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The president gave his morning press conference from Villahermosa, Tabasco on Friday. The president gave his morning press conference from Villahermosa, Tabasco, on Friday. Presidencia de la República

Back home in Tabasco and problems in Peru: the week at the morning press conferences

Peruvian writer Vargas Llosa and singers Juan Gabriel and Vicente Fernández all gained mentions

The weekend saw Mexicans take stock for the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. The Virgin, known affectionately as “La Guadalupana” or “La Lupita,” is said to have appeared in a vision to a Nahua peasant in 1531, who believed her to be Mary, mother of Jesus.

President López Obrador thanked the Virgin for the miracle of saving his mother this year, despite cancer and COVID-19. He attested to the moral strength of Mexico, built on the strength of a deep religious mythology, to which the humble Lupita is central.

Monday

The president gave a tribute to Vicente Fernández. The Jalisco native, who died at 81 on Sunday, repopularized mariachi music in the 1970s.

He offered his congratulations to Guadalajara’s football team Atlas, who beat León in the league final on Sunday.

Dead for almost 200 years, the mummies of Guanajuato were still able to spark a political debate. A journalist said the mayor was trying to profit from the mummies, by using them to justify building a shopping mall.

“We must take care of the artistic, cultural heritage of Mexico and defend it because it’s what gives us our identity,” the president replied.

Peru, another country with a rich cultural history, came to the fore later in the conference. Its left wing leader, Pedro Castillo, had narrowly survived an impeachment vote only six months into his term.

AMLO recounted a story of social class that Castillo had told him: “‘They wanted me to take take my sombrero off, so that I wouldn’t enter the [Peruvian] Palace or the Chamber of Deputies with a sombrero,” he’d related, “… there was an attempt to remove the sombrero and I said: ‘If you take my hat off, as I am the authority, I am the president, I’m going to sanction you.'”

Castillo had also told the president that when he went walking in the capital, the bourgeois elite, which he called the pitucos, and the AMLO calls fifís, would insultingly hold their noses.

Vicente Fernández’s song Volver Volver was played to round off the conference.

Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell gave his regular pandemic update on Tuesday.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell gave his regular pandemic update on Tuesday. Presidencia de la República

Tuesday

In the COVID update, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said infection rates had gone up in some northern states, but were still decreasing nationally.

On health, the president brought the c-word back to the conference: “The increase in the health budget this year was around 50 billion pesos (US $2.38 billion) … You see what communists we are.”

A journalist raised the interior minister’s meeting with leaders of the opposition National Action Party (PAN). Did this indicate a reconciliation with PAN, she asked?

“I think dialogue is good. They should put down the extremist attitude of rejecting everything,” the president said, and offered the example of PAN leaders opposing the promotion of military officers. “It’s opposing for the sake of opposing,” he said.

Why did they take three years to come around, the journalist asked.

“Well, better late than never,” the Tabascan replied.

Wednesday

Fake news foe Ana García Vilchis said it was incorrect that the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) was refusing to have dialogue with protesting students from the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE).

In a health warning she added that no one should take the bootleg drug pantoprazol, and later congratulated herself on the six month anniversary of her “Who’s who in the lies of the week” feature.

The president recently decreed that state infrastructure projects could be shielded from legal scrutiny, so ensuring their progress. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the projects would have to be transparent.

The Tabascan played it off as a victory.

Ana García Vilchis denied that Conacyt was refusing to dialogue with protesting CIDE students.
Ana García Vilchis denied that Conacyt was refusing to dialogue with protesting CIDE students. Presidencia de la República

“The other good news is that the court also ruled that … I only have to, or we as a government have to, submit reports for transparency … it wasn’t to hide information, but to be able to advance, to simplify the paperwork,” he assured.

Later in the conference, a journalist challenged the president on road safety following the horrific accident in Chiapas which killed 57 migrants on December 9. “We are looking after migrants,” he responded before arguing that “rescue” was the correct way to term the detainment of migrants.

As for road safety, he said there was little to be concerned about: “Ah, no, in general it’s being ensured that there is no speeding and that the drivers are in good health.”

Thursday

Values were on the agenda on Thursday. The president recounted a tale of a friend’s lost wallet, and how it was returned: “He forgot and left the wallet [on an airplane]. Time passed and after 15 days or 20 days he was contacted from California. [It was] an indigenous migrant from Veracruz.”

“‘That’s what my parents taught me: doing good without thinking about whom it was for. Everything that is done to help others will be rewarded,'” the good Samaritan reportedly told the recipient.

The president made an embarrassing error later in the conference, when he called a journalist compañera, i.e. female colleague.

“It’s compañero,” the journalist replied, to confirm he was in fact male. “Don’t worry, it’s the hair. I understand,” he offered charitably.

The president had sent a delegation to Peru to advise its beleaguered president. While explaining his reasoning, he took the opportunity to criticize his old foe, Peruvian author Mario Vargas Llosa. “I would like Vargas Llosa to defend Peru’s democracy … when writers — a Russian critic said — surrender entirely to lies, they lose their imagination and talent,” the president said, before suggesting Vargas is no longer the writer he was.

Friday

The president was on home turf on Friday: Villahermosa, Tabasco, sporting a colorful guayabera shirt.

Governor Carlos Manuel Merino quoted AMLO’s favorite poet to welcome him: Good morning, Mr. President. Welcome back to these endearing tropics, as the master Carlos Pellicer said.”

He added that homicide, kidnapping, robbery, extortion and vehicle theft in the state were all down.

The National Electoral Institute voted to delay a vote on whether AMLO should stay in power for the second half of his term, and he was indignant. “They’re schemers, they look like legal clerks,” he said, before quoting a national treasure to describe their inconsistent attitudes: “As the late Juan Gabriel would say, [those are] the twists and turns of life.”

It was time for chocolate, the president declared, as he often does when visiting the south. “It’s in fashion,” he said, making a mocking reference to the corruption claims against a chocolate plantation owned by his sons.

“Tabasco is the republic of chocolate … Mexico was born in Tabasco,” he concluded.

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