Saturday, June 15, 2024

Guns, germs and stealing: the week at the mañaneras

The national referendum last weekend had asked whether five former presidents should be investigated for corruption. Some international media outlets had called President López Obrador’s motivations into question for putting the matter to the public.

After all, there was no longer presidential immunity, and so there was nothing stopping former leaders from being investigated: AMLO himself had made sure of that by lifting the privilege in 2019.

With plenty at stake — not least for a group of ex-presidents with chequered political records — the conferences were likely to be a combative affair.

Monday

It was back to the beach to start the week: Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco.

Governor Enrique Alfaro reviewed the state’s security. The crime rate, he said, was below the national average up to July, but homicide was higher than in 2018.

The first journalist to speak pointed straight to the elephant in the room. Sunday’s vote on whether five ex-president’s should be investigated had failed to inspire the public. It registered a meager 7% turnout, miles short of the legally binding 40% required.

The president endeavored to view the positives: “6,474,708 citizens, women and men, participated yesterday … the majority voted for ‘yes’, 97%,” he said. The National Electoral Institute, he added, who “pretend to be democrats,” were culpable due to their failure to promote the poll.

However, AMLO confirmed that charges against ex-leaders were not off the table.

The topic of corruption is never far from the mañaneras. A local journalist queried: had it been wise to disband the Tourism Promotion Council?

“Oh, of course, no, no, no. It was the cave of Ali Baba and the 140 thieves. They robbed all of the money, it was a facade,” AMLO replied.

AMLO at press conference on August 3
AMLO found much to be happy about this week, even the results of the nationwide referendum on Sunday on whether to investigate ex-presidents.

“Now, it’s breakfast time,” he declared, shortly before striding away to attend to the nation.

Tuesday

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell fulfilled his recurring duty on Tuesday, and stated that 97% of people who were in hospital for Covid-19 hadn’t been vaccinated.

Scandal was afoot when a journalist revealed he had seen the transcripts from a private meeting of the Pemex union: “It was direct confrontation, including insults against you,” he said, and added that attendees had conspired to strike to put pressure on the government.

AMLO kept his cool, and called for clean, democratic union elections. Later, on the topic of authoritarianism in teacher training colleges, he renewed his call. “No to chiefdoms. Democracy in schools, democracy in unions, democracy at home and democracy in government. Everywhere,” he said.

Many prison inmates are soon to be released, under certain conditions: one is torture. However, a journalist said that forcing prisoners to shave was tantamount to torture, according to legal modifications made in 2017. The president conceded he didn’t know how many suspects would be freed, and declined to clarify the legal status of the clean shaven.

Wednesday

Gas company workers had gone on strike in the Valley of México to protest a new price ceiling. They could be prosecuted, AMLO said, shortly before Ana Elizabeth García arrived to discuss media untruths.

Despite reports to the contrary, the Environment Ministry was not using a toxic fertilizer in the Sowing Life treeplanting project, nor did the government leave flood victims out of pocket, she confirmed. García added that a report on a hike in electricity rates was sensationalist because it didn’t factor in inflation. She then raised another article on the president’s plan for potholes, but failed to highlight a lie.

It was all sour grapes, AMLO said, and stated that advertising from the last three administrations had made the media rich: more than 2 billion pesos for the newspaper El Universal.

Later in the conference, the president pondered a poem to be included in his new book, apparently due for publication at the end of the month.

A journalist interjected, referring the president back to the case for tightening press regulations. He refuted the notion, before returning to the poem. “A drop of mud may fall on a diamond, and can even obscure its radiance, but even if the whole diamond is covered in mire, its value will never be lost for a moment and it will always be a diamond …”

AMLO and fake news czarina Elizabeth García Vilchis
Fake news patrol head Ana Elizabeth Garcia shares a lighthearted moment with the president on Wednesday.

The conference came to an abrupt halt shortly after. The president had an “important engagement,” to attend, but left the identity of his meeting companion a mystery.

Thursday

The head of the Federal Electoral Tribunal had been removed Wednesday, and AMLO called for further changes: “There is a crisis … reform is essential in both the National Electoral Institute and the Electoral Tribunal,” he said.

A journalist raised the government’s civil case against U.S. gun manufacturers, and inquired about the Venezuela negotiations. The president said Mexico would likely be the venue for talks between President Nicolás Maduro’s ruling party and the Venezuelan opposition.

Migrants and their remittances were given a big hand by the president, whom he estimated could send US $48 billion back home this year. “The truth is that our countrymen help us a lot … So, all our support, our attention, our respect, our admiration and our gratitude to the migrants.”

To those in Puerto Rico — 300,000 according to a journalist — he dedicated a song. Marco Antonio Muñiz’s Lamento Borrincano was played; it’s a bolero ballad about the island.

Once again, the president had big travel plans. Friday’s conference would be broadcast from Los Cabos, Baja California Sur. Saturday would take him to Colima, and Sunday to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.

Friday

Sporting a guayabera, a sun-kissed AMLO delivered the conference from Los Cabos. The state had the second least number of homicides in the country, Governor Carlos Mendoza Davis said, adding that Yucatán had the least.

A congratulations from the president: the men’s Olympic soccer team had taken bronze.

Poverty, more than one journalist mentioned, had risen precipitously: more than 2 million people had slidden into extreme poverty, according to the social development body Coneval.

The president pointed to the economic impact of the pandemic, and to other indicators, which he said told a different story. The peso, he said, had held steady, salaries had increased in real terms and tortillas had become more affordable.

Before wrapping up, AMLO added to his criticisms of the Federal Electoral Tribune. “They created a Frankenstein. It’s a judicial power, but the Supreme Court can’t intervene … [they made it that way] so that the court depended on political parties. That is the kind of party politics that needs to be corrected,” the Tabascan premier asserted.

Mexico News Daily

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