By Frank Jack Daniel
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican front-runner for next year's election, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, formalized his bid for the presidency on Tuesday and promised his government would spend on the young, elderly and farmers.
Left-winger Lopez Obrador, who had a 12-point lead in one recent poll, wants to significantly change Mexico's approach to the economy, security and education, vowing more support for the poorest but without new taxes or higher debt levels.
He promised cheap fertilizer and fixed produce prices for farmers with a goal of making Mexico self-sufficient in food. He also offered paid apprenticeships for unemployed youth, grants for students and higher pensions for the elderly - expanding on popular welfare programs introduced when he governed Mexico City.
A win by the 64-year-old self-declared nationalist on July 1 could reverse a Latin American trend toward right-leaning governments and set the stage for friction with U.S. President Donald Trump over his anti-migrant language and policies.
Lopez Obrador promised friendly ties with the U.S. government but said he would not accept "racist, hegemonic or arrogant attitudes."
He also proposed a shakeup of government, saying he would move more than a dozen ministries and federal bodies including state oil company Pemex from the capital to regional towns.
"The federal government will be decentralized," Lopez Obrador said, in a speech in the capital after registering his intention to run for his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party. He also promised not to increase fuel prices.
In the clearest language yet, he repeated his intention to consult with victims of drug crime about the possibility of offering amnesty to criminals who commit to rehabilitation.
"The only aim, there is no other, is to explore all the possibilities to curb the violence and guarantee peace for the people of Mexico," he said.
A poll this week found that two-thirds of Mexicans rejected the idea of amnesty, in a country on track for its deadliest year in modern history with nearly 21,000 murders through October.
Lopez Obrador, who has unsuccessfully run for the presidency twice before, will likely face Antonio Meade, running for the ruling party, and Ricardo Anaya, who heads a left-right coalition of opposition parties.
He did not say how he would finance his spending plans, but in the past has said all new spending would be funded by ending government corruption and waste.
(Additional reporting by Veronica Gomez; Editing by Christine Murray and Andrew Hay)