Saturday, June 15, 2024

Rage, rage against the dying of the light: the week at the morning press conferences

There were two big votes coming up: a referendum on Sunday on whether President López Obrador should remain in office and the Senate’s say on the electricity reform, which has business chiefs in the United States fretting.

Monday

President López Obrador was put on the defensive on Monday. The government was accused of promoting the vote on whether his term should continue, in defiance of the National Electoral Institute’s (INE) rules. “There’s evidence that only those who are in favor of the [political] transformation are prevented from expressing themselves … those who are openly calling for people not to participate [in the vote] next Sunday aren’t questioned,” the president insisted.

The opposition’s strategy, to encourage people to abstain from Sunday’s vote, had succeeded in confusing the tabasqueño.”It’s Kafkaesque because, if they don’t want me, why don’t they vote against [me continuing in office]?” he said, referring to the Czech writer Franz Kafka, famed for his absurdist stories.

“A good democrat is one who wants to establish democracy as a way of life … who makes democracy a habit,” the president assured. However, he was less pleased with one woman’s call for democratic participation. Photographed at a demonstration, her T-shirt urged people to, Vote against the crap.”

The government has been accused of continuing to promote the referendum, in defiance of election law.
The government has been accused of continuing to promote the referendum, in defiance of election law.

The conference closed with a song by the Cuban singer Amaury Pérez, No Lo Van a Impedir (They’re Not Going to Stop It), briefly accompanied by the president’s raised fist.

Tuesday

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell urged people to keep getting vaccinated and announced 10 consecutive weeks of reductions in active COVID-19 cases.

The foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, was back from a tour of Asia. He’d been to India searching for cheaper drugs: the country produces 60% of the world’s generic medications and 30% of the world’s vaccines, he informed. He’d also visited the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar to whip up investment and said Qatar Airways was looking to fly to the recently inaugurated Felipe Ángeles airport, which so far only has Venezuela as an international destination.

The president confirmed the opposition was planning to vote against the electricity reform and drew the battle lines. “In a few days we’re going to know who is who … I have information that some lawmakers don’t agree with voting to continue protecting private companies … I’m trusting that they’re going to vote freely … I call for them to rebel [against their parties] so that they are authentic representatives of the people … and not traitors to the homeland,” he said.

López Obrador was equally unimpressed by the Supreme Court’s decision to annul a law which prevented public servants from working in the private sector for 10 years after leaving their posts. “It’s an aberration, how is it possible to go back to the way it was before! … political-administrative promiscuity,” he scorned.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard reports back after a trip to Asia.
Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard reports back after a tour of Asia.

On Sunday, he said he would write “Long live Emiliano Zapata!” on his ballot, referring to the folkloric hero of the revolution, whose assassination will be commemorated the same day.

Wednesday

The president opened the conference on Wednesday with a line from a nursery rhyme, shortly before stressing it was important for politicians to avoid looking ridiculous.

The government’s media analyst, Elizabeth García Vilchis, said it was untrue that an airline was promoting Sunday’s vote and confirmed that the Maya Train project wasn’t so environmentally damaging as to change the color of the ocean, as a National Action Party (PAN) senator had claimed.

García rounded off her section by demanding that the government’s least favorite journalist, Carlos Loret de Mola, explain how he accumulated his extensive property portfolio.

The president said one of Loret’s assets was located close to a property belonging to jailed former security minister Genaro García Luna. His comment represents the latest in a rumor fueled association game between the two. Loret’s most recent offense exposing the connection between AMLO’s son’s luxurious home and a Pemex contractor.

In the U.S., there were calls for Mexican lawmakers to be denied visas for supporting a pro-Russia diplomatic group. AMLO said it was a historic mistake. “That’s going back to the Cold War, to times of persecution, exclusion and authoritarianism,” he asserted.

Later in the conference, he cited Bertolt Brecht in a bid to offend his political rivals. “‘There is nothing more like a fascist than a frightened bourgeois,'” the president said, before requesting a song by another Cuban musician, this time Silvio Rodríguez’s anti-capitalist anthem, Canción en Harapos (Song in Rags).

Thursday

Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez, back from a spell with COVID-19, revealed some of the government’s prize catches. They’d arrested El Molusco (The Mollusk) for murders in Quintana Roo, El Traumado (The Traumatized) who was the head of a cartel in Guerrero and criminals in Michoacán working under El Jabalí (The Boar).

The president claimed that the National Action Party’s ideology could be defined as nazi-fascist, but tried a sweeter approach with lawmakers from the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). He read a 1960 letter by President López Mateos, who nationalized Mexico’s electricity under the PRI dictatorship. “‘I return to you [the people] the energy which is the exclusive property of the nation. Don’t be too trusting, because in future years some bad Mexicans … will try by subtle means to deliver … our resources to foreign investors,'” he recited.

López Obrador called on lawmakers from the PRI to heed López Mateos’ message, and vote in favor of his electricity reform.

Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez showed off some of the government's recent criminal catches on Thursday.
Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez showed off some of the government’s recent criminal catches on Thursday.

On the international stage, the UN was voting to expel Russia from its human rights council. The president said Mexico would abstain from the vote. “How do we resolve Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, if we don’t have an intermediary? What is the UN for?” he argued.

Friday

The conference was shorter than usual on Friday as the president was to travel to the Marías Islands off of Nayarit, which were a penal colony until 2019 but now are a natural protected area.

The tabasqueño hit two birds, or maybe three, with one stone. He offered an analogy that placed him as the son of God, promoted the islands and mocked the PAN senator’s wobbly ecological claim about changing the sea’s color. “What was hell is now being turned into paradise … when you are the messiah you can change the color of the sea and you can turn hell into paradise. It can all be done,” he said.

Later in the conference, the president celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling that deemed last year’s electricity reform constitutional. “The damage was repaired yesterday, the people were protected … it was a triumph,” he said, later adding: “It was a good day, I’m happy, happy, happy, happy.” On the scale of delight, his four happies made him one third happier than after the June 6 elections, when he only declared himself to be “happy, happy, happy.”

The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, warned that the electricity reform could provoke litigation in the U.S. The president responded by insisting the reform doesn’t violate the USMCA (the United States-Mexico-Canada) trade agreement.

López Obrador shifted attention to the responsibilities of the United States and criticized U.S. President Joe Biden for failing to keep his word. “I’m not going to ask President Biden why he hasn’t fulfilled his commitment to regularize our migrant countrymen,” he said, shortly before jetting off to Nayarit.

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