Coronavirus
The president shows his support for the deputy minister at Wednesday's press conference. The president shows his support for the deputy minister at Wednesday's press conference.

President heaps praise on coronavirus point man López-Gatell

The deputy minister, recently returned from a beach vacation, 'is an extraordinary public servant'

As Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell continued to face criticism for taking a beach vacation amid the worsening coronavirus pandemic, President López Obrador on Wednesday lavished praise on his coronavirus point man, calling him an “extraordinary” public servant.

Although Mexico’s Covid-19 death toll is just shy of 130,000 – the fourth highest total in the world – the president said that López-Gatell’s work in combatting the pandemic and informing the public about the coronavirus mitigation measures has been “exemplary.”

He denied any suggestion that the coronavirus czar is thinking about stepping down.

“The participation of Dr. Hugo López-Gatell has been a lot of help for us, exemplary,” López Obrador told reporters at his regular news conference before contending that there is no other public official in the world with such impressive credentials.

“He’s first-rate, … prepared and a great professional,” the president said prior to calling for the deputy minister’s CV to be put on display.

“Compare this CV with those who were health ministers before. [López-Gatell] is a specialist in pandemics, he’s prepared, with general culture [and has] a capacity for explanation. … It’s very important to know how to convey to people what they must do [during the pandemic]. He has a lot of capacity for that. Furthermore, he’s honest and honorable,” López Obrador said.

Behind the president, a slide showing an image of the smiling deputy minister and detailing his academic background was projected onto a large screen.

Under the heading “expert in epidemiology,” the slide said that López-Gatell is a member of the National System of Researchers, has doctorate and postdoctorate qualifications in epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University and is a specialist in internal medicine.

“A doctorate and a post doctorate from this prestigious university in the United States, one of the most prestigious!” López Obrador remarked. “How could we get rid of Dr. Hugo López-Gatell?”

The president charged that the pandemic honcho has been the victim of a “smear campaign,” although it is clear that he ignored his own stay-at-home advice in choosing to travel to the coast of Oaxaca for an end-of-year vacation while the pandemic continued to rage.

“I think it’s very unfair because he’s been applied [to his job] full time. Imagine the pressure, what it means to be managing the actions against the pandemic, with all the pain, all the sadness,” López Obrador said.

“He’s a sensitive man, a human,” the president said before noting that he has been subjected to “blows and blows and blows” – relentless criticism for his management of the pandemic.

“Let it be heard well and far. We consider him to be an extraordinary public servant.”

For his part, López-Gatell on Monday defended his decision to travel to Oaxaca, saying that he had “nothing to hide” and followed health recommendations while visiting “very close relatives” and “very good friends” in the southern state.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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