An appearance by Mexico’s coronavirus czar before the health committee of the Senate was suspended on Monday after the session descended into a farce.
National Action Party (PAN) senators repeatedly confronted Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell over his management of the pandemic, which has now officially claimed the lives of 83,945 people in Mexico.
They held up signs that condemned him with messages such as “excess of ineptitude,” “excess of arrogance” and “enough lies.”
Senator Lily Téllez used her opportunity to question López-Gatell to give him a cane, accusing him of being blind to the real extent of the health crisis and the strategies required to confront it.
Senator Martha Márquez stood beside the coronavirus point man at one point during his appearance and held up a canvas sign featuring a caricature of him holding a sheet behind which was a pile of skulls. Across the top of the sign was the question “How many [Covid-19] deaths have there been?” and the response, “As many as you say, Mr. President.”
The implication was that López-Gatell has told the Mexican people what President López Obrador wants him to tell them about the coronavirus pandemic and the number of lives it has taken.
The president of the health committee, Morena party Senator Miguel Ángel Navarro Quintero, called for order on several occasions as López-Gatell was interrupted by verbal attacks and stunts while he was speaking.
After countless interruptions, Quintero suspended the session, declaring that there was insufficient civility to continue.
“I ask you to please allow me to suspend the meeting given that there is not proper behavior for an appearance,” he said.
Later on Monday, López-Gatell told reporters at the Health Ministry’s coronavirus press briefing that the senators who attacked him appear to be suffering from “cognitive dissonance.”
“We identified … a small group of senators who are not only small in number but who also represent a social minority. … They appear to be enclosed in a series of fixed ideas that were put together at the start of the epidemic. They don’t leave them behind, they insist on maintaining the same vision,” he said.
“… A lot of these fixed ideas are about the use of face masks and the necessity … of using public force [to enforce a lockdown], undertaking coercive actions, using the police, the National Guard. They’ve said it over and over again; they appear to have a vision … [of] cognitive dissonance with the social reality.”
Meanwhile, the cartoonist who drew the caricature of López-Gatell that was presented at yesterday’s Senate session acknowledged on Twitter that his work had made its way into the upper house of Congress.
“I hope they don’t blame the suspension on me,” joked Miguel Parras.
President López Obrador defended the deputy minister this morning and charged that senators had “mistreated” him.
“They’re very annoyed, very angry when they should be offering apologies for all this. They continue wishing to return to the old regime of corruption, injustice and privilege.”