Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Making enemies and keeping friends: the week at the morning press conferences

There was little rest for President López Obrador last weekend. He was in Querétaro to honor 105 years of the Mexican Constitution and in México state to open a state-owned bank. Few could criticize the 68-year-old’s stamina, although doubts about his health frequently resurface. He has long said he’ll finish his term if God and nature allow it. So far, there is no reason to believe they are conspiring against him.


Avid viewers might have felt short-changed on Monday: the government’s flashy videos of its infrastructure projects were not shown. The electoral prohibition period — which bans any activity that might be seen as campaigning — was introduced in the build-up to the April 10 vote on whether the president should finish his mandate. AMLO admitted that the videos could be seen as propaganda.

The tabasqueño paid tribute to Colonel Carlos Garduño Núñez, a soldier who fought in World War II, lived past 100, and recently died. The president also lamented the passing of Carmen Santiago Alonso, an indigenous rights defender from Oaxaca, and sent his best wishes to the president of Honduras, Xiomara Castro, who contracted COVID-19.

Nicknamed El Americano (The American) in his youth, López Obrador was still waiting for a response to a letter he sent to his alleged brethren.

“Hopefully soon this diplomatic note will be answered because it is improper, it is an intrusion into the public life of Mexico that the United States government is financing groups opposed to a legally and legitimately constituted government … it’s a violation of international law,” he said of the U.S. financing Mexican political lobbying groups.

After clashes in Guerrero by students from the Ayotzinapa teacher training college – the school attended by the 43 young men who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014 – AMLO called for calm. “I want to call on the boys … to no longer act in this way … You have to fight for ideals, not for destruction. There should be no rebel without a cause.”


The president promised some good news as he opened the conference on Tuesday. Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell was the man to deliver it: “The fourth COVID wave is declining, and that the trajectory will most likely remain that way until its complete … disappearance.”

He added that the death rate had been 72% lower than in previous waves.

López-Gatell, who faces a legal challenge by families of COVID-19 victims for his handling of the pandemic, was defended by the president.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell at Tuesday's press conference.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell at Tuesday’s press conference. Presidencia de la República

“It is a great injustice, a smear campaign, it’s not just Dr. Hugo … We would all go to jail. We are all Hugo … it all has to do with politics,” he said.

He added he was looking forward to the visit of U.S. special envoy John Kerry to discuss energy matters and praised U.S. Ambassador Ken Salazar, who had said that Mexico’s proposed energy reform was necessary.

Salazar was subsequently criticized by a columnist at a prominent U.S. newspaper, and AMLO had some choice words for the publication.

“Is that right? The Washington Post, the newspaper that through a thorough investigation led [former president, Richard] Nixon to resign, now has [Mexican journalist] Loret de Mola as a writer? … There is a global crisis in the media … it is decadence, lack of imagination, lack of talent, lack of professionalism and above all lack of ethics. Journalism is an ethical imperative, like politics, like good politics,” the president said.


A journalist linked Baker Hughes – a company contracted by Pemex – to the U.S. property of the president’s son. However, AMLO said he was none the wiser.

“What is this company? I didn’t even know about it. I don’t know any of its executives … I know Mexican businessmen, but those are companies in the oil world and I don’t know any of their executives,” he assured viewers.

In her section on supposed media lies and misinformation, Elizabeth García Vilchis explained that taxes on pensions were not going up and that the beverage company FEMSA hadn’t been raided by the army. García also derided the coverage about AMLO’s son.

“There’s no conflict of interest … the report … lacks journalistic rigor, resorts to internet sources and there is no proof of anything, beyond sensationalism and bad faith,” she said.

The killers of the journalist Lourdes Maldonado, murdered in Tijuana on January 23, had been captured, the president said. Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez and her deputy, Ricardo Mejía Berdeja, proudly presented the criminal investigation in detail.


The head of the elaborately named Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People (INDEP), Ernesto Prieto, opened the conference to detail the payment of pensions to workers from the electricians union, who were allegedly short-changed by privatization in the Felipe Calderón administration.

Sonora Governor Alfonso Durazo speaks about reducing violence in his state at Friday's presidential press conference.
Sonora Governor Alfonso Durazo speaks about reducing violence in his state at Friday’s presidential press conference. Presidencia de la República

On the meeting with John Kerry, the president said his visitor left culturally enriched.

“It was a very kind, respectful conversation and it gave us time to show him the National Palace …. the extraordinary murals that Diego Rivera painted. It is something unique, splendid. It is art and culture that is not seen elsewhere,” he said.

However, relations with Spain were not quite so rosy. After an off-handed suggestion of a “pause” in relations caused controversy, AMLO clarified on Thursday that he didn’t mean a diplomatic rupture “but rather a brotherly protest.”

“We are going — for the sake of our peoples — to have a pause … We are going to calm the relationship … they should actually apologize. They haven’t, it doesn’t matter, but we’re going to enter a new stage, slowly,” he said.


Hermosillo, Sonora, played host for Friday’s conference. Governor Alfonso Durazo said his government was focused on reducing violence against the indigenous Yaqui community.

Deputy Defense Minister Agustín Radilla confirmed that the state was the seventh highest in the country for homicides.

Later in the conference, the president delivered something of a religious sermon.

“One of the representatives of the most important religious movements in the world, Jesus Christ, was crucified for defending the poor. The powerful of his time spied on him and called him the troublemaker … until they crucified him,” he said.

He offered some life advice too, courtesy of a Russian literary great: “Leo Tolstoy, who is one of the writers I admire the most, said: ‘What is happiness? It’s not in material goods, not in titles, not fame, it is to be right with oneself, it is to be well … with our conscience … It’s to be right with God.'”

However, the charitable mood wasn’t extended to Carlos Loret de Mola, the journalist investigating the president’s son. AMLO suggested that his finances might be worthy of scrutiny: “Loret is not working at [media organization] Televisa and they gave him 11.8 million pesos (about US $580,000) last year,” he said.

The president described Loret as “a mercenary, corrupt and, in the strict sense of the word, not a journalist …” in the latest of many attacks on the Latinus journalist and newspaper columnist.

Mexico News Daily

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