered the favorite to win the July 1 vote, with 52 percent support, compared with 25 percent for Ricardo Anaya, the second-place candidate, according to Bloomberg’s Poll Tracker.

Lopez Obrador said last year he plans to make Carlos Urzua, who ran Mexico City’s finances from 2000 to 2003 when he was mayor, his finance minister and Graciela Marquez his economy minister, although there’s nothing that prevents him from making changes. He hasn’t yet said who would choose for chief executive officer of Petroleos Mexicanos.

Ortiz, 69, who holds a doctorate in economics from Stanford University, had served as transportation minister for less than a month in December 1994 when President Ernesto Zedillo tapped him as finance minister to stabilize the economy amid a peso devaluation and capital flight sparked by U.S. rate hikes. Ortiz saw Mexico through one of the worst recessions since the 1930s and a U.S. bailout, helping return the nation to growth in 1996. In 1998, he became governor of the central bank, where he served for a decade before heading Grupo Financiero Banorte SAB, one of Mexico’s biggest banks, and BTG Pactual Group’s Mexico unit.

Right Skill Set

"A Morena government is in desperate need of somebody who can send not just the right financial message but the right political message to global markets,” Duncan Wood, director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington. "Somebody who is capable of not only understanding economic orthodoxy, but also of handling the minutia of negotiating internally in a country as complex as Mexico."

Ortiz, reached by phone, declined to comment. Levy didn’t immediately return an e-mail and voicemail seeking comment. Lopez Obrador’s press office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Levy, 62, a vice president at the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, served under Ortiz at the Finance Ministry and led design of the Progresa-Oportunidades conditional cash transfer program for the poor. He went on to lead Mexico’s social security institute under President Vicente Fox. Levy is due to retire from the bank later this year, making him available from a timing perspective to join the administration, two of the people said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.