Saturday, June 15, 2024

Steady tax and a risky gamble: this week at AMLO’s press conferences

As a young man, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador learned a brutal lesson about power and responsibility.

In 1969, when he was 15 years old, his younger brother, José Ramón López Obrador, was killed by a gunshot to the head. His death is shrouded in mystery. In a 2018 book, journalist Jorge Zepeda Patterson said José Ramón took the pistol to play with it, but it fell to the ground and fired.

However, newspaper reports published at the time implied young AMLO’s culpability. In 2000, the National Action Party’s Diego Fernández de Cevallos accused him of murder in a live debate.

No doubt, José Ramón was on AMLO’s mind on Tuesday, when Mexico observed the Day of the Dead.

Monday

The president took the first two days of the week to reflect during the Day of the Dead holidays, meaning no morning news conferences. Mexicans, especially in indigenous communities, take the first two days of November to honor their ancestors and lost loved ones.

Death is a tricky thing to avoid wherever you are, but in Mexico it is even harder. The cultural motif invades its art, songs, and covers most of its news cycle.

La Llorona, or the weeping woman, is but one popular example. In one version of the story, the mythological character is a beautiful woman named Xóchitl who marries a rich man. She has two children, but one day sees her husband with another woman. In a fit of blind rage, she drowns their children in a river, which she immediately regrets. Consumed by guilt, she drowns herself but is unable to enter the afterlife, and remains on Earth. Now, she roams the world searching for her children.

Tuesday

Octavio Paz, in his 1950 essay The Labyrinth of Solitude argued for the wisdom of the distinct conception of death, best represented by the Day of the Dead holidays, and derided the superficial alternative.

“Modern death does not have any significance that transcends it, or that refers to other values.  It is rarely anything more than the inevitable conclusion of a natural process.  In a world of facts, death is merely one more fact … The cult of life, if it really is deep and total, is also the cult of death. Both are inseparable. A civilization that denies death ends up denying life.” 

Deputy Finance Minister Victoria Rodríguez
Deputy Finance Minister Victoria Rodríguez gives a report on federal transfers on Thursday.

Wednesday 

“Good morning. Long time no see. Ánimo, ánimo,” said the Tabascan to open the press conference, using the Spanish word for spirit to enliven the room.

Media lies exponent Elizabeth García Vilchis responded to his call. She confirmed that Mexican airlines’ commitment to the new Felipe Ángeles airport and a fall in their share prices was a spurious correlation: the drop was instead related to COVID-19. A corruption study by the World Justice Project which placed Mexico in the bottom 135 of 139 countries was unreliable, she added: “It is financed by a U.S. organization and the specialists consulted are essentially opponents of the government.”

News website La Silla Rota accused AMLO of paying journalists 200,000 pesos to ask the right questions. “You [the journalists] have not requested it and we don’t give out envelopes. There are no bribes anymore,” the president responded.

Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez addressed violence against women. Rape had gone up 28.7% in annual terms, while September saw a 63% fall in femicides compared to August, she said. 

The president confirmed that two migrants killed in Pijijiapan, Chiapas, on Sunday were shot by National Guard officers. “There are other ways to detain people who are breaking the law,” he conceded, thankfully. The some 2,500-strong migrant caravan arrived at the Pijijiapan two days after the shooting.

Chiapas returned to the conference some minutes later. Journalist Fredy López Arévalo was assassinated in the southern state; another journalist played a recording of his widow, who addressed AMLO directly: “Mr. President, I want to tell you that my husband believed in you … he did not miss a morning conference and my daily routine was to pass him his coffee so that he would be with you until the end, to start his day.

“They killed my husband in the most cowardly way, in the dark and from behind. He did not deserve that, he was an excellent father, he was an excellent friend, he was an excellent companion and, in truth, he believed in you, and [believed] that things can improve.” 

Thursday 

What was AMLO’s view on the 15% global corporate tax agreed by G20 countries, which included Mexico, on October 30?

“There is a monstrous inequality in the world and the United Nations has to act. I’m going to talk about that next Tuesday [at the UN summit], because that’s where all the problems originate,” he said.

The president added that his pandemic tax strategy, to not provide tax breaks to big companies, proved effective. “When the pandemic came … they pressured me. They suggested that we had to contract debt and we had to — I remember the proposal well — decree that large corporations weren’t going to pay taxes for a while to get them back on their feet. I said, ‘No, no, no. We are going to apply another formula.'” 

lopez obrador
It was a cool morning Friday and the president was dressed for the weather.

On corruption, the president referred back to Odebrecht, the corrupt Brazilian construction company, to illustrate a justice problem. “It was very unfortunate that in the case of Odebrecht, corrupt officials were punished in all countries except in Mexico. The matter was covered up. I remember that the transparency institute decided at one time to keep Odebrecht’s file under wraps,” he said. 

Friday

“It’s getting cold,” the president said, as he opened the conference wearing a thick coat.

Elections for the Pemex union were coming up, and Labor Minister Luisa Alcalde was present to inform. “For the first time [Pemex workers] are going to elect their general secretary,” she said, adding that 89,000 workers were set to take part in the democratic exercise through electronic voting.

Later in the conference, AMLO pledged to retire not only if he lost the vote but if he lost and voter turnout did not reach the legally binding level of 40%.

“I’ll leave … even if I do not get 40% [turnout], because how am I going to govern without the support of the people? What can I do without the support of the people? How do I confront the mafia of power without the people?”

The weekend beckoned, and it would see the president in three states. Refineries were the common thread in Salamanca, Guanajuato; Tula, Hidalgo; and Madero, Tamaulipas.

Mexico News Daily

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