A new crack has appeared in the cabinet of President López Obrador.
The president said on Tuesday that Welfare Minister María Luisa Albores acted without his authorization when she published a decree in the government’s official gazette last Friday that announced that the official Javier May had been stripped of responsibility for the tree-planting employment program known as Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life).
May tendered his resignation from the Welfare Ministry on Monday, stating in a letter that Albores had “unilaterally repealed” the powers he requires to operate the reforestation program.
However, López Obrador said that he hadn’t accepted the resignation and that May would remain at the helm of Sembrando Vida, one of the government’s signature welfare programs.
“He presented his resignation but I didn’t accept it,” he said. “That decree was not consulted, it wasn’t even presented to me and it will be reversed.”
The president conceded that there are differences of opinion within his cabinet but sought to downplay them, asserting that he prefers to have free-thinking men and women in his government. He said that the differences are similar to those that exist in families and that part of his job is to bring people together.
“We need to reconcile, come to an agreement, close ranks … [but] with each person maintaining their freedom and discretion. That is guaranteed in this government,” López Obrador said.
The president rejected the suggestion that Sembrando Vida was at risk as a result of the spat between Albores and May.
“The program is going very well,” he said, adding that the two officials have now made up.
Despite that claim, Sembrando Vida fell well short of its goal in 2019, the newspaper Reforma said, reporting that only 78 million trees were planted, just 13.5% of the target of 575 million. The scheme also fell well short of the target of creating 200,000 jobs, and 17,000 people were found to be collecting pay without actually planting any trees.
Other cabinet-level officials who have resigned from López Obrador’s administration include former immigration chief Tonatiuh Guillén López, who criticized the government’s treatment of migrants, and the ex-head of the Mexican Social Security Institute, Germán Martínez, who said that “pernicious interference” of a “neoliberal essence” by the Finance Ministry placed the agency’s services at risk.