Mexican president urges Latino voters to reject DeSantis after campaign launch

FILE PHOTO: Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador attends a news conference in Mexico City
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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Thursday urged Latino voters not to back Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the next U.S. presidential election, accusing the Republican politician of trying to win votes at the expense of migrants.

DeSantis said Wednesday he would seek the 2024 Republican nomination for president and vowed to build a wall on the Mexico border, the latest in a series of hardline comments on immigration that he says resonate with Latino voters who want strong enforcement.

Lopez Obrador dismissed those comments.

"All of his playing politics with migrants was because he wanted to be the Republican party candidate," Lopez Obrador told a government press conference. "I hope the Hispanics of Florida wake up and don't give him a single vote."

DeSantis, who has championed border security and derided so-called "sanctuary cities" where migrants can shelter, said he would impose strong controls on illegal immigration and limit asylum.

"Day one, it's a national emergency. We will mobilize all resources to construct the border wall, shut the border down," the Florida governor told Fox News.

As well as building a wall, he said he would seek programs similar to former U.S. President Donald Trump's "Remain in Mexico," a contentious policy that forced asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while awaiting U.S. hearings on their claims.

Lopez Obrador, who has previously warned Republicans not to target migrants for political gain, also attacked Trump at the start of the former U.S. president's administration for his immigration policies. At the time, Lopez Obrador was in opposition.

After Lopez Obrador took power in 2018 he acceded to pressure from Trump to tighten up Mexico's borders.

Lopez Obrador's time in office is due to end before the next U.S. election, and he is now seeking to muster support for a successor due to be elected in June 2024.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire in Mexico City; Additional reporting by James Oliphant in Washington D.C., editing by Deepa Babington)