Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Narco control and brotherly love: the week at the mañaneras

Set against the grandeur of the National Palace, the president’s morning conferences, or mañaneras as they are known, start in the early morning, and can last for three hours. They are an exercise in stamina: the 67-year-old president from Tabasco stands for the duration, offering a slow but precise delivery.

Here’s a rundown of the week’s conferences.

Monday

It was straight to business early on Monday: “Does the state really have control of the narcos, who seem to be growing in power in the country?”

Although AMLO, as the president is commonly known, managed to bat away the charge without too much trouble, it proved to be a warning shot.

Enter Jorge Ramos, a highly regarded Mexican U.S.-based journalist, who wasted no time in his questioning. “Outside of the bubble of the National Palace, the country is not in peace and tranquility, Mr. President. One hundred Mexicans are being killed every day … you are still blaming former presidents … do you think the strategy of ‘hugs not bullets’ has been an absolute failure?” he asked.

The president pointed to incremental improvement: a 3% decrease in homicides.

“This is the problem, you are presenting it as something positive and it isn’t positive,” the journalist contested.

Before closing, the pope got a special mention. “We have the enormous pleasure of governing in the time of Pope Francisco,” the president said.

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‘Love your neighbor,’ the president told reporters this week.

Tuesday

A big announcement: the third wave of Covid-19 infections had arrived with a 22% spike in cases. However, vaccination had prevented deaths and hospitalizations from increasing in kind. In a related announcement, foreigners residing in Mexico without an identity number (CURP) were informed they could register for a temporary number to get vaccinated.

Questions took the room to Aguililla, Michoacán, the center of a territorial war between rival cartels. The president called for peace in religious terms: “The people, the peasants, the producers, the merchants, the religious, everyone … don’t take the path of violence … Put into practice the principle of love for your neighbor … No to violence, yes to peace, yes to dialogue,” he said.

“I am a pacifist. Even if they make fun of me … I will keep saying: ‘Hugs, not bullets,’” he added, before confirming a negotiations had started to find a resolution to the conflict.

Even criminals, AMLO said, deserved protection. “You could even say: it’s between them … as if they were not human beings … but we have an obligation as the state to protect everyone’s life.”

To drive the point home, the conference ended with a video in which an interviewer quoted former president Felipe Calderón calling for gang members to be murdered.

“I thought he was posh. But no, he’s really tough,” the politician from Tabasco taunted.

Wednesday

The fake news patrol kicked off Wednesday’s conference. A corruption story was confirmed as false: nothing, Ana Elizabeth García Vilchis said, was hidden in an application for funding for the Maya Train project.

Bias, rather than misinformation, was also included in the new weekly feature. Statistics collected by the National Electoral Institute on media coverage for the June 6 elections were recited, and data for each major media organization were revealed.

In the case of Grupo Imagen, the ruling party Morena had been mentioned in a negative light 1,599 times. “Three times more negative mentions than opposition parties,” García declared. True, if each of the National Action Party, the Democratic Revolution Party and the Institutional Revolutionary Party are taken individually. However, if treated as a bloc, which is how the three parties campaigned, then negative mentions were close to even.

Numbers were still on the president’s mind later in the mañanera. “I’m going to show off … a global survey of presidents’ approval ratings. Guess what? It’s the guy from Tepetitán [the president’s hometown], you know who: in first place,” he goaded.

More hot air rounded off the conference. The president announced a new company would be formed to make gas cheaper for consumers.

Thursday

The topic of child obesity switched to football early on Thursday. Soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo got the thumbs-up from the president for his spontaneous protest in which he discarded bottles of Coca-Cola in a post-match press conference, and said “drink water.”

AMLO later gave some credence to the idea that there might be a security problem in the country. “We are talking about economic growth, from which jobs are being regenerated, there is well being, but if there is no peace and there is no tranquility, the national project isn’t viable,” he said. In citizen surveys, he added, there are always two principal interests: employment and security.

Later, water returned. Two towns in Oaxaca recently passed four years without water, a journalist said. A legal battle had prevented a resolution from being reached.

“I don’t want to use force, I want dialogue and compromise,” said the president.

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Among friends: the president in a jovial mood.

The journalist accused him of standing up a straw man. “Why are you are acting as if I’m asking you to use force?” he said.

Before finishing, the president confirmed his weekend plans. This week it was a whistle stop tour through Chiapas, Tabasco, Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo to check progress on his hallmark project, the Maya Train.

Friday

First on Friday two presentations: one on the profit sharing law, and another on how the National Palace assists protesters that arrive to its doors.

It only delayed the inevitable. The first journalist called upon directed focus on AMLO’s brother Martín Jesús López Obrador, who had been caught on camera receiving a packet of cash from David León, a former advisor to the president and ex-chief of the federal Civil Protection agency.

“If there is proof, he must be reported [to authorities]. All citizens have the responsibility to act and the relevant authority has to rule whether there’s a crime or not,” the president said, adding that he hadn’t seen Martín for five years.

It was an attempt at slander, he affirmed. “… They make it seem that it’s campaign money, political money, money for me – something that’s not true, it’s as simple as that.”

The president later announced that Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez would be making her way to Aguililla, Michoacán, where conflict has raged between rival cartels.

Capping off the week, AMLO reminded the room of his weekend plans in the Yucatán Peninsula, and offered an affectionate touch. “Remember that I don’t travel by private plane … I love you all lots,” he said, briefly before striding away to attend to the nation.

Mexico News Daily

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