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President López Obrador at his Monday morning press conference. President López Obrador at his Monday morning press conference. Presidencia de la República

Flying high and diving down low: the week at the morning news conferences

The president marked International Day of the World's Indigenous Peoples and gave a history lesson on Colombia

President López Obrador found himself in two of Mexico’s smallest states last weekend, Tlaxcala and Colima, opening healthcare and welfare banks. On Sunday, he was met with a hostile reception in Sabinas, Coahuila, where 10 miners have been trapped since August 3.

Monday

The week opened with an update on the trapped miners. The head of Civil Protection, Laura Velázquez, reported from Coahuila to say that over 70,000 cubic meters of water had been extracted using 25 pumps and that an underwater drone that could film 250 meters below the surface had been provided by the navy. However, she said conditions still weren’t right to attempt a rescue of the miners, whose state of health was unknown.

On the international stage, the president celebrated a “historic change” in Colombia, where the country’s first left-wing president and former guerilla group member Gustavo Petro took office on Sunday.

Civil Protection chief Laura Velázquez reported from Coahuila on the effort to rescue 10 trapped miners.
Civil Protection chief Laura Velázquez reported from Coahuila on the effort to rescue 10 trapped miners. Presidencia de la República

“We are very happy … He will have a very active, strong opposition, but he is a man of convictions. He has political experience and knows the formula to confront … the group of oligarchs that are in all countries, who are dedicated to looting and stealing and have control of the media,” the president said.

To describe the South American country’s politics, the president turned to a 19th century Colombian writer: “Vargas Vila said that there were dictators, tyrants, in Colombia, who dipped the dagger in holy water before nailing it in the back of their opponents,” he said.

Enemies aside, López Obrador said he still hadn’t received a response to a letter to U.S. President Joe Biden outlining Mexico’s right to control its energy resources. Canada and the U.S. previously initiated a legal challenge accusing Mexico of violating the USMCA free trade agreement.

Tuesday

The president was joined on stage by Indigenous and Afro-Mexican leaders.
The president was joined on stage by Indigenous and Afro-Mexican leaders to celebrate International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Presidencia de la República

Tuesday was International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples, an opportunity not to be missed for the president. Members of Indigenous and Afro-Mexican groups were in attendance; groups the president said were historically the poorest, but were now being attended to by his government.

In the health report, the head of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), Zoé Robledo, said that after 10,495 specialist healthcare vacancies were advertised only 4.6% had been filled due to a lack of interest. Robledo confirmed that a total of 641 Cuban specialists were en route, making Mexico the 24th country in the world with Cuban medics.

The head of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples (INPI), Adelfo Regino, thanked the president for social programs that had reached Mexico’s Indigenous populations and announced that a University of Indigenous Languages would open in March 2023 in Milpa Alta, Mexico City.

Wednesday

Pinocchio‘s antithesis, Elizabeth García Vilchis, fulfilled her duty on Wednesday to reveal media falsehoods in her “Who’s who in the lies of the week” section. “We’re going to start with the world backwards,” she declared, before accusing a journalist of misinterpreting one of the president’s typically ambiguous statements. García also assured that reporters were wrong to criticize the president’s decision to take a shortcut around the Constitution to put the National Guard under the direct control of the Defense Ministry.

“That hasn’t been decided,” the president said of sending a peace demand to Russian President Vladimir Putin, now that a new Mexican Ambassador to Russia was in place. However, the president’s ambiguities ended on the subject of inequality in Mexico. “Not with the intention of offending, but with great respect, I maintain that [former president] Salinas [de Gortari] is the father of modern inequality,” he said after showing a graph of Mexico’s inequality under his predecessors.

Thursday

Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejía Berdeja assured once again that, “There is no crime without punishment,” for his ambitiously titled “Zero Impunity” section. Among the many arrests announced by Mejía was a man nicknamed “Shakira,” apparently less agile than his namesake, and another called “Borrachito” (the little drunkard) who’d presumably fallen into a police station.

Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejía Berdeja presents the week's notable arrests in Thursday's "Zero Impunity" section.
Deputy Security Minister Ricardo Mejía Berdeja presents the week’s notable arrests in Thursday’s “Zero Impunity” section. López Obrador official website

On the subject of investigations into his predecessors, the president insisted “we can’t make summary judgments” about Enrique Peña Nieto, who faces corruption charges, but conceded that “for sure there are legal complaints” about other ex-presidents. “In the government of Salinas [de Gortari] … the goods of the nation, of the people, were delivered to individuals, to their relatives. A big loot,” the president said, suspending his call for restraint.

That said, the president knew that his style, skills or slips would have little bearing on his popularity, because he was sure his government was delivering for the people. Silence, he said, was the proof:  “It’s a transformation that is taking place, a deep one … Just look at it with the demonstrations …. we’ve been in government for about four years, and where are the protests?” he said, briefly before striding away to attend to the nation.

Friday

“Such a regrettable situation,” the president said of the 10 miners who still hadn’t been found in Sabinas.

Velázquez reported that 97% of the water had been extracted from the mine and confirmed that a search team would finally be able to lower themselves toward the miners, who had been trapped for eight days.

Later in the conference, the president said that El Pinabete mine, where the rescue operation was taking place, was a 50-year concession granted by former President Vicente Fox. “That’s not much,” the president said, “in the neoliberal period they gave concessions of up to 100 years,” before voicing his suspicions that the real owners of the mine had kept their names from official documents. “We’ve been asking the Attorney General’s Office to be rigorous. There mustn’t be any impunity,” he asserted.

However, lighter recriminations could be expected for the Olmecas, a Tabasco baseball team that used a navy helicopter to transport their big green mascot Pochi to the pitch on Thursday. “I don’t agree with it,” the president and lifelong Olmecas fan insisted. “I’m in favor of baseball and sport in general and I know there’s a lot of passion … the helicopter was there because it was the start of the playoffs,” he said, seeming to find justification for Pochi’s actions after all.

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