MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday allegations a ruling party lawmaker molested a teenager should be investigated, following anger at a senior leader who said the issue was a private matter unrelated to legislative work.
The president's call for an investigation contrasts with his previous reluctance to speak out against members of his party facing sexual abuse allegations in the run-up to June. 6 mid-term elections, including two gubernatorial candidates.
Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) said congressman Saul Huerta had withdrawn his candidacy for re-election after a 15-year-old boy alleged the lawmaker inappropriately touched him in a hotel room this week.
Huerta, 63, said he was innocent and the victim of an extortion attempt. He was briefly arrested by Mexico City police, then released because he is protected by immunity as a lawmaker. It was not immediately clear if he faces any more sanctions or formal charges.
When asked about the allegations, Lopez Obrador made no specific comment about Huerta, 63, but said he condemned any kind of sexual abuse and that the affected parties should present their complaints to enable authorities to investigate.
Carolina Beauregard, the opposition candidate for Huerta's seat in Congress in the elections, called for the investigation to be serious and the full weight of the law to be applied against him if found guilty.
The leader of MORENA in the lower house, Ignacio Mier Velasco, provoked widespread criticism in Mexican media after he replied to a question about the case by saying he respected the personal decisions of members of Congress and that Huerta had acted in his "private life," not as a lawmaker.
Mier later said on Twitter that he rejected any attack on a minor.
Speaking at a regular news conference, Lopez Obrador said that unlike previous governments, his administration would not cover up acts of wrongdoing to protect itself.
"We're not the same, so steps must be taken," he said.
(Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom)