A quarter of a million people flocked to Mexico City’s central square on Wednesday to attend President López Obrador’s rally to mark the third anniversary of the commencement of his six-year term.
The size of the crowd, made up of supporters from numerous states, matched that of December 1, 2018, when López Obrador appeared in the same square – the zócalo – wearing his presidential sash just hours after being sworn in.
It was the first time since early 2020 that the president had convened a mass rally, the long break due to the pandemic, which has officially claimed close to 300,000 lives in Mexico. Most attendees wore face masks but social distancing was impossible in the tightly-packed square.
Hundreds of buses transported supporters to downtown Mexico City for the latest AMLOFest, with residents of Tabasco, Chiapas, Guanajuato, Sinaloa, San Luis Potosí, Veracruz, Oaxaca and Nayarit among the 250,000-strong crowd.
The Mexico City government, which provided the official attendance figure, said there were no adverse incidents at the event.
Morena, the ruling party founded by López Obrador just four years before his comprehensive victory at the 2018 presidential election, used a tried-and-tested tactic to get large numbers of people to the zócalo: it provided free transportation to the event and sweetened the deal by handing out t-shirts, hats and packed lunches.
The once omnipotent Institutional Revolutionary Party frequently used the same tactic, giving rise to a colloquial term to refer to people herded to political events – acarreados, literally those who are transported or — perhaps more accurately — hauled.
One México state woman told the newspaper Reforma she was invited to the event by a local official and had to go because that person makes sure that water tankers arrive in her neighborhood in the densely populated municipality of Ecatepec.
She received details about the location and time for a bus departure to Mexico City’s historic center via a WhatsApp message.
“They gave us a t-shirt and lunch,” said another Ecatepec resident.
Other people were shepherded to the event by leaders of labor unions or similar organizations to which they belong. For example, some 400 Mexico City street vendors affiliated with a group led by Claudia Franco descended on the zócalo to hear López Obrador speak.
Busloads of supporters from around the country arrived in the downtown area on Wednesday.
Camiones de diversos estados del país siguen llegando a los alrededores del Centro Histórico para el #AMLOFEST
— Expansión Política (@ExpPolitica) December 1, 2021
“… We came to thank the president for the support he gives us,” Franco said.
The crowd also included government employees given permission to leave their desks early – presumably as long as they agreed to attend the AMLOFest, but many other Mexicans made their way to the zócalo of their own accord, lured by the opportunity to see the president in person and appreciate his well-honed oratorical skills.
Musicians entertained the masses before López Obrador, hand in hand in with his wife Beatriz Gutiérrez Müller, took to a stage set up in front of the National Palace shortly after 5:00 p.m.
With members of his cabinet and Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum seated behind him, AMLO delivered a “greatest hits” address of the kind he has given several times before, enumerating government achievements since he took office three years ago.
Among those he highlighted were the revocation of the “poorly named education reform,” job creation through the construction of public infrastructure projects, the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines to all adults, a 95% reduction in fuel theft, the creation of the National Guard, the delivery of welfare and social programs and the generation of 1.4 trillion pesos (US $66 billion) in savings over three years due to “republican austerity” and the government’s anti-corruption initiatives.
The president, who retains a high approval rating despite the severity of the coronavirus crisis, near record homicide rates and economic uncertainty, also looked to the future. He confirmed he would subject himself to a “revocation of mandate” vote next year, announcing he would test support for “our transformation policy” in April.
“The people – who are sovereign, who command – will be asked if they want me to continue as president or resign,” López Obrador said.
He also asserted that his controversial electricity reform bill will allow “the balance lost” due to “neoliberal energy policy” to be recovered.
The bill seeks to guarantee more than half the electricity market to the state-owned Federal Electricity Commission, reversing policy that López Obrador said “sought to ruin the national electricity industry and leave the market in the hands of private, mainly foreign, companies.”
The president confirmed that the military will support efforts to distribute medications to Mexico’s most remote public health facilities, an idea he floated last week.
“As we did with the [COVID-19] vaccines, in January a general distribution plan for medications, supported by the armed forces, will begin,” he said.
Concluding his 75-minute address, López Obrador asserted that his government will continue to show faith in the people of Mexico and continue to “make history” in the second half of his term.
“… In these three years we’ve shown that we’re a great, free and sovereign nation respected … by the rest of the world,” he said.
“[We’re a country] that is striving for peace and one that is heading toward being a fair, egalitarian, democratic and fraternal republic, and this has been a project of everyone, of a ‘we’ that is today represented by you: free and responsible women and men, principal protagonists of the fourth transformation of Mexico.”