Optimism, nationalism and a heavy dose of self-praise marked President López Obrador’s latest report to the nation in which he provided an assessment of the federal government’s first 100 days of its third year in office.
In a 40-minute speech delivered before a select group of cabinet ministers and other officials at the National Palace in Mexico City on Tuesday, López Obrador focused almost exclusively on the positive even though the 100-day period he was ostensibly reporting on – December 1, 2020 to March 11 – coincided with the deadliest days of the coronavirus pandemic in Mexico.
The president touted the government’s honesty, austerity and “policy of zero corruption,” claiming that billions of pesos in savings have been generated. He also boasted that his administration hasn’t taken on additional debt, raised taxes or increased prices for gasoline, diesel, gas and electricity. In addition, the peso hasn’t depreciated and inflation is under control, López Obrador declared.
Although many experts warn that the road to economic recovery after last year’s deep recession will be a long and arduous one, the president asserted that Mexico is already “coming out of the crisis” in both an economic and social sense.
“The growth forecast for this year has been going up and now even the most cautious people accept that it will be 5%,” López Obrador said.
“In my opinion, our economy will have recovered to pre-pandemic levels by the middle of the year. I also think that the most affected sectors such as tourism, retail, restaurants and other services will thrive again,” he said, adding that more than 500,000 of about 1.1 million formal sector jobs lost last year have been recovered.
AMLO, as the president is known to supporters and critics alike, also touted the benefits of the government’s myriad welfare and social programs, going over the same or similar ground he has covered in several previous addresses to the nation.
He then let his staunch nationalism run free, reiterating that Mexico under his leadership will move toward self-sufficiency in petroleum, gas and energy generation as well as food production. The government will respect oil sector contracts awarded to private and foreign companies as a result of the 2014 energy reform but will not grant new concessions and will continue protecting Pemex to shore up its participation in the petroleum market, López Obrador said.
“… The practice of exporting crude and buying gasoline will come to an end. … All raw materials will be processed in our country,” he said.
The president defended the Electricity Industry Law that was recently approved by Congress but promptly struck down by the courts, saying that it will allow the “serious damage” caused by the privatization of the sector to be repaired.
“While the market of this industry was opened up in order to give preference to domestic and foreign private companies … the [state-owned] Federal Electricity Commission plants were completely abandoned,” López Obrador said.
It wouldn’t be a bona fide AMLO speech without a rundown of the president’s pet infrastructure projects and indeed he didn’t miss the opportunity to once again highlight the benefits of the Santa Lucía airport, currently under construction north of Mexico City, the Isthmus of Tehuantepec trade corridor and the Maya Train railroad that will link cities and towns in five southeastern states.
Those three projects alone are generating 116,000 direct jobs and 227,000 indirect ones, López Obrador said.
He also highlighted that the government is building a range of other infrastructure projects ranging from drainage systems to federal highways and wastewater treatment plants to a new oil refinery on the Tabasco coast.
AMLO ran through a laundry list of government anti-crime measures including “looking after young people,” creating jobs, combatting poverty and strengthening moral, cultural and spiritual values. He asserted that the “fruit of this work” is a reduction in the incidence of numerous crimes including fuel theft, homicides and kidnappings, which he said had declined by 95%, 1.6% and 38%, respectively, during his administration.
He briefly allowed himself to acknowledge that femicides and extortion have increased but didn’t dwell on the government’s shortcomings on crime – homicides were at near-record levels in 2020 despite the pandemic – or try to defend his administration against widespread criticism that it is not adequately addressing Mexico’s shockingly bad gender violence problem.
The president instead moved on to highlighting the importance of the creation of the National Guard, which now has 100,00 troops, and thanking the military for its efforts in helping the nation recoverer from natural disasters, containing organized crime, rebuilding security and peace in the nation’s most crime-ridden regions and constructing infrastructure, among a range of other tasks.
His extensive recognition of the work of the military, which has continued to carry out public security tasks during the current government even though López Obrador pledged to withdraw the armed forces from the nation’s streets, came a day after a soldier shot dead a Guatemalan migrant on the southern border.
The president made no mention of that incident but responded to criticism that his government is militarizing the country.
(López Obrador published a decree last May ordering the armed forces to continue carrying out public security tasks for another four years.)
“The accusations that we’re militarizing the country lack all logic and the majority lack even the most elemental good faith. The armed forces have not been ordered to wage war against anybody. They haven’t been asked to supervise or oppress society, to violate laws, to restrict freedoms … [or] to get involved in actions that repress or violate human rights,” AMLO said.
Toward the end of his address, the president acknowledged the “tremendous harm” caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the “immense pain” of families who have lost loved ones but declared that “little by little we are building a new normal.”
“Infections, hospitalizations and most importantly deaths have recently come down and we are now getting more vaccine doses in order to protect the entire population as quickly as possible. We’ve already started with those most exposed to the virus [health workers] and the most vulnerable [seniors],” López Obrador said.
While the president offered a largely sanguine assessment of the state of the nation and the future, he did acknowledge that there is still work to do to achieve the “central goal” of creating “a better, more fraternal society with more equality, justice and freedoms” and no “classism, discrimination and racism.”
“But we’re heading that way, in search of that wonderful utopia, that fecund and beautiful ideal of being happy as a result of being content with ourselves, our conscience and with our fellow human beings,” he said.
Mexico News Daily