About 1,500 members of an organization calling for the resignation of President López Obrador set up a protest camp Saturday on a street in central Mexico City.
Supporters of the National Anti-AMLO Front, or FRENAAA, pitched tents on Juárez Avenue in the capital’s downtown after police prevented them from continuing their protest march to the zócalo, Mexico City’s central square.
The protesters, who have taken to streets across the country several times in recent months to demand the president’s resignation, broadly oppose the federal government but are particularly angry about its management of the dual health and economic crisis precipitated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“We’ve realized that [López Obrador’s] government is a failure. In economic matters, we’re worse than ever and in health matters Mexicans are being mocked. [The president] isn’t governing as he should be,” Juan Carlos Aguirre, a protester from Guanajuato, told the newspaper El Universal.
“What we want is for López Obrador to resign [because] he doesn’t have the capacity to be president of this country, he’s destroying us,” said a woman identified only as María Guadalupe.
#FRENAAA #LopezAsesino LOPEZ IMPIDE EL PASO AL ZÓCALO Y SE INSTALA TODO FRENAAA EN PLENA CALLE!! 😡🤬😡@nytimeses @bbcmundo @dw_espanol @el_pais @WorldPressPhoto @ElFinanciero_Mx @El_Universal_Mx pic.twitter.com/svBdi3JMBw
— LUGARI (@gamiz_rios) September 19, 2020
Among those protesting are people from rural indigenous communities, city-dwelling professionals and seniors, El Universal said. Some of their tents, many of which appear to be brand new, are adorned with images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, a symbol that is widely venerated in Mexico.
FRENAAA intends to maintain the protest camp indefinitely with those currently camping out to be replaced with new protesters after five days, said the organization’s Jalisco leader, Iván Mendoza. People from Chihuahua and Chiapas are expected to join the protest in the coming days.
FRENAAA noted on social media that López Obrador and his supporters set up a protest camp on Reforma Avenue in central Mexico City after the current president lost what he said was a fraudulent 2006 presidential election. That protest blocked traffic and had a negative impact on the economy for about 1 1/2 months. Now, the anti-López Obrador protesters intend to do the same.
On Saturday, police attempted to remove some of the tents soon after they were pitched but retreated due to the complaints of protesters and the presence of the media, El Universal said.
On Sunday, protesters intermittently chanted “Fuera AMLO!” or “AMLO out!” as they continued to block Juárez Avenue. AMLO is the president’s nickname, derived from his initials.
Some of those present kneeled down in front of a monument to former president Benito Juárez and prayed for their demand for López Obrador to quit to come true.
Earlier on Sunday, FRENAAA leader Gilberto Lozano left the protest due to health problems. Prior to his departure he attempted to convince police to allow the protesters to move their camp to the zócalo but permission was denied. The protesters instead shifted their tents farther down Juárez Avenue to its intersection with Reforma Avenue.
Speaking at an event in Morelos on Sunday, López Obrador said that he was happy that people were protesting because it meant that his government is changing Mexico for the better.
“Those who benefited for a long time are now protesting and they think that the times of abuse and corruption are going to return,” he said.
“That’s why I’m happy because imagine if the conservatives didn’t protest, I would feel frustrated. I would say: ‘We’re not doing anything, there is no change.’ But things really are changing and one piece of evidence is precisely these protests by those who dedicated themselves to getting rich, to looting,” López Obrador said.
The president said that those currently camping out have the right to protest and will not be forcibly removed. He also said he hoped that they wouldn’t abandon their struggle in just a few days.
“They should know … they won’t be bothered, they’ll be able to stay there in their tents like we did. … Hopefully they’ll stay long enough, hopefully [their protest] isn’t short-lived, just a few days. We stayed there [on Reforma Avenue] … for more than a month,” López Obrador said.
“They should stay there, all of them, the leaders too. They shouldn’t go to hotels at night and leave just the people to sleep there. The leaders themselves, those at the top, those who lead this movement [should sleep in the tents], I say it with complete respect. They should feel safe because we’ll be looking after them, they’ll have everything they need so that the freedom [to protest] is guaranteed,” he said.
“Those who were used to living with the protection of public power are now protesting, the conservatives are protesting,” the president added.
“The common people protested before; we protested when we were in opposition because we wanted justice and we wanted democracy. Our conservative adversaries should also know that we’re not the same, we’re not authoritarian, we’re not repressive. Full freedoms are guaranteed.”
The national president of Morena, Mexico’s ruling party, also responded to the FRENAAA protest, asserting on Twitter that the organization is a radical, far-right group intent on destabilizing Mexico.
“The protests and the camp organized by FRENAAA constitute a provocation encouraged by the country’s most reactive economic groups. It’s a fascist group that wants to break the political stability we’re experiencing in Mexico today,”Alfonso Ramírez Cuéllar said.
“FRENAAA is led by a group of provocateurs and coup plotters who manage an ideology and policy of sabotage against the government of President López Obrador.”