Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Slander, ruffians and bishops: the week at the mañaneras

It was a patriotic week in Mexico: last Sunday was Día del Ejército Mexicano, or Mexican Army Day, and Friday was Día de la Bandera, or Flag Day.

President López Obrador marked the former with a speech at a military base in México state and the latter with an address at an army-run venue in Mexico City that is home to one of the nation’s banderas monumentales, or monumental flags.

AMLO on Flag Day
The president celebrated Flag Day at a military installation in Mexico City on Friday. (Graciela López Herrera / Cuartoscuro.com)

Monday

The minister of infrastructure, communications and transportation reported early in the press conference that the rail project to connect central Mexico City to the Felipe Ángeles International Airport (AIFA) in México state was 39% complete.

“There are two points that I’d like to highlight about the suburban train,” Jorge Nuño Lara said.

“One is that it will provide a high degree of certainty to passengers as they will be able to get on at Buenavista station and reach [AIFA] in 39 minutes,” he said.

Claudia Sheinbaum
Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum speaks at the Monday morning press conference. (Gob MX)

“… The second … [is that] AIFA will be the first international airport in Latin America to have a suburban train terminal within it,” Nuño said of the project slated for completion in December.

In other airport-related news, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said that a 475-millon-peso (US $25.8 million) project to repair structural damage in Terminal 2 at the capital’s international airport, or AICM, was on track to be completed in June.

The mayor, a potential presidential candidate, also noted that the federal government has invested billions of pesos in other projects at the AICM, Mexico’s busiest airport.

After a report from federal officials on the construction of sections 5 Norte, 6 and 7 of the Maya Train railroad, Quintana Roo Governor Mara Lezama Espinosa made her way to the mañanera lectern for the second time in as many weeks and proceeded to once again heap praise on the ambitious (and destructive, according to critics) infrastructure project.

“Thanks to the Maya Train greater connectivity will be achieved, allowing national and foreigner visitors to arrive at and see beautiful places where it was previously very complicated or practically impossible to reach,” she said.

During his engagement with reporters, AMLO was notified of a video published by the Episcopal Conference of Mexico, a bishops’ association, that expresses the Catholic Church’s concern about the government’s “Plan B” electoral reform, which passed the Senate on Wednesday.

“That’s why … in the Catholic Church our reference is Pope Francis. We’re respectful of all beliefs and in our movement there are Catholics, evangelicals, people of all the religions and also free thinkers, but when it comes to the [Catholic] Church supporting the conservative bloc in Mexico I say no,” López Obrador said.

“This has nothing to do with Pope Francis because he has condemned looters, he has condemned those who exploit and humiliate the poor,” he said, implying that the pope wouldn’t approve of the governments that preceded his own.

Among other remarks, the president declared he was “absolutely sure” that the Mexican people won’t allow the rateros (thieves) of yesteryear – a dysphemism for members of the PRI and PAN political parties – to return to power and reiterated his disdain for the 2006-11 “Fast and Furious” gunrunning scheme in which the United States government allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico so that the weapons could be tracked and law enforcement officials could locate and arrest crime bosses.

“They were guns that supposedly had sensors and in that way they were going to be able to detect and apprehend drug traffickers. What happened with those weapons? They were used to murder people,” he said.

Tuesday

The first section of AMLO’s Tuesday presser was dedicated to celebrating the 90th anniversary of the creation of the National Bank of Public Works and Services (Banobras), a state-owned development bank.

“It has been a very important institution for the development of Mexico,” the president said before inviting the bank’s general director to speak.

“Banobras was the first development bank created in Mexico and it was created at a very important time in the history of our country,” Jorge Mendoza Sánchez said.

“It was a post-revolutionary time when there were a lot of shortages, inequalities and a lack of basic services, and Mexico had also been impacted at that time by the Great Depression,” he said.

“… During 90 years Banobras has been part of key sectors and the most important projects in our country … like the Mexico City-Puebla highway, the Circuito Interior [ring road in Mexico City], Ciudad Universitaria, the Monterrey Airport and the Torre Insignia in Tlatelolco,” Mendoza said.

Deputy Security Minister Luis Rodríguez Bucio later reported that Mexico had recently extradited five criminal suspects to the United States and that Poland had handed over one accused offender to Mexico.

The outgoing suspects “are required by different courts in the United States for sexual crimes, attempted murder, assault, kidnapping and homicide,” he said.

The incoming suspect is Mihai ‘N,’ who is accused of criminal association and bank fraud, Rodríguez said, adding that he is a partner of Florian “The Shark” Tudor, a Romanian national who was arrested in May 2021 on charges of running a massive bank card skimming operation in Cancún, Quintana Roo, and other Mexican resort cities.

Returning to center stage, López Obrador highlighted his feminist credentials.

“We’re going to continue supporting women. There is proof that they are respected and they participate in the public service in a way never seen before,” said the president, who has been accused of having a “woman problem.”

“In the case of the federal government, practically half the cabinet are women and they help me a lot,” he said.

AMLO later recalled the incarceration of writer José Revueltas on an island in the Islas Marías archipelago in the 1930s due to his political activism in favor of the Mexican Communist Party.

Revueltas, who wrote novels, plays and political essays, was imprisoned “for insulting the president,” he said before reiterating his opposition to a proposal to toughen a century-old law that stipulates the imposition of punishments for the publication of “insults” directed at the president of the day.

Writer José Revueltas
José Revueltas was imprisoned twice at the Islas Marías penal colony. (Wikimedia Commons)

López Obrador subsequently confirmed he would file a lawsuit against a United States-based lawyer for allegedly slandering him at the New York trial of former security minister Genaro García Luna, who was convicted Tuesday on five counts of criminal conduct.

“It’s decided [that I’ll file the suit], I’m just doing some research on how the procedure works,” he said.

Wednesday

The day after García Luna was found guilty of conspiring with the Sinaloa Cartel, AMLO was unsurprisingly peppered with questions about the jury’s verdict.

“At the end of the day the lesson we must take away is that these events mustn’t repeat,” the president said.

He then outlined three hypotheses he had previously aired about the case.

“One – that everything was an invention and García Luna was innocent. Consequently  Felipe Calderón had nothing to worry about. We’ve now seen that’s not the case,” López Obrador said.

“The second is that García Luna … [is] guilty, but Calderón didn’t know [about his criminal activities]. And the third is that García Luna is guilty with the consent of Calderón,” he said.

López Obrador charged that the former president’s response to the guilty verdict – in the form of a statement posted to his Twitter account – didn’t address the “issue in question.”

“He said that he combated crime with full force … but … what he omitted is the explanation … about why he appointed García Luna [as security minister] and whether he knew or didn’t know [about his criminal activities],” he said.

“… We want information, … that’s the explanation we’re waiting for.”

AMLO raised the possibility that García Luna – who was head of the now-defunct Federal Investigation Agency before becoming security minister – might cooperate with U.S. authorities as a witness and disclose whether he received orders from former presidents Vicente Fox and Calderón or told them about his criminal activities.

AMLO and García Luna photo
The president fielded questions about the conviction of former security minister García Luna on Wednesday. (Mario Jasso / Cuartoscuro.com)

“As president of Mexico, for the good of the country, I would say that hopefully [he does it],” he said.

One reporter probed López Obrador about Morena national president Mario Delgado’s remark that he will ask the National Electoral Institute to deregister the National Action Party – which both Fox and Calderón represented – because “it’s proven that it’s more a criminal organization than a political one.”

“I’m not suggesting that,” ALMO responded. “Of course, the leadership of Morena and the deputies have freedom to suggest things,” he said of the party he founded.

“What I think is that we have to get to the bottom of the matter, and once and for all let it be clear that we suffered for 36 years [due to the actions of] a gang of ruffians,” López Obrador said.

“Tolstoy said: ‘a state that doesn’t provide justice is nothing more than a band of criminals,’ and that’s what we suffered,” he added.

Thursday

“What do you know? I’m at your service,” AMLO told reporters at the top of his presser, acknowledging that the government didn’t have any pre-planned information to present.

In response to a question about the approval of the controversial “Plan B” electoral reform, López Obrador said that the passing of new laws as well as the filing of legal challenges against them – as opposition lawmakers pledged to do – was part and parcel “of democratic political normality” and indicative of “a true rule of law” that didn’t exist under previous governments.

“This reform was approved in the Senate, it will be published [in the government’s official gazette] and then … they’ll file a lawsuit for it to be declared unconstitutional,” he said with an air of nonchalance.

Senator holding up protest sign
A PRI congresswoman holds up a sign showing her support for the pro-INE march to be held on Sunday. (Mario Jasso / Cuartoscuro.com)

“There is nothing outside the law” in the reform, AMLO asserted, expressing confidence that it won’t be struck down by the Supreme Court.

The president later indicated he was happy that a woman would be the next president of the National Electoral Institute, as ordered by Mexico’s top electoral court.

“Does a woman better guarantee democracy?” a reporter asked.

“Yes, women tend to be more honest, more responsible and fairer than men,” AMLO responded.

He later rejected claims that he has redirected resources from policies and programs that benefit women to the government’s megaobras, or mega-projects, such as the Maya Train and Dos Bocas refinery.

“That’s not true, it’s part of the same campaign of misinformation and slander. On the contrary, … 600 billion pesos are being allocated to welfare programs for 25 million households and the majority of that goes to women,” López Obrador said.

Turing his mind to one of his megaobras, AMLO announced that the Felipe Ángeles International Airport was expected to become “self-sufficient” in December.

“In other words it will reach its break-even point and begin to make profits. We’ll no longer have to allocate public funds [to the airport],” he said.

As for the Isthmus of Tehuantepec trade corridor project between Salina Cruz, Oaxaca, and Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, the government is on the verge of launching a search for tenants of 10 industrial parks, the president said.

AMLO at Thursday press conference
AMLO demonstrates the trans-isthmus corridor on a map at the Thursday morning press conference. (Gob MX)

“We’re working on that. In fact, I’m possibly going to Coatzacoalcos on the 17th [of March], I’m going to the trans-isthmus [corridor] on the 19th with United States lawmakers, representatives and senators are coming,” he said.

Investors in the industrial parks, “will have tax benefits – they won’t pay income tax [and] we’re going to lower the IVA” value-added tax in the region, López Obrador said.

Friday

After assuring a reporter that Mexico has a “sufficient supply” of vaccines, AMLO acknowledged that he held separate meetings this week with Morena party national leader Mario Delgado and the wife of recently-ousted Peruvian president Pedro Castillo.

He said he spoke with Delgado about how the ruling party “is going,” but offered few other details.

Mario Delgado
Morena leader Mario Delgado at a party event in Mexico City (@Mario_Delgado Twitter)

“Don’t ask me [how the party is going] because I’ll say it’s going well and they’ll fine me,” López Obrador said, recognizing his obligation to keep quiet about electoral matters in the lead-up to elections in México state and Coahuila in early June.

He then described Lilia Paredes as an “exceptional” and “humble” woman.

“She came to thank me for what we did for them,” said AMLO, whose government offered asylum to the family of the jailed former leader of Peru.

“She told me about her children, who are studying now. … We’re ensuring that they don’t lack anything, helping them,” he said, adding that Paredes asked the government not to “abandon” her husband, a former teacher and union leader who was president of the Andean nation from July 2021 to Dec. 2022.

“We believe removing him from his post was a great injustice because he was elected by the people,” López Obrador said.

The president later indicated that he agreed with Morena Senator Ricardo Monreal’s view that Mexico was a “narco-state” while convicted cartel colluder García Luna was serving in high-ranking law enforcement positions in the governments led by Fox and Calderón.

Now, however, there is no relationship between the government and criminal organizations, he said. “We’re not associated with or involved with drug trafficking. We’re different,” he declared.

In a wide-ranging Q & A session with reporters that lasted the entirety of an abbreviated 90-minute presser, López Obrador also welcomed news of Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero’s recovery from back surgery and confirmed he would speak “very soon” with Tesla executives including CEO Elon Musk with a view to coming to an agreement about the location of an electric vehicle plant the company apparently intends to open in Mexico.

“We do care a lot about investment in the country because it means job creation but we also want to look after the land, not destroy land and guarantee that people don’t lack water because the people must always be put first,” he said.

López Obrador said earlier in the week that Nuevo León wasn’t the best option for a Tesla plant because “there’s no water” in the northern border state. In contrast, 70% of the nation’s water is concentrated in the southeast, he said before identifying that region of the country as “another option” for the Musk-led EV manufacturer.

Mexico News Daily 

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