President López Obrador threatened to suspend his speech at an event in his native Tabasco on Sunday as he faced a boisterous crowd intent on voicing their discontent with the reach of government welfare programs and their local leaders.
Taking the stage in Macuspana, Tabasco, where Mayor Roberto Villalpando and Governor Adán Augusto López Hernández – both of whom also represent the ruling Morena party – were given a hostile reception, López Obrador asked, almost incredulously, whether the still-rambunctious crowd was going to treat him the same way.
“Are you also going to shout at me?” AMLO, as the president is widely known, asked with a wry grin on his face. “No!” they responded emphatically but it wasn’t long before they broke their word.
“Do you know how many scholarships we are delivering?” the president asked at one stage during his address. “Not enough!” many of those in attendance yelled in reply.
“Of course, not enough,” López Obrador conceded before adding: “But do you know how many we’ve delivered? Eleven million scholarships across the whole country. Let’s see. … Don’t all those who are studying at high school have scholarships?”
Once again, the president was met with an assertive response: “No!” many in the crowd shouted.
“How can you say no? … Lies come from the devil: they’re reactionary, conservative. The truth is revolutionary. I repeat, are those who are studying at high school receiving scholarships?”
The president finally got the answer he was looking for, with most in attendance responding that the students are in fact receiving financial support from the government.
López Obrador was also given a less than friendly response when he spoke about the delivery of pensions for the elderly, government support for disabled people and the cancellation of customer debt to the Federal Electricity Commission (many Tabasco residents continue to complain that they are charged too much for power).
The crowd also made sure that the president heard their concerns about their mayor and governor – a cousin of AMLO – shouting out messages such as “Villalpando is a thief” and “Adán is corrupt, he does nothing.”
Amid the clamor, a visibly angry López Obrador threatened to terminate his talk if the crowd didn’t settle down.
“I’m not going to be able to continue speaking because like this, one cannot. I don’t want politicking,” he said, waving his arms around in frustration.
“Are you going to listen to me?” AMLO asked. After the crowd assured him they would, the president began a new train of thought but was soon interrupted again.
“It shouldn’t be like this. Authority has to be respected,” he declared.
“It’s as though we [the government] are not doing anything,” López Obrador said angrily. “We’ve been in government 14 months. … Is it the same as before?”
The event in Macuspana brought to an end the president’s three-day tour of Tabasco, where he attended four other rallies at which crowds aired their grievances to their mayors and governor.
López Obrador learned on Sunday that even he is not immune from feeling the wrath of residents in his home state, a place where the “tropical messiah,” as AMLO is also known, is more commonly met by fawning adoration verging on idolization.