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On Monday, President López Obrador reflected on his meeting last week with US President Joe Biden. On Monday, President López Obrador reflected on his meeting last week with US President Joe Biden. Presidencia de la República

Peso pressure, Guanajuato and Zacatecas: the week at the morning press conferences

Don Quixote was mentioned and journalists were compared to mummies and town criers

President López Obrador was in Washington D.C. last week to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He may have felt at home: as a boy in Tepetitán the town knew him as El Americano.

The silver haired leader called on Biden to reassess his immigration stance, and was at pains to stress the like-mindedness of the trio, and the strength of his relationships with his North American counterparts.

Monday

The monthly security report gave Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez a chance to talk savings. The country was 164.9 million pesos (US $7.5 million) a day richer for reducing fuel theft and avoided more than 11-billion-peso (US $500 million) losses in 2021 by preventing toll booths from being occupied.

Before kicking off the week, AMLO paused for a moment of reflection for a Tabascan friend. “Before we get into questions, a brotherly hug for the interior minister [Adán Augusto López] … his mother passed away.”

On last week’s meeting with President Biden, the president said the U.S. was considering a Sembrando Oportunidades (Sowing Opportunities) program for Honduras, which he said was similar to Mexico’s Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) tree planting project.

How did Biden react to talk of immigration reform? “Very well, very responsive. He is of Irish origin. We agree that America’s greatness had a lot to do with migration,” the president said before directing a critique at migration skeptics: “Those who are originally from, or have been in a country for a long time, sometimes become selfish and they don’t want others to come.”

Tuesday

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell offered positive news. Some states, he said, were recording days with zero deaths from COVID-19. However, work was still to be done to vaccinate remote areas of the country, he added.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard strayed from talk of the pandemic to discuss a trip to New York, where he and his apparent new friend Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed the newly renamed México-Tenochtitlan Avenue in Manhattan. “He told me that his grandfather lived there [in East Harlem]. When the Italians arrived that was their neighborhood, but today it’s a Mexican neighborhood. He told me: ‘If you have time, I’ll give you a tour so you can see everything.'”

A journalist challenged the president on a new decree, which had redefined infrastructure projects as matters of public interest and national security, thus shielding them from legal scrutiny.

Journalists had tough questions for the president on Tuesday.
Journalists had tough questions for the president on Tuesday. Presidencia de la República

AMLO responded with an eloquent ramble and said the decree would clear away bureaucracy before lambasting his critics in the press. Eventually, the reply somehow found its way to a statement of local pride: “They forget that I’m from Tepetitán and as I tell my children Tepetitán has a great history, a great culture. My people existed before the Spanish arrived.” 

Another journalist stepped forward: many environmentalists were opposed to the Maya Train project, he said.

“They are not sincere,” the president responded, “they call themselves environmentalists [but] many have a modus operandi of disguising themselves as environmentalists to get some personal benefit.”

Wednesday

Federal lie detector Elizabeth García Vilchis was in her place on Wednesday to sort the wheat from the chaff. She confirmed that Mexico wasn’t resisting the phasing out of carbon fuels, as the Washington Post suggested, Gas Bienester was not more expensive than private alternatives in the Mexico City borough of Iztapalapa, Health Minister Jorge Alcocer hadn’t announced his resignation and the army hadn’t given contracts to fake companies for the construction of Felipe Ángeles Airport.

The president announced that Arturo Herrera was out as his pick to head the central bank, and Victoria Rodríguez Ceja was in. He denied that the well observed twists and turns were damaging the peso: “No, no, that’s not serious. I know that the exchange rate is changing because the dollar is strengthening, but it is a worldwide phenomenon … it has nothing to do with the appointment of the governor of the Bank of México,” he insisted. 

Later in the conference, he said high inflation rates, which surpassed 7%, were also a global phenomenon, and added that the price hikes were all the more reason for his landmark electricity reform, which aimed to keep electricity costs down for consumers.

However, the newspaper Reforma, AMLO added, shouldn’t be trusted on energy matters. After all, what did they do to challenge the corruption of previous governments? “Nothing. They stayed quiet like mummies. Now they shout like the town crier,” he said.

Thursday

The conference was broadcast from Zacatecas on Thursday, a state facing a torrent of violence where publicly displayed corpses are becoming a regular fixture. The governor, David Monreal Ávila, said the issue was partly moral. “I will continue to call on the religious leaders, the freethinkers … entrepreneurs, business people, farmers, young people and women to recover values, principles, to profess love and respect for our country,” he said. 

Defense Minister Luis Cresencio Sandoval laid out the data: Zacatecas was the fifth worst state for homicides with 107 in October and 948 in 2021; it was the worst state for extortion and nine municipalities were without any police officers, after fearful cops fled their posts. Military checkpoints, Sandoval confirmed, would be installed to tackle the violence.

Later in the conference, the president applauded Mexico’s treatment of the elderly, who often stay in the family nucleus. “With all due respect, they are not cared for the same elsewhere … Search the internet for how many nursing homes there are in Mexico, how many nursing homes are there in Europe per country, how many nursing homes in Canada, how many nursing homes in U.S.A. … that has to do with customs, traditions, with culture, with the fraternity that exists in Mexican families,” he said. 

Thursday's conference in Zacatecas addressed the problem of violence in the state.
Thursday’s conference in Zacatecas addressed the problem of violence in the state. Presidencia de la República

However, the Tabascan was less impressed with his countrymen who had criticized the choice of Victoria Rodríguez Ceja as the nomination for Banxico chief. “Maybe they don’t like that she’s a woman, because conservatism is also very sexist. Conservatism is synonymous with hypocrisy, conservatism is synonymous with corruption, conservatism is synonymous with treason,” he said.

Friday

Irapuato, Guanajuato — a state that makes Zacatecas look safe — played host on Friday.

Governor Diego Sinhue Rodríguez, who AMLO criticized in the past, said crime per 100,000 inhabitants decreased 42.8% from 2019-2020, double as many criminals were imprisoned compared to the last administration and the industrial state was going to make “the cars of the future.”

Sandoval, the defense minister, detailed the security situation. Guanajuato was the state with the most homicides during the administration from January to October — 8,764, and fourth worst per 100,000 inhabitants. He added that Rodríguez had only attended 52% of their morning security meetings.

The president said he didn’t discuss the position of state Attorney General Carlos Zamarripa with Rodríguez as a point of respect, despite having called for his resignation in previous conferences. However, he added his view hadn’t changed: “Everyone has to face public scrutiny,” he said.

The long list of problems facing the country had not dampened the 68-year-old’s spirits. He quoted a Spanish literary great, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, who is celebrated in Guanajuato. “Much of my job, as [the character] Don Quixote used to say, is to ‘right all manner of wrongs.'” 

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