Tens of thousands of ardent supporters of President López Obrador flocked to Mexico City’s zócalo on Monday to hear him speak on the first anniversary of his victory in the 2018 election.
In a wide-ranging 90-minute speech, the president rattled off dozens of government achievements including the reduction of fuel theft – “down by 94%” – the introduction of new social programs, the disbandment of the Tourism Promotion Council, the revocation of the previous administration’s education reform, the creation of a special economic zone in the northern border region and the consolidated purchase of medications for the second half of 2019, which he said saved 2.7 billion pesos.
All told, the government has fulfilled 78 of the 100 commitments it made to the Mexican people when it was sworn in seven months ago, López Obrador said.
“Probably never has so much been done in such a short time,” he declared.
The president said the process to transform Mexico “has no return” and vowed to not take “one backward step” in pursuing his new vision for the country, which he encapsulated as an “economic power with a social dimension.”
“We are authentic pacifists and transformers at the same time. In the defense of causes of honesty, justice and democracy, we’re not moderates, we’re radicals,” he said.
López Obrador – commonly known as AMLO – touted the austerity measures implemented by his administration, reciting his common refrain that “there can’t be a rich government with a poor people” and charging that the role of officials is to serve the people, “not to get rich.”
The president said the salaries of high-ranking officials have been slashed and highlighted that he earns less than half the wage of his predecessor. López Obrador also reminded his supporters that government-owned aircraft, including the luxurious presidential plane, have been put up for sale.
In total, the government’s cost-cutting measures have so far saved 113 billion pesos (US $5.9 billion), López Obrador claimed, stressing that public debt hasn’t increased during his seven months in office.
While most of the accomplishments listed by AMLO were met with warm applause and occasional chants of “presidente, presidente” broke out among attendees, the most boisterous acclamation came when the president underscored the government’s commitment to combating corruption.
López Obrador’s reference to his decision to cancel the new Mexico City airport at Texcoco, México state – which he opposed partially on the grounds that it was corrupt – was particularly well received, triggering chants of “es un honor estar con obrador” (it’s an honor to be with Obrador).
The president’s assurance that his government will restore the dried-up lakes at the site of the abandoned airport was also met with enthusiastic applause as were the commitments to build the Santa Lucía airport, the new refinery on the Tabasco coast and the Maya Train on the Yucatán peninsula.
With regard to the new airport project, López Obrador said that the “torrent of injunctions” filed against it by opponents of the government amounted to “legal sabotage.”
However, he pledged that construction will start this month, stating that “we’re being careful in the authorization process for the environmental impact study” in order to “not give them any excuse to continue” their opposition.
The president also spoke about the government’s efforts to address the root causes of migration both in Mexico and Central America.
López Obrador singled out the Sembrando Vida (Sowing Life) tree-planting program – an initiative that the government is also supporting in El Salvador – as one example of a policy that will help make migration “optional, not forced.”
He said that the leaders of G20 countries agreed at the recent summit in Osaka, Japan, to support the “Mexican proposal” to attend to the causes of migration with the implementation of a development plan for Central America.
While López Obrador’s speech focused heavily on his achievements, he did acknowledge that the government still has a lot to do in the areas of public security, healthcare and the economy.
As he did on Sunday when inaugurating the National Guard, the president conceded that the high levels of violent crime inherited from past administrations haven’t yet come down. However, he expressed optimism that the new security force will soon make progress towards the pacification of the country.
The president stressed that his administration doesn’t tolerate human rights abuses of any kind, adding that it is dedicating time and resources to finding the nation’s more than 40,000 missing people.
“We won’t rest until we know the whereabouts of the young men from Ayotzinapa,” López Obrador said, referring to the 43 teaching students who disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, in 2014.
Economic growth needs to improve but the peso hasn’t deteriorated and inflation has fallen, the president said, adding that US $10 billion in direct foreign investment came into the country in the first quarter of the year and remittances hit an all-time high in May.
López Obrador concluded his speech with an exuberant delivery of “Viva México” before attendees sang the national anthem.
Among the crowd — officially estimated at 100,000 — was an artist and painting teacher from Ixtapaluca, México state, who arrived at the zócalo with a hand-painted portrait of the president on a jute sack, with which he proudly posed in photographs.
Gonzalo González told Mexico News Daily that López Obrador’s leadership serves as “an example to all Mexicans,” explaining that he is particularly impressed by the president’s decision to cut his own salary and not to travel outside the country while there are pressing issues at home.
He also said that he could now look at the National Palace – the seat of the federal executive – with pride knowing that it is occupied by an “honorable” president rather than the “corrupt” leaders of the past.
Leticia, a government employee from the borough of Coyoacán who declined to give her last name, cited the crusade against corruption and the introduction of new social programs as key achievements of the López Obrador administration, adding that it has also given “a voice to the people.”
She conceded that she was still concerned about insecurity but argued that the government needs to be given more time to combat the scourge, stating “it’s impossible to change the country in seven months.”
While detractors of the president were few and far between at yesterday’s so-called AMLOFest, López Obrador came under fire on the first anniversary of his election from several of his political opponents including the national president of the conservative National Action Party.
“[There is] nothing to celebrate,” Marko Cortés wrote on Twitter yesterday.
“Employment and investment have fallen, there is financial uncertainty, we have the worst [ever] security crisis and health services have suffered serious cuts. President López Obrador, don’t distract yourself with celebrations, concentrate your attention and that of the cabinet on working for the country.”
Mexico News Daily