A group of 10 state governors has withdrawn from the National Conference of Governors (Conago) after deeming that President López Obrador is a threat to democracy.
Announcing their departure from the national organization on Monday, members of the Federalist Alliance (AF) – namely the governors of Aguascalientes, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas – said their aim is to become a counterbalance to what they see as López Obrador’s attempt to concentrate power in the federal government.
Javier Corral of Chihuahua, one of five National Action Party (PAN) governors who belong to the AF, said that in addition to the difficulties created by the coronavirus pandemic, Mexico is currently going through a “delicate political time” due to the president’s “unacceptable” bid to concentrate power in the federal executive.
He said there was a “hint of authoritarianism that violates democracy” in López Obrador’s conduct.
Speaking on behalf of his AF colleagues, Corral also said that “unfortunate” declarations by the president and members of his government have portrayed opposition lawmakers as an “enemy” to be defeated.
“Defending [one’s] positions is valid but what is not OK is to look down on and discredit those who don’t think like him [López Obrador],” he said.
“However, from the National Palace [the seat of federal executive power], what appears to be an unequivocal warning is launched: ‘You’re either with me or against me,’” Corral said.
He added that “national unity” shouldn’t resolve around the president but rather around the nation’s “democratic institutions.”
Conago, an organization founded in 2001 that brings together the nation’s 31 governors as well as the Mexico City mayor for regular meetings, has “moved away from its spirit,” Corral said, adding that he and his fellow AF governors, among whom are four other opposition party leaders and an independent, “see few or no possibilities” for constructive cooperation in it moving forward.
The members of the AF, which formed earlier this year to demand more federal funding to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and other challenges, will aim to “build a space for effective dialogue and effective collaboration,” the Chihuahua governor said.
At a press conference after meeting in Chihuahua on Monday, the AF governors also criticized the federal government’s management of the pandemic – the Covid-19 death toll currently stands at 67,781 – and its large infrastructure projects such as the new Mexico City airport, the Maya Train and the new oil refinery on the Tabasco coast.
Jaime Rodríguez Calderón, independent governor of Nuevo León, said that the states the AF governors represent have done the best job managing the pandemic, asserting that they have the lowest fatality rates in the country.
He questioned why states were being guided by the federal government when he and his AF colleagues have shown that they are capable of working together to come up with their own solutions to problems including management of the pandemic.
“The centralization of decisions damages Mexico. … With this health and economic alliance, we intend to defeat the center [of power], which is the true virus; [the federal government] is a virus that stops the progress of the regions,” Rodríguez said.
The majority of the AF governors have already demanded the resignation of Mexico’s coronavirus czar, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, claiming that his strategy to combat the pandemic has failed.
Silvano Aureoles, Democratic Revolution Party governor of Michoacán, said the decision to leave Conago is a responsible one because many states aren’t getting a fair deal from the federal government with regard to funding.
“Our responsibility is to look after and defend our states,” he said.
Aureoles took aim at the federal government’s spending on López Obrador’s signature infrastructure projects, charging that the outlay was not in keeping with its austerity drive.
The president allocates resources as if the federal budget was his own personal budget, Aureoles declared, adding that López Obrador asks the states to foot the bill for his tours across the country to inspect the progress of his pet projects.
In remarks reminiscent of Corral’s words, Enrique Alfaro of Jalisco said the AF governors will create a forum for “true republican dialogue, not simulation.”
“This space … will certainly be able to open up an effective channel of communication with [non-AF] governors of other states,” the Citizens Movement party governor said.