For the second time since he took office in December 2018, President López Obrador didn’t appear in person at his own morning news conference on Friday.
Members of the CNTE teachers union and other protesters blocked his vehicle for more than two hours, preventing him from entering a military base in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas, where this morning’s conference was held.
Almost an hour into the presser, López Obrador appeared via a video call to address reporters from the SUV in which he was traveling.
“I’m pleased to be able to communicate with you in a somewhat special situation,” said the president, still wearing his seatbelt.
“… I was about to arrive … but at the entrance to the barracks a group of teachers from the Chiapas CNTE prevented our entry under the condition that we had to attend to them immediately and resolve their demands,” he said.
“I can’t allow this because the president of Mexico cannot be a hostage of anyone. I can’t yield to any vested interest group so I decided to stay here. I’m not going to enter by force,” López Obrador said, comparing his non-violent actions to those of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi.
“… If they don’t allow us to pass, I’ll stay here the time that is necessary,” he said. “… Due to the dignity invested in the president I can’t yield to the blackmail by anybody. I don’t establish relations of mafioso complicity with any vested interest group. So we’re offering dialogue … [with the] education minister, to whom this issue corresponds.”
The president described the teachers’ protest as legal but improper and called on them to consider whether he really deserved to be subjected to it. He noted that he has met with members of the dissident teachers’ union as many as 10 times and canceled the previous government’s “badly named education reform.”
Protesting teachers demanded to speak to the president about employment issues including remuneration, working conditions and recruitment. The disgruntled educators also rejected the government’s claim that the much protested 2013 education reform has been fully repealed.
Students, healthcare workers and family members of victims of crime were also among the approximately 200 protesters that blocked the president’s vehicle.
“We’re mothers of victims of femicide. We want our cases to be resolved,” Adriana Gómez Martínez told the newspaper Reforma.
“I believe he’s doing the wrong thing [by staying in his car] because he should attend to us, he should know our requests, that’s why we’re here,” she said.
After the protesters dispersed, López Obrador finally made it into the military compound at about 8:15 a.m., more than two hours after the 6:00 a.m. starting time for a security meeting he planned to attend and more than an hour after the commencement of his 7:00 a.m. press conference.
Once inside he met with members of his security cabinet and Chiapas Governor Rutilio Escandón, who initiated the president’s presser in his absence.
The only other time López Obrador was unable to attend a morning conference was when he contracted COVID-19 in January and was away from the conference hall for two weeks.