Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Assange, ayahuasca and agriculture: the week at the mañaneras

President López Obrador inspected progress on the construction of the Maya Train railroad from the vantage point of an aircraft last Sunday, but come Monday morning he was back on the ground in Mexico City to begin another week of daybreak dialogue with reporters.


Early in his press conference, AMLO offered his condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of an army colonel who was killed, and a captain who was wounded, in an ambush last Saturday in Michoacán that was allegedly perpetrated by members of the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel, or CJNG.

Campeche governor Layda Sansores at the morning press conference on Monday (Gob MX)

Campeche Governor Layda Sansores was on hand to offer a perhaps overstated assessment of southeastern Mexico’s Maya Train railroad project and López Obrador’s role in bringing it to fruition.

“The Mayans would say; ‘It’s a colossal project that only the strength, will and passion of one man makes possible.” … The 21st century will always stand out as the century of the Maya Train,” she said.

“Thank you Andrés Manuel López Obrador, noble man, son of corn, son of the southeast. Thank you because you’re giving the most magnificent project to my hometown [of Campeche].”

In his Q & A session with reporters, AMLO was asked about his pledge to make Mexico self-sufficient for fuel.

“We have to keep investing, we’re going to get to self-sufficiency, that’s the aim for gasoline and diesel, but we have to keep investing,” he said.

López Obrador said that his government has increased production at all of Mexico’s state-owned refineries, but needs to lift output even more.

“Today I have a meeting with the directors of the six refineries [in Mexico and] … that at Deer Park [in Texas]. We have a program, we’re investing, … [we’re ] modernizing plants,” he said.

Another reporter asked the president about the health of Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero, noting that there were rumors on social media that he had died.

“There has been a lot of speculation and a very miserable attitude regarding this issue,” López Obrador said before noting that the 83-year-old had had surgery on his spine.

“He’s at home, he’s fine, he’s recovering and even working, and we wish him a quick recovery,” he said.


The trial in the United States of Genaro García Luna – which started Monday – was once again on the mind of López Obrador, a staunch adversary of the former security minister’s erstwhile boss – ex-president Felipe Calderón.

AMLO discussing the García Luna trial at Tuesday press conference (Gob MX)

“According to the accusations the United States government is making, he protected one of the cartels or organized crime groups at the same time he was in charge of public security,” he said.

However, no “irrefutable” evidence had so far been presented at the trial, AMLO said.

Later in his presser, the president reported that an operation to recover the bodies of 10 miners who became trapped in a Coahuila coal mine last August was nearing its conclusion.

“We’re doing quite well, I would say we’re close to recovering the bodies, because work has been going on,” he said.

López Obrador also found time to reiterate his support for Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is in prison in the United Kingdom and fighting extradition to the United States on espionage charges.

“Assange is not a spy, but rather a journalist and what he did was reveal information, the same information that The New York Times and other media outlets revealed,” said AMLO, who has raised Assange’s case with United States President Joe Biden.

“Why aren’t those media outlets being tried?” he asked.


Government spokeswoman Ana García Vilchis was back at the National Palace to present her recurring “Who’s who in the lies of the week” segment.

She pointed out that the newspaper El País recently published an article in English (a translation of a Spanish-language story) that said that López Obrador “is seeking to rewrite the constitution to allow for a re-election bid.”

“Of course, … it’s false, the president of Mexico never said such a thing, but [the article] was widely disseminated, lending credence to this discourse, which is a spiel of the opposition in Mexico and some media outlets of the international press,” García said.

The claim in the article, she added, wasn’t in the original story. “In the English version … they inserted a complete lie,” García said.

A line of taxis with "Fuera Uber de Mexico" written on the windows.
Cancún taxi drivers at an October protest against Uber. (Taxistas Cancún)

In response to a reporter’s question about taxi drivers’ attacks on Uber drivers in Quintana Roo, AMLO expressed confidence that Governor Mara Lezama would resolve the issue.

“They’re seeking a solution to the matter. … That’s what … [the governor] told us yesterday,” López Obrador said, adding that he didn’t believe the dispute would escalate.

The president later announced a large event in Mexico City’s central square on March 18 to celebrate the 85th anniversary of the nationalization of Mexico’s oil industry.

“Everybody’s invited. We have to defend our sovereignty, we have to defend the [Mexican] oil industry, we have to defend the electricity industry,” he said.

“And we’re also going to invite singers, those that the people like. It will be a party because we rescued Pemex and the Federal Electricity Commission.”

One person who appears unlikely to get a personal invitation from the president is well-known journalist Pedro Ferriz de Con, who made a curious claim about AMLO in a Twitter post late last year.

López Obrador read the tweet out at his Wednesday presser, noting that Ferriz de Con asserted that it’s an “open secret” that he practices “witchcraft, Santería, black magic and death rituals to reach and accumulate power.”

“I’ve been in rituals,” the president admitted. “They give me a cleansing me wherever I go and I’m proud of that because it’s part of our culture, our traditions, our customs. It’s deep Mexico,” he said.


Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez took the stage after a “zero impunity” report from her new deputy Luis Rodríguez Bucío and spoke about a case involving a Peruvian shaman who was detained at Mexico City Airport last September because he was carrying ayahuasca, a psychoactive plant-based brew that is legal in his native Peru.

“His name is Lauro Hinostroza García. … He’s an indigenous Quechua man … who has practiced traditional Peruvian medicine since the age of 10. … And he has a doctorate in medical anthropology from UNAM,” she said.

Rodríguez said her ministry is seeking Hinostroza’s release from preventative prison due to his age and health problems.

Peruvian citizen Lauro Hinostroza, who was detained at Mexico City International Airport in September 2022 (Lauro Hinostroza Facebook)

“The family tells us that his rights were violated from the time of his arrest because he didn’t have access to an interpreter of his mother tongue,” she added.

López Obrador later revealed his own concerns about Mexico’s justice system, saying he lacked confidence in most Supreme Court justices.

“The majority come from the old regime and don’t dare to carry out a thorough reform of the judicial power,” he said.

“… What prevails, what reigns is that only those who can’t buy innocence are punished,” AMLO charged.

Earlier in his presser, the president was confronted by the son of deceased Veracruz journalist Moisés Sánchez, who was murdered in early 2015.

Jorge Sánchez denounced the impunity in the case and called on López Obrador to meet with him and other people who have lost family members to violence.

“I know that you have a busy schedule but I believe it’s necessary for you to know … what we’ve been through,” he said.

“… I know that perhaps we’re not very important to you, … El Chapo’s mom isn’t here, is she?” added Sánchez, alluding to López Obrador’s decision to shake hands with the mother of convicted drug traficker Joaquín Guzmán in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

That remark rankled AMLO, who offered a blunt reply to the slain journalist’s son.

“I always receive [people with grievances], I’m attending to [them] every day. … Every day I dedicate myself to ensuring justice is served, that’s my job,” he said.

“… But you come out with this about El Chapo’s mom, that’s what [businessman and government critic] Claudio X. González says, right? Or [journalists] Ciro Gómez Leyva or Joaquín López-Dóriga or [Carlos] Loret de Mola, all those who are financed by foreign governments, the so-called non-governmental organizations … that receive money from abroad because they’re against us.”


In response to the first question of the day, AMLO confirmed that the government would help Pemex pay off almost US $10 billion in debt this year.

“We’ve been supporting Pemex and we’re going to continue doing it because it’s about rescuing the most important public company in our country. … We won’t leave Pemex without support,” he said.

López Obrador later linked high inflation – just below 8% in the first half of January – to a lack of support for Mexico’s farming sector during previous “neoliberal” governments.”

The inflation rate for foodstuffs is high “because we still have to import food,” he said.

“… The countryside was abandoned during the entire neoliberal period and [that’s why] we’re not self-sufficient [for food], … we have to buy corn,” AMLO said.

“We’re now practically producing in Mexico all the beans we consume because we’re boosting production. We’re helping corn producers and bean producers – we also used to import a lot of beans. And we’re still importing a lot of rice … because the production of rice was completely abandoned and that’s the way it was for other foods.”

Despite the ongoing dependence on food imports, the president predicted that inflation would soon begin to ease.

“[A reduction] will be seen in the next INEGI data,” he said, referring to the inflation numbers published periodically by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography.

After his communications chief presented the results of a survey that showed he was still the second most popular leader among a group of 22, AMLO turned his focus to his imminent trip to Michoacán.

AMLO visits an IMSS-Bienestar hospital facility in Michoacán on Friday (Gob MX)

“In Michoacán today, we’re going to launch the health program to improve the entire public health system,” he said.

López Obrador – who pledged in early 2019 that Mexico would have a health care system comparable to those in Canada, the United Kingdom and Denmark in two years – also said that the government’s network of wellbeing banks would be reviewed at meetings he was scheduled to attend while visiting the state.

“The Banco del Bienestar … [will eventually have] around 3,000 branches, it will be the bank with the most branches in the country and it will disperse close to 600 billion pesos [in welfare payments per year],” said AMLO, who has made monetary support for Mexico’s most disadvantaged people a central feature of his administration.

Mexico News Daily 

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