Mexico president's chief of staff resigns; stays link to biz

·2-min read

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Wednesday that his chief of staff, Alfonso Romo, was resigning but would continue to be his “main liaison” to the business sector.

It marked the latest chapter in López Obrador’s tense and often troubled relations with the business community, and was at least the fourth major Cabinet resignation in the president’s first two years in office.

“Alfonso Romo will leave as chief of staff of the president's office, but he will continue to be my main liaison to the private sector," López Obrador wrote in his Twitter account. “We agreed on two years, and that time is up.”

Romo is an entrepreneur who has drawn criticism for allegedly riding roughshod over environmental concerns.

But despite being an insider, he has also been largely unable to smooth businesses concern over López Obrador’s policies of aggressive tax collection, reserving public works for the army and disavowing private sector contracts he dislikes.

“He has helped me, and he will continue helping me,” López Obrador wrote.

Romo was cited by former Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Victor Manuel Toledo as an obstacle to environmental work. Toledo resigned this summer. Previously, his predecessor at the Environment Department and the secretaries of the treasury and transportation had also resigned.

In a tape made public, Toledo said Romo had accumulated vast power and was the primary obstacle to any sort of environmental agenda, including a transition to renewable energy.

“We’re trying at Semarnat (the initials of the Environment Department), but we are not in a government that is totally on our side,” he said, adding that the administration “is a government of brutal contradictions.”

López Obrador has angered investors in renewable energy projects in Mexico by making it harder for them to bring wind or solar plants online, in part to protect more heavily polluting government-owned power plants.

The presisdent also forced private companies to re-negotiate supply contracts signed by his predecessor for natural gas pipelines, because he thought they were too expensive.

The administration also has badgered companies into paying hundreds of millions in back taxes and has mounted what some view as an over-zealous campaign of tax collection.