Mexico's ruling party suffers first senate resignation

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – A Mexican lawmaker on Tuesday became the first senator to quit from the ruling National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, dealing another blow to the leftist leader as pressure mounts over his performance.

Lopez Obrador’s approval rating dropped to 46.5% in a daily survey by pollster Mitofsky, versus about 80% early in his term, as the sheen wears off promises to tackle graft and prioritise the poor that brought him a landslide election win in 2018.

“I am leaving the MORENA bench over differences of opinion,” Lily Tellez, who represents the northern state of Sonora, said on Twitter. “I am now a senator without a party.”

A senate spokeswoman said Tellez was the first senator to leave MORENA, which Lopez Obrador created as opposition for Mexico’s largest parties, including the long-ruling centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).

MORENA was registered in 2014, and, along with its allies, took a majority in Congress when Lopez Obrador came to power.

Tellez, a former news host on television channel TV Azteca, had previously survived an internal attempt to remove her from MORENA over concerns that she did not share party principles.

MORENA’s senate leader, Ricardo Monreal, said he had defended her from the ouster, and was sorry to see her go.

“She has voluntarily decided, but we’re staying firm, because this is a long fight,” he said on Tuesday.

Morena and its allies still have comfortable majorities in both houses of congress.

Late last month, Tellez lashed out on Twitter at Lopez Obrador after he shook hands with the elderly mother of convicted drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in an encounter caught on video.

“This handshake is an offense to the victims of narco-trafficking and to Mexico’s armed forces,” she said, calling the images hurtful and concerning.

A poll from newspaper El Financiero showed support for MORENA, never as popular as Lopez Obrador himself, slipped to 18% in March from 33% in January.

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