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President López Obrador takes questions at his Tuesday press conference. Presidencia de la República

Meth, John Kerry and Lego: the week at the morning press conferences

Che Guevara, Dora the Explorer and a well-loved Danish toy all gained mentions in the mañaneras

Last weekend was a busy one, even by President López Obrador’s standards. It took him around the Valley of México to a bridge in Morelos, a gas plant and hospital in Hidalgo, a ceremony in Puebla, a soccer pitch in México state and the mayor’s office in Mexico City’s Iztapalapa borough, the most populated municipality in the country.

Monday

First on the agenda: democracy and how to do it. The president highlighted a referendum in Uruguay on Sunday as participatory democracy done right, but mocked a tiny leaflet used by the National Electoral Institute (INE) to promote the upcoming vote on his performance.

“You have to search for those leaflets like Dora the Explorer,” he said, referring to the character from an old children’s cartoon.

Set to be democratized was the presidential Boeing 787 Dreamliner: the president said the still unsold US $218 million jet could be chartered for weddings, 15th birthday parties and work events, as the government still couldn’t find a buyer.

INE advertising was the butt of jokes at Monday's conference.
INE advertising was the butt of jokes at Monday’s conference. Presidencia de la República

Lithium, however, wasn’t for sale. López Obrador hopes to make it a national asset through the electrical reform and said Bolivian authorities were working to help Mexico exploit its lithium reserves.

Later in the conference, AMLO cited a left wing icon who’d come to know both Bolivia’s rulers and Mexico’s treasures well. “Che Guevara said when he visited Palenque: ‘It’s the jewel of the Americas,'” the president proudly recounted, referring to the Argentinian revolutionary whose life was ended by Bolivia’s security forces.

Tuesday

The president was back to his side job on Tuesday, hawking lottery tickets. For 200 pesos (US $10) hopefuls were in with a chance of winning a lot on a beach in Sinaloa or a luxury car seized from criminals.

On a falsely reported shooting in Cancún, AMLO noted the media’s capacity for invention and assured that security was in good order.

“Mexico is a country with tranquility and with peace. Violence is limited to very few regions of the country. It has more to do with confrontation between gangs … Mexico is a safe country of good, hardworking people,” he said.

With the energy reform still in the offing, the president delivered an announcement on his next proposed reform. National Electoral Institute councilors should be elected by citizens, he said.

“I’m going to propose that it be the people who elect electoral councilors and magistrates directly … I hope it will end the issue of elitist agreements contrary to the interests of the people,” the president added.

Wednesday

Elizabeth García Vilchis, as per her weekly duty, debunked the media’s errors and fibs that had caught her eye. She said Mexican migrants returning from the United States couldn’t have been charged bribes because they hadn’t made formal legal complaints and added that those who don’t consider Lake Texcoco an area of natural beauty had financial interests in the canceled airport there.

García assured that the Maya Train wasn’t damaging to the environment compared to the mining, pig farms and tourism promoted by previous administrations and mocked journalists who she said erroneously reported a shooting at Cancún airport.

A miniature Lego model of the controversial home of López Obrador’s son had been exhibited by lawmakers from the National Action Party (PAN). The president showed his amusement: “A Lego of José Ramón’s house … What creativity. Such cuties,” he mocked, before adding there was nothing untoward with his son’s living arrangements. “José Ramón is 40 years old, he’s married. He rented it with his wife. 100,000 pesos [US $5,040] per month. I wouldn’t do it, but he’s independent,” he said.

On Wednesday, Elizabeth García Vilchis took aim at opponents of the Maya Train.
On Wednesday, Elizabeth García Vilchis took aim at opponents of the Maya Train in her weekly segment. Presidencia de la República

On a video allegedly showing navy personnel manipulating a supposed crime scene related to the 2014 disappearance of 43 student teachers, the president said that Navy Minister Rafael Ojeda had no involvement. Investigations are ongoing into the disappearance of students from the Ayotzinapa teachers’ college in Guerrero in 2014.

Thursday

Drugs were the topic of choice for Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval and he started with a brief history lesson: U.S. drug demand grew in the 1970s leading to marijuana and opioid production in Mexico; in the 1980s the focus switched to cocaine and in 2009 methamphetamine laboratories in Mexico mushroomed, he said. Recently, marijuana production in Mexico has dropped due to U.S. legalization of the drug, he explained.

Cresencio added that the government had eradicated marijuana and opium poppy fields 7,000 times the size of Mexico City’s Aztec Stadium, mainly in Sinaloa, Durango, Chihuahua and Guerrero.

Cocaine, he said, came to the country from South and Central America: 73,834 kilograms have been seized during the administration. He detailed that the base substances to make methamphetamine and similar drugs were coming from Asia through ports on the Pacific. Cresencio said 127 labs had been busted by the current administration, mostly in Sinaloa.

The president said the government was considering legalizing “nondestructive drugs with light effects, as is the case with marijuana,” but that an internal agreement hadn’t been struck, and later confirmed he was meeting with U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry and 20 U.S. business representatives to discuss the electrical reform.

Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval shared information about the status of the drug trade and history of drugs in Mexico on Thursday.
Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval shared information about the status of the drug trade and history of drugs in Mexico on Thursday. Presidencia de la República

The tabasqueño said he’d stand strong on his proposals. “There are many technocrats who think that the state must be diluted and that everything has to be solved by the market. No … Good politics was invented to bring order to chaos,” he affirmed.

Friday

López Obrador offered his version of events following his five-hour meeting with Kerry and U.S. business representatives.

“They felt well attended and satisfied, because it’s not true that [the electricity reform] promotes dirty energy sources … it’s not true we don’t want to produce solar, wind and hydroelectric energy,” he said.

He added that there would be no new coal plants in Mexico and that the three in operation were running at 50% capacity.

“Compared to the coal energy produced in China or the United States, it’s nothing,” the president insisted, before highlighting the construction of Latin America’s biggest solar park in Puerto Peñasco, Sonora.

“There weren’t really any protests, they were very respectful,” López Obrador added of the meeting with Kerry and company.

However, the president hinted that the meeting was not entirely cordial. The U.S. proposed that a working group participate in the reform, but the suggestion was rebuffed.

“They raised it and I remained silent … It wasn’t accepted … for a group to watch over our activities,” the president revealed.

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